The wee village of West Wemyss

One of the things that repeatedly surprises me about Scotland is the number of fascinating little out of the way villages there are, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered.

The county of Fife is full of such places, and yesterday I took the delightful assistants out for a seaside adventure in search of one.

Anyone who knows the Fife coast well might already be familiar with the village of West Wemyss (pronounced Weems), but it’s the sort of place you could easily miss, being at the end of a road that leads to West Wemyss and nowhere else.

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The village of West Wemyss, nestling on the Fife coast at the end of the road.

We parked in a free car park by the harbour, overlooked by some commanding buildings complete with pantiled roofs very typical of Fife coastal villages.

The cream coloured building is called the Belvedere, and was built in 1927 to serve as a miner’s institute and reading room. I would have liked to have gone inside and had a look for the books, but alas it was all closed up.

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The village of West Wemyss was a planned community, built by the landed gentry of the Wemyss Estate to house their workers.

Despite still having a few grand buildings the current village has a popluation of around 240 and I don’t imagine that these days many of them have work within West Wemyss itself.

The Wemyss family have lived in this area since around the 12th Century and in 1421 Sir John Wemyss built Wemyss Castle, which is now in a state of some disrepair.

The castle lies a short distance along the bay from the main part of the village.

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Wemyss Castle hiding behind trees and a most curious wall which, viewed from afar, I thought was a long arched bridge.

I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting history attached to Wemyss Castle, far more than I’ve been able to find with a quick online search, but I did learn that much of the Wemyss family wealth was built on coal mining. I also discovered that in 1565 Mary Queen of Scots first met Lord Darnley (the chap who was to become her second husband) at Wemyss Castle.

As we walked past the castle we noticed that close to shore in the bay, stretched out on rocks, were a few fat seals.

I believe that both grey and common (or harbour) seals are found in the Firth of Forth and I really don’t know which these were, but they were satisfyingly plump and shiny.

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Fat seals.

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Is a shiny seal a healthy seal? I like to think so.

Just inland from the seals was a row of large concrete blocks: tank defences put there during the second world war to stop the Jerries from climbing aboard our shores.

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Between the castle and the village, stuck onto an old bit of wall, were some mosaics, including one depicting two swans:

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Swan mosaics stuck onto an old bit of wall by the coast.

There was a snazzy mosaic door, too, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere but looked very pretty.

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Lovely mosaic door stuck into an old wall.

A plaque informed us that this artwork had come about as a collaboration between three local artists and the nearby primary school at Coaltown of Wemyss (another village along the coast). The project was supported by Fife Council and included a little picnic area:

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A view that delightful assistant no.2 claims brings sorrow to his very soul – a picnic area with no picnic in sight.

Constructed in 1512, West Wemyss harbour lies at the west end of the village.

In the old days it was an important port for ships carrying coal and salt (and, somewhat unfortunately in 1590, the plague, which spread from here throughout Fife wiping out a good many of the inhabitants).

These days it provides shelter for a few fishing and pleasure craft:

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West Wemyss harbour.

Next to the harbour we spotted a beautifully weathered building with a few bricks set into the surrounding stonework. It looked to me like a work of art.

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Interesting textures created by wind and weather, nicely contrasting with a bit of brickwork.

Having enjoyed a bracing walk along the coast with a cold wind blowing rain into our faces, we were ready for sustenance and plunged into the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

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The West Wemyss Walk Inn – the cafe inside is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, and jolly good it is, too.

It was lovely to get inside out of the wind and rain, and settle down in the warm cafe to peruse the menu.

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Inside the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe – cosy and welcoming.

I opted for the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato and came with a roll and – delightfully – a cheese and chilli stick covered in sesame seeds:

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Outstandingly good soup with bready snacks on the side.

Not having been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am delighted to report that it was exceptionally good soup and a very nice little stick and roll. The soup tasted of fresh tomatoes and cream, it was thick and delicious and, I’m quite sure, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for fish and chips, which came with a side order of bread and butter.

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Battered fish with chips, peas, bread and butter. Carbohydrates covered.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of his favourite toasted sandwiches, a brie and cranberry panini, which came with a fresh side salad and a few crisps:

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Brie and cranberry panini with salad and crisps.

We all had tea to drink, and a free refill of the teapot. Everything we had was just the job to warm us up and make us feel contented.

