One of the gems of Fife’s East Neuk – and that’s an area not short of such precious items – the fishing town of Pittenweem takes its name from a mixture of Pictish and Gaelic words and means the place of the cave. The cave in question is almost certainly St Fillan’s Cave, which is normally accessible off Cove Wynd. St Fillan, the son of Irish princess Caintigern (later St Kentigerna), arrived in Scotland in the early eighth century and after a peripatetic few years which took him to Loch Lomond among other places, he spent much of the rest of his life living as a hermit in the cave, where he was able to read and write thanks to a luminous glow emanating from his left arm. At least that’s the story. Pittenweem Parish Church was founded in the late 11th century, though much of it dates from the 16th century, and an Augustinian priory had also established itself in the town by 1318 after moving from the Isle of May.

Today, however, Pittenweem is as much known for its picturesque harbour and its muscular arts festival as it is for its cave, its illuminating Irish saint and its venerable churches. Pittenweem Arts Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary next year and for its 39th iteration in August will welcome (among others) artist Janette Kerr, a noted painter of seascapes with a particular interest in Shetland and Norway, and Aberfeldy-based furniture maker extraordinaire Angus Ross – though to call his sculptural creations furniture is to under-sell them.

The harbour – captured here in early summer glory by Herald photographer Gordon Terris – has been in use since early medieval times and the addition of the breakwater made it an active and busy fishing port. The relative proximity of the Scottish east coast to the Low Countries and the preference for Dutch, Belgian and Flemish boats to make use of that deep harbour brought European influences which can still be seen – the red roof tiles on some of the houses, for instance, which originally came from the Low Countries in the form of ballast, or the stepped-up gable ends, so evocative of Dutch architecture. And from its witch trials (there have been many) to its small role in the aftermath of the American War of Independence (in 1779 John Paul Jones sat offshore in the USS Bonhomme Richard while he bombed Anstruther) the place is redolent of history.

And don’t forget the fish. In the 1980s the local fleet was still landing white fish and 1000 boxes a day was deemed a poor haul. Now it’s langoustine, lobster, crab and scallops which make up the catch – Brexit may have brought its problems for the industry, but Pittenweem remains a fishing town first and foremost.