Posts Tagged Fife
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….
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…..
Going Coastal along the 116 miles of the Fife Coastal Path from Kincardine to Newburgh. This section covers the six miles from Elie to Anstruther AKA Ainster… ye ken.
I came home from a heavy weekend night-shoot with 2,500 photos and got peeved off at grading and editing them so I decided to go for a walk instead. Indeed most of those photos are still outstanding but I’d rather do this than face those photos.
Knowing the lie of the land, I parked my car up at a car park just outside Elie, not too far from the harbour and the lighthouse with the intention of walking the 11 miles to Crail and getting the bus back to Elie then catching up on the “missing bit” of the Fife Coastal Path (FCP) on the way to the car.
The car park overlooks the little bay of Wood Haven, there are some WW2 anti-tank “Cubes” in a couple of places here, one has been tipped over and split, possibly indicating that the concrete was done in two pours some time apart. There are a line of cubes along the escarpment although I wonder how easy it would have been to get a tank up this slope in the first place.
The FCP leaves the car park to cut across the headland, going straight for the coast. It’s an injustice to miss the nice wee lighthouse on the point, it was commissioned in 1908 under the engineering supervision of David A Stevenson grandson of Robert Stevenson, of Bell Rock Lighthouse fame and a cousin of Robert Louis Stevenson and is still in use today albeit with electric light rather than acetylene lamps.
Follow the path around the headland coming to the Lady’s Tower, there is a small vaulted chamber above the shore line before you come to the tower, which is said to be a bathing house. The Tower itself was probably built to improve the view, which it certainly does and it had been photographed to death over the years… including some by myself.
From here, you can get a view of the way ahead up the coast past St. Monans to Pittenweem, with Anstruther around the headland in the distance.
The path now follows the coast between a fence and the shore all the way up to Ardross.
The going is good, reasonably well surfaced in a choice of compacted earth or sand, interspersed in places by the odd step.
I had a fascinating chat with a dog walker about the history of the place, and how Earlsferry lost its dominance to Elie when its harbour was destroyed by a storm.
The next point of interest is the ruins of the 15th Century Ardross Castle there’s not that much to see, the crumbling 6″ thick walls are impressive as is the ruin of a roofless vaulted cellar. I did find another “swarm” of snails, all sleeping their heads off in a hole in a wall.
A little farther on is an impressive railway bridge with a wall of brambles nestling underneath, natures barbed wire.
The view ahead is dominated by another castle, this time it is 16 / 17th Century Newark Castle much of which is in a ruined state although it must have been a grand place in its day.
There is a wooden post sunk into the stones before the castle on the shore. This is an important marker for the way ahead because if the tide has reached this point then the high tide diversion route into St. Monans has to be taken.
The path climbs up a set of irregular steps to the castle, which is partially fenced off, then carries around to another headland and the 16th century castle doocot. Fresh meat was important but of equal importance was the desire to keep the noise and smell of the pigeons at arms length from the folk in the castle.
A little farther on and you’ll come to St.Monans, the path then drops down to the shoreline, which is the reason for the high tide marker post mentioned previously. A high tide renders this route is impassable as it skirts the base of the church wall before traversing an embankment, by way of foot holds in the stonework to the front of the kirk.
The high tide route joins the FCP on the other side of the church and then goes up a narrow set of steps between two houses, emerging onto a street, turns right and descends to the sea again. There is a nice view of the church from a promontory here although I gather there is a building plan in action to put a house here.
The FCP goes along a narrow street, with a few tell tale signs that the houses are rented holiday homes – combination key-safes on the doors.
The road emerges at the slipway of James N Millar and Sons, boat builders, whose business dated back to 1747 and is alas no more. The slipway with it’s impressive rails is now the site of the Welly Boot Garden, a part of the villages’ entry to the Beautiful Fife Competition. I have forgotten the name of the artist who made the triptych entitled “Fifty? Shades of Grey.”
Going by the road sign, the council still seems to think that this is an operational slipway.
