For up to date information please vist our Facebook Page

The History of St Andrews Harbour

In its earliest form, the harbour consisted of the unimproved shores of the Kinness Burn, whose waters were deflected towards the East (from an original Northwards direction of flow) by the natural rock skerries on the shore of St. Andrews Bay. Vessels using the harbour in the mediaeval period presumably beached themselves in the estuary for loading and unloading purposes.

In the 14th century the lands of St Andrews Priory were enclosed by the building of the precinct wall which remains a prominent feature adjacent to the present day harbour. The wall had a substantial gateway (the Mill Port) opening onto the harbour at The Shore and the wall itself confined non-Priory traffic approaching the harbour to a narrow strip of land on the left bank of the Kinness Burn. The narrowness of this strip of land between the Priory Wall and the Harbour became increasingly a problem over the years and has had a significant effect upon the subsequent development of the quays in the inner harbour.

By the later 16th century it is clear that built quays and piers were in existence at the harbour. The Geddy plan clearly illustrates structures of timber and stone flanking the entrance channel to the harbour and extending well inland along the burn. The line of the present North pier at its shoreward end relates to these 16th century structures, although the present form of the pier is largely the product of 18th and 19th century rebuilding.

This North Pier is a classic example of Scottish vernacular harbour work. It comprises a pier of rubble construction, with a substantial bulwark on its seaward face, to protect the wide quay from overtopping seas in heavy weather. The course of the pier is somewhat crooked, reflecting the strategy of the builders to construct it from strong point to strong point along the natural rock skerry which forms its foundation. The dry-stone, rubble construction of this pier gives it great character and the surfaces reveal many examples of repairs to the pier, using a variety of different strategies for placing the stones. The outer, seaward face of this pier contains in places re-used stone with rolled moulded margins, presumably coming from the ruined castle or cathedral in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The North pier has a number of important features along is length, including cyclopean stone mooring pawls, stone stairs leading to the bulwark and a stone slipway in the harbour where the pier joins the Shorehead quay. There is also a stone-built ramp at the root of the pier leading down onto the shore. This ramp is of indeterminate age but it connects with a rock-cut roadway leading towards the castle, where there was an important landing beach. The outer, seaward end of the North pier is of 19th and 20th century date, reflecting efforts to improve the access to the harbour in heavy weather. It is of typical Victorian and later cement construction, much more rectilinear than the earlier work at the shoreward end. This later extension is fitted with cast-iron mooring pawls.