Any fit person would probably have continued to walk along the coast from West Wemyss but we jumped onto a bus that dropped us in the old part of Dysart.
This town received a royal charter in 1587 and acquired two nicknames: "Salt Burgh" and "Little Holland" due to what and with whom it traded.
There are many thoughts on the meaning of Dysart and where it originated…one strong contender being that its name came from the cave Saint Serf used as a retreat around the 500's, because in old Gaelic "diseart" means a hermit's cell.
…it is said that Oliver Cromwell’s men were housed within its walls at one time during their journey north.
St Serf’s Church was built in the early 13th century but by the beginning of the 19th century it was abandoned in favour of a new church as the cost of repairs would have been far too high. The tower was used in both the first and second world wars, as a look out post.
There appears to be some work being done to it at the moment
Down by the shore we were met by an unusual sight …several upright pieces of timber, all painted in different shades of blue and a little weathered in appearance …hopefully meant … as I have since discovered that it is actually a piece of art work
…a sculpture by Donald Urquhart and the nine coloured beams represent the moods of the water of the Firth of Forth.
The harbour was man made, hewn from the natural surroundings and used to export salt and coal, linen and iron ore.
The fortunes of this town were always fluctuating over the centuries, being described by Daniel Defoe as "a most lamentable object of a miserable, dying corporation", around 1726 and yet by the end of the 1700’s, local ship owners had about thirty trading vessels; the coal mines were highly productive and their coal was in demand across the North Sea; salt extraction was now a major industry; iron ore from local deposits was being exported; and a regular ferry ran to Leith, not to mention the linen that was being produced by the many hand looms in the area.
The wall behind, in the last photo, looks as though any adverse weather conditions might cause its collapse but looking at all the repairs over time, it appears to want to stay up right, for many years to come. My daughter called it the ‘patch work wall’ and we found our selves studying it for ages.
Much of Dysart was demolished to give way for new housing but some of the shore front buildings dating from the 16th to the18th centaury, and 17th century Pan Ha’ in particular, were restored in the 1960’s.
Pan Ha’ is the name given to these whitewashed dwellings, which once housed workers for the saltpans.
‘Ha’ is the abbreviation of ‘haugh’, meaning a flat area of land usually near a river and Pan, from salt panning, a method of extracting salt from seawater by boiling it in huge cast iron pans.
We tried not to make it too obvious when we captured the work of the local artist Susan Winton ... we found the second one inspiring, displaying so many textures and materials that we had to stop ourselves from stroking it.....well us paper crafters do suffer from that problem lol.
After enjoying a wonderful homemade steak pie we made our way past the ‘patch work wall’ and followed the coastline towards Ravenscraig Park and the castle.
This short tunnel cut in the rock, leads you from Dysart into Ravenscraig but it is so hard to tell actually where one ends and the other begins.
In the late 1920’s around 85 acres of the immense estate was given to Kirkcaldy as a public park, part of which is a beautiful woodland walk.
The castle was then passed on to the state in the 1950’s.It is said that the castle was one of the first, if not the very first to be built in Scotland, for the use of, and the defence against, artillery.
It was built under the orders of James II of Scotland, in 1460 and was actually well ahead of its time. He had a fascination with the cannon and although it had the expected arrow slits, it also had round gun ports, tower walls that were 15ft thick and the possibilities for cannon platforms, which were never completed due to his death later in the same year.
He died after his leg was torn off during the seige of Roxburgh Castle. He was trying out his new cannon, The Lion, which then exploded as they had a tendency to do at that time and unfortunaely he was standing too close. His widow continued to live at Ravenscraig, acting as regent to the young James III, until her death three years later.
James III preferred the The Sinclair family castle at Kirkwall, and took it and William ‘s title as Earl of Orkney, in exchange for Ravenscraig Castle.
The castle was damaged by Cromwell’s army in the 1650’s, as it marched north and sadly, by the 1800’s it had been stripped of much of its stone, for local building purposes.Hope you got to the end of the trip with me and enjoyed another little bit of Scottish history. It really was a great day out with my daughter ...now I just need to plan the next ...with ruins of course.
Take Care xx