Things to See

Photo by Heather Aird

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Crail Mercat Cross

The Crail Mercat Cross stands in Marketgate, just along from the Town Hall. This is where proclamations are made by the town crier and other dignitaries.  The market cross was the symbol of the Burgh's authority and was normally situated close to the tolbooth in a prominent position in relation to the whole market area. It is not known where the original cross stood in Crail but the present cross was re-erected in 1887 on the Marketgate site. The cross utilises a 17th century shaft with 19th century unicorn and base. The design is probably faithful to the original appearance. When considering the cross in relation to the Marketgate as a whole, one must ignore the avenue of trees that cut across this space on the line of the present road.

There are many sights and historical areas to see in and around Crail that can be enjoyed in your own time for free.

The 'Blue Stane'

To the left of Crail Parish Church’s gates is the 'Blue Stane'. According to local legend, it was thrown from the Isle of May by the Devil to damage Crail church. The stone split in mid-air, one piece landing here and the other landing on Balcomie Beach near Fife Ness, the most easterly point of Fife There is an indentation on the stone where the Devil's hand has melted the rock

Photo by Heather Aird
Photo by Heather Aird

Crail Parish Church

Crail Parish Church has a long pedigree of being a church at the heart of the community for over eight centuries. Though much altered, Crail Parish Church in its first form consisted of an unaisled rectangular nave and chancel of romanesque design. In the early thirteenth century, a tower was added at the west end and the nave was re-built with arcades of six gothic arches opening to north and south aisles and a new arch opening to the chancel.

Photo by Heather Aird

The Dead House

Behind the Church lies The Dead House, built in 1826 to protect corpses from resurrectionists who sold new corpses to Medical Schools (as did the more infamous Burke and Hare). Bodies were kept here for 6 weeks in summer and 12 weeks in winter before interment to ensure that they were of no use to Medical Science.

Photo by Heather Aird

The Doocot

Crail Doocot was built in the 16th century, on ground owned by the priory in Haddington, to house rock doves which were bred to provide eggs and fresh meat. At that time it was not possible to keep large numbers of cattle or sheep over the winter months because of lack of feeding, so in the autumn, only a few animals were kept for breeding the following year while the rest were slaughtered and their meat salted for consumption over the winter. So the doocot was an extremely important source of fresh meat and was therefore a very prestigious building. When root vegetables arrived in Britain, they could be used for winter feed for animals, so no doocots were built after the 18th century. This is one of the few remaining “beehive” doocots still standing (so named because of its  conical shape) and is one of the oldest buildings in Crail.

Photo by Colin Morrison

Castle Walk

 

Crail once had a royal castle above the harbour. The site is still visible as an open garden attached, but little or nothing of the structure survives above ground. A Victorian 'turret' jutting out from the garden wall recalls the Castle.

you can now walk around what would have been the castle and take in the view out to sea. At a corner overlooking the harbour there is a wooden plaque showing the view out to sea with notable views that can be seen such as the Isle of May and the Bass Rock. 

Photo by Heather Aird

Harbour

Crail has one of the best small harbours in the East Neuk and is well known for shellfish; in season, fresh lobster and dressed crab are available at the harbour. Dating back to the 16th century, the curved breakwater offers protection from the estuary of the River Forth. In 1826, Robert Stevenson contributed the straight west pier.

Photo by Colin Morrison

Tolbooth

 

The Tolbooth has a characteristic tower dating from about 1600 and a European style roof, similar to buildings in Holland. The weathervane on the spire is in the form of a smoked haddock (known locally as a Crail Capon) rather than the traditional cockerel form. The curved roof form on the tower evidences the European influence of the 16th century, and is architecturally described as a Dutch spire. The bell inside was cast in Holland and bears the date 1520, and is a permanent reminder of the town’s trading links with the Dutch.

Photo by Heather Aird
By Crail Community Partnership