Blairadam Forest
Blairadam Forest Survey

Blairadam Forest is a large expanse of woodland owned by the Forestry Commission to the west of Kelty.  Much of this area was afforested for the first time in the 20th century, but the NE parts of the forest were once part of a designed landscape created by successive generations of the Adam family.  Here it is possible to find the stone boundaries and see some of the tree combinations that were once part of Blair Adam estate.  Elsewhere in the forest are the remains of prehistoric hut-circles and later farmsteads.  As with many areas in Fife, coal mining was important and the remains relating to various phases of extraction are to be found in the forest.  

Alder Archaeology Ltd was commissioned to carry out a desk-based assessment and survey to produce a comprehensive inventory of all these remains so that important sites could be managed as the forest continues to produce timber in the future. 


Remains of two farmsteads can be found in Thornton Wood (SE end of forest).  The most impressive of these is Thornton, which comprises two rubble-built buildings in which doorways and windows can still be seen.  Two buildings can also be seen at Whitehouse, though the walls here are much lower and the site damaged by opencast mining.

Blairadam Forest

Thornton Farmstead

Coal Mining Remains

Many pre-19th century coal mining remains were located during the survey.  Most of these comprised post-medieval bell pits that are starting to collapse under the weight of growing trees.   The two best surveyed groups of remains were an area in Cowden/Bambricks wood and another on the south side of The Glen, but there was also a large group around Pierie's Burn.   Many of the larger bell pits found away from the sides of Pierie's Burn seem to date to the 18th century and are associated with the exploits of William Adam (1689-1748) or his son John.

Blairadam Forest

A bell pit, Pierie's Burn

Later coal mining remains were also noted during the survey.  One of the most interesting areas is a series of cuttings, spoilheaps and possible shafts associated with quarries where the Lochorny and Pierie's burn join.  Here, tramway rails were found amoungst rubble and the trees. North of the Kelty Burn was the site of Blairenbathie Colliery (late 19th/early 20th century), a series of brick and shuttered concrete foundations.  Further south were the remains of a 1940s drift mine, Blairenbathie Surface Mine and its associated brick buildings.

Blairadam Forest

The Surface Mine

The Designed Landscape  

Three phases of designed landscape boundaries were investigated during the survey.  The first was created by William Adam (1689-1748) soon after he bought the estate.  He created a series of formal linear boundaries which would have been lined with trees and functioned as wind breaks sheltering rectangular plots of land.  Though no stone remains were found in the survey, a number of ditches and tracks were discovered to follow this original design.   The second phase relates to boundaries created by William's son, John Adam (1721-1792) who created a series of wide, gently curving belts of trees which created a more natural looking estate.  John greatly increased the number of trees on the estate and extended it to the west.  Many of these boundaries were found during the survey, mostly comprising low banks with mature oaks and beeches growing along them.

Blairadam Forest

A John Adam Boundary

The third phase began with the sucession of William Adam (1751-1839) after John's death.  William (a good friend of Sir Walter Scott) planted further woods for ornament, and for profit.  Many of his boundaries were found to have survived and many are still in good condition, particularly his large ha-has which would originally have marked out open pasture from wood.  A number of prominent rocky knolls were also planted by William and most were surrounded by stone walls.  These clumps can still be found in the forest, and some of them still contain trees descended from his original planting.

Blairadam Forest

A William Adam (younger) Boundary