Thirteen miles in six photos, the second part of my walking blog along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Ratho.
I started off from a free, long-term car park in Linlithgow near St. Mary’s Hospital, walking into town to join the towing path where I left if last week… and it was still there!
The boats in the basin have changed around, giving me a clear photo of Victoria, the steam yacht I seen last week, so that was nice. Walking out along the tow path I seen a canal boat round the corner and disappear, a lost opportunity I thought then I realised that I was catching it up, my 3 mph ish walking pace was actually faster than the boat’s cruising speed.
Catching up with it, I joked about the Tortoise and the Hare and then left if in my dust as I strode away from it. I’m not that daft as I know that I will soon start to tire while that engine will keep on plodding along all day at the same speed but the thought was nice when it lasted.
I discovered a new stone on the tow path marked “L PB.” Checking up on some old maps I found out that it marked the border of the Linlithgow Parliamentary and Police boundary, perhaps shades of the wild west with the boats sprinting away from the cops, giving up the chase at the county line.
About two miles out of Linlithgow I came across The Park Bistro, it looked like a nice place to stop and rest, too early for me plus I had already brought my sandwiches so I kept on walking.
This was certainly the busiest stretch for boats meeting another coming towards me a mile or so later, a veritable rush-hour on water.
I took this photo near Philipston, the colour was just too good to convert to monochrome
The blue skies were deceptive as there was a wicked wind blowing behind me… good for pushing me on but not so good for keeping me warm, although I did manage to walk for almost all the way wearing a T-shirt.
The red topped shale bings of Philipston dominates the next part of the walk. This was the site of Scotland’s first oil boom, were oil was extracted from shale by heat, the red stone residue being dumped in huge spoil heaps that are dotted around West Lothian.
The bings gave great shelter and it was really pleasant walking here, so much so that I found a place to stop and have lunch and that canal boat, which I left behind at Linlithgow caught me up.
A car park about a mile past Philipston gave a degree or mirth, the Police are trying to curb the off road motorbikes and they urge anyone to report bikes, giving the “locus as Philipstoun North Bings.” Who else would use the word Locus but the polis?
The view at Bridge 38
Bridge 35 gave some variety, with a monogrammed key stone and iron balustrades. It seems to be over a minor road bridge but they must have been out to impress someone as monogrammed stone work costs extra.
Another stone, which proved to be a real oddity came up near Winchburgh, it stood beside a regular mile stone bearing the inscription ” DIVISION BETWINT SECOND AND THIRD STACKS.” Strange enough that it is in old Scots but just what was the second and third stacks?
Further on, past Winchburgh, a canal barge lies rusting in the weeds on the opposite bank its side half gone.
A contrast as a modern barge with crew accommodation and a hydraulic grab moored up a while later.
Another oddity, all the British Waterway gates across the tow path that I have encountered since leaving Falkirk have been open but one at Winchburgh which was locked closed.
Uncharacteristically Bridge 31 bore the date of 1820 on the key stone, the canal being opened in 1822, provided some interest. A little while later at Bells Hill Wharf and the headquarters of the Bridge 19-40 Canal Society, no disputing their territory then. More power to folk like this as they believe in the canal and it’s future.
Out of town and the partially restored Niddry Castle comes up on the left, the folks have taken a long time to restore this old tower house. A little further on and the Broxburn Alps comes into view, this large collection of shale bings dominates the view as the canal curves around them.This is taken from a distance with the town of Broxburn at the foot of the bings and a hail shower is threatening. The canal contours for five miles, when the direct route is only two, but then again no locks were needed to be built so money was saved.
I nearly caught up with that canal boat again as I was nearing Broxburn, the wind must have played merry hell with its speed. I could have overtook it once more but I still had a long way to walk so I screwed the bubbin’ and kept my walking pace at a sensible rate.
The trip through Broxburn wasn’t that bad except for the large number of dog-eggs by the path, that’s folk for you.
A sign on the outskirts of the town welcoming you to Port Buchan. I wonder that that was for?
I kept on going under the A8 road bridge, which didn’t have a number, indicating that this route was made later, after the opening of the canal and the original route of the A8 may have went through Broxburn at one time.
A strange piece of sculpture on the opposite bank, I later found out that it was entitled “Jupiter” part of the Kirkhill Pillar Project. “Saturn” appeared under Bridge 25. Stopping for a rest in the lee of the bridge I read a plaque that this and other art works were inspired by the Earl of Buchan’s 1775 Solar System, when Saturn was the furthest known planet and the drawing represents the motion and nature of Saturn’s rings as described by James Clark Maxwell.
Port Buchan for the Earl of Buchan, that makes sense now.
I took the picture of the above Broxburn Alps from near here.
The canal goes under the M8 motorway, it’s course being changed as the canal was closed to navigation with the building of the motorway. The new bridge built for the Millennium celebrations bore the usual inscription MM, standing for Millennium Money… and you thought it was the Roman numerals for 2,000?
The noise of the motorway is an unwelcome intrusion to the peace of the canal, it dies off but unfortunately comes back later on.
The Almond Aqueduct is not too far away, it is smaller than the Avon Aqueduct but none the less as impressive.
One more Aqueduct over a small road and you arrive at Wilkie’s basin with an island in the middle and a wooden fort, it must have been put there to amuse the motorway traffic, and although I have been driving by here for years and I can’t say that I have ever noticed it.
The Indoor climbing area come up on your left as the canal skirts past the old quarry and then you know you are nearing civilisation when the wall appears by the tow path, obviously built to keep people off the land. Rounding a corner you see a low building ahead, which is the beginning of the end as that’s Ratho basin and the end of the walk.
It started to hail again as I neared the Seagull Trusts’ building, sensing the end I never even bothered putting on the fleece, just took it in my stride and walked on. Finally leaving the path at Bridge 15 and a bus stop to the right. I only waited 10 minutes on the Lothian bus only to get chucked off because I didn’t have the £1.60 fare in the correct change, so I had to make a 3/4 mile walk down to Ratho Station to wait on the No. 38A First bus to take me back to Linlithgow and he had no problems taking my money.
I think the Lothian bus drivers are not allowed to count for themselves but keep that quiet.
So there we go, only eight miles left to do and I think I will cycle out and back along the tow path rather than rely on the Lothian buses as I now grudge them their money. All I have left to do now is find some place to leave the car and it’s done but there’s one thing for sure….
The next long distance walk that I would like to do is one that has also been on my to-do list for some time.
However, when I looking into the practicalities of doing it as a series of day walks I soon discovered that it was going to be harder than I thought, so I had to change my plans, turning my attention towards the Union Canal instead.
The Union Canal, was opened in 1822, linking Edinburgh with the Forth and Clyde (F&C) Canal at Falkirk. Having closed to commercial traffic in 1933 and officially closing in 1965.
The canal had a resurgence with the re-opening of the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal for leisure purposes.
The problem for the Union Canal was the final locks joining it to the F&C were filled in and the land developed for housing. The solution was the Falkirk Wheel, a modern engineering masterpiece, being able to lift one boat up, while lowering another down and all for a pittance in power consumption.
My goal for the day was to walk the first 12 miles of the Union Canal, from The Wheel to Linlithgow.
I am going to spare you a blow by blow account because navigation is straight forward and to be brutally honest it is less than interesting in places. It does have a few spots of interesting industrial archaeology, which I happen to be interested in, so I thought that I would cut the trip down to just six pictures.
The biggest thing in the area are the Kelpie Sculptures, which are located beside the F&C at Grangemouth. The prototype for the sculptures are being displayed in a car park close to the Wheel, which is in the background of this picture and to give you an idea of scale, there is a person bottom right standing looking upwards in awe at the size of the thing.
