Culross, Fife – Pencil with ink highlights in a Moleskine Sketchbook.

Culross (pronounced “Coo – rus”) is a quaint little village on the south Fife coastline. It has been lovingly restored by The National Trust for Scotland, this restoration having started just before the second world war began. This place has a long, documented history, but is probably best remembered for the first off-shore attempts to mine coal. In 1575 an artificial island was constructed a few hundred metres into the Firth of Forth and a well sunk. Water was kept at bay by the continuous use of horses lifting buckets of the stuff. The coal was either exported to other parts of Scotland, the Netherlands or used to boil sea water from “pans”, or depressions carved into rocks with spaces underneath them. As the tide came in these pans would fill with salt water. Fires were lit under these rocks when the tide receded and when the water was boiled off the residual salt was collected and sold. There are many salt pans along the east of Scotland, in fact one village near Edinburgh – Prestonpans, gets its name from this industry. Culross was the biggest exporter of salt in its day.

There are many fine antiquated buildings in this village. My scene shows its main street – the sea is behind the viewer. The large building, on the right, is the Townhouse, once the centre of commerce and judicial activity. If you walk up the street just to its right you will see the village’s own wee “Mercat Cross” sitting inside a ring of low, Corbie-stepped roofs. Further on it comes a quite a shock to discover Culross Abbey Church – a place of worship which seems out of place with the size of the village, but many believe that St Mungo was born here so its long been a place of pilgrimage. These days Culross just looks like a sleepy wee place to visit but its worth the effort if only to see the setting of how 16th century folk lived.