Crail Harbour
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Crail Harbour

A seaside resort and fishing village on the Firth of Forth, E Fife, Crail lies 10 miles (16 km) southeast of St Andrews.

Once famous for Crail Capons - a type of dried haddock - and an important seaport which exported these fish together with salt, mutton and woollens to the Continent, the picturesque village of Crail is the easternmost of the coastal settlements in the East Neuk of Fife. It was confirmed as a royal burgh by Robert the Bruce in 1310, who granted the village the right to hold a market on a Sunday, and once had a royal castle which was the occasional residence of David I in the 12th Century.

Close to the picturesque harbour lies the oldest part of Crail, with its narrow streets and houses huddled together as protection against the harsh sea wind. On higher ground to the east the upper part of the town has a more formal layout reflecting the growth and expansion that took place in late mediaeval times when local merchants prospered and the village is said to have had the largest marketplace in Europe!

The burgh's chief landmarks include: St Mary's Church which dates from the 12th century and contains an 8th century Pictish cross slab; the 17th century Market Cross; the 16th-18th century Tolbooth whose tower contains a Dutch bell which is rung every night at 10 o'clock to remind villagers of the curfew that once marked the time for fires and lights to be put out; a 17th century Customs House; and Crail Museum and Heritage Centre, established by Crail Preservation Society in 1979.

Crail, with its 18-hole Balcomie Links golf course, has a golfing society founded in 1786 and nearby is the HMS Jackdaw airfield which operated as a Royal Naval Air Station during World War II and is now used for car-racing, go-karting and microlight flying.

Now principally a residential and commuter settlement, Crail has lobster and crab fishing, chemical, craft and tourist related industries. Crail once had a railway station, which opened on the Fife Coastal Railway in 1883, but this entire line closed in 1965.

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