Fife Ness Tide Mill
Balcomie, in the East Neuk of Fife
A tide mill is a very simple idea. Rather than use a mill-pond to store water to drive
a water-wheel to grind corn or flour you create a pond and let the tide fill it with water for you.
This is old an idea about to be re-discovered for the 21st century. Once built they have virtually
no carbon footprint worth mentioning and are very cheap to run.
This particular 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. At least 200 years ago.
At the top left of this photograph 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 next annotated image makes it all a little clearer.
The mill at the left was driven by a shaft from 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 gate and as the tide falls use the water in the pond to drive the mill
- at low tide, open the sluice and start the process all over again.
Simple and reliable but with the rhythm of tides changing all the time, moving forward roughly half an hour
twice a day, it was not regular 9 to 5 work.
Sometimes the mill would be working through the night, at other times during the day and presumably for longer
times at spring tides with higher water levels and for shorter times later in the 28-days or so lunar cycles.