Brainteaser – the answer (and a spot of medieval history!)

Thank you to everyone who had a go at guessing what my mystery object was!  I’m now going to reveal its identity.

It is, as many of you guessed, a tidal gauge.    Marking the water level in feet, it is attached to the wall of the small harbour of North Berwick on Scotland’s east coast.   Some of you were very close to getting the location, which is amazing.  Well done!

You can see the full length of the gauge in the photos below.    The Roman numerals go up to 16 feet, but I photographed it at a very low tide, when it was measuring less than a foot of water.

Lower part of the gauge

Lower part of the gauge

I don’t know how old the marker is – I’d say less than 100 years, because the rust is deceptive – but the harbour itself is much older.   It was built around 1150 as a port for pilgrims making their way to the shrine at St Andrews.   Amazingly, the small harbour would have welcomed up to 10,000 pilgrims each year.  The Earls of Fife set up a ferry service to transport them from North Berwick across the Firth of Forth to a point in Fife that became known as Earlsferry.  From there they would have walked the last 20 or so miles along the pilgrims’ path to St Andrews.

In 1154 Duncan, Fourth Earl of Fife, founded a hospital at North Berwick to care for the sick and the poor.  Nearby was a church dedicated to St Andrew, where pilgrims could pray for safe passage.  Nothing now remains of the hospital, but the porch of the ancient kirk is still standing.  I’ll tell you more in an upcoming feature!

North berwick harbour 25


Photos copyright © Jo Woolf



St Rule's Tower (3)Follow the pilgrims to St Andrews…

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  1. I was warm when I said Dunbar! Next time I’m in NB I’ll have a close look. 🙂

  2. And to think I not only spent many childhood summers in NB, but also lived there for a few months in my youth – and I never spotted this before. Fascinating stuff, as ever.

    • Haha! I think we sometimes overlook things that we’re familiar with. I’m guilty of it, too – I daren’t think of how many wonderful old ruined abbeys and historic sites I never visited in Shropshire.

  3. christinelaennec says:

    How interesting to follow this. I’ve been to North Berwick a few times, but never to the harbour. I will think of you if ever I make it there!

    • Really glad you enjoyed it, Christine, thank you! I was surprised myself to find out the history of the harbour. North Berwick is such an attractive little place, and we discovered it pretty much at random. Great fish and chip stall on the harbour, too!

  4. Fascinating post! Have been to North Berwick but never looked closely at the harbour. You know what I’ll be looking for next time, Jo! 🙂

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