All articles, documents and images on the website are the intellectual property of Craigencalt Rural Community Trust and copyright, and permission is required before use for any purpose. Copyright © Ron Edwards 2012.  

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History & environment

About Craigencalt:

History of Craigencalt.

Craigencalt is first mentioned in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland when, in 1368, King David II granted Sir John Abernethy of Kinghorn lands including Craigynkat.  The Boswell’s acquired the land and had Craigencalt for several centuries.  In 1444 David De Boswyll of Craigyngate held the lands. However Craigencat Farm was not at Craigencalt, it was near Grange Farm and only moved to the mill at the loch in 1891.  The first mention of a mill at Craigencat Mill was in 1583 when John Boswell is noted as holding “the town and lands of Craigencat, Damheid and the mill, mill lands and acres”.  This is extremely interesting as this indicates that the Banchory Burn was already diverted to Craigencalt (the Loch Burn) across the hillside from South Glassmount, which was no mean feat, and that the original mill pond existed in the field that took its name - Damhead Park.  Margaret Leslie, Doweger Countess of Wemyss provides a fantastic account of the state of the mill and who lived here in 1682 and a very interesting estate map of 1757 still shows the same arrangement, with the relatively small grain mill near the lochside (the building still exists essentially complete and little altered). Around 1790, an extensive threshing mill was built and used until around 1860 for threshing barley for Burntisland Distillery with lease to William Young & Co. by the philanthropic Philp Educational Trust.  The building of the threshing mill and new mill pond seems to have been a collaboration between the then owner, Robert Ferguson of Raith, and William Young (snr), as William Young soon became the tenant, but this collaboration is not verified.  The large distillery at Burntisland made the Youngs very rich but they always showed an interest in Craigencalt and went on to form Distillers Company, precursor of Diageo.  The minutes of the Philp Trust are incredibly detailed from 1826 to just after 1900.

Kinghorn Loch or Kirncat Loch was never part of this estate, it was part of Whinnyhall estate to the west, which stretched from the flank of The Binn hill to the east shore of Kinghorn Loch.  For centuries, until the discovery of oil shale beneath Whinnyhall in 1878, the estate primarily produced timber and, being heavily wooded, was described as being a “pleasure of hunting” in the Statistical Account of Scotland (Volume X; Fife) in 1791.

Craigencalt either comes from Craigencat, the rock of the wildcat or the rock of the madman, or Kirncat, the gorge of the wildcat.

For a fascinating read on the history of Craigencalt please refer to the CRCT booklet on “History of Craigencalt”.  The research for this publication covered a much wider area of countryside than just Craigencalt and a database is available for researchers.

The Environment of Kinghorn - topography, geology, ecology - wildlife and plants of interest.

The environment of Kinghorn was formed by the great ice sheets of the last Ice Age scouring the hard basalt layers and interbedded softer rocks into a deep fjord of the Firth of Forth and abrupt hilltops.  The loch, a “kettlehole”, formed by a trapped lump of ice melting beneath the land surface.  Now, people and wildlife can enjoy the resulting landform. See the presentation on the History of Kinghorn Loch.

Topography of the coastal area.

The striking feature of the landscape is the remnants of volcanic vents and lava flows some 300 million years old.  These form the nearby hill of The Binn (at 191 metres), the rounded peaks of the Lomond Hills to the north, the island of Inchkeith and of course the rock of Edinburgh Castle, Salisbury Crags and Arthurs Seat to the south.  The Coastal Path looks out on numerous islets, rock pools and small beaches, formed from the interlayered basalt and softer Carboniferous age sandstones and shales.  Fossils are plentiful, mainly ferns and other plants.  The shales once served a prosperous oil shale industry and the remnants of the factory and Binnend village still exist.  

Topography of the inland area.

Inland the basalt forms ridges (from The Binn to north of Kinghorn Loch) and the land is hummocky and occasionally rocky.  The ridges and cliffs between The Binn and Kinghorn Loch forms a Wildlife Conservation Area and its extent is shown in the attached Fife Council map.  We are working to set up the environs of the loch as a Local Nature Reserve and the remaining 3 km wildlife corridor as a managed reserve. For more information see the Craigencalt Rural Community Trust (CRCT) website.

