Limekilns, Fife

Limekilns is a small village on the northern edge of the Firth of Forth, just to the west of Rosyth and the Forth Rail and Road Bridges. It’s name nowadays is confusing, because there is very little remaining evidence of lime kilns in the village, whereas neighbouring Charlestown to the west, has the largest lime kilns in Scotland. All lime kiln activities were moved to Charlestown by the Earl of Elgin (Charles Bruce) in the middle of the 18th century.

The earliest mention of Limekilns was recorded in 1362, when it was known as ‘Gellaid’. The then King of Scotland, David II, gave the port to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey, so as to allow them to trade with other parts of Scotland and northern Europe. From this, we can assume the small port must already have been a going concern, with an established trade in wool, skin and hides. The pier for the harbour projects outwards towards an already sheltered tidal anchorage formed inside an outcrop of rocks called the ‘Ghauts’.

Limekilns Harbour - Showing the Ghauts in Forth

Limekilns Harbour – Showing the Ghauts rocks in background. Image source Canmore

Limekilns Harbour c 1882

Limekilns Harbour c 1882. Image Source Canmore

 

View from Red Row of Limekilns Harbour and promenade

View from Red Row of Limekilns Harbour and promenade

 

By the end of the 17th century, Limekilns harbour would have been used for the shipping of coal and quite possibly salt, from nearby coal workings and saltpans at Culross. It continued in use until the mid 19th century, when it was superseded by the nearby Charlestown harbour. The harbour had also been the northern terminus of a ferry which ran from Bo’ness to Limekilns for many centuries up until the 19th century.

At the eastern side of Limekilns, at Bruce Haven, another pier was built sometime before 1755 by the then Earl of Elgin, Charles Bruce (he also built their current ancestral home, Broomhall, which is located just to the north of Limekilns). This pier is known as Capernaum Pier and was still in use until at least the late 19th century, mainly for the shipping of coal from the ever expanding Fife coalfields, as can be seen from the two vintage photos below (from the ‘Canmore’ database). It is also quite possible that soap was also transported from a soapworks very near to the pier.

View of the ship Meggie Dixon at Capernaum Pier - 29th April 1886

View of the ship Meggie Dixon at Capernaum Pier – 29th April 1886. Image source – Canmore

 

Limekilns, Brucehaven. General view of Capernaum Pier with docked ship. c 1885

Limekilns, Brucehaven. General view of Capernaum Pier with docked ship. c 1885. Image source – Canmore

 

The pier is now used for modern day yachts of the Forth Cruising Club.

Yachts at Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns

Yachts at Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns

 

Dinghys on Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns

Dinghys on Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns

 

View from Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns (Looking north)

View from Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns (Looking north)

 

Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns (Looking over Firth of Forth)

Capernaum Pier, Bruce Haven, Limekilns (Looking over Firth of Forth)

 

The ‘Main Street’ of Limekilns is unfortunately separated from the promenade (built in 1931) by a row of modern houses. It is yet another example of the dire planning control found in Fife. The preservation of so many historic centres of Scottish villages has been all but destroyed, by planning departments throughout Fife and beyond, allowing modern housing to be built in amongst some of the most beautiful old villages around. I love living in Scotland, it’s a fantastic place, I just wish that the planning regulations in the centres of these historic villages was much tighter.

The oldest building in Limekilns is known as the ‘Kings Cellar’. It was built during the reign of James V (1513-1542) and was a warehouse consisting of two vaulted floors. A pediment placed above the door has been dated to 1581, but wasn’t originally in that position. The building was used as a school in the 18th century, and now is privately owned and used as a masonic lodge 😦

Oldest Building in Limekilns - King's Cellar - early 16th century

Oldest Building in Limekilns – King’s Cellar – early 16th century

 

Adjacent to the King’s Cellar is Academy Cottage, built in the early 18th century.

Limekilns - Academy Cottage 18th century, in Academy Square

Limekilns – Academy Cottage 18th century, in Academy Square

 

Many of the other buildings on the Main Street date from the 17th and 18th centuries. See photos below. At the head of the lane heading to the ‘Kings Cellar’ is Hope Cottage. This is now the location of the Sundial Cafe, which gets its name from the sundial attached to its southeast corner. This sundial is dated 1689.

Main Street in Limekilns, Fife

Main Street in Limekilns, Fife

 

18th Century House on Main Street in Limekilns, Fife

18th Century House and Sundial Cafe (to the right of photo) on Main Street in Limekilns, Fife

 

Limekilns - Main St - Sundial (1689)

Limekilns – Main St – Sundial (1689)

 

Below is a much reduced in size image of Limekilns Main Street taken in Victorian times. To see full size image, go to Tour Scotland Photographs.

 

Limekilns - Main Street in Victorian Times.

Limekilns – Main Street in Victorian Times. Full size image at Tour Scotland Photographs

 

At the western end of the Main St is the Limekilns Hotel and Bistro, which from the carving above the main door, used to be a part of the Dunfermline Co-operative Society (A Co-op – very early supermarket), and dates from 1909.

Co-operative Society Building 1909, now Limekilns Hotel-Bistro

Co-operative Society Building 1909, now Limekilns Hotel-Bistro

 

Heading back along the promenade, which was built in 1931, you can look back towards Capernaum Pier, and the road leading to it called Red Row. Many of these houses were built just before the beginning of the First World War, in 1913.

Red Row houses built just before 1st World War, heading towards Capernaum Pier

Red Row houses built just before 1st World War, heading towards Capernaum Pier

 

Parking for this short walk can be found at the entrance to Red Row, overlooking Limekilns Harbour.

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10 thoughts on “Limekilns, Fife

  1. Lots of wonderful photos of a lovely place. Thanks for all that history too: even as a Fifer, I learned a few new things from reading. Sadly my strongest memory of Limekilns is of exploring some nearby caves and skidding in bat guano. I had to chuck the clothes and my boots.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely photos. I drove through Limekilns and Charlestown for the first time recently and was very pleasantly surprised by the beautiful buildings. I’ll need to go back and investigate that cafe, have you tried it?

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    • We were there a bit too early for the cafe, but it looks nice from what I could see. One thing that did surprise me about the harbour at Charlestown, was that its surrounded by modern bungalows, which did diminish the overall beauty of the place.

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      • I know what you mean. I was there yesterday (keeping an eye out for the Sundial but unfortunately didn’t find it – is it in the street behind the front?) and remembered what you had written about the new houses.

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      • Lorna, hopefully these directions will help you find the sundial. The cafe and the sundial itself are in Limekilns Main Street, about halfway along, on the north side of the road. It’s about 12 feet above street level on the side of the house, just at the entrance to Academy Sq and the King’s Cellar.

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  3. Pingback: Charlestown Harbour and Lime Kilns, Fife | Fife Photos & Art

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