After walking up the path beside the Wheel, through the Roughcastle Tunnel, the towing path you are walking upon becomes tarred over its entire length, it is good for pushing prams and riding bicycles but after while, becomes painful for walking upon.
British Waterways, who operate the canal are in the process of continual maintenance and to control the weeds, which choke the canal, The task is made easier with this floating weed dredger, seen here moored up at the Roughcastle Basin.
The canal towpath is busy around the built up areas with walkers, dog-walkers, ramblers, runners and cyclists, although I think I only saw four boats under way on the canal all the time I was walking along it.
The Falkirk Tunnel is noteworthy, it is 590 yards, 600m in length and is mostly bare rock with a safety rail running alongside, being lit by fluorescent strip lights and a string of coloured lights. It is well worth seeing. I brought along a torch with me but it really wasn’t necessary. It’s a bit wet at the beginning and at the end but is more or less dry in the middle.
I kind of broke with tradition and made a colour photo, rather than my usual monochrome.
Along the way is this swing bridge, rusting in the weeds. It connected both sides of the Nobel Explosives factory, which made detonators and is now history, the factory being demolished and developed.
The canal can be summed up as mile after mile of walking, sometimes town, sometimes country. The monotony being broken up by distance markers every half mile from the start of the old canal towards Edinburgh, so the first one you’ll see is 1/2 and 31-1/2 miles. They do become depressing to read as you realise how slow your progress is.
The bridges too are marked with numbers, starting from 62 and provide entertainment in trying to remember the number of the next one… I’m easily amused.
Number 62, is also known as the Laughin’/Greetin’ Bridge as a laughing is carved on one keystone and on the opposite the face is crying.
Four hours later and after crossing over the impressive Avon Aqueduct, I arrived at Linlithgow very much foot sore.
Some children, one in particular were being taught an important lesson in boat stability, he paid the price and was being dragged out of the water into the boat when I passed.
It’s a short walk down from the Linlithgow canal basin to the train station, for the train back to Camelon “Kemlon” and a half mile walk after that, along the F&C back to the car park at The Wheel.
Logistically, the remaining 22 miles poses a problem, too far for a day’s walk and apart from the prospect of a convoluted bus trip and no train stations until Edinburgh means that I may do this it by bicycle, returning from Edinburgh by train.
Well that’s all from me. I’ll be back with the concluding part sometime soon but there’s one thing for sure….
The final installment of Going Coastal – my blog of the 117 mile Fife Coastal Path, this section covers the 15 miles from Wormit Bay to Newburgh.
On reflection, this section of the path is perhaps the most challenging and least interesting of the entire walk and yet it turned out to be very rewarding…
I do get the impression that this part of the route was added on merely to complete the path, to have a path going from one end of Fife to the other. Having gone so far inland kind it defeats the coastal element of the path, the bit that is most interesting thing about the whole path is now far away out of sight at the bottom of a hill somewhere. The route would be at least two miles shorter, maybe more if it stuck closer to the coast. I am guessing that land access issues, perhaps the engineering and financial challenges forced the grown-ups to go for the inland route a vast contrast to the paved cycle paths of Kincardine.
This section is unique in that I had to rely wholly on cars for transport. On all the other parts of the route I was able to leave my car somewhere and get public transport back to the days starting point, public transport in this instance would have meant two long bus journeys with a change at Cupar.
Of all the sections of the Coastal path, this is the one that I would not wish to be caught out with the weather. There is nowhere to hide, exposed to the elements for almost all of the way.
Starting out from the small car park at Wormit Bay the path follows the coast for a short distance, passing a memorial to the victims of the Tay Rail Disaster of 1879. The names of all the people known to be killed in the disaster are recorded on the granite slabs.
The path starts to climb a little with good views of Dundee to the right, at one point you can see the ruins of a jetty which is thought to have been used in connection with a stone quarry and a ruined fishing station down by the shore.
A carved a seal making a handy seat to enjoy the view.
This part of the route is delightful as it makes its way along the coast, at one point, towards its end, the path is wide and flat passing through a newly planted woodland making really pleasurable walking.
There is a set of steps on the outskirts of Balmerino that is steep and long and another set down more regular in spacing making for a much better descent.
The FCP then goes between two newly renovated houses, probably a former fishing station and the sea wall. It is only for a short distance before you start to round the point on the track.
A seal and its pup are carved out of driftwood with a fine view up the river to the way ahead towards Newburgh.
The FCP continues along the coast, you can, if you wish, continue uphill for a short distance to visit the ruined abbey. I have been there before so I kept on going with a clear conscience.
Down on the shore the remains of an old pier, can be seen. Perhaps something in connection with the abbey or the remnant for a long forgotten fishing industry.
The path then continues along a shingle beach. This is your last chance to Go Coastal as the path heads into the trees to run parallel with the shore before heading inland.
Too soon you will come to a wooden fence at a bend, time to head inland and explore new places.
A hare crossed my path, it took one look at me then took-off. It’s been a while since I last seen one. A pity as they are much better to look at than stupid bunnies, who are only good for burrowing, eating and making more bunnies.
To add interest I decided to break the journey up into short stages of about three miles each or about an hours walking as something to aim and navigate to and if possible places to rest and eat. The first one was to be at Creich Castle.
The track takes a sharp right turn at what was the Under-keepers cottage and starts uphill in earnest. It is a constant, unrelenting climb for nearly half a mile up to the road, passing a mill pond about half way up, giving some relief to the view and your lungs.
You end up on a tarred road at the top of this track. Four sections of generally quiet roads over the next two and a half miles.
Going higher and the wind makes its presence felt, the wind was more or less a constant 10 to 20 knot breeze for the rest of the day, keeping things cool, sometimes too cool as I went along.
A short descent and turn right at the next junction to pass the ruined Creich Castle.
I didn’t stop, there wasn’t any obvious public access at this large and busy farm, so I kept on going, coming across the ruined 14th century, Old Parish Church Of St Devenic.
I broke the journey here to have a look at the church, there wasn’t much in the way of shelter maybe at the next stop at the point where I was to leave the road and head up to Norman’s Law.
The road here is very rough with lots of pot-holes and gravel before settling down to pass the hamlet at Brunton and the old Manse to come to a junction, where I turned right, to head uphill towards a Pittachope Farm.
Around the corner at the farm and a straight, passing by a lay-by with an information board for the Coastal Path, before turning left onto a track to head up to Norman’s Law.
No where to shelter here either, so I kept on going as the track made its way uphill, to a junction where you turn right onto an overgrown forest track and into the trees.
Found shelter among the trees among the trees at the top and stopped gratefully for lunch. There is nowhere to buy lunch along this part of the route so sandwiches were the order of the day Time to study the map, catch up with the news and generally rest.
Starting back was painful, my leg muscles had tightened up, I was walking more like a cripple on the way to Lourdes than a seasoned Fife Coastal Path walker.
I decided not to go up Norman’s Law. Too much effort for too little gain, I’ll do it another day in better weather.
For anyone that is interested in going up to Norman’s Law, there is an access point off the track as it starts to descend into the forest rather than climbing an embankment and two farm gates earlier.
Otherwise it is a long slow descent along an improving forest track. This would be a fantastic descent to do on a mountain bike.
Emerging out of the trees at a gate and get to reacquaint myself with the strong breeze as I made my way down a rough track to a junction, turning sharp right towards a group of cottages, where the road stops and a path begins. The FCP make its way through a wood, then heads down along side a field on a rough path to a red roofed barn
Continue on for a half mile or so to another gate, a right turn and climb towards the trees.
This seems to be an active sporting estate, so be prepared for path closures. It’s a steady climb here. At one point you pass a junction with a memorial of some kind,
Melgers seem to operate the estate or shooting.
Continue onto a rougher track to come up to a deer fence, look for the small gate on your right.
