Throwback – the southwest coast of Fife

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I’ve written before about the two main Age of Sail links along this coast, which I walked a year ago – Keith at Kincardine and Cochrane at Culross. But although the rest of the coast is definitely age-rather-than-sail – no particular naval or nautical connections – there were still some interesting remains of Georgian period activity. I think what I found particularly interesting was the contrast – it’s the ends of the earth now, half industrial wasteland and half post-industrial wasteland, but it was obviously a busy place then, with all kinds of local industry going on.

The first grand industrial design along this coast was probably Sir George Bruce‘s Moat Pit at Culross, the first coal mine in the word to extend under the sea, constructed in 1595. Two hundred or so years later, Sir George Preston took inspiration from this and began producing salt on reclaimed land which became Preston Island. It’s now part of a much larger area of reclaimed land, made with waste from Longannet power station, but you can still see where the original island was, and the remains of the buildings put up around 1800.

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Salt works, Preston Island

Preston’s house at Valleyfield, just inland, has a different claim to fame, as the botanist David Douglas (of Douglas Fir fame) worked as a gardener there as a young man.

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David Douglas

Apparently there are still odd ruined remains of the garden, but didn’t go hunting – the house itself was demolished in 1941. Torrie House, another Georgian mansion further along the village, has also fallen into ruin, but still has an impressive gateway on the main road.

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Torrie House gate

Further round the coast, Charlestown is a Georgian planned village, laid out about 1770 by the Earl of Elgin (who used his own initials, CE, in the layout, which can just about still be seen on the map). It was another industial plan, mainly lime production and shipping of coal mined on the Elgin estate, with a new harbour and a wooden railway line built to ease transport.

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Old granary, Charlestown
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