This week we did something we’ve been meaning to do for some time, and paid a visit to the Anstruther Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. It was a beautiful day (i.e., the one day of the week when it wasn’t raining), perfect for a trip up the Fife coast.
So off we drove. Anstruther is about an hour and a half north of Edinburgh, over the Forth bridge, and it’s a very pleasant drive, meandering up the coast road. (Of course, you have to be strong and not get sidetracked by the advertisements to go see Scotland’s Secret Bunker and the enticingly named Kingdom of Fun along the way, which requires some willpower.)
I’ve had a bit of a thing for east coast fishing towns and villages ever since we lived in Lowestoft, and Anstruther is definitely up there. The seafront has lots of restaurants and fish and chip shops, there are quaint back alleys and wynds, and you can walk out along the harbour to the lighthouse, and get a good view of the sea. Of course, there must be a reason why they need a sea wall over six feet high, but I haven’t been able to work it out yet…
I hate to say it, but we were a little bit disappointed by the museum. Just a bit. Of course, my main interest is ganseys, and I accept that’s not the typical reason for visiting; but despite housing the Moray Ganseys Project temporary exhibition, they didn’t really have much interesting knitwear on display. A couple of the dummies were wearing ganseys, but these were hidden under waistcoats or oilskins; and they had a small glass case dedicated to fishermen’s knitting, but the lights weren’t on in that gallery, and it was impossible to see any detail.
The museum itself is interesting, much larger than it looks from the outside, consisting of several buildings knocked together, and you can tour galleries ranging from the age of sail to the introduction of steam, view a recreated fisherman’s cottage, and walk round the hulk of a real fishing boat, or watch someone working on a sail boat.
So why weren’t we more impressed? I suppose it’s because, although each item was displayed and labelled, it didn’t really add up to a coherent narrative. There wasn’t a “wow” factor, nothing to make you stop and think, no real human interest. (Actually, that’s not fair – they have a very effective room like a chapel, with plaques to fishermen lost at sea on the walls.) But I was hoping for more than a bunch of fishing-related stuff in glass cases and some of the world’s least convincing dummies. Hopefully when I go again it will click.
Don’t get me wrong – it’s well worth a visit, though I’d recommend going in summer since they don’t appear to heat the galleries in winter, or turn on all the lights for the displays. (I still plan to donate a couple of my ganseys to them one day, if they’re interested.) And I can recommend the museum cafeteria unreservedly. Agent Cooper from Twin Peaks might have had reservations about their coffee, but not about the coffee cake.
The trip was by way of a celebration, as I’ve finally finished the gansey. I slogged my way down the cuff with all the enthusiasm of the Allies fighting their way up Italy in World War 2, with similarly happy results, though it felt like it took as long in the end. Speaking of ends, I darned them in last night, so all we have to do now is wash it and block it and then feed it to the moths. So the cycle of life continues.
This week’s bread is a sourdough rye bread. Closer textured than normal bread (rye hasn’t got any gluten, or something), I’m not sure how much of the final density is due to my inexperience or if it’s supposed to be that way. I decided to move it off the counter when it started attracting a garlic press and a couple of spoons into close orbit around it…