Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

St Monans salt pans

The East Neuk of Fife is generally regarded as comprising the fishing villages in the most northerly part of the Firth of Forth, although the exact boundaries are somewhat vague and disputed. Characterised by their small picturesque harbours, the likes of Pittenweem, St Monans and Crail are delightful places, but despite spending my student years at St Andrews University, I never got much further down the coast than The Maiden, The Rock and Spindle or occasionally  Buddo Rock, none of which lies in the East Neuk.

Crail Harbour
In April this year, however, shortly after Sir Hugh had walked the Fife Coastal Path, we decided to explore for ourselves, and from Crail harbour we walked along the coastal path to the prominent St Monans Windmill.
St Monans windmill
Salt panning was an important industry in Scotland in the 17th and 18th centuries, salt being a vital commodity in trade with continental Europe, and the introduction of a salt tax by Mary Queen of Scots transformed the activity into a commercial business which spread from the East Neuk of Fife to Prestonpans near Edinburgh.

The Windmill (Salt Mill) was used to pump sea water into the pans and once full, coal, which was readily available in Fife, was fired and the water evaporated off to leave the salt. To produce one ton of salt required about 32 tons of sea water. Salt duty was repealed in 1823 and the cheap imported salt from abroad saw the demise of the industry with the last salt pan in Scotland, at Prestonpans, closing in 1959.

The remains of a Panhouse and salt pans can still be seen on the shore below the windmill.

Information boards provide the visitor with more information and during the summer months the Windmill is open to the public.

All in all, an enjoyable day out, even though not 'a foot' had been set upon a hill.

You can read more about salt extraction on  Martin's  excellent blog.


  1. Very...salty..., Gibson, and thanks for the link - but better to link just to the 28 July entry?