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Rediscovering a well kent toon in lockdown

Rediscovering Kinghorn in Lockdown: Fife Explorer

Ken Hunter is a photographer and writer who is passionate about Fife, Scotland and beyond. During lockdown, he's recently rediscovered his own beautiful hometown of Kinghorn and has shared with us some fascinating history about this wonderful area of Fife! Find out more about his experience. 

Consider being in a visitor’s shoes. Where in your town are the most interesting locations? What would be the most intriguing?

We are in strange and challenging times indeed, although, let’s look for positive waves; enjoying and learning more about our hometown surroundings can benefit our well-being and the future experiences of visitors. OK, yes, definitely obey the rules, but blow away the clouds and rediscover your outdoor neighbourhood!

Less than 100 years ago, we had little option but to seek entertainment close to home. Towns in Fife have lovely parks, beaches and beautiful countryside within a close radius of home. It’s been fun exploring and discovering interesting, little known facts about our town and countryside – this new-found knowledge may intrigue the future visitor.

30+ years in the Royal Burgh of Kinghorn, yet only recently have I bothered to visit and learn more about the obscure and interesting corners I had heard of, but ignored. The geology as well as ancient and modern history is astounding! 

Black polished rocky relics of an ancient fierce volcanic past 400 million years ago protrude along the eastern seaboard with later sedimentary deposits that served an 18th century limestone processing industry; the sparse ruins of limekilns can still be seen. Walking this portion of the Fife Coastal Path on a calm May day revealed varying and spectacular views over a turquoise River Forth estuary to Edinburgh and East Lothian.

View of Old Slipway and Shipyard Structure at Kinghorn at High Tide

You may see the tide gently kissing the rocky inlets (ha, this tranquillity can quickly change to a fierce pounding and banging tide as seabirds battle the east wind!) diving Artic Terns, Gannets, the odd Puffin, Curlews and if you’re lucky, maybe a pod of Dolphins! 

The remains of a once busy 19th century shipbuilding yard, accessible only at low tide, are situated below a caravan site beside “The Kirk by the Sea” that has a medieval history of its own. The adjacent harbour and beach in Kinghorn Bay is home to the RLNI Inshore Lifeboat Station.

Westwards, Pettycur beach, a 2/3km stretch of golden sand at low tide, invites walkers out to the Black Rock (largely submerged at High tide) which is the venue for an annual running event attracting over 1000 runners. Do be aware of the tides, however. The quaint Pettycur harbour, once the busy main ferry crossing to Newhaven on the south side of the River Forth, once transported medieval Royalty, nobility and distinguished church leaders from Edinburgh, facilitating their onward journeys to their Fife castles and St Andrews.

Pettycur Beach at low tide with the Black Rock, Inchcombe and the Forth Bridges in the background(Landscape view)

Adjacent to the harbour is a flatted dwelling that was once the old Ferry Inn where revelling travellers would congregate before boarding the ferry. The “Crying Hill” opposite was where a lookout would call down to the inn to warn that the ferry was about to land.

The castle of King Alexander III who reigned over Scotland from 1249 to 1286 once stood at Kinghorn and it was he, who inaugurated the title of Royal Burgh on the town later confirmed by King James VI in 1611. Unfortunately, no remains exist and there is speculation in the town as to its precise location. A monument stands on the coast road to Burntisland marking the area where he fell to his untimely death while travelling one stormy night on horseback to his castle in Kinghorn, the consequence of which plunged Scotland into the subsequent wars of independence.

The Burgh boundaries in medieval times extended to near Auchtertool and Invertiel, when the lands around the important Royal burgh accommodated prominent noblemen in prestigious castles, dwellings and their surrounding estates. These noblemen included The Kirkcaldy’s of Grange (Grange Farm, site of a castle and nearby chapel); the Boswells of Balmuto Castle, who also occupied Piteadie Castle, Glassmount and Craigancault during the early 17th century; the Moultrays of Seafield; Sir John Lyon of Glamis Tower (no longer in existence – a castle that stood where Burt Avenue is now).

These families all had links in some way through Scottish royalty and were prominent figures through the centuries in battles with the English and stories of intrigue related to the Jacobites, the Reformation of the Church - Cardinal Beaton, Mary Queen of Scots and the Stewart Dynasty. Old roadways now in the form of farm tracks and some current modern roads follow routes around these lands that were once used by our medieval forefathers to travel through Kinghorn to other destinations in Fife. To this day, many of these routes are documented in local publications and provide remarkable scenic walks.

On the northern outskirts of the town lies Kinghorn Loch, a popular natural environment providing a home for an abundance of wildlife. The Loch co-exists with an ecology centre as well as clubs providing fishing, boating (model boats, canoeing, rowing and sailing), walking trails and nature watching. Formed during the last ice-age some 10000 years ago, it has served historic flour mills in the town and more recently a tannery, all of which have come and gone with industrial progress and later town development. Now a truly tranquil spot to enjoy the activities and interests it offers when it is safe to do so.

Spring View of Kinghorn Loch with Craigancault in the trees to the left.

Inspiring hotspots of beauty and intrigue to entice walkers and future visitors to venture around Kinghorn - all well within 5 miles of home. What about your Fife town?

If you would like to explore Kinghorn in the future once it is safe to do so, here are some useful links: 

Fife is a compact county with much to see and experience within small distances - changing landscapes, inland and coastal towns and villages, farmland, beaches and seascapes. An abundance of activities, eating places, hotels and guesthouses, well run caravan sites, distilleries and breweries, artists, history and culture all here to welcome visitors when it is safe.

Ken Hunter, Fife Explorer




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