The cakes on offer were freshly baked in the kitchen upstairs and looked very tempting, but we all felt too full to have anything straight after our savouries, so we’ll save that treat for another occasion.

On the windowsill next to where I was sitting there was a small Christmas tree made from driftwood and decorated with fairy lights.

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Driftwood tree at West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

Behind the tree there was a framed certificate that made me happy; it declared that in 2013 West Wemyss had won a Silver award in Beautiful Scotland’s ‘Wee Village’ category.

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An award in the Wee Village category for the West Wemyss Bloomers, 2013.

I’m not surprised that West Wemyss has won such an award and I intend to revist later in the year when there are more blooms to be seen. Even on a dull, damp January day there were bright colours dotted about to cheer us up and make us glad we’d taken the little dead end road down to the coast.

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Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

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Categories: Architecture, Boats, Fife, Photography, Scotland, Seal, Soup, Tea, Tearooms, West Wemyss | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments

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44 thoughts on “The wee village of West Wemyss

  1. You took so long to get to the cafe Lorna that I thought there wasn’t going to be one! But I wasn’t disappointed and the tomato soup looks excellent.
    And here’s a question – why are seals fat? You rarely see them eating.

    • Sorry about that, I did ramble on a bit. I was almost too tired to add in the cafe at the end but I realised people might feel short changed if I didn’t put it in, and it was really excellent soup. I think seals are fat because of the blubber that keeps the cold out, but I daresay they scoff a fair number of fish when nobody’s looking.

  2. katiewritesagain

    Lorna
    What a wonderful find! There are lots of tiny, out of the way towns here in North Carolina in the US that gems as well. I’ve realized I’d rather take the side road with no great advertising and let myself be surprised at what turns up. There is beauty and character and individuality all over the place when we take the time to look.
    Thanks for the cafe photos, too. Yummy!
    Another successful adventure in the nooks and crannies of Scotland!

    • Thanks Kathleen, it’s worth exploring when you’ve got the inclination, and you’re absolutely right that we just need to keep our eyes open and there are all sorts of delights to be seen all over the place. I was surprised by West Wemyss, I must say, and very glad to find such a good cafe.

  3. Once more you have shown me a fascinating place. Thank you.

  4. What a lot of interesting discoveries! I have never been to West Wemyss but it looks a pretty little place, with a nice pebbly beach to potter along. That also looks a great place to have lunch – I am partial to tomato soup too, so I can appreciate how good that looks. I love the driftwood tree with fairy lights! What a nice idea. Perhaps I shall have to start collecting more driftwood! :) I think those are common seals rather than grey – I seem to remember that grey seals have a long ‘Roman’ nose and common seals have a cute stubby one! But I have no idea why they are so fat! Post-Christmas bulge?!

    • Thanks Jo, I wish you could have had a sup of that soup, it was so good. I was wondering how difficult it would be to make such a tree from driftwood, it’s a nice idea, isn’t it? I think you’re right about the seals, but what amazed me was their size, they seemed enormous. Mind you, it’s hard to judge when they’re lying on rocks in the sea and there’s nothing to compare them with. I like the idea of their post-Christmas bulge. :-)

  5. What a delightful village, straight out of a storybook. I love the swan mosaics. I would have had what Delightful assistant no.2 had for lunch. It is my favourite as well. A great outing so well described.

    • Thank you Darlene, it did have a storybook quality to it, especially those arches in the wall that I thought was a long bridge. There was wood smoke coming from a chimney near the arches, making the place seem all the more atmospheric. That cafe was a great find.

  6. Such a delightful little jaunt by the seaside and the happiest and chubbiest little seals I’ve ever seen. I love the beach in winter, often because it’s not over run with folk and you get to have the place all to yourself! Looks like your assistants enjoyed it too!

    • Thanks Alice, they were delightfully chubby seals. That’s a good point about the beach in winter, although I don’t imagine this little beach is ever all that busy. You have to be prepared for very cold winds in this country though, that’s the down side. Still, they’re bracing and help you to work up an appetite for tasty treats.

  7. Another sweet little village. I get a kick out of it being located at the dead end of a road. It’s like its first inhabitants, upon realizing they could go no further, decided to just stay put instead of turning around! We also have harbor seals here in New England, and their managing to look perfectly warm and cozy in freezing cold water never ceases to amaze me. Such chubby happy creatures. Well, delightful assistant #2 didn’t get his picnic (alas!), but the eats look right tasty. I think I might have to try my hand at making a brie and cranberry panini. Yum!

