Salt panning may not be the most glamorous job in
the world but for 17th and 18th Century Scotland it was a vital commodity in the
burgeoning trade with continental Europe. The extraction of salt as a commercial
enterprise began during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots, who hit on the idea
of raising a salt tax, which turned small scale business into a vast commercial
The Forth Valley lay at a distinct advantage in the production
of salt, having coal readily available nearby to provide heat to evaporate seawater
which was collected in iron pans. The salt industry was spread throughout this
part of the country, from the Neuk of Fife to Prestonpans on the far side of Edinburgh.
|The mill from St Monans|
Salt Mill here at St Monans was used to pump seawater into the pans. Once full,
the coal was fired and the heat evaporated off the water leaving the valuable
white crystals behind. It was an intensive process, as to produce one ton of salt
took almost 32 tone of seawater.
The salt industry reached its peak in
the century after the Act of Union, when Scottish salt flooded the English market,
due to a more lenient tax north of the border. However, wit the repeal of salt
duty in 1823 and the import of cheap rock salt from abroad the salt industry collapsed.
The last salt pan in Scotland, in Prestonpans, closed its doors in 1959.
Directions: from here you are following the Fife Coastal Trail all
the way along the pathway. It's well marked and sign-posted along the
way, though steep and not suitable for wheelchairs in several parts. Stop
for a snack in Pittenweem, or if you can hold-off till Anstruther, get
chips at the end of the walk.