St Monans (west end of harbour)
St Monans shown within Fife
|Population||1,340 (2006 estimate)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|UK Parliament||North East Fife|
|Scottish Parliament||North East Fife|
St Monans (often spelt St Monance) ( listen (help·info); locally listen (help·info) ) is a village in the East Neuk of Fife and is named after the legendary Saint Monan. Situated approximately 3 miles west of Anstruther, this small community, whose inhabitants formerly made their living mainly from fishing, is now a tourist destination situated on the Fife Coastal Path. The former burgh rests on a hill overlooking the Firth of Forth, with views to North Berwick, the Bass Rock and the Isle of May. St Monans contains many historical buildings, including the now defunct windmill (which can be visited) that once powered a salt panning industry, and a 14th-century church that sits on the rocks above the water on the western side. Approximately ½ mile west of St Monans are the remains of Newark Castle, a 16th-century manor that has since fallen to ruin through cliff erosion and disrepair. In 2002, with the permission of Historic Scotland, an unsuccessful attempt to restore the castle was made.
St Monans Church is situated within its kirkyard just to the west of the village on the very edge of the sea. It is perched on a low rock, over a small valley with a burn. As seen from most directions it has the sea as a backdrop. A more modern cemetery stands further westwards on the upper slopes of the little hill. This contains the local war memorial. Standing at the extreme west end of this a ruin can be viewed across fields, again perched on the sea edge.
It is often said that St Monans is the church nearest the sea in the whole of Scotland, and this may well be the case, being only around 20m from the edge. The church, one of the finest remaining from the Middle Ages in Scotland, was built by King David II Bruce (1329–71), initially for a small house of Dominican friars. It later became the Church of Scotland parish church. Though the church may never have been finished (it has a choir and transepts, with a short spire over the crossing, but lacks a nave), it has many features of architectural interest, notably the fine stone vaulting in the choir and the plain but handsome sedilia. White-washed throughout internally, the church is particularly light and attractive among ancient Scottish churches.
Major restoration to the windows and masonry was completed in March 2007. The church is open to visitors daily from April - October.
St. Monans Gospel Hall
The Hall was built in 1970 and is a modern building, harled with a slate roof, situated in a raised location facing broadly west over Hope Park on the northern edge of St. Monans. Prior to its construction, it was not uncommon for fishermen from St Monans to cycle to St Andrews to attend meetings at the Gospel Hall there.
Shops, hotels, cafés and businesses
St Monans has a fish merchants and a fish-smokehouse. There are several pubs, restaurants and cafes in the village. There is also a caravan park which attracts many visitors, a tradition that has continued from the days of the railway line.
In the industrial estate at the entrance to St Monans are the remains of the old railway station, a relic of the old East Neuk Rail Line, part of the Fife Coast Railway which was shut down in the 1960s after the Beeching cuts. All that remains is the south platform which is overgrown with grass. Nearby is the station master's house, now a private residence, which stands out from the newer buildings surrounding it.
Like other small East Neuk towns, St Monans is rich in vernacular fisher and merchant houses of the 17th to early 19th centuries, with characteristic old Scots features, e.g. forestairs, crow-stepped gables, datestones, pantiled roofs etc. The tradition of shipbuilding has now ceased. For over 200 years the boat builder J W Miller & Sons Ltd produced fifie fishing boats, yachts and motor launches in the village.
The author Christopher Rush grew up in the village. His autobiography Hellfire and Herrings describes the community as seen by a small boy in the 1940s, 1950s and earlier, and as recounted by his grandfather and other relatives.