There’s a beautifully vibrant wee town, tucked away in the East Neuk of Fife, which has reinvented itself many times over the years. It’s name, Pittenweem, is a mix of Pictish and Scottish Gaelic words which mean The Land of the Caves. (Pit- Pictish for place or piece of land) (na h-Uaimh – Gaelic for of the caves). Currently famous as the yearly venue for the renowned Pittenweem Arts Festival, it plays host to over 100 artists over a 2 week period in August, and the venues for displaying and selling work are unusual to say the least. When I visited last summer it seemed as though every available inch of free space within the town was displaying something, and that included a lot of private houses. The doors are flung open and venue numbers are posted all around the town inviting crowds of art lovers to come in and take a look.
Most of the houses host the work of just one artist, and stepping through the old wooden doors you are treated to one surprising exhibition after another. Often hosted by the artist themselves, most of whom are delighted to discuss their work and techniques, there’s a lot to take in and be inspired by, and after a while I was drawn back outside towards the simple beauty of the historic whitewashed and burnt umber houses and their red pan tile roofs. This costal town washed by the North Sea was once a bustling herring port, and the red tiles were used as ballast in the holds of empty ships from the Low Countries (Belgium and Netherlands), who came here to load up with the ‘silver darlings’ or herring. The crow stepped gable ends of the buildings ( called corbie-steppit in lowland Scots) were another influence from the Low Countries, which gives this vibrant town its distinctive and pretty look.
Decked out with fluttering bunting and washed in that soft vibrant light which bounces off the sea and back around the historic painted buildings, it is the perfect venue for the yearly exhibition. Almost a work of art itself, there are many delightful little surprises waiting to be discovered up and down the steep cobbled streets and wynds which thread up and down the hill from the harbour. Hidden away in a tiny steep lane is St Fillans Cave, once home to a Celtic monk and later an Augustinian monastery. It is thought to be the origins of the first settlement on the site, although I’m certain our hunter gatherer ancestors would have known of the cave and made use of it and it’s fresh water spring.
Back down at the sea front makeshift tea and coffee venues offer a space to sit and watch the waves rolling in and to chat about the artistic merits of everything on display. This year (2016) the festival runs from Sat Aug 6th – Aug 14th and you can find out more here.
Find more vibrant posts to cheer you up on a dull winters day here at the WP weekly photo challenge.