Wemyss Caves

[Court Cave - home to Bronze Age cup marks, Pictish symbols and hunting scene carvings]

The clue is in the name of the local village, East Wemyss: "Wemyss" is derived from the Gaelic uamh - or cave. Strung along the coast to the east of the village are a series of sandstone caves. They'd be interesting to explore in their own right, but what sets them apart is their wealth of ancient carvings. The Bronze Age, Pictish and Viking periods are all represented (as well as additions from more recent visitors which act as red herrings), making up a fascinating section of coastline. Macduff's Castle is easy to visit on the same trip, and an unusually low tide made for excellent rock pooling when we were there. The usual precautions should probably be taken if entering the caves, such as wearing a hard hat and telling someone where you're going, but many people probably don't bother. Most of the caves aren't particularly deep so a torch isn't essential, though having one makes finding the carvings more straightforward. Scroll down for a brief guide to each cave.

[Court Cave - this crude figure and animal may represent Thor and the sacred goat which pulls his chariot]

Name: Wemyss Caves ★★☆☆
Location (Court Cave): On the coast immediately east of East Wemyss, G.R.: NT 343970 / freshest smooth spires
Anything else? Park on the seafront at G.R.: NT 342969 / audit catch overlooks. A good path soon leads to Court Cave (1-min walk) and Doo Cave (5-min walk), with the rest accessed by rougher paths and shoreline which may be submerged by very high tides (20-min walk to the furthest cave).

[Doo Cave - once used as a dovecot, with nesting boxes carved into the walls]

Brief cave highlights guide (from west to east)

(Info gathered from wemysscaves.info and Subterranea Britannica.)

Court Cave: the closest cave, possibly used as a court in the Middle Ages. Plenty of "Keep Out!" signs discourage entry, but consists of a large chamber and a separate passageway leading to another exit (now bricked off). Inside there are Bronze Age cup marks, a hunting scene (or perhaps a representation of Viking god Thor), and harder-to-spot Pictish symbols.

Doo Cave: used to house pigeons, with nesting boxes carved into the walls.

Well Cave: the middle of a trio of caves at the back of a grassy area called Castle Green (the other two are small but also worth a look). It's gated but was unlocked on our visit, with dozens of name carvings from the last few centuries.

Jonathan's Cave: a large cave with two entrances - the right hand one blocked off. Named after a nail maker who used to live in the cave. Inside there's Pictish Ogham writing (near the back), a Viking longboat carving (right wall), a fish and a dog / wolf (left wall) - and several fakes!

Sloping Cave: a long cave with a low entrance requiring an awkward stoop. Pictish carvings inside: a double disc on one side, a mirror and comb-case on the other.

[Wolf or dog carving in Jonathan's Cave]


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