    • Thanks Lucinda, that’s an nice idea about its first inhabitants. I should think being in that location was a great boon in days gone by, although not so many people in Scotland make their living on/from the sea now. People still enjoy living on the coast, but with rising sea levels and storm surges I think some must be considering moving a bit further inland. The seals were a definite bonus, as was the tasty lunch.

  8. Thank you once again, Lorna, for showing me another undiscovered gem in Scotland. I love the mosaics! I, too, was glad you took us to a cafe at the end of the post, otherwise I think I would have felt chilly.

  9. I’m so happy that you find these lovely places! The seals are so cute and quite healthy I think… :)

  10. Loved reading about this sweet village. Your writing really took me there.

  11. What a delightful post – is this the Wemyss where the pottery comes from? I loved the stone and brick texture picture – just the sort of thing to get my stitchy juices flowing!

    • Thank you Anny. I checked up on the Wemyss pottery question and apparently it was indeed named after the same Wemyss family who had the castle in West Wemyss. Apparently, in the late 1800s when the pottery started up, the Wemyss family were keen patrons of the potters’ work, and the pots then became known as Wemyss ware. The stone and brick are lovely together aren’t they? I’d like to see that again on a bright sunny day when the colours of the stone stand out.

  12. Thank you for taking me out of my windowless library for a few moments! I’ll definitely be marking this place on my wish list. Loved the photos!

  13. Looks like a great place.

  14. Yay for Wee Villages! Amazing how many special little places you’ve discovered, Lorna.

  15. What a lovely little place that is! I love the mosaic especially the swans!

  16. We do like a good tearoom so I’ll be following this blog from now on.

  17. Brenda

    Came across your blog when I searched for scones, and was surprised and delighted to find that you are quite local to me! I’m already familiar with several of your favourite haunts, and will try more of them – any excuse for a wee cake and coffee (is it sacrilege to say I don’t do tea?). Even more thrilled to see the lovely photos of West Wemyss, a favourite hidden gem of mine – I haven’t seen the picnic area before, will take a little person and a picnic there once it warms up! Is there the facility on here to buy your book direct from you – can’t seem to see anything? Thanks for a lovely blog, I’ve subscribed, so look forward to seeing new inspiration!

    • Hi Brenda, many thanks for dropping in. There’s nowt wrong with a nice cup of coffee, I imbibe it myself from time to time. I hope you enjoy picnicking at West Wemyss in the warmer weather, I imagine it’s a great place for little people, safe for them to run around and with any luck they might see a seal or two. I sell my book on ebay, if that’s any good for you. If you go to ebay.co.uk and type in ‘tearoom delights’ it should pop up. If you have any trouble with that I’m sure I can arrange an alternative way of getting a copy to you. Thanks for subscribing, and a very warm welcome. :-)

  18. One of these days I will make it up to Fife, Lorna, and “Weems” will be on my list :) What a lovely find those mosaic swans were! And I love the driftwood tree, too.

  19. What a delightful post, I enjoyed tagging along on your little adventure. The wee village most be lovely on a sunny day in summer. I loved the fat seals, they were so round it looks like they would roll right off the rocks. :)

    • Thanks Karen, I must return in the warmer weather and see what it looks like then. I expect those chubby seals enjoy rolling off the rocks now and then, I’m sure I would if I were them.

  20. What a cracking location – it has a bit of the Portmeirion (The prisoner TV series) look about it the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe looks the business too – It has gone straight on to the bucket list.

  21. Peter Tunn

    Enjoyed the writings on West Wemyss as it brought back memories of when I worked in the fabrication yard at Methil just along the coast. My friend and I were in lodgings in Kirkcaldy and on the drive back at night after a shift we would call into various hostelries to unwind from the days toil. West Wemyss was one of our regular stops along with many other hidden gems along the Fife coast and we made a point of finding different places to unwind. My friends son is a very good artist and I asked him to do a drawing of his dad and myself with all the place names we visited at the end of the days work written around us on the drawing. I presented this to my friend at the end of the contract and today I have a copy on my study wall. Great Memories.

    • Thank you Peter, I’m glad this brought back some happy memories. What a lovely idea with the drawing, it sounds like a precious keepsake from those times with your friend.

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