Mindless vandals could force a nationally important heritage site in Fife to be put behind bars for its own protection.
Continuous vandalism and graffiti at the famous Wemyss Caves has prompted a community group to look into installing metal gates in a bid to preserve the world’s largest collection of Pictish inscribed symbols in one place.
The symbols carved into the cave walls are said to date back over 1,500 years, while there is archaeological evidence of activity on and around the site for at least 4,000 years.
But with vandals putting the survival of the ancient and unique carvings at risk, the Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society (SWACS) is seeking the public’s views on the installation of protective gates as soon as possible.
“We are not proposing to shut off the Wemyss Caves,” said Mike Arrowsmith, chairman of SWACS.
“The gates will only be installed in the areas of Jonathan’s and Court Cave that contain carvings.
“Our intention is that they will be open during daylight but lockable at night which is when most of the damage happens.
“The Wemyss Caves are such a valuable asset in the community and have enormous potential as a visitor destination, but if we don’t take action to secure the carvings, future generations in East Wemyss will lose out on their inheritance.”
The caves, along with the remains of Macduff’s Castle, are designated as a scheduled monument.
SWACS was founded in 1986 to protect and preserve the heritage of the Wemyss Caves, and also manage and ensure safe access to them for locals and visitors alike.
An original scheme to protect Jonathan’s Cave with metal grilles in the 1980s did not last because of the poor quality of the materials used.
However, the new proposal will replace the broken metalwork in Jonathan’s Cave with sensitively designed gates in resistant materials which will withstand the coastal environment for decades to come.
It will also be possible to incorporate Pictish symbols as a design feature of the gates.
Meanwhile, Court Cave will also benefit from new gates installed inside the cave to protect the area of carvings.
SWACS is working up the proposals and fundraising for the project over the coming months and are seeking views and support from local residents and visitors to the caves.
Anyone wishing to contribute to the consultation can find the link via the SWACS website at www.wemysscaves.org/caveprotection.
Virtual tours are also available of the caves here.