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Kirkcaldy Harbour

A modest port located at the mouth of the East Burn in Kirkcaldy (S Fife), Kirkcaldy Harbour lies on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, a quarter-mile (0.5 km) northeast of the town centre. Once a busy commercial port, it had fallen into disuse by the early 1990s but has now reopened for grain shipments and has a small marina, which is home to a few leisure craft.

Kirkcaldy had a 'haven' in 1315, and records show it had a small but active harbour in 1451 with harbour dues contributing to the wealth of the town. However the present harbour was established in the early 16th century, probably on the site of the former, confirming the town's status as an important trading port, for example, bringing timber from Scandinavia which was used at Falkland Palace and Edinburgh Castle. By the 17th century exports included hides, wool, herring, salmon, coal and salt, with beer being imported from the Continent. Daniel Defoe (1660 - 1731) records the existence of a shipyard here in the early 18th C. The harbour was extended and deepened in the later 18th C. and whaling became an important activity, peaking in 1828 but had ended by 1865. A new wet dock and pier were constructed between 1843 and 1846 by the civil engineer James Leslie of Dundee to facilitate a growing number of ships arriving with flax, timber and hemp, and exports of coal and linen. The East Pier was extended at the same time. A branch of the Edinburgh and Northern Railway, which was built to connect with the harbour in 1849, descended at the remarkable gradient of 1-in-21, but closed in 1984. Further expansion of the harbour took place 1906-09, with an enlarged Outer Harbour, new South Pier and a further extension to the East Pier, to cope with increasing exports of linoleum and coal, along with paper, malt, grain and textiles. The port was taken over by the American Navy during the First World War.

The harbour was owned by Kirkcaldy Town Council until 1968, but passed to the Forth Ports Authority, now the publicly-listed Forth Ports Plc. Trade had declined from around 400 ships annually, to less than 100 by the mid-1980s, largely due to the growth of road transport. By this time, trade involved the importing of wheat and barley for Hutchison's Flour Mill and exporting of malt and scrap metal. Effectively abandoned in 1992, it was B-listed in 1997. The northwest side was redeveloped 2002-06 with commercial sheds giving way to quayside blocks of private flats on Williamson's Quay and Deas' Wharf which enjoy a fine sea view. Remarkably, the harbour re-opened in 2011 as an environmental initiative by Hutchison's Mill, who will take a considerable number of lorries off the roads by using ships to transport wheat. The port was upgraded and the basins dredged at the cost of 1.3 million to allow cargo ships to dock. With a grant of 830,000 from the Scottish Government, the company have built three new grain silos and, in conjunction with Forth Ports, have installed loading equipment.

The inner harbour and outer tidal harbour were once separated by a lock gate. The South Pier remains on the Buildings-at-Risk Register.


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