Back on the track and it gets rougher still. no graded forest road here, the estate vehicles have left a series of ruts in the grass making for uneven walking as you continue to head uphill to a junction with a forest track.
It is at this point a warning note on the map warns to “take special care navigating along this section.”
I did and apart from the trees being incorrectly drawn as being at to the track side, when they are well clear to the left, there is nothing special here. The road does end and it does continue along a grassy path but you have to try very hard to be stupid and miss the path.
The path continues through young woodland until it makes a sharp turn to go downhill. This point will be great in about 30 years or so when the trees mature but for now you are walking past young trees with half a view and no shelter.
Through the gate at the bottom onto a rough path beside a field then it is uphill, towards the top you will be fenced on both sides as you go along, the path takes sharp turns in places.
Eventually you come out at a field, turn right and follow this fence for a short distance.
Pay attention here, you will approach either a closed gate or an open gate with a fence line coming towards you. Either way, go to the left hand side of this fence, muggins here took the right hand side and had to backtrack to get on the correct side of the path.
Now you are in for a treat as you get a view of Newburgh, literally the end is in sight as track before you sweeps downwards. It is to the left of that green patch, immediately after the houses before the wood.
Follow the track down to a gate, turn left to continue through a lovely strand of pine trees. This was the last of my three mile stops, time to give one hours notice for my driver to come and get me… and to soak in the view.
At the end, go through the gate, following the vague farm track downhill against the fence, this path just keeps on descending, at one point you are shielded by a line of gorse bushes providing welcome shelter from the wind.
This path ends at a large farm gate, this is where the note applies “use route through field to avoid farmyard.” What this means is don’t go through the large gate ahead, use the small one to your left and walk through the field down to another small gate, totally missing the farmhouse to your right.
In saying that, you have to turn slightly right to get to the path behind the fence in front of you, following the path as it drops down to another farm track, which I guess will be very muddy when wet.
This farm track ends at a large mill pond and the road the road. Turn left, using the footpath for a short distance to the old mill. Lindores Abbey is ahead but there is nothing substantial to see.
The path continues past the mill heading towards the reed beds beside the Tay along the top of a flood bank, taking you into Newburgh.
Continue along the shore, the town had a strong salmon fishing industry at one time, now there are only memories.
Continue through a grassy park to a derelict house, then up the hill for a short distance to a T-junction with no way marking, right towards the park and uphill to the left.
The end is really in sight, the archway in front of the car park at the top is your final goal… and then it is all over.
The one Hundred and sixteen miles are now all behind you and the Fife Coastal Path is now a pleasant memory.
My little girl was waiting for me to take me back to the starting point at Wormit and never a more welcome sight she was.
Well that’s all from me. I have got the inclination to do some more walking, photographin’ and writing, so….
This six mile stretch of the Fife Coastal Path is a small but significant part of the path for me as not only is it the penultimate section of the walk but it passes the 100 mile mark since starting out at Kincardine.
Starting off from where I left the path the day before at the small car park, off Shanwell Road on the outskirts of Tayport, the FCP makes its way through a holiday caravan park, following the access road, past the reception building, with publicly available toilets to emerge at the far side at a grassy park.
I relived part of my youth by walking along the top of the sea wall all the way to the end before dropping down to the footpath then turning left into harbour Road… I wonder where that goes?
You may possibly be able to stick closer to the coast as there is a footpath between the back of the houses and the shore but to be safe I just stuck to the waymarked road as it made its way to the harbour.
The harbours heyday came in the 1850s with the arrival of the railway. Passengers would disembark from the train, board the ferry for the short journey across the Tay to Broughty Ferry before continuing their journey on the train.
The service stopped with the opening of the Tay Rail Bridge, briefly resuming following the disaster, finally stopping as a rail ferry in 1887 with the reopening of the bridge. The passenger service continued for another 50 years.
Pleasure craft is the main trade here and a number of boats were being lifted back into the water by a large and expensive to hire, crane.
There is an even older pier here with a bell at the end, usually they just have knobs on, unfortunately I was not able to find out much about the history of this one but it did give a view to an unusual warehouse with it’s own slipway, that has been converted into a house.
A little further on, The Duke of Kent, an old RNLI lifeboat, which served at Eastbourne between 1979 and 1994, sits high and dry now on top of another old pier.
The path seems to end at a group of houses, the FCP goes to the left and heads towards a narrow gap between two walls, while an alternative route is to go around behind the houses to the right, staying close to the shore. Either way you’ll end up at the narrow gap.
The gap leads onto a path on the route of the old railway line and bizarrely crosses a railway bridge, whose cutting has been completely filled in. It then continues for a short distance before returning to the line of the old railway.
While this route is quiet and traffic free, you may wish to stick closer to the coast and walk along the road, they both go to the same place. The choice is yours.
It’s nice to know that the fun police hasn’t totally sanitised children’s play as this swing by the path demonstrates.
You pass the East Lighthouse, which built by Robert Stevenson and has not been lit for 150 years and then later on the taller, West Lighthouse, again built by Stevenson and has been in use since 1823.
Soon after passing the lighthouse the view opens up with vistas of the road bridge and Dundee.
The railway line path abruptly ends and you are directed onto a shared use footpath along side the road. At one point the path enters a lay-by, you can go around the lay-by or directly across the grass to the other side, the choice is yours. The path continues alongside the road, separated by a wall passing a group of houses on the right, which was the site of the Newport town gas works. Down on the shore is the mast and aerial for Tay AM.
Soon afterwards you will come up to and go under the Tay Road Bridge with the colourful sculpture by Sharon Averbuch entitled “Distant perspectives, perspective distances” to the right.
The path continues from now using pavement through Newport, Woodhaven and Wormit. A small point of interest is a Victorian Post box on the right as you enter the town.
Newport – on – Tay
The houses to the right peters out and you get a nice view of Dundee. There is a public drinking fountain here that has recently been restored. It was gifted to the town by Mrs, Bythe Martin 1882, with the motto “Keep the pavement Dry” on every other panel around the roof. The distinctive heron in the middle is typical of this design from the MacFarlane’s Saracen Ironworks, Glasgow and is a feature of numerous town parks.
The water fountain is no longer working, these things seems to have fallen out of favour in recent times.
You come into the town centre with a junction, if you fancy something to eat then I can recommend the Manna Café to your left, which is a short distance up the Cupar Road.
Back on track and just before the Spar shop was this painted wall sign harking back to genteel days long past.
Keep on walking with the Tay to your right, past a hotel until you come to the bottom of a slight slope, which was the Ferry Terminal for the main crossing between Fife and Dundee until the opening of the road bridge.
The low buildings to the left housed seven shops including a police station and fell into disuse when the terminal closed. The building opposite was the old post office, with two stamp machines set into the wall.
The site now is now a boat yard, so the slipways are still getting some use.
A couple of interesting buildings on your right, one is a villa down by the water with a turret like thing on the roof the other shortly after has decorative balustrades on the roof and looks totally out of place.
There is a real oddity shortly afterwards, a Victorian, turreted castle with a distinctive yellow lime wash applied to the stone harling. You are meant to get the impression that there are three stories to this castle but the third floor is an illusion.
The view to the right opens out again with the road making a slight bend to the right, on the corner is a sign for Woodhaven Harbour. I just could not resist the lure to go down and have a look.
The harbour was the home to No.333 Squadron Royal Norwegian Air Force, who flew Catalina flying boats from here during WW2. There is a memorial with a dedication made by King Haakon of Norway, who escaped to the UK when his country fell, living in Scotland as a guest of another great Norwegian Christian Saalvensen.
There are two sets of platforms and ramps at the waters edge, this is where the Catalina flying boats were brought to the shore for maintenance, the platforms allowing access to the engines.
