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On a Clear day across the Forth you can see Pittenweem

From the East Neuk of 'Lothian' ... looking North

40 artists and family friends this week made the trip by coach and car to the East Neuk of Fife, to see how the Pittenweem Arts Festival just across the water has grown and grown over 22 years. It was, Andrew Crummy, Prestoungrange Arts Convenor, reports: "An absolute revelation.

"Here was a week long Arts Festival with 83 venues in a small town, with some 10,000 visitors on Sunday alone. This was like Princes Street, Edinburgh. A lot of the venues were so crowded you couldn't get in, or if you did get in it was hard to see the paintings, crafts or sculpture. It was all there. Many paintings and works of art were sold. They were very diverse.

"The only critique would be there was not enough food and drink available, no music and little for families to do. But gosh it makes it all seem so possible! Exhibitions in people's houses, what an excellent idea. Half the intrigue lies in seeing art in people's own homes and enjoying their gardens - so often art themslves".

Online Report from

'A fringe of gold on a beggar's mantle' was how James II, King of Scots (1437-1460), described the East Neuk of Fife with its burghs built around sheltered bays and rich farmland. Trade in salted fish, coal and linen with Europe made all these communities among the richest in Scotland, in the days when Scotland was independent and free.'

Pittenween is one of those East Neuk of Fife burghs - a town which continues the long tradition of fishing, indeed Pittenweem is now the main fishing centre of this delightful part of Scotland. Pittenweem's history dates back to the 7th century - indeed its name is of Pictish origins and means 'place (pit) by or of the cave (weem)', where it is said St Fillan chose to live while he converted the local Picts to Christianity. Legend has it that St Fillan had a luminous left arm, allowing him to work in the dark confines of the cave. Today you can still see the cave, in Cove Wynd, with the Saint's well and alter. However it is St Adrian who is the town's Patron Saint. He arrived from Hungary with his own band of Christian martyrs and was killed on the Isle of May in 872 during a raid by the Danes.

The Pittenweem coat of arms represents St Adrian being rowed ashore from the Isle of May.

Medieval Ecclesiastical Connections

The town's ecclesiastical connections were continued in medieval times when the monks of the St Ethernan's Priory on the Isle of May were granted lands around Pittenweem - the monks moved their base to Pittenweem Priory in the 13th century to escape maurauding pirates. The remodelled remains of the priory still stand on private property in Cove Wynd and Pittenweem Parish Kirk was built on the site of the old priory church in 1588-89.

The village which grew up around the priory, was made a Royal Burgh in 1541; the Tolbooth Tower was built as part of the Parish Church in 1588. Here the burgh council held meetings in the first floor chamber. Below them was the town jail, where a woman was imprisoned in 1705 after being arrested in a witch-hunt - one of the last outbreaks of witch-persecution in Scotland, which resulted in her death.

The Mercat Cross, a symbol of a Royal burgh, stands against the west wall of the Tolbooth Tower. it was first erected in the Marygate, probably at the junction with Kirkgate. As a burgh, Pittenweem held weekly markets, where farmers sold their produce, and several annual fairs. Linseed and shoes were sold on Lady Day (25 March), wool at the Lammas Fair in August and cattle at the the Martinmas Fair on 11 November.

Pittenweem wa first mentioned as a port in 1228. The outer pier is the oldest, first built in stone around the mid-16th century; the middle pier was built in 1771 by Sir John Anstruther and the West Pier was added when the fishing industry was booming in the 19th century. Today the harbour is at the centre of the East Neuk fishing industry and is busiest early in the morning when the catches are being sold at the new Fish market, built in 1994.

Pittenweem has made its mark on the Scottish Arts scene

The annual arts festival, now in its 22nd year, starts tomorrow, Saturday 7 August and continues until Sunday 15 August 2004. The Pittenweem Arts Festival has grown steadily since 1982 in size and reputation and this year offers its biggest ever line-up of attractions so far. There are over 80 art exhibitions to visit, plus a week-long programme of music, drama and film, at venues around the Royal Burgh and its ancient harbour. Children are catered for with sculpture, dance and puppet workshops, storytelling and painting competitions.

With something for everyone visit

Seafood also plays a major part in the festival including a full open day at Pittenweem Fish market on Saturday 15 August where you can enjoy cookery demonstrations (10am-4pm) whilst visiting the Pittenweem Arts Festival.

And ..for details of Seafood Celebrations in the
East Neuk of Fife, visit

Published Date: August 8th 2005

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