Preston Island

A small island in Torry Bay, W Fife, situated to the south of Low Valleyfield, now landlocked within a land reclamation project.

The island was an artificial construction, built c.1800 over rocks that were only exposed at low-tide by Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield (1740 - 1834) to support an industrial complex for the production of salt. In this, Preston was emulating the works of Sir George Bruce of Carnock, who had established what was perhaps the world's first offshore mine nearby at The Moat late in the 16th century. Preston built a sea-wall and levees around the edge of the rocks and the area between was infilled to create his new island. A pier was built on the north side. Coal was extracted from three small mines to fire the saltpans which were said to have operated throughout the night, acting as a beacon to homecoming sailors. The coal mines were abandoned in 1811 after a firedamp explosion killed all the miners who were underground at the time, with Preston having suffered a substantial financial loss. Salters then leased the island going into production on their own account. However, after the 1823 repeal of salt duties the salt works declined and were abandoned by the mid 1850s. The final occupant of the island found the illicit distillation of alcohol more profitable and was forced to flee when the authorities arrived, having been alerted by the smell - described as the 'wrang reek'.

Since 1970, the area around the island has been filled by ash slurry from Longannet Power Station as part of a land reclamation project. However, a programme of restoration and consolidation having been undertaken 1993-95, the substantial remains of several structures can still be seen. These include pit-head buildings, salt evaporating houses, an associated accommodation block, concrete slabs which seal the shafts and a cistern that once stored fresh water that was piped from the shore. The island is now accessible via a footpath from Low Valleyfield and interpretation boards have been provided.

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