A memorial to the Old Boys from the Training Ship Mars, who fell during The Great War is by the slip way. The ship was moored off Woodhaven until the 1920s. reverting back to its original name of HMS Unicorn and is preserved in Dundee. It is also one of the oldest Royal Navy ships still afloat.
Back up the small hill and on with the walk. At some point between passing a church on your left and the fork in the road ahead is the 100 mile mark on the Fife Coastal Path. There is nothing to mark this spot just the grin on ones face is enough.
The FCP continues along a small road on your right, which goes under the Tay Rail Bridge, if you look over the hedge you will see the piers for the old bridge which collapsed 28th December 1879.
The road then starts to descend towards Wormit Bay and a small car park, where I ended this section of the walk by turning left and following the footpath to Gauldry uphill and then cutting under the railway to come out on the main road where I waited for the last time on this walk on the first of two busses, to take me back to the starting point at Tayport. (I could have re-traced my steps back to the main road but I would have never known where that path came out. )
… and that concludes the penultimate part of Going Coastal, along the Fife Coastal Path… but there’s one thing for sure…
The lure of a good day was too much to resist, indeed any day in Scotland that does not rain is a good day but this one promised sunshine as well. This section covers the 11 miles from Guardbridge, through Leuchars to Tentsmuir Forest and around the coast to Tayport. A walk off highs and lows and all of it at sea level!
Leaving my car in the old Guardbridge paper mill car park, which was close to the line of the railway where I left Fife Coastal Path last week. The footpath didn’t last long and soon I was down at the roadside in front of the Paper mill clock. I’d like to say thanks to the University of St. Andrews for restarting this clock, time literally did stop when the mill closed and restarted when the University installed their big community heating boiler plant here.
From the Mill clock, the way forward isn’t clear, do you go to the left up the hill towards the houses or carry straight on towards Leuchars?
The glimpse of half a FCP sign on a lamp post by the roadside confirmed that I was to go ahead towards Leuchars, crossing the old bridge, with a benchmark symbol mid-span.
The way on the far side passes by a children’s play park and some houses before joining and then crossing the Leuchars busy road.
There is an aptly or inaptly named burger van here called the Wurst-Stop, presumably it is a play on words and not a statement of quality. I didn’t get a chance to find out as it was in the process of being set up when I passed and in the process of shutting up shop when I returned.
The next part is kind of sad for me, knowing RAF Leuchars as a vibrant base, walking past it today, without the roar of jets or the prospect of something interesting to look at was slightly depressing. There was the seemingly ever present throaty roar of the East of Scotland Universities Air Squadron, Grob Tutors overhead but that was poor compensation for the ear splitting noise from a Tornado.
I walked past the camp, around the bend and crossed the road to enter Wessex Avenue and from here it’s a matter of walking up this road and turning right…. but I didn’t do that.
In all the years that I have been on this planet, I have never really stopped and looked at St. Athernase Church, which can be seen as you cross the road into Wessex Avenue. The remarkable thing about this 11th century church is its architecture. It is the most northerly example of Norman architecture in the country. Even if you know nothing about architecture, you will immediately notice the rounded end to the building and it’s tiered construction and decorative carvings. The top part was a later edition.
A set of outside stairs to get to the upper gallery and a curious carved pillar with CRAIG SANQUHAr, the last letter being carved into the border, I wonder why this is here. Reused stonework perhaps?
I thought I knew my way back to the route of the FCP after leaving the church and well I was nearly right. My walk took me though the Married Quarters for RAF Leuchars and the penny slowly dropped, there’s nobody about, all these houses are empty. What a crying shame.
I know that MQ are not the most glorious of houses but they are a roof over ones head for someone.
Anyway I found my way back onto the FCP, which goes up Earlshall Road. There is a footpath behind a hedge that leads onto a field running parallel to the road it’s not signposted but it will get you off the road if you wish, it rejoins just before Leuchars Castle and from there it’s a reasonably short walk past the towering radar mast to a gate at the end of the road.
Through the gate and say hello to the cuddies grazing on the verge and walk up the track running alongside the camp, passing through another gate and an anti-aircraft pillbox to your right, up to a sharp bend to the right and look out for a signpost on the left directing you off track.
It was at this point that I had initially decided to follow the track to the coast and work up the beach, on one hand I wish that I had, although I would have missed the next stage and I would have been poorer for it.
The FCP, now follows a grassy path between two fences for a short distance before a sharp turn and the first of seven board walks, going over some marshy ground. At the end the path turns to the left and heads towards Tentsmuir Forest.
The going here is splendid with a seemingly endless undulating grassy path following the marker posts to the trees and down a beautiful forest road through the trees.
In among the trees and this spectacularly broken Pine tree, like tortured horses reaching for the sky.
Into the forest proper and a pleasant walk down a overgrown forest road. Civilisation starts to make its presence known with the unexpected appearance of a good number of “dog-eggs” on the road. This dog and it’s owner must be creatures of habit to lay its eggs at more or less the same point on this road.
A flash of something at the bottom of the forest road begins to signify the beginning of the end.
All too soon this forest road joins the road heading down to Kinshaldy Beach. It’s a narrow road, it’s hard surface and seemingly constant traffic make it thoroughly unpleasant to walk upon. There should be a footpath here but there isn’t. Had I known what lay ahead I would have headed off into the forest along the Polish Camp Road and worked my way down to the coast because I really regretted walking along this road.
A mile and a half of road tedium and misery.
The Forestry Commission charges £2 per car to park at Kinshaldy Beach, they get their money easily and something spent of a footpath would have been money well spent.
Eventually you arrive at the car park, which is a “Sodom and Gomorrah” kind of place compared to the peace of the forest earlier. although I am not sure if that den if iniquity ever had a Crepe Bar but this place did.
Way marking here is non existent, turn left along the forest track and continue all the way northwards for the next two and a half miles. I grew bored of the people, bored at looking at trees and so about a mile short of the Ice House, I turned right along a path heading for the beach, which passed by the old rifle range and a Range Quadrant Control building. The metal supports for the mast that held the red flag are still by the path.
I would advise anyone walking the path to go coastal here, just go straight through the car park, onto the beach, turn left and start walking. The crowds will soon thin out and it’s far better being out in the sunshine with the sea and the sky than being in the forest with only trees to look at.
I never did see the ice house, I had seen it before and I saw something similar at Culross on Day 1, so I’m not missing much, although there is an interesting boundary stone beside the Ice House.
You will know that you are entering into the Tentsmuir Point National Nature Reserve when you see the fence stretching out of the trees and across the beach. It strikes me as extreme control freakery that anyone would want to put a fence onto a beach as the sea has no respect for paltry things as fences.
A gate by the waterline allows access to continue up the beach. You will hear the cries of the seals as they sun themselves on the sandbars way out to your right.
Leave them in peace as you walk up the coast.
I found a quiet spot for lunch by a green bird hide up on stilts, which once was used for the gunnery range Quadrant Control building with the rusting remains of a railway target tug bogey found in the sands preserved nearby. This whole area used to be an air to ground gunnery range and the targets were towed along on these railway buggies for the aircraft to shoot at.
The way around Tentsmuir Point isn’t easy, the sand was soft in places with a strong, cold off-shore wind bowing the sand over ones feet and into the water but I didn’t mind it was such a pleasure to be out on the sands.
I would not have missed this for the world. Such an expanse of sea, sand and sky with the Barry Buddon range tower and lighthouse in the distance for company. The sand was being whipped over the beach, especially so when I started to near the point with the new view of Dundee in the distance.
All too soon another fence over the beach came into view and I had to head to shore to the gate through.
However I was in for a treat, there is a line of cubes, anti-tank obstacles. Usually these cubes were made by pouring concrete into wooden planking moulds or in this instance into a mould lined with corrugated iron. I know I’m easily pleased.
