East Wemyss and Methil from the air (geograph 5836521).jpg
East Wemyss and Methil from the air
Methil is located in Fife
Location within Fife
OS grid referenceNT365995
• Edinburgh45 miles (72 km)
Council area
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townLeven
Postcode districtKY8
Dialling code01333
EU ParliamentScotland
UK Parliament
Scottish Parliament
List of places
56°11′04″N 3°01′20″W / 56.1844°N 3.0223°W / 56.1844; -3.0223Coordinates: 56°11′04″N 3°01′20″W / 56.1844°N 3.0223°W / 56.1844; -3.0223

Methil is an eastern coastal town in Scotland. It was first recorded as "Methkil" in 1207, and belonged to the Bishop of St. Andrews. Two Bronze Age cemeteries have been discovered which date the settlement as over eight thousand years old.

It was part of its own Barony in 1614 and also part of the former Burgh of Buckhaven, Methil and Innerleven. This burgh existed between 1891 and 1975 (following the reorganisation of local government). It is situated within a continuous urban area described as Levenmouth.

Methil lies geographically between Largo Bay to the east and Wemyss Bay to the west. Previously an industrial maritime powerhouse of the region and once Scotland's greatest coal port, it is now redirecting itself towards a green energy future. The River Leven delineates Methil from adjacent towns.


‘Middle Church’, in Old Irish, a form such as *mid cill might be expected. However, the 'e' in the first syllable, which is a consistent feature of the name Methil from its earliest forms, might have been formed under the influence of G meadhon, OIr medón ‘middle’, which also appears in compounds, but consistently as a two-syllable word. Alternatively the name may have been *Medon-cill, with later loss of the unstressed middle syllable.

The wider significance of this name, if it does mean ‘middle church’, is explored in WMS Introduction above.[clarification needed]

Methil is today the name of an industrial town, now amalgamated with neighbouring Buckhaven, whose centre lies not around the site of the medieval church, which was on the River Leven, but on the coast one km to the south-east. This came to be through the development of a burgh and port in the seventeenth century. By the early twentieth century this had become Scotland's chief coal-exporting centre (Millar 1895, ii 55; Pride 1990, 66).

Initially known as "Methilltoune" (1670) and "Methilburgh" (1795), both places were given the alternative name of "Innerleven" suggesting that the application of the name "Innerleven" was wider than originally thought. Innerleven was a separate settlement 0.3 km up the coast at the mouth of the River Leven.

Methil is called "Methill Pans" on William Roy's Map of Scotland, a name which refers to "salt production" which was a major industry of this time. Roy also shows Inverleven as a separate settlement. On Ainslie/Fife (1775) the settlement around the harbour is called simply Methill, while Innerleven is given its alternative name of Dubby Side.

The above NGR is of the ruins of the medieval kirk above the south bank of the Leven, in a corner of the modern cemetery.

It is sometimes referred to locally as the Methil.[1]


Site of the pre-Reformation Methil Parish Church, now part of Methilmill Cemetery.
Kirkland High School, taken shortly before demolition in 2016.

Prior to the Reformation when Methil was absorbed into the Parish of Wemyss, it was an independent parish centred around a church situated inland of what is now Methilmill Cemetery.[2] In the 17th century, it developed as a coastal village, first with a tidal harbour, thereafter expanding considerably at the start of the 20th century due to a boom in coal mining.

From 1920 the development of (mainly) council housing caused the town to expand inland to meet up with the formerly separate village of Methilhill and reach the boundaries of Methilmill Cemetery and the site of the ancient parish church.[3]

Historically, the main industry in the area was coal mining, with most of the coal exported through Methil Docks, which exported over 3,000,000 tons per year between the WW1 and WW2.[4] A related development was Methil Power Station (1960), which was sited at the mouth of the River Leven. It was eventually demolished in 2011. This power station used colliery slurry, which would otherwise have gone to waste.

Nearby is the new Bayview Stadium, home to East Fife Football Club, previously located more centrally in the town at the corner of Wellesley and Kirkland Roads.[3]


Methil Docks was particularly significant during World War II for the movement of coal and other resources. The docks had a hydraulic power station serving the distinctive coal hoists, all of which were once local landmarks. The town was traversed by several railways linking the local collieries to the docks, one of which crossed the High Street on an overbridge. After the post-war nationalisation of the railways, the coal mines and the docks continued to be linked by the Wemyss Private Railway as well as by British Railways (which had replaced the LNER and the North British Railway).[5]

Now there is strong local pressure to reopen the railway line from Thornton Junction, which would arguably help both trade and improve public transport, including tourism for the whole area. The "Hydrogen Office" based in the docks aims to demonstrate the benefits of improved energy efficiency and renewable and hydrogen energy systems.[6]

Kirkland High School and Community College was a secondary education and combined education college. It was amalgamated with Buckhaven High School in August 2016 to form Levenmouth Academy, both of the older schools being demolished immediately thereafter. Primary schools in the area include Denbeath Primary, Aberhill Primary ('listed' as of architectural/historical interest and long outliving the 1950s and 1960s secondary school buildings)[7] and Methilhill Primary.

Local politics is controlled by Fife Council although there is interest being shown by some people in redeveloping more locally centred councils. Methilhill had a Community Council for a period of time, although it is not currently active.

There is a committee of Fife councillors elected to represent the area described by Fife Council as "Levenmouth" (which includes Methil and other nearby towns – although the description "Levenmouth" does not have a historical or otherwise substantive 'raison d'être' as a nomenclature, it does provide for political expediency and accords favourably with current local civil service ease of operation).


  1. ^
  2. ^ Taylor, Simon (2006). The Place-Names of Fife, Volume One - West Fife between Leven and Forth. 9781900289771: Shaun Tyas, Donington. pp. 593–595.
  3. ^ a b Smith, Ronald. "History of Methil".
  4. ^ "Methil Docks". Methil Heritage. Retrieved 24 April 2016.
  5. ^ Brotchie, A W (1998). The Wemyss Private Railway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 9780853615279.
  6. ^ "Home" The Hydrogen Office. Retrieved 6 December 2009.
  7. ^ Historic Environment Scotland. "Aberhill Primary School".

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