There’s a beautiful stair house along the way, another rented property, with the key-safe mounted high on the ground floor door and a barrier across the top of the stairs, as that door is no longer used.
The FCP continues past the harbour, the entrance was blocked by a dredger, always a good sign of an active harbour, up to a smoke house, which was also part of James N Millar and Sons boat-yard. The route now goes up hill for a short distance turning right onto a narrow street before emerging back out at the shore at a car park. The view ahead is dominated by a 18th century windmill, used for pumping sea water to the salt works on the shore.
The old municipal outdoor swimming pool is on the right, a sign of long past holidays by the seaside in the days before foreign holidays.
The salt was extracted from the sea water by evapouration, the water being heated by burning coal mined from a nearby site. The ground water from the mine still spills forth a little way beyond, staining the watercourse brown as it goes.
There are public information boards here at the Salt Pans, unfortunately they are weathered and hard to read.
You can see coal deposits in between the rock layers on the coast.
I watched two men strip the asbestos roof off a house at the nearby Pathhead Nursery above the path, Both were wearing white dust suits,(tick) but only one, the one doing the work on the roof was wearing a dust mask and not the guy stacking the broken sheets (half a tick) while the breeze carried any dust generated, away from them towards Pittenweem (no tick.) It only takes just one fiber of asbestos in the lung to start an incurable health problem, a problem which will only show up years later. You have got to die of something right?
The path approaches and goes up a hill towards a play park but I carried on for a short distance to visit the old Pittenweem municipal outdoor pool
You may have guessed by now that I have a soft spot for these signs of faded grandeur.
The FCP goes around a shelter and down towards Pittenweem with a lovely view of the houses along the West Shore. The open space to your left was the site of the town’s gas works.
There’s a No Cycling sign by sea wall but by some kind of irony there are four old bicycles which have been turned into artworks, lying against the houses. Transgressors will be turned into artworks, so be warned!
The route then follows the road past the busy harbour and fish market then heads up hill. Before it does there is a grand house at the end of the harbour which is worth mentioning.
The Gyles, according to the blue plaque on the wall, “The Gyles built in 1626 for Captain James Cook. Cook married a Horsburgh (woman) and the house stayed in the Horsburgh family for 300 years. Sadly, the claim that it was Cook’s ship that carried Charles II to France after his defeat at the 1651 Battle of Worcester is a 19th century hoax. John Jenry Lorimer, portrait painter restored the house in 1930, hence the initials JHM and numerals on the gate. Hew Lorimer, sculptor lived here in the 1930s and 1940s.”
The FCP climbs up a steady incline to a sharp bend in the road, where it carries on by way of a path in front of some houses perched on top of an escarpment. It continues along the escarpment before descending to the shore. There is a curious structure on the rocks, which is thought to be a firing platform for a rifle range dating from the early 1900s.
I just wonder how many folk actually speak Gaelic in Pittenweem. Ah well it’s the thought that counts.
The path now clings to the shoreline, sandwiched between the golf course and the sea.. There appears to be an old coastguard look out tower perched on an escarpment, the front bricked up and in use by the golf club.
The path then continues along the coast before coming to… surprise, surprise…. another outdoor swimming pool and one that I had never known about! It is very much unrecognisible now, only the concrete steps give it away.
There is a very patriotic Saltire out on a rock on a promontory making a brave effort to resist the wind of change. Saltire? It’s the proper name for the Scottish flag, based on the cross of St.Andrew.
The path then joins a road which makes its way past the golf clubhouse and follows a street, with nothing of any interest to a T-junction, turns left and goes uphill to the main road and turn right. The building at the top used to be the old Crichton Street, Surgery, and proudly proclaims it name in Gaelic. Ah well it impresses the tourists. I’m sensing a bit of a Gaelic sub culture here,
This is a busy road with few pleasures along the way, an old shop, long shut, so incredibly dated with net curtains in the window and tall double split doors coated with fading paint and road grime.
