Fife Ness Tide Mill - Balcomie, Fife
Tide mills were common in the 18th and 19th century.
A tide mill is a very simple idea. Rather than use a mill-pond to store
water to drive a water-wheel, you create a pond and let the tide
fill it with water for you.
This ruin is of a corn mill that was built in the 16th century and was in
use right up to the early part of the 19th century. That's now about 200
The nearby harbour can be seen here:
Fife Ness harbour
The next annotated image makes it all a little clearer.
At the top left of this photo are the remains of a man-made wall and
across the centre are the remains of another collapsed wall which
had a sluice gate built into it.
The water-wheel to drive the mill was an undercut version which was
driven by water passing underneath and it sat just above the channel
cut into the rocks on the right.
The pool is filled with water by the tide and that water is then used to drive the mill-wheel.
The mill to the left was driven by a shaft running across the top of the sluice gate.
So, the routine was
- open the sluice gate at low tide
- wait for the tide to come in and fill the pond
- close the sluice and as the tide falls outside use the water inside the pond to drive the mill
- at low tide, open the sluice and start the process all over again.
Simple and reliable but with tides changing all the time, it was not regular 9 to 5 work.
Sometimes the mill would be working through the night, other times during the day and
presumably for longer times at spring tides with higher water levels and shorter times
later, in 28-day lunar cycles.