Wildlife of Pettycur Bay, the loch and surrounding areas.

Pettycur Bay is a Site and Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and within a RAMSAR site, of very special quality.  This is a recognition of the wading birds that live here.  Towards high tide and with bad weather wading birds - primarily the oyster catchers and curlew - come inland onto the fields.  During winter shag and cormorant fish on the loch.  The loch carries a long list of resident and visiting birds and the Ecology Centre website should be consulted.

The Gallery shows a large number of wildflowers from the area.

SSPCA National Wildlife Rescue - Clackmannan              











History, Pollution and Recovery of Kinghorn Loch.


This young owl sat on the wall at Craigencalt for a day or more in June 2012, bright and alert but unable to fly.  Eventually it was taken to the Scottish Wildlife Centre at Middlebank, where it joins a number of other young Tawny Owls who have simply proved to be far too adventurous for their young bodies.


The SSPCA National Wildlife Centre is now situated in Clackmannan and if you visit there you can see the seal rescue tanks, particularly storm-driven youngsters and all the sea-bird rescues.


Help with donations to SSPCA.  For rescues phone 03000 999 999

From the 1950’s to 1983, Kinghorn Loch suffered from leachate entering from the Alcan tip at Whinnyhall (now remediated).  By 1983 the loch was very alkaline (from the caustic leachate) and there were no fish or significant plants.  Algal blooms abounded.  After 1985 rare species emerged (such as the Water Anemone) but gradually more common water plants invaded.  Pike and other fish were introduced by various individuals and the loch is now a good pike fishery and an excellent carp fishery (Scottish Carp Group).  Roach, perch, minnows and stickleback are present and plentiful toads and frogs visit the loch to breed.


In 1985, brown trout were introduced and monitored for bio-accumulation of heavy metals.  Despite the very hot summer of 1987 no accumulation was found and no heavy metals (primarily arsenic) were released into the ecosystem from the sediments.  The trout grew very well but could not breed as there are no suitable spawning streams. Concentrations of pollutants, arsenic, vanadium and phosphate in particular, were analysed and all well below the Environmental Quality Standard.


Nitrate, which is a nutrient in water, remained high but originates from the burn entering the loch - high nitrate being typical of groundwater originating from beneath the Cowdenbeath Coalfield.  But, with a low natural phosphate concentration in the water, nutrient enrichment (eutrophication) could not occur. However over a period some phosphate leached from the sediment and the loch became very badly affected by blue-green algal blooms that recycled the nutrients throughout the whole year by the early 1990s.  In 1998 the then Kinghorn Community Council formed a Kinghorn Loch Action Group (later Kinghorn Loch Users Group, KLUG) under chairmanship of Ron Edwards to treat the loch water. In 1998, an attempt by others, using tree net tubing and some barley straw failed.  In 1999, KLUG designed barley straw treatment rafts to treat the water.  Six straw bails loaded twice a year on six rafts did the job.  There is a lot of confusion in references, but the straw has to degrade aerobically so that protozoa and “mini beasts”  can grow on the sugars in barley straw and consume the algae (this is Ron’s premise on how it works).  By about 2008-2010 only rare and short lived, localised blooms in October ever occurred and the water quality remains very good today.  The barley straw rafts were replaced in 2016 (four rafts) and they are still filled once a year. Please see a presentation by Ron Edwards on the history, pollution and recovery of Kinghorn Loch.


For a fuller description of the history of the loch and its successful recovery,  please contact CRCT for an abridged  summary text from Ron Edwards’ Doctorate thesis from 1985 (Edinburgh University PhD Thesis, December 1985).

With serious water pollution incidents occurring in Rumania and China, interest in the fate of arsenic in water has increased and in 2011, a new PhD study started to look at the fate of arsenic in Kinghorn Loch under the auspices of the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Edinburgh, which completed in 2016.  CEH has now commenced a further study on the fate of vanadium.  This follows on from the detection of elevated vanadium in lakes in China and, as data on vanadium toxicity is sparse, it is now important to clarify the fate in water. Alcan has hosted two international conferences at Burntisland/Kinghorn Loch on the remediation of the factory and landfill site and CRCT has presented at these. Contact CEH for publications.