Charlestown is a delightful small village on the Fife coast just west of Limekilns and south west from Dunfermline. Established in 1756 by Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin, Charlestown was a planned village set out in the shape of the letters C and E for Charles Elgin. It was a harbour toen for the shipmnet of coal and lime. The harbour was used for shipbuilding as well as ship breaking in the 19th century, with some of the German IMperial Fleet were brought here from Scapa Flow after World War 1 to be broken up.
The production of lime was a prime industry in Charlestown and here you can see the remains of 14 massive lime kilns right on the seafront next to the harbour.
Through the late 18th and 19th centuries, the kilns were part of a major industrial complex of the time including coal mining, ironworking and salt extraction. Coal and limestone were brought in from the local quarries, also on the Earl’s estate. The adjacent harbour was as well built by the Earl and used for transporting the lime products, limestone and importantly coal. There were local railway lines, also a railway link to Dunfermline. Around the lime kilns there were many ancillary buildings, these have almost entirely gone. The operation ran down from the 1930s and finally closed in 1956.
There are many interesting walks you can take at Charlestown along the Fife Coastal Path or inland through the Broomhall Estate. Walking through the estate you can see remnants of the old limestone works with abandoned quarries. One of the large quarries is now a wonderful wildlife refuge and you can observe a variety of birdlife. In the woods just above the village you can find the Gellet Rock, a limestone monolith deliberately left behind when the quarries around it were stripped to feed the kilns. The Gellet Rock stands as a memorial to the work done on the estate and marks the original height of the rock before the workings changed the landscape.
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