The Dreel Tavern is on the left hand side of the road. Dreel being the Scots word for a furrow, which applies to the burn flowing behind the tavern. A plaque on the wall proclaims, “James V 1513-1542 travelled incognito through Fife as the ‘Guid man o’Ballengeich,’ coming to the Dreel Burn and fearful of wetting his hose, he was carried across at this point by a stout gaberlunzie woman, who was rewarded with the king’s purse.” A gaberlunzie is the Scots word for a licensed beggar. So Kingy Jimmy was feart o’ getting his stockings wet, so a woman carried him over a burn and was rewarded. And who says the age of chivalry is dead?
The road takes a sharp bend, the bane of many a heavy goods driver and on the wall of a house on the bend is a plaque to “Captain John Keay, 1828-1918, Born in East Green, Anstruther. Lived in this house for many years master of many clipper ships including the famous ‘Aerial,'”
The Buckie House on the corner has one of its walls is decorated with sea shells. I have always been too busy trying to get around this corner to notice this.
The Old Tollbooth and Wester Anstruther Town Hall is also on this corner along with St.Adrian’s Church with three large stones engraved with the story of Anstruther.
The bridge beyond over the Dreel Burn, bears stones dated 1630, “Rebuilt by subscription (they passed the hat around local worthies) 1795” and marks the boundary between Wester Anstruther and Anstruther, or as the locals call it “Ainster.”
The gable end of wall the house beyond the bridge is decorated by sea shells and has seen better days.
Opposite is another old and long closed shop with empty, road grime encrusted bay windows looking out onto the busy road.
Opposite the shop is the now closed Smugglers Inn, dating back the the 16th century with 18th and 19th century additions and is on the buildings at risk register. The road forks just beyond, take the right hand fork and follow a narrow lane on the right all the way to the bottom, turning left along the shore.
I took the opportunity to have a fish supper here, at the first chip chop I came to, there are three here and wished that I had gone to the second. It was OK but I think the second one is better. The one at the end if the harbour is the one that got all the awards a number of years ago. It has been sold on since then and still attracts the customers.
It was while I was eating my fish supper by the harbour, studying the route ahead that I came to the decision to call it quits for today instead of walking to Crail.
One is committed to the next six miles with no jumping off points.Time was pressing and I thought my phone battery was flat, being my only time piece and source of a bus timetable, I quit when I was ahead and got the X60 bus back to Elie, covering the bit that I had missed in the morning.
So there we go, another bit done and at the 61 mile mark just under half way along the Fife Coastal Path…. but there’s one thing for sure….
Going Coastal – The continuing saga of one man’s “Blisters or burst” walk along the Fife Coastal Path. This time, I am walking the six miles from Kirkcaldy to East Wemyss.
A quick mental calculation and I reckon that I am a third of the way along the coastal path now. The easy bits are behind me and I now have the more exposed coastal sections to look forward to as I walk around the East Neuk.
It’s the name given to this part of the Kingdom that sticks out into the North Sea.
Fife was once a kingdom, it hasn’t been for years and years. It’s kind of nice that they like to cling onto old names.
Before I launch into the travel-blog, some readers my be interested in the photography process.
My camera is a Fuji X-Pro1, fitted with an 18mm lens, it was bought from the money from my retirement gift and is one of the best little cameras around.
The Fuji, is what’s termed as a “rangefinder” camera. It looks like an old film camera and has been likened to the poor man’s Leica with a small viewfinder at one corner. The camera is small and light enough to be able to hang around ones neck all day without noticing the weight too much.
I started out taking pictures on my coastal path journey by just taking Monochrome simulation JPEG photos, that is photos that have been processed entirely inside the camera, quickly becoming dissatisfied with the results and now use RAW pictures, digital images that I develop for myself.
The next bit is technical. The camera is set to record a square format picture, harking back to the days of the old 120 roll film, look down and through cameras. To further enhance the retro style it records JPEG snapshots in monochrome and in RAW format
The last wee bit, the RAWs are processed in Lightroom using another Fuji film simulation, Pro Neg Standard and sent out to Photoshop where I have a custom Topaz BW Effects preset to get the best out of the final picture. It’s then squeezed and squashed digitally, given a buff up with sharpening, given a white border and saved.
