Kilrenny - possibly the East Neuk's oldest settlement

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright August 2021, Bill Kasman; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.

Photographs of every publicly-accessible road, street, lane, track and path in the Fife village of Kilrenny

The East Neuk of Fife is probably best known for its coastal fishing villages but there are inland settlements in the East Neuk and one of them, Kilrenny, may well be the oldest settlement in this area. The early history of Kilrenny is vague but it dates to at least 1243 when a church was consecrated in the village (possibly dedicated to St. Ethernannus) and there is some evidence of an earlier chapel or church which may have had connections to the Culdees, and the presence of a church suggests a village to support it. That Kilrenny is of early (possibly Christian) origin is supported both by the place name ('Kil' is from Scots Gaelic 'Cill' which means a church) and by the Skeith Stone, a large stone carved with what may be Pictish symbols, lying just outside the village and is believed to originate from the 7th century. The parish church and graveyard are interesting with memorials and headstones dating back some 200 years. The present church was built in 1807-1808. It is surrounded to the north, south and east by a large graveyard contained by a coped wall. A 15th-century tower is all that remains of the earlier church. The graveyard contains a number of interesting burials. The red sandstone Lumsdaine mausoleum is decorated with Doric columns and Ionic pilasters, and there is an armorial stone which carries the date 1823. There is also a mausoleum for the Scott of Balcomie family and a monument to the Beaton family.

Kilrenny was once known as 'Upper Kilrenny' and, despite it not being near the sea, was still a fishing village. It was 'twinned' with Lower Kilrenny (also known as Nether Kilrenny), located on the coast, where fishermen from Upper Kilrenny kept their boats and fishing nets. When Lower Kilrenny changed its name to Cellardyke sometime in the 15th century Upper Kilrenny dropped the 'Upper' part of its name.

Being a small village with a population of about 600 Kilrenny is not well served with facilities. There has been some development in the village but there are no corner shops, pubs, banks, ATMs, GP's surgeries, hotels, takeaways, pharmacies, tearooms, schools, etc., and the A917, the East Neuk's coast road, bypassed Kilrenny after WWII leaving today's village as a quiet, picturesque slice of history with interesting architectural features on its many well-preserved houses - crow-stepped gables, datestones, forestairs, pan-tiled roofs etc. The entire village is a conservation area.

Where is Kilrenny?

The village of Kilrenny can be found in the East Neuk of Fife just off the A917 Fife coast road about a mile or so north of the town of Anstruther.

A video of this location is available on YouTube LinkExternal link

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