Constantine's Cave, Crail

National Grid Reference (NGR): NO 63270 10090, map


Address

Balcomie Golf Course
Crail
Fife
KY10 3XN
Scotland

Introduction

Constantine's Cave is a natural sea cave located in the north face of a rocky cliff face at Fife Ness, approximately 300m north-west of Craighead Farm. The entrance to the cave is via a path running along the seashore, close to Balcomie Golf Course. The cave was first excavated in the early 20th century and was found to contain evidence of a long (but not continuous) occupation, from the pre-historic period into the 19th century.

The cave is approximately 8 metres deep, has a 3 metre wide entrance and is 4 metres in height. There is evidence of a stone wall having being built across the entrance at some point, to form a protected interior space. The earliest occupation layer was found around 30cm below the current land surface and contained a variety of animal bones, including red deer, ox, horse and whale, along with some antler and bone tools. A later layer contained Roman glass and pottery, including several pieces of amphorae, dated to around the second century AD. These were possibly salvaged from a nearby shipwreck. Evidence was also found of iron working.

The cave's association with Christianity comes later, around 800-1000AD. Several incised crosses and Celtic-style animals carved on the cave walls have been dated to this period and long been associated with Constantine II, King of Alba (903-943). Local tradition asserts he was killed in or around the cave during a battle with the Danes in the 870s, although there is no evidence for this. The construction of a wall across the entrance suggests the cave was used as a chapel or hermitage for some time during or after the Celtic period. It is not clear how long the cave was occupied or used after this period, but it is said to have been used as a look-out by locals during the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century.

J Dowling 2017


Description (exterior)


Description (interior)


People / Organisations:

NameRoleDatesNotes
Mr AGB Wace1914A G B Wace and Professor Jehu excavated the cave in 1914.
Professor JesuResearcher1914A G B Wace and Professor Jehu excavated the cave in 1914.

Events:

  • Cave: Excavation (1914)
    A G B Wace and Professor Jehu excavated the cave in 1914.

Archive References:

NameReferenceNotes
Canmore - Online database View Canmore Report Online: 35369
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-108-881-CImage copyright: Helen Armitage
Scran - Online databaseReference: 000-000-108-881-CImage Copyright: Helen Armitage
Scottish Church Heritage Research Archive - Offline databaseReference: 4664

Bibliographic References:

NameAuthorDateNotes
Guide to the East Neuk of FifeFleming, D Hay1886Available as an ebook at http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usebooks/fleming-eastneuk/index.html Chapter One, available at http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/usebooks/fleming-eastneuk/index.html
Cave Excavations in East FifeAJB Wace & Professor Jehu1915Periodical: