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Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Best Scottish Tours of Crail

Crail Harbour. Best Scottish Tours of Crail. Crail in 1846. Crail, a royal burgh, sea-port, and parish, in the district of St. Andrew's, county of Fife, 10 miles (S. E. by E.) from St. Andrew's, and 40 (N. N. E.) from Edinburgh; containing 1737 inhabitants, of whom 1221 are in the burgh. This place, of which the ancient Gaelic name, Caryle, is descriptive of its situation in a corner of the county, is of remote antiquity, and had a royal castle, whereof the date is not clearly ascertained, but which was occasionally the residence of David I. A priory and a collegiate church were founded here at an early period, and richly endowed. Of the former, which was suppressed previously to the Reformation, there remain only some vestiges of the chapel, dedicated to St. Rufus; and the latter, in which were eight altars, was at that time stripped of its rich ornaments, and is now the parish church. Mary of Guise, afterwards consort of James V., landed on this coast after a severe storm, and was hospitably entertained in the ancient mansion of Balcomie Castle, whence, accompanied by the king, she proceeded to St. Andrew's.

The town, which is situated at the mouth of the Firth of Forth, consists principally of two parallel streets, extending along the shore from east to west, and intersected nearly at right angles by others of inferior note. The houses in the main street are spacious, and of ancient appearance; and though, from the loss of the herring-fishery, of which the town was a principal station, it has been long declining in prosperity, it still retains many vestiges of its former importance. The harbour is both inconvenient and unsafe; but about a quarter of a mile to the east is Roome Bay, which might be converted into an excellent haven, capable of affording secure shelter to 200 sail of vessels, and might be rendered available to the increase of the trade of the Forth and of the eastern coasts of England and Scotland. There are no manufactures carried on, nor any trade of importance, except what is requisite for the supply of the neighbourhood.

The Government of the town, which was erected into a royal burgh by charter of Robert Bruce, confirmed by Mary, Queen of Scots, James VI., and Charles I. and II., is vested in a chief magistrate, two bailies, a treasurer, and a council of seventeen, chosen under the regulations of the Municipal act of William IV. There are seven incorporated trading companies, the blacksmiths, wrights, weavers, tailors, shoemakers, coopers, and bakers, the fees of admission into which vary, for sons of freemen, from £1. 5. to £3. 19., and for strangers, from £3 to £6. 2. The magistrates, whose jurisdiction extends over the whole of the royalty, hold bailie courts for civil actions and the trial of petty offences, but very few cases come under their decision. The burgh is associated with those of St. Andrew's, Anstruther Easter and Wester, Cupar, Kilrenny, and Pittenweem, in returning a member to the imperial parliament; the number of qualified voters is about fifty-one. The town-hall, a neat building, is situated in the principal street.

The parish, which is bounded on the east and south by the German Ocean, is above six miles in length, extending to Fifeness, the eastern extremity of the county, and about three miles in extreme breadth; but from its irregularity of form, the precise number of acres has not been ascertained. The surface, near the shore, has an elevation of about eighty feet above the sea, and rises gradually towards the west, without forming any considerable hills. The soil comprehends every variety of character, from the deepest black loam to a thin wet clay, and the chief crops are, wheat, oats, beans, barley, and potatoes, of all of which great quantities are sent annually to the south. The system of agriculture has been much improved; all the modern implements of husbandry are in use; the farms are of moderate size, and on most of them threshing-mills have been erected. The lands near the town obtain a very high rent, generally from £6 to £8 per acre, and the pastures are luxuriantly rich. Coal is found in the parish, and there are still remaining the mines formerly in operation; limestone of good quality is also abundant, and is obtained for manure. The rateable annual value of the parish is £10,240. The only plantations are around the mansions of the principal landed proprietors. The ancient houses of Newhall and Balcomie have been demolished; of the latter, which was one of the noblest mansions in the county, a small portion only remains, forming, however, a good landmark for mariners. The principal houses at present are those of Airdrie, a handsome mansion embosomed in thriving plantations, Kirkmay, and Wormiston, in the grounds of which, also, are some trees of stately growth. The Ecclesiastical affairs are under the superintendence of the presbytery of St. Andrew's and synod of Fife. The minister's stipend is £280, with a manse, and a glebe valued at £64 per annum; patron, the Earl of Glasgow. The church, formerly collegiate for a provost, sacrist, and prebendaries, still retains some vestiges of its ancient grandeur. The parochial school, with which the burgh grammar school has been incorporated, is well conducted; the master has a salary of £34, with a house and garden, and the fees average about £40. When the number of scholars exceeds ninety, an assistant is appointed, who receives from the corporation £12 per annum, the salary formerly paid to the burgh schoolmaster. The remains of the priory, near the sea-shore, are almost obliterated, the eastern gable, which was the chief portion left, having been destroyed by the sea about forty years ago.

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