During WW2 the grown-ups were seriously concerned that Fife was a likely German location for an invasion. Funny enough it’s similar territory to Normandy, so along the coast obstacles were erected to slow the invasion down. In the case of Fife there was a stop-line farther inland where the main defence was to have been made.
Also here, dotted all along this piece of coast are the stumps of anti-glider landing obstructions embedded in the beach. Just how a He.111 would be able to tow a glider and then return was beyond the military mind… then again 20/20 hindsight is the curse of anyone interested in history as we all know how that story ended.
I took a path running along the shoreline, a rusting pillar standing proud out of the sand is the remains of a Spigot Mortar. Presumably this would have been surrounded by sandbags it its was fired by a soldier standing upright, an exposed position during a fire fight. There may even be traces of trenches nearby.
The path heads into the trees for a short distance before emerging on the shore, where I went coastal again walking across the sand beside the row of fallen cubes.
I sort of took a short cut. Rather than returning to shore and walking though the forest, I headed for a prominent group of cubes on the shore about a mile distant. The sand underfoot was hard enough to walk upon, none too sore on my feet and a lot better than a forest road.
Drawing up onto the shore in front of two pillboxes with unusually large embrasures on three sides.
A rusting chain-link fence behind the pillboxes, surrounding what was a meteorological station. I had forgotten what this place was until I saw the Danger Explosive Gasses sign on a distinctive a tall shed. Its roller doors at either end, were used for walking the balloons out for release.
All redundant now, a victim of spending cuts and technology and now serves as a canvas for graffiti artists
From the Met Station, it was a case of following the road through a gate and towards the houses. The FCP turns right in front of a small shop heading for a caravan site and car park. It was here that I stopped my walk for today and walked a short distance up the road to wait for my bus back to Guardbridge.
If you are going further on, there is a path that runs close to the shore heading directly to the car park and caravan site, shortening the route.
Well that’s all from me, there is only two more stage left of the Fife Coastal Path left to do but rest assured….
Of all the walking that I have done on this walk along the Fife Coastal Path, this section represents the best and the worst parts of the walk, with the beautiful coastal scenery contrasting strongly with a dreary path along a busy, noisy road.
My journey started out from the Kingsbarns beach car park onto the golf course access path for a short distance or you can go coastal and walk along the rocky beach, the choice is yours.
Again it is worth noting that the route, through the golf course and most likely the car park itself, will be closed during parts of August 2017 for a golf tournament.
More importantly – check the state of the tide before starting off.
There is a caution notice by the path advising of “rough and remote coastal terrain,” ahead for the next 7-1/2 miles to St.Andrews, it was at this point that I became aware that I had company. Two other walkers had gained ground on me fairly quickly and overtook me…. and to be honest, I felt kind of miffed that my solitude was ruined. A very selfish thought I know but very soon these walkers became mere footprints in the sand, their quick pace leaving me alone once more and it would be another two hours before I would see another person again.
I did wonder at these walkers. Did they see the things that I saw, were they walking for the enjoyment or were they walking to knock-off the miles on a long distance path? What pictures did he take with his DSLR, I wondered?
To each and their own I suppose.
All too soon, I came to a marker post near Airbow Point, directing walkers onto the shore. The going here varies from stones, to a long rock pavement, to soft sand, making slow and ponderous progress. The change of pace gave me the chance to photograph the water trails in the sand… I find these fascinating.
There is a derelict static caravan on the point, its green shell can be seen from a distance as you approach Kingsbarns. The shattered relic of someone’s holiday dream home.
Back onto the beach and some more sand ripple abstracts. My two companions had left their footprints in the sand and I had my solitude.
The path returns to the shore and the pace starts to pick up again.
The rock formations here leads one into more photo opportunities.
At some point a landowner put some effort into shoring up the shore with large stone block walls, nowadays the maintenance of which seem to be forgotten.
A ruined fisherman’s cottage with a concrete surround, inlaid with small beach stones, a reminder that someone lived and cared for this house. The harbour is quite open to the elements, with a slipway, most likely the boats were brought up onto the shore when not needed.
The path is wide and grassy, a total joy to walk on as you turn inland towards Boarhills, walking up the side of the small river. It’s a joy walking along the river bank, through the wood, past the ruined Hillhead Mill, which must have been something in its day with broad single piece stone bridges across the burns. Could be called a Clapper Bridges in some parts.
I did think that this river here would have been ripe for a water mill with easily dammed, narrow steep sided banks but no traces of one could be seen. The path crosses the river by a metal footbridge and climbs past Burnside Farm, which looks like it has seen better days.
The path joins the road heading uphill towards Boarhills for a short distance before turning off to the right onto a well paved farm track.
The tracks terminates at another farm road, turn left, then turn right before the ruined 17th century doocot, to carry on for a short distance along a rougher farm track, before turning right and heading down towards the sea along a wide grassy track.
Back at the coast you can sneak a view up the coast through a gap in the hedge. The path itself descends down to a wide bay with the bulk of Buddo Rock at the end.
If you are of an adventurous nature, it is possible to climb to the top of the rock by way of a narrow cleft in the rock, liberally coated in guano and deep in places. I chickened out as the cleft got narrower, I still had a long way to go and all this before lunchtime!
The path then makes its way along the shore under the St.Andrews Bay Hotel golf course, rounding the point at Buddo Ness you get a lovely view along the coast towards the town.
A small bridge crosses a narrow burn and rounds a point, a long, wide plank of wood made for an excellent location for an early lunch. Total bliss in the sunshine even if I was just drinking water and eating a Lidl sandwich. This was the first time that I could not stop and buy a lunch along the way and it won’t be for the last time either.
Starting back off again, the path climbs up towards the hotel and golf course, for some reason the path directs you through a gap in the wall, along side the golf course then out through another gap shortly afterwards, while there is a path on the seaward side of the wall that continues without entering the golf course. Strange.
There is a deep chasm to cross by way of a bridge before the ultimate descent back down to the coast. I came across a pillbox and decided to explore and this one it totally unique as it has a tunnel behind leading to another embrasure in the rock and a vertical escape shaft. Metal hoops were used to shore up the roof, one lies rusting against the pillbox wall.
The entrance door is very small, a hands and knees job to get in, not quite suitable for your average Teutonic German invader.
More beautiful coastline along the way with that ever constant view of St.Andrews in the distance. At one point you descend down a path with high bushes on either side, rather like a miniature Dark Hedges, Scottish style.
Shortly afterwards you go coastal, walking along the beach and for the final time, to reach a section dependant on the tide. A large rock step has to be negotiated with a yellow foot hold fixed into the rock.
With that the coastal route is back on shore and heading towards the Rock and Spindle formation. It’s nothing much to look at, it is one of three large rocks down by the shore that you pass by on your ever closing journey towards the town.
One final obstacle in the form of a set of irregular stone steps up a hillside towards another golf course. It’s hard going and painful on the knees. The path continues beside a holiday caravan park before finally descending to St.Andrews.
I fancied a rest, a coffee and a bit of cake, so the mention of a cafe at the leisure center was enough to get me off the path. It was a short lived rest as the cafe turned out to be a couple of vending machines. Disappointed, I kept on going.
Further on. the old lifeboat station, tuned into a beach cafe was doing a roaring trade, I didn’t fancy sitting outside, so I kept on going. The reflection of the cathedral in the harbour water was enough to get me off the path for a short distance.
The footpath crosses the harbour by a bridge. There is an ordinance survey benchmark I the wall of an old pier.
The path goes either side of a block of houses, I took the seaward side, it’s not too well signposted, then up the hill with a view of the pier.
At the top of the hill is the foundations to the St. Mary’s on the Rock Church, destroyed at the time of the Reformation.
