Survey and historical research

In October 2015, shifting sand at Pettycur beach near Kinghorn in Fife revealed the outlines of a stone structure on the beach. The site is well-known locally. A cannon was discovered here in the 1990s, and small parts of the structure periodically emerge from the sand. However, when local resident Roy brought this site to our attention, no-one could remember so much of it being exposed.

Pettycur appears on all the historic milestones on Fife’s network of roads, because it was once the main landing place for the ferry which crossed the Firth of Forth from Leith. The present harbour dates to the 1760s, but records of a ‘fearful storm’ in 1625 describe how an earlier harbour was completely destroyed by the tempest.

Could this structure be the remains of Pettycur’s old harbour? On a beautiful October day, we surveyed what we could see.

An aerial fisheye view of a sandy beach with the tide out and a large spread of stone in the foreground. A straight line of flat stones runs diagonally across the spread


The Kinghorn Historical Society tracked down this plan of 1801 drawn by John Rennie. Although it was drawn nearly 200 years later, fortunately Rennie also showed the old harbour. When our survey (in red) was overlaid the agreement between the two put it beyond doubt. The newly exposed structures are all that remains of Pettycur’s 17th century harbour.

An old hand-drawn map labelled 'plan of the harbour of Pettycurr with the proposed basin for cleansing it' also showing a semi-circular structure labelled 'old harbour' with a stretch of the old harbour wall overlain in red

Our survey (in red) overlain onto John Rennie’s 1801 plan of Pettycur which shows the site of the old harbour

This spread of stone is best seen from a birds eye view, so click the image below to see a gigapan of the site made by Edward Martin.


Pin It on Pinterest

Share This