Newport on Tay and the Fife ferries

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Newport Inn

I have finally reached the end of my journey round Fife, in Newburgh near the Perthshire border – but the real Georgian interest of this last stage was in Newport on Tay at the start.

There were ferries running between Newport and Dundee by about 1700, and a coaching inn was built there in 1715 – the current inn building at the top of the harbour brae, now a gallery, dates from 1806 when a turnpike road was opened from Cupar to Newport and the ferry took back first place from its rival at Woodhaven, a couple of miles to the west.

A new pier was built by Thomas Telford in 1823 – the first steam ferries ran across the firth in 1821, which presumably prompted the upgrade – and the building at the head of the pier dates from the same time, although I don’t think it’s Telford’s design – there’s also a much more dilapidated Victorian building which was a later waiting room. The pier is now used by a boat builder, so I couldn’t get in for a closer look.

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Telford pier
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Old ferry terminal

What I really wanted to post about, though, is this wonderful milestone on the wall by the ferry terminal – the whole thing is lovely, but I especially like ‘Newport 0’!

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Newport milestone

This was the route of the ‘Great Road’ across Fife – the road linking the Dundee and Edinburgh ferries.

I must have walked past Pettycur at the southern end of the route without realising it – apparently it’s the headland part of Kinghorn, once a separate settlement. Queensferry is the shortest crossing, but it’s a good way west of the centre of Edinburgh – ferries from Pettycur ran to Newhaven at Leith, and were later joined by services from Burnisland.

Cupar is still an important junction, if a bit bypassed by the A92, and New Inn is the junction of the Perth and Newport roads – now the A912 and A914 – north of Markinch, where a coaching inn stood which was at least 50 years old at the time, as it’s shown on a 1775 map. The junction is now the New Inn Roundabout, but the inn itself was demolished when the A92 was moved or widened in the 1960s.

The milestones are dated 1824, so presumably the route was being improved in some way at that point, fitting in with the improvements at Newport.

I thought this might be the only surviving milestone, but there seem to be quite a few more along the route – I foresee an expedition to track them down, although at least one person has been before me!

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