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….