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…