The JPEGs snapshots are only used to jog my memory when writing this blog and are usually deleted.
Your eyes glazed over yet?
Better to get on with the walk then.
Kirkcaldy – the Lang Toon.
The Lang Toon, originally occupied the narrow strip of land at the coast before spreading inland. Fifers are a sentimental lot and still refer to it by its nickname.
For one week of the year, around Easter time, the whole stretch of the esplanade is given over to the Lammas Market, reputed to be the oldest street fair in Europe.
Nothing much is sold nowadays other than having the crap scared out of you on fairground rides and it is just an excuse for the travelling showmen to take over the town but Fifers are a traditional lot.
My starting point was the car park at the western end of the Kirkcaldy Esplanade, I have covered most of it on the previous stage of the Fife Coastal Path, FCP.
“Going coastal” by walking along the beach getting in a few abstract photos as I went along.
I saw this couple walking along the beach and trying very hard to be inconspicuous as I waited for them to walk to a patch of wet sand which complimented an aircraft trail above. It’s very hard to be inconspicuous on a near empty beach, so I stood there taking fictitious pictures of everywhere but the patch of beach in front of me but watching them go by out of the corner of my eye.
I was going to pick up the walk along the Espanade at the point where I left it, however as I looked up towards the spot opposite Esplanade Car Park I got the immediate impression that the car park looked just like one huge windowless, roofless derelict, building and so I just kept on walking along the beach.
I briefly returned to the FCP up a ramp at the end of the Esplanade…
… before falling for the allure of Kirkcaldy Harbour, well it had to be more interesting than just walking along the road and I was right.
I never knew the harbour had a railway swing bridge, there is also a set of lock gates between the inner and outer harbours. They both have fallen into disrepair and are no longer used.
The flour mill is still about the only business that’s operating at the harbour, the whole area has been given over to housing.
Around the harbour and back onto the road and up to the 17th century Sailor’s Walk, a former Customs House and a nice example of an old Scots classic architecture rescued from demolition.
Along the road to the right and you could almost be somewhere else.
A sign of Kirkcaldy’s once proud past. M Nairn, who made and still make linoleum in the town.
The building is just a façade, the new building inside is part of the college.
It was at this point that I made the decision to leave the signposted route, which goes up a hill and take an alternative route through the mill. It was a no brainer for me, as I knew the FCP goes up hill only to come down a short while later.
The path heads towards the mill and then turns left alongside the offloading weighbridge, under a disused railway bridge, towards a water treatment plant then right alongside the harbour breakwater, it then splits, you can follow it straight on along a rough dog walking path to the beach or take the graded path to the left, which leads up to the Pathhead Car Park.
The route gets a little quirky as it leads away from the car park onto the grass heading for the base of the escarpment below the castle. Going coastal I headed for the beach.
The coastal FCP goes along the beach past the foot of Ravenscraig Castle to the doocot perched on a rocky outcrop, then up a set of stairs to the doocot.
If the tide is high then the route is up a set of monumental stairs, around the castle and into Ravenscraig Park.
Going coastal past the Castle…
The sight of one man and his dog made me realise how much I miss not having my own dog around, it’s been 18 months since we put him down. He had a good life, which is what counts.
The way continues up a set of steps past a late 16th century Doocot into Ravencraig Park. This is a pleasant and enjoyable part of the FCP, easy walking through the wood with good views of the Forth to your right.
You pass by a piece of sculpture entitled Stanes. The text in is the Fife dialect, ye ken. “Sayin nocht that I mind…”
Opposite the sculpture is an ornamental look-out tower cum outside toilet, although from here you do get a good view of the beach and castle.
The path is really pleasant in the park as it winds it’s way along the coast to Dysart. You pass through a tunnel cut in the rock made to make the offloading of ballast from coal ships more easier. The harbour has hardly changed over the years and was used recently as a filming location for Outlander.