You get a view of the castle from up here, passing by Saint Gregory’s whatever that was, then the path continues along a narrow road past St.Andrews Castle, the road was festooned with tourists and just about every builders van in Fife.
The path opens out at a grass area with the Martyr’s Monument at the end, with the Clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club beyond.
Turn left, cross the road then right along the road beside the golf course, passing the Swilkin Bridge at the end.
Turn right at the junction and continue along this road heading towards another large hotel. Signposting is poor here. The path continues past a barrier on the golf course to another barrier at the hotel car park. Otherwise there is a path to the left through a car park that gets to the same place.
For now on things start to get dire and in my opinion the most boring part of the whole path so far.
Continuing along the road in front of the hotel, which is also being extensively refurbished. The road comes to the main road into the town. Look for a cycle path to your right, take this and walk past golf course after golf curse with nothing more interesting to look at other than a millennium cycle mile marker, with the motto, “Mile by mile they marked their way from ancient town to river bridge.”
The path, is close to the main road, heavy with noisy traffic also it is unpleasant walking on its tarred surface. The view over to the right is dominated by the former RAF base and now Leuchars Army barracks.
It passes an old Toll House with a traditional Fife mile post, with 389 carved into the top and an Ordinance Survey benchmark symbol on the side.
Not too far away, on the other side of the road is a good sandwich place if you fancy a bite.
Otherwise continue along the narrow footpath and into a lay-by, heading away from the traffic, descending to the River Eden with the Guardbridge Hotel to the right. This used to the be the station house, an old public drinking fountain on the wall of the hotel bids you to “Keep the pavement dry.”
An information board at the landfall of the bridge tells the story of the town and bridges, the one you will cross was built for and by pilgrims in 1419, lasting until 1938, when its replacement along side was opened.
The piers of the old railway, built by Thomas Bouch, who also built the ill fated Tay Rail Bridge and lasted until 1969 when the railway closed.
An Ordinance Survey bench mark and datum mark can be seen at the mid span along with metal rings fixed into the stone at regular intervals.
The path then crosses the road and heads through a lane between houses, emerging at a road before continuing on another lane at the far side. This marks the route of the old railway as it goes behind the houses to emerge at the former Paper Mill.
I left the path at this point, the 84 mile mark, backtracking slightly to the bus stop, to begin my bus journey back to the car at Kingsbarns.
Well that’s all from me…. but there’s one thing for sure…
Went for a run on the Beemer today, badly needing some BMW therapy, I didn’t know where I was going but I knew where I didn’t want to go, into Perthshire or into Fife as I have been spending too much time there lately. The south meant going over the Bridge the road works just boil my brain, so west it was.
Along the hillfoots; Muckhart, Dollar, Tillicoultry, Alva and Menstrie to Stirling, Through Stirling and out towards Balfron, not Aberfoyle, too many tourists, too many dawdlers.
Drymen, then until I literally ran out of road on the shores of Loch Lomond.
It’s the first time that I have been here in nearly 30 years and a lot has changed. The biggest thing was the establishment of the Loch Lomond National Park, they have certainly had their fingers in a lot of pies, effectively killing off the common man culture that used to come up from Glasgow, camp up, make a fire by the loch and drink themselves happy.
That’s all gone. First it was an alcohol ban and then just recently a wild camping ban. Now you need a permit to pitch your tent by the shores and only at designated places.
I passed through Balmaha, a village and a tourist destination of the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and kept on going to Rowardennan, some six miles down a narrow road, to the end of the road.
Coming out of Balmaha a large yellow and black sign proclaims, No stopping, No Parking for six miles. It’s a yellow sign, few people will realise it is an advisory notice, but the Park Nazis want you to behave and keep on going… however the first thing you come to is a car park, run by the National Park. So you can stop but only when they let you.
I stopped, got off the bike and went down to the loch shore and the first thing that struck me was that the place was so clean the whole area looks sanitised and made into some gardening center idyll. The stones on the shore were like gravel, no boulders, no driftwood, just boring gravel.
The grand scenery on the far side of the loch.
Time to get back on the bike and travel up and down, up and down, left and right until I ran out of road at Rowardennan.
The Forestry Commission was getting in on the act here, £3 for a whole days parking! No mention of motorbikes being excepted, just where you stick the ticket if open to debate here!
The hotel here used to be a Mecca for bikers and now, not one other than myself. Times really have changed.
Beyond the car park, there is a granite memorial with an inscribed stone nearby, “this land rising from the shore of the loch to the summit of Ben Lomond, was dedicated in 1996 as the Ben Lomond National Park to be held in perpetuity as a tribute to those who gave their lives in the service of their country.”
The memorial is like a large Q, for question.
Probably a symbolism between the all encompassing nature of the National Park and the top of Ben Lomond.
I noticed that the steamer pier has been fenced off with the ubiquitous Heras fencing. Allowed to go to rack and ruin when the Maid of the Loch was laid up. Let’s hope it will be refurbished when the boat is back in business.
Speaking of the Ben, it was shrouded in cloud, here it is towering above the Youth Hostel.
No doubt there would be a fair number of Munro baggers up there, queuing in the rain to get to the summit. I’m kind of glad that the last time I was up there, I came in from the north, away from all this nonsense.
I didn’t feel like making this one a true monochrome as the wee beech tree give the whole picture a little lift, so I bled some of the colour back into the monochrome.
With that done it was time to head back, down the wibbly-wobbly way to Balmaha and my appointment with a folk hero.
Tom Weir, a working class lad from Springburn in Glasgow became an accomplished climber, hill walker, author and television presenter, with his takes of his travels around Scotland.
He spent his latter years at Gartocharn, on the south end of the loch maintaining his association, with the Loch and the Ben.
He died in 2006 and a bronze statue was erected in Balmaha on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2014.
Tam with his trade mark wooly bunnit.
I really wonder what Tam would make of all this now…
Time to start heading back, following the front wheel to Drymen, then up to near enough Aberfoyle (the Dukes Pass will wait for a quieter day), out past the Lake of Menteith, to Thornhill, Doune and up the A9 cutting through Gleneagles back home to Kinross, in time to give the bike a hose down and put it away for another day…. but there’s one thing for sure….
Dedicated, as ever to my number one fan, my darlin’ wife.
Going Coastal – Part two of my walk along the Fife Coastal Path, continuing where I left off at Crail, around Fife Ness, carrying on past Carnbo to Kingsbarns.
Cabbit in Crail
A kind of strange moment happened here, when I got stuck behind a group of people dawdling along the pavement in Crail, looking for somewhere to eat. They were undeniably visitors to the town, contrasting strongly with the kind of people you meet along the FCP and to be honest, my anti-social nature gained the upper hand here, I did not want to be near them, so it was time to get out of town. I wanted the peace and quiet of the walk, only to be punctuated by the maddening cry of the Oystercatcher rather than the cry of the maddening tourist.
The Fife Coastal Path, FCP follows the main street of Crail continuing onwards into a very wide road, which compared to the town you have just left is out of place, almost like a new town. The route goes along this broad street for a short distance before turning right, heading down to the sea.
However, because I set off without checking the tide times, I had to make this a priority. There was next to no signal on my mobile phone so I went down to the harbour to find out. I knew the water was low but in which direction was it going, ebb or flood tide?
It turned out to be a flood tide, it was coming in and there would be another four hours before high water with plenty of time to do the next stage of the FCP to Kingsbarns.
From here until St. Andrews, the state of the tide is paramount as parts of the FCP can not be done with a high tide. Especially near Cambo and Boarhills.
I knew my way about this part of Crail, so I took a footpath, which runs along an escarpment above the harbour, the old town sundial is on this path. It used to, until 1890 stand by the harbour. I wonder who turns it round for British Summer Time?
