send an e-mail - press here . . .

The Wemyss Caves, Fife an Introduction by Frank Rankin
The text below is taken from Frank Rankin's books, The Wemyss Caves and
Guide to the Wemyss Caves.

Frank Ranking - Local historianThanks to Frank Rankin for permission to use the following text.

The name of Wemyss is derived from the Celtic UAMH which means cave. The Wemyss Caves, Fife, have been used by many people over thousands of years and for a variety of purposes: from cave dwellers, the Picts, early Christians, Norse men and smugglers, to the present day.

Unfortunately the caves now suffer from misuse, wilful damage and neglect, and for these reasons I would like to remind the reader of this book of the Heritage which is being thrown away by this generation.

It has been said that there are more markings in the Wemyss Caves than in all the other caves in Britain put together. The only other caves like Wemyss are at Covesea Cove, Moray Firth, and there are only one or two there.

The markings can be grouped under three headings:-
1. Pre-Christian
2. Christian
3. Viking

The Pre-Christian markings are on the whole, Pictish in origin, as can be seen on many cross-slabs all over the country. They include 'elephant' figures, animals, mirror and comb and double disc or 'spectacle ornaments'.

The Christian markings are again Pictish but they include fish, the early Christian symbol, and cross markings.

The Viking markings are symbolised by the Norse Gods; Thor with his hammer followed by the sacred goat; Freya, portrayed by the goose and Odin by the trumpet form.

There are three types of markings:-
1. Pecked
2. Scooped
3. Line

The only known example of pecked markings is the 'Hunting Scene' found in the Michael Cave where the outline was made by a series of holes.

The scooped markings are very shallow with the middle of the figure hollowed out e.g. the boat in Jonathan's cave.

Line markings have been made with a round pointed tool and only the outline is drawn in. They are deeper than the 'scooped' markings.

It is interesting to note that the Pictish markings were thought to be funereal until they were found in the Wemyss caves.

Unfortunately there are many markings which have been etched in modern days. They include initials, dates and even a fish in Jonathan's cave. Comparing this horizontal fish with the original, it can be seen that the modern fish has been made with a knife.

The only other man made things in the caves were made by the original inhabitants. Ledges and benches have been cut out in some of the caves, and 'hold-fasts' have been made in the walls.

Wemyss Caves, Fife, carving in Jonathan's cave. What looks like a cannon is not what it appears. The top of the cannon has been added, the original double discs, joined by two lines (the original drawing) can be seen here.
(Above) Cave drawing that has been changed to look like a cannon.
This is not as it appears, the cannon wheels are the original cave drawing.
Someone has added the rest at a later date.

Wemyss Caves, Fife, carving in Jonathan's cave. Double discs again joined by two lines.Wemyss Caves, Fife, carving in Jonathan's cave. Another example of double discs joined by two lines.
    (Above) Two cave drawings that show double discs joined by two lines.

Wemyss Caves Booklets available by Frank Rankin from Buckhaven Library

save the wemyss caves banner
Save The Wemyss Caves Society
Open Sundays 2011
Basement Suite of East Wemyss Primary School

Fife Coastal Path

April 10

Wemyss Parish

May 8

Kirkcaldy's part in the Heritage of Fife

June 12

Islands of the Forth

July 10

BBQ (North of St Mary's Old Kirk

July 31

Fife Gravestones

August 14

Wemyss and Buckhaven DOD

September 11

Wemyss Caves SAM

September 18

On the above Sundays the East Wemyss Education Centre will be open from
14.00 to 16.30.

There is an opportunity to look at the exhibits, take part in the organised talk at the centre or take part in an organised tour of the caves with a guide normally leaving the Centre at about 2.00 pm.

Sensible shoes should be worn if participating in the caves tour. The best part of the tour is being taken into the caves and seeing the cave drawings. The guides are an essential part of the tour as they point out the more hard to see cave drawings. Do not hesitate to ask any questions that you may have. The guides will share lots of facts about the caves, an enjoyable walk and an educational one at that. After the tour take time out at the Education Centre and look around the exhibits.

There is time to ask further questions or purchase items that are for sale.

friends of the wemyss banner
A great web site Friends from the Wemyss

© all rights reserved