A Visit to Culross - how timeless is it really?
We’ve stepped outside Perthshire a couple of times recently, firstly to the beautiful Fife town of Culross (pronounced Coo-Ross) - so picturesque that it regularly appears in many TV shows (including Outlander).
When you wander along charming, peaceful streets, imagine that they were once full of the hustle and bustle of a thriving 17th-century port on the River Forth - and see white-harled houses with red-tiled roofs line the steep cobbled streets which run from the market cross to the hilltop abbey.
Don’t miss the jetty. In a wonderful local initiative, they’ve been rebuilding it by asking all who walk on it to drop on a stone when they visit. Over the few years that we’ve been going, it has emerged out of the sea once more.
Also, don’t miss a visit to the Red Lion pub, some of the best (and most generous) pub food we’ve ever had.
Culross Pottery and Gallery cram an amazing selection of quality Scottish artwork (originals and prints) and jewellery into an impossibility small space. A real treasure trove of fabulous, from where it’s hard to leave empty-handed.
Culross is a spectacular place to view a sunset. Look down the river Forth at an industrial scene: The (disused) Longannet Power Station was the last coal-fired power station in Scotland, in its heyday it was the largest coal-fired station in Europe. It was also one of the most polluting in the UK, with tonnes of ash produces daily. What didn’t hit the atmosphere was scraped up and piled on a local island, changing the landscape (and ecosystem) there completely.
The picturesque town also looks across the water at Grangemouth’s huge Petroineos oil refinery, which is one of the UK’s largest manufacturing sites, with Scotland’s only crude oil refinery (where the bulk of fuel used in Scotland is produced) and where an array of petrochemical plants twinkle quite prettily in the evening light.
In contrast to the little fishing town of Culross, Ineos, has annual turnover of £46 billion and is chaired by Britain’s richest man, Sir Jim Ratcliffe. Ineos actively champion fracking in England and Wales (currently on hold in Scotland, thanks to Scotland’s largest political party, the SNP).
17th century Culross is unusually preserved and has old world charm in spades. Within its streets you may forget that the recent story of the River Forth is an industrial one: the Forth Rail Bridge spans the river mouth at Edinburgh in glorious testament to the ingenuity of engineering and industrial ironwork: unfortunately, the river and its shores are seriously polluted by contemporary industry.
A quarter of the population of Scotland lives by the shores of the Forth. Levels of some harmful chemicals are high and, due to the plastic industry around the Forth, the ecosystem is menaced by millions of tiny plastic beads (cutely named ‘nurdles’) spilling into waterways and spreading across the beaches and mudflats to be ingested by molluscs, sea birds and estuary wildlife.
Last April a young humped backed whale was spotted in the Forth Estuary and unknown to all who joyously glimpsed it, it had already been entangled in fishing ropes for some weeks, which ultimately caused it infection and death.
It’s a pleasure to visit Culross, dip into the 17th century and see the best of what Scottish tourism can offer visitors in terms of built environment, landscape, art and hospitality.
However, now is the time to address the pollution of the Forth with strict new laws controlling shipping and handling of plastics for industry, increased industry inspections (with serious financial penalties for breaches of health and safety, security and environmental standards) and a nationwide reduction of single use plastic (domestic rubbish easily blows into waterways - even after its been placed in the right recycling bin).
Without urgent action, what we offer our tourists may still retain the charm of a film set and be nostalgic for a romanticised past, but it criminally disregards contemporary Scotland and offers the poorest of future.
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