A local landmark is this turret cum summer house, which stands above this walkway, I decided to shoot this one as a silhouette.
The footpath descends to the shore line after the old mill and continues along the shore wall up to, surprise, surprise, another outdoor swimming pool!
This one is the most natural of all the Fife outdoor pools with only one wall being needed to contain the water.
After the pool the path continues past a children’s play park before climbing steeply up the hill to go before some houses away from the shore before heading back towards the shore.
It then continues through the seemingly ceaseless, regimented lines of a static holiday caravans.
There is a pill box on the escarpment above the caravans, it is unusual in that the firing embrasures are facing inland, towards the airfield rather than seaward, where you would think that the enemy would come from. There is another pillbox farther along the coast, again with the embrasures facing away from the shore.
The airfield was once HMS Jackdaw, a Royal Naval Air Station used as a training base for torpedo bombers and has unusually for a wartime airfield, four instead of standard three runways. The whole airfield is in a good state of preservation including a large and unique Watch Tower.
Blissfully the road through the caravan park ends and the path restarts, following the shore and more opportunities to see washed up creels along the way.
The way forward marks literally a watershed, along the FCP. It starts out on beautifully paved paths, continues along pavements and roads and none too bad paths up to the section around Fife Ness. It now starts to get harder, less well paved and more serious in that the state of the tide must be a consideration. So gaw canny.
The escarpment to your left is in fact a raised beach. A wartime building was built into the slope, its windows have been bricked up and they don’t look like embrasures.
The FCP actually goes over possibly the foundation of a wartime hut as it passes through the Kiminning Nature Reserve. The path goes up a slight hill, where on the descent, there are a number of concrete foundations, which were possibly wartime beach barbed wire supports.
I popped up off the broad grassy track onto the escarpment to have a close look at one badly cracked pillbox. It would seem that the bunker was built in two parts, the inner and an outer section, again with the entrance door facing towards the sea.
The path then starts to climb up again, through a ticket of thorn bushes, which was as good as barbed wire in my book.
There is a small headland here, according to the information board, it was used as a flour bombing target by the wartime RAF, which with bread being rationed seemed to be an awful waste of a valuable resource. However – never let the truth get in the way of a good story, right?
At the top you will get your first proper view of Fife Ness, the former Coastguard Station, controversially closed in a centralisation cost cutting measure, depriving the service of valuable local knowledge.
The houses here, are painted in pastel colours but it can’t disguise their yucky architecture.
The Fife Ness light is inside a fenced off enclosure, at the foot of which is a pillbox, built out of local stone rather than poured concrete. It’s now a midden for plastic beach debris.
Inside can be seen one of the embrasures for mounting a Bren gun, a common feature of these bunkers.
The large rock behind the pillbox has lots of initials carved into it. Tourists or bored sentries, or the Polish soldiers who built the pillbox, who knows.
There is a small natural harbour here that was used to ship stone from a quarry below the golf clubhouse. The North Carr rocks lie off shore and a lighthouse was started by Robert Stevenson in 1840, the stone was worked locally and built onto a circular base on the rocks to the left. The lighthouse wasn’t finished and a metal tower was built on the rocks instead before the North Carr lightship was placed on station. There is an automatic beacon on station now and the ship has been preserved at Dundee.
There is a large tidal basin farther along the bay, which formed the pond for a water mill, the water wheel was turned by the outgoing tide.
The FCP then turns right and follows a line of white posts along the very edge of the golf course with all its attendant risks of flying golf balls.
I found a rare relic of WW2 in the form of an metal observation post, lying half buried in the sand. I am not sure if these armour plate domed shelters were ever meant to be serious defensive positions or merely observation posts but their use seemed to me to be a suicide mission for the guy inside.
Constantine’s Cave is by the shore with an extensive information board, the Pictish King, Constantine was reputed to have been killed in this cave, others doubt this. Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.
The old Crail Lifeboat station stands above a large beach by the golf course. I found it better to walk along the shore than to walk alongside the greens. There is another huge pile of wrecked creels on this shore.
There is a second better preserved observation post in the sand by a golfers shelter.
Shortly after this shelter things get serious. The path goes coastal with no onshore alternative getting around the headland with its serious cliff towering above. The signs direct you to walk along the coast for the next half mile or so, even though there seems to be flat land on shore.
After rounding the headland, it is possible to walk on the field however the route is quite specific in that you walk along the shore. The cynic in me suggests that this could be a case of “Oi you, get off my land” kind of attitude by the landowner, the dumping of debris along the edge of the shore seems to reinforce this impression. The coast is rocky in places with sandy strips to walk along and all in all is not that bad walking.
There is a pile of concrete footings on the shore, with the rusting stumps of iron I-beams embedded in them. I think they were used for holding the strings of barbed wire on the beach.
The coastal path then goes onshore along the Cambo Golf Course, which makes for easy walking along the grass and maybe not so pleasant along the paved sections. This time the boundary is marked with red posts.
At the time of writing there are notices here, warning of the suspension of the Land Reform Act access rights for August 2017 due to a women’s golf tournament. I suspect the way along the beach will still be open but again, only at low tides.
I could not feel that this whole golf course was a monumental waste of good land as here was I on a Saturday afternoon and there were no golfers on the course. I take the republican view that golf courses are a waste of good farm land. To each and their own I suppose.
After the golf course, the path continues along the dunes but I dropped down onto the wide sandy beach for a better walking surface. There is a line of rocks just off shore with a metal marker post protruding from the surf, so captivated was I by this, that I discovered rather abruptly and to my great surprise that this was opposite the Kingsbarns car park marking the end of my coastal walk for toady at the 71-1/2 mile mark.
A glance at my phone was enough to tell me that I had better pick up the pace and walk up the narrow road to the village to catch the bus, which was due soon.
A Lion Head Public well in Kingsbarns
The bus was fashionably late, which suited me and in to time I was back in Anstruther, so all I had to do was walk along the harbour, forsaking the crowds and the chip shops, back to my car, covering the bit that I had missed in the morning.
Well that’s all from me, the next section to Guardbridge has already been walked so I’d better get busy editing the pictures and telling my story, but there’s one thing for sure….
I have known about this harbour for some time but never really done much photographically about it until the other day, when I “took a daftie” and went over to Kingsbarns with the wee Fuji and made this photo essay.
The harbour was built around 1850 by a local farmer who wanted to load his potatoes onto ships for transportation to market, employing local labour to do the job.
The coast line here is very exposed, there is nothing between Fife and Scandinavia except for hundreds of miles of the North Sea and a few oil rigs dotted here and there, so it was inevitable that Mother Nature would win in the end and win she did.
The north jetty curved around to the right of this picture. Most of the stones have fallen into the harbour, I suppose this may have been done deliberately during WW2 to deny it to the enemy, who knows but it is conspicuous how all the stones have fallen inwards and not either side of the jetties.
There is not much discernible of the southern jetty, being straight out towards the end of the curved northern jetty, again it had been toppled over into the harbour with no obvious lines.
There were a few photographic opportunities around the harbour.
One last photo of a bollard standing out against the skyline like an Easter Island Statue.
The end of my photo essay at Kingsbarns Harbour but there is one thing for sure…..
Part 1. Anstruther to Crail.
Another installment of Going Coastal, one man’s blisters or burst attempt at the 116 mile Fife Coastal Path, which er, goes around the sticky out bit of Fife from here to there.
This time I am walking from the quaint Fish Supper capital of Anstruther to the picturesque, almost nothingness of Kingsbarns. Because I took so many pictures, I will split this 11 mile section up into two parts, basically: before and after lunch.
