Methil Harbour

(Methil Docks)

Located on the Firth of Forth at Innerleven to the east of Methil and a quarter-mile (0.5 km) south of the mouth of the River Leven, Methil Harbour is, next to Rosyth, the most substantial dock complex in Fife. Today it is owned and operated by Forth Ports Plc, but much under-utilised. At its height in the 1930s Methil was Scotland's largest coal port, exporting 3.25 million tons per year and handling 4500 ships.

Located to the southwest of the current docks, the original harbour at Methil was commissioned in 1661 by David, the 2nd Earl of Wemyss (1610-79), to export salt and coal. In 1795, this was linked to local coal-mines by wagon-way. This old harbour was restored and improved in 1837 by James Leslie (1801-89). The new harbour was developed in stages: No. 1 Dock opened in 1887, financed by Randolph Wemyss of Wemyss (1858 - 1908) although it soon became the property of the North British Railway Company; No. 2 Dock was partially opened ten years later and became fully operational by 1900, while No. 3 Dock was formally opened on 24th March 1913 and featured six massive hydraulic coal-hoists. This latter dock has its own entrance channel, known as The Fairways, and an immense new sea-wall running on the outside of the existing one. Representing a massive engineering project, it was designed by Blyth & Westland, and executed in concrete by Sir Robert McAlpine (1847 - 1934). This early use of concrete was not re-inforced and has not worn well. The complex was serviced by 25 miles (40 km) of railway track and sidings. No. 3 Dock closed in 1977 and was partially infilled, but the intended marina never developed. This inner dock remains unused and is now owned by Scottish Enterprise, who have built an industrial estate including the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre, on the infilled portion. The Fairways is used by inshore fishing boats and Methil Boat Club.

Oil rig construction and maintenance began to the southwest of the harbour in the early 1970s but this did not provide reliable employment in a fluctuating market. The yard has subsequently been redeveloped as the Fife Energy Park.

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