Monday, 12 January 2009

Fife Ness - at Land's End

One of the more intriguing and less known places in Scotland is Fife Ness. I've always liked the name - it suggests that 'fife' is an adjective, that one could have a quality called 'fifeness' - but it is really just the Norse word for a peninsula, and Fife Ness is the end of the land. Unlike many British headlands, it does not stand proud on cliffs above crashing waves: instead, the unspectacular low ground of East Fife slips without fanfare into the sea, and a boxy little lighthouse and residential-looking caravans mean that the picturesque vernacular architecture of the rest of the East Neuk is not replicated at its extremity.

Yet Fife Ness has atmosphere in spades. Here, sky, sea, and land intermingle in equal measure. The air is dry and light. A windy links golf course looks across the sea to Arbroath and the snow-covered Angus hills. Long dykes of rock finger into the sea, and are revealed on the shallow shore at low tide, with shipping beacons sitting on the treacherous Carr rocks just offshore. Seabirds are innumerable, and oystercatchers peck away on the glistening dark beach below the hermit's cave, cell of an early Celtic saint.

The area also played a small part in early Scottish history - when a group of Viking adventurers known as the Dubh Gall (the Black Strangers) were expelled from Dublin by the Irish king in 877, they ended up digging in at Fife Ness. Danes Dyke, that cuts this very tip of Fife off, is named after them. King Constantine I went to fight them, but was, according to legend, killed by them in the hermit's cave.

This is the place to come in winter: to watch the sea birds, get the wind in your hair, and escape the darkness of the clouds and hills in the rest of Scotland.


Billy said...

it suggests that 'fife' is an adjective, that one could have a quality called 'fifeness'

The possesion of a tumshie heed with sticky oot ears and a taste for stovies?

Robert Craig said...

D'ye ken Ken, ken?