The village of Kelty lies immediately to the east of the M90 motorway just before, if you are heading north, it passes from Fife into Perth & Kinross. To its east is Loch Ore and, beyond, the villages of Ballingry and Lochore, while a little over a mile and a half to the south east is Cowdenbeath.
The roads that meet in the centre of Kelty are unusually straight, leading to speculation that the first settlement here might have been Roman. No evidence of this has ever been found on or in the ground, so for the moment at least this will have to remain speculation.
In 1731 the great architect and founder of an architectural dynasty, William Adam, purchased the Blair Crambeth estate just to the north west of Kelty. Here he built a home for his family, planted 1000 acres of grounds with trees, and renamed the estate Blair Adam. He also established the planned village of Maryburgh, named after his wife. Maryburgh now forms what is arguably the northern end of Kelty, as the space between them has largely been filled.
Development of Kelty really took off with the arrival of the branch railway from Cowdenbeath to Kinross in 1860. "Arrival" is a slight overstatement as Kelty Station lay some distance to the east of the village, but it nonetheless led to the transformation of the village and the surrounding area. Coal mining may well have taken place in the area on a small scale as early as the beginning of the 1800s, but it was only after the coal could be transported by rail that the area's huge reserves began to be exploited fully.
The Fife Coal Company was established in 1872, by which time three deep mines had already been sunk in the area. The Lindsay Mine, originally known as "Kelty 4/5" was sunk close to the railway station and about half a mile east of the village in 1873. It employed an average of 820 men and continued in production until 1965, finally being abandoned two years later.
Many more pits were to follow, effectively surrounding Kelty. The Aitken pit was sunk in 1899 and continued to employ an average of 1300 men until mining ceased in 1963, while the Lumphinnan XI & XII pits employed an average of 600 men from 1896 to 1966.
Not all Kelty's pits were so long lived. Benarty Colliery lasted from 1945 to 1959, and a number of other pits sunk after World War II also had very short productive lives. Perhaps the shortest lived was the Windyedge pit, which began production in 1950, and employed an average of 26 men until it ceased production and was abandoned in 1951.
At the height of the coal boom, the population of Kelty reached some 9,000. It has since reduced to nearer 5,500, and in the half century since the closure of the deep mines Kelty, like villages in other parts of the Fife coalfield and elsewhere in Scotland, have had to face the difficult task of adapting to very different economic circumstances. Kelty's deep mining heritage is remembered today in the form of a life-sized statue of a miner outside Kelty Library, who serves as a memorial to all the men who lost their lives in the Kelty collieries.
Kelty itself was bypassed by the M90 motorway in 1970, and since then it has existed for most people only as a sign beside a motorway junction. Those who take the slight detour through the village find a place of considerable character.
While deep mining may be long gone, coal extraction carries on in the form of open cast mining. The most obvious site is at St Ninians, immediately to the west of the M90 just south of Kelty. As the coal is extracted the landscape is being transformed into what will become The Fife Earth Project, designed by landscape architect Charles Jencks. The end result will be a 665 acre park in which the shape of Scotland is surrounded by landforms representing the continents most influenced by the emigration of Scots. The image below shows this as work in progress.
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