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….