Caves of Caiplie

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Caiplie Coves
Caiplie Coves
Location Fife
Coordinates 56°14′36″N 2°38′50″W / 56.243332°N 2.647271°W / 56.243332; -2.647271
Discovery The site was first used for Christian worship in the ninth century.[1]
Translation The word 'Cove' as used here means 'Cave' (Scots)

The Caves of Caiplie, Caplawchy[2] or Caiplie Coves, known locally as The Coves [3] are a cave system on the Fife Coastal path between Anstruther and Crail in Scotland. The Caves were the site of early Christian worship, after this they were used by farmers to house livestock and included a doocot for housing pigeons (c170), the caves are thought to have been abandoned since c180.[2]

The Cave System[edit]

Chapel Cave is the largest cave in the system, it was described by David Hay Fleming in his book 'Guide to the East Neuk of Fife' as having "a lofty roof" while also noting that it "measures fully forty feet from its mouth to the pointed recess at the inner end." While the cave has been created naturally due to the waves eroding the stone, it has been made bigger by people.[1]

Caiplie Caves


The word 'cove' in Scots means 'cave'.[4] The caves were all constructed by the sea eroding away the sandstone with a selection of the larger caves also being carved by the various groups of humans who have occupied the caves at various points in time.

Human occupants[edit]

The caves were first used for worship in the ninth century by Christians. In Chapel Cave there are a number of incised crosses which had been added at varying time periods. Holes had also been cut in pairs in the rock which is believed to have been used for passing ropes through. The floor of the cave was formerly clay and excavations in the nineteenth century recovered human remains beneath the floor. Harmit's Well is the easternmost of the Caves of Caiplie and it is named this because for several months just prior to World War II it was used by a hermit as his dwelling, the fixing points for his door and window can still be seen embedded in the natural sandstone walls.[5]

The Hermit at his Cave


From the caves you are offered views of the May Island, a nature reserve that can be travelled to by boat from Anstruther, and the Bass Rock. In the morning and night you get a spectacular view of the sunrise and sun set. To the left of the caves you can see along to Kilrenny and Cellardyke and to the right you can see Crail, a small fishing village.

Animal Life[edit]

The fields around Caiplie Caves are home to a whole variety of livestock such as goats, cows and pigs. On occasion you can see Puffins on the may isle or even seals. The caves are home to different species of bats.


  1. ^ a b "Caiplie, "The Coves"". Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  2. ^ a b "The Caves of Caiplie". Scottish Churches. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  3. ^ "Caiplie Caves and the Hermit's Well". Forth Yacht Clubs Association. Retrieved 15 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Alexander, Warrack (1982). Chambers Scots Dictionary. Chambers. ISBN 0-550-11801-2. 
  5. ^

External links[edit]