Arriving at Anstruther at half past ten to find the place busy with visitors, the first couple of car parks were full, leaving the one at the end of the harbour, opposite the Scottish Fisheries Museum (you should have a look it’s bigger than you think.) I thought that I was going to get stung for parking, for the first time on my walk on the Fife Coastal Path, however I saved my £1.40 for four hours or more, for another day as the Kingdom Council only start charging after April. Result.
Boots on and I was off. I didn’t get very far before something distracted me, a memorial dedicated to “the most futile submarine attack of the war.” The SS Avondale Park and the Norwegian ship Sneland 1, were torpedoed at 2240 hrs off the Isle of May, 7th May 1945. Twenty minutes before the end of WW2 in Europe. The memorial on the harbour wall makes for interesting reading. Spare a thought for the Merchant Marine, who had a similar attrition rate as the RAF Bomber Command.
For those in peril on the sea.
There is a piece of sculpture just beyond the memorial, with a fishing theme. Anstruther still is a busy fishing port but it is mostly pleasure craft that fills the berths here. Pittenweem is the Kingdon’s main fishing port.
Almost immediatly after leaving the memorial you turn right and enter Anstruther’s forgotten twin town, Cellardyke. It’s narrow streets and equally narrow pavements make walking on the road an attractive option. Just keep your lugs open for traffic.
There’s a lovely piece of stained glass window on one of the houses. Must have belonged to someone of means at one time.
A narrow lane goes off uphill from the street.
The street ends in front of the Town Hall, with the old Merkit Cross in front of it, the cross is dated to 1642.. I would have taken a photo of it but the guy on the seat beside it looked so comfy that I didn’t want to disturb him. There is an inscription above the cross “Erected by Stephen Williamson and David Fowler For municipal and other purposes in this their native town AD 188*” The last bit has been weathered off, but it is the thought that counts.
The way goes sharp right then sharp left as past the culturally important Golden Lion Chinese take-away to continue along the street. There is a step house here with a North East Fife Council Environmental Award winner 1993 plaque on the wall beyond.
I caught this inside one house. I don’t know if it was cheeky to photograph it or not but it deserves sharing
Each of the Star Trek characters is holding a placard protesting various themes
Farther on, there is a house on the left that has a plaque on the wall, celebrating “Peter Smith. Known as Poetry Peter, who was born in this house 1874. Fisherman poet of Cellardyke.”
The road eventually comes out at the harbour with a common drying green on the level below.
The harbour is empty of boats, extensively modified and the piers moved to its present layout in 1854. One of the oldest parts is the section to the left, built by Dutch dyke builders in 1452.
The Fife Coastal Path, FCP continues passing another stair house with two beams protruding from the roof for the dormers, probably used for lifting fishing nets to the attic space for storage.
One of the last houses on the street one time it was the old cooperage, where they made the barrels that the fish were packed in. Now a house with the name Ar-Tigh, literally translated as on-house or I wonder a play on Oor House?
I liked the symmetry of this house.
Just beyond this house is a play park and on the shore beyond is perhaps the best of the outdoor swimming pools along the Costa Del Fife. Complete with a paddling pool for the bairns and a diving board for the big bairns. There are still traces of green tiles around the walls of the paddling pool.
It has definitely seen better days and was treacherous getting down for photos.
We now leave Cellardyke and head out on a broad grassy path towards Caiplie Farm at the end of the bay. I get the feeling that there must have been something here at one time as the shore is littered by building debris. Sea worn bricks are everywhere. Another thing you will see a lot is creels, if I saw one that day I must have seen a hundred, all washed up on the beach by the strong seas and a loss to the fishermen.
I passed a small memorial to something along the way, don’t know what, a vertical stone surrounded by other stones and flowers. It meant something to someone.
That’s Caiplie farm in the background
I didn’t know it but this turned out to be the best section of the path that I would walk on that day, good going, flat with a slight give underfoot, heaven for walking on.
There’s a footpath up to the main road from here but it leads up to a busy road, not pleasant for walking on.
Another thing that struck me as I walked along was the number of cockle shells that littered the beach, I thought to myself there must be good beds out there in the Firth and then the penny dropped as to what that wee boat was doing out in the Firth, dredging for cockles!
It’s funny you have constant companions as you make your way up the coast; Grangemouth Refinery, Forth Bridges, Hound Point, Oil Rigs, ships at anchor, Inchcolm Island, Inchkeith island and finally the Isle of May. Each one is always there to then slip quietly out of your vision to be replaced with another. The Isle of May will be the last of these companions for a while.
The path, passes Caiplie farm and starts to degenerate, at one point you have to use a series of stepping stones to get over a boggy bit.
There is the keel of an old boat among the stones on the foreshore
Driven up onto the shore and rotted away. The next point of interest is the Caiplie Caves among the weathered sandstone, there are some lovely colours among the rocks. The sheep here are no scared either.
Did I mention lovely colours, not much good in a monochrome photo, so breaking with tradition.
The sheep must sleep in these caves as it’s rank inside. the largest one at the end has some interesting cave paintings.
Three years… I wonder if this was St.Andrews University Students?
There is supposed to be some Pictish carvings in the caves but I missed them.
From here the path goes up a slight hill and down again, giving me an opportunity for a bit of street photography.
She was probably puzzled at at the sight of the T-shirt wearing, camera wielding lunatic, while everyone else was all wrapped up. I done the whole walk with the jacket in my rucksack. It rained for a while but the fleece was as waterproof as a tea bag so I made the most of it and kept on walking…. singing as I went… aye right.
The Fife Coastal Trust are making an effort to clean up the beach of all the rubbish that gets washed ashore, there are numerous fishing boxes filled with rubbish awaiting collection along the way. I thought this was ironic, a sandwich board with the message “Take Pride in your Beach,” which must drifted down from Broughty Ferry as it has Dundee Council’s logo on it. Just goes to show the International nature of flotsam.
A face in a rock.
Or maybe I was just running low on blood sugar….
Wee floors wedged among the rocks, I broke with tradition retained some of the colour.
There are some anti-invasion fence post sockets here on the shore, all that’s left are blocks of concrete with the rotting stump if an I-beam sunk into them. I’ll show a better photo of them in part 2.
It would appear that the ruined cottages known as The Pans marked the site of the maltings of salt, active in the mid 1800s but now no more.
The path ahead starts to rise with a fenced enclosure at the top. I think this must have been a radio installation at one time, now only two concrete bases and a bunded fuel tank remain. The path splits here, the low route and FCP is on the seaward side while the high route is on the landward side of the fence. I was curious as to what the building was on the shore, whose purpose these days is to advertise the Golf Hotel in Crail was, so I took the low route.
The best that I can think of was a small generator building.
Better to take the low route as you come around the headland and you are looking at Crail from a nice angle. The path climbs up towards some houses, to where the path from the radio mast joins and continues along the road to eventually emerge onto the main road through Crail. You get a great view of the harbour from here.
There’s an old Fife milestone by the roadside with curious distances, well curious to me today Kilry 2-3/4, Largo Pier 14-1/4, B’Island 32 and Crail 1/4 and K’barns 5-1/2. These were important crossing destinations in their day. No mention of Leven or Kirkcaldy. Kilry is Kilrenny (Cellardyke.) There is an ordinance survey benchmark symbol on one face of the milestone.
The cast iron information cap may be a reproduction, or it was returned at some point in the recent past.
You’ll see a white pillar with a basket on the hill to the right, peer over the wall to the left and you’ll see the other, if you are out at sea and you can line-up these two lights, then you are in the channel for the harbour and not heading for the rocks.
I went looking for somewhere for lunch after that is finding a money machine first I had he bus fare back to Anstruther, priorities first.
I settled on Julias Eatery and Art Gifts, where I had a nice lunch and a short rest ready to continue for the second part of this section of the FCP. But there’s one thing for sure…..