The FCP goes around the harbour and comes to the Harbour Master’s House and my lunch stop for today, where I had a hearty bowl of Stovies to sustain me for the next stretch. The building has an exhibition on the FCP in the basement and also houses the Fife Coastal and Countryside Trust’s offices, who were responsible for setting up the FCP.
Coming out you see a large pastel coloured piece of sculpture entitled Sea Beams, you can almost imagine the shafts of light piercing the water.
The FCP follows the sea wall past the Pan Ha’ or to translate the Fife, The Pan Handle a descriptive name for a cul de sac if ever there was one.
Another Fife name is the Hie-Gait, or High Gate just beyond.
I just wonder what the purpose of this strange piece of work, a low wall either side of a channel cut into the rock and XX on the rock in the foreground it’s anyone’s guess.
The way ahead is now dominated for a short while by the winding frame of the long gone Frances Colliery with West Wemyss shining in the distance. The path suffers from erosion with a detour.
The names of some of the men who lost their lives at work in the pit 1873 to 1984 are listed at the bottom of the central stone.
The path past the winding frame gets a little rough in places with the occasional “dog-egg” to look out for. The path then starts its descent towards West Wemyss with irregular stone steps.
I felt sorry for this man, he could not go on as the path becomes very rough and irregular and he could not manage it with the way his knees were. I discovered what he meant the large stones were iggegularly spaced, at irregular heights making for very painful walking. My knees were complaining by the time that I got to the bottom. This section is without doubt the worst part of the whole coastal path so far.
The path splits – the way marked route carries straight on while another path goes to the right towards the shore. Take the right path, it is more interesting with a nice view of West Wemyss. They both end up at the same place anyway.
You pass by St. Mary’s Chapel Garden with a large ruin in the garden and an unusual round house beyond.
At the base of the sandstone cliffs before the harbour there are a number of bricked up store rooms, this one had had some mosaic work done on it to make it look like a house. There is a mosaic swan mural beyond this.
The path enters West Wemyss. The building on the hill to your left was until 1952 the villages’ Miners Institute, it then became a hotel in the late 1980s and is now unused. The stone balustrade above the now filled in archways or loggia was apparently saved from the now demolished Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.
This must have been a busy port in its day exporting coal to all airts and airts, the harbour was divided into two parts, only the outer part remains, the inner has been mostly filled in.
The way goes along the back of the restored houses along the villages’ Main Street with the rooflines being dominated by the 18th century Tollbooth.
Continuing along between the houses and the shore the FCP comes out at the end of the village and St.Adrian’s Church. There is a memorial here to the five men who died, January 23rd 1941, when a sea mine they were trying to drag away from the village exploded killing all of them.
The path continues along the shore heading towards Wemyss Castle. At one point the path signs direct you to walk along the beach, maybe because of erosion maybe not.
Coming to the end of our journey and I was impressed by the size of these beech trees.
The FCP now continues along the shore past a disused sea wall, which I never bothered photographing. A personal alarm signal as losing interest in things like that is a sure sign that I was becoming tired. The path becomes a muddy track as it makes its way past the site of Michael Pit, sunk in 1895 and closed following a fire in 1967. Quoting from M K Oglethorpe 2006.
“Michael became the largest producer of coal in Scotland, and the Wemyss Coal Company’s showpiece pit, despite continuous problems of gas and spontaneous combustion. Whilst still Scotland’s biggest pit, and after massive investment, a disastrous fire broke out on 9 September 1967, destroying the new reserves. Although 302 men escaped, nine were killed. The disaster highlighted many safety issues, including the dangers of using polyurethane foam in underground workings, and the lack of portable respiratory equipment. A resulting campaign by Scottish National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leader Michael McGahey resulted in the mandatory issue of self-rescuers (breathing aids) to all personnel working underground, and the installation of new emergency telephone systems.”
I met a former Mine’s Rescue team member, who was here during the rescue and he painted a very vivid picture of the disastrous fire.
Just after the site of the Michael, the path goes off to the left going slightly uphill, I’d suggest taking this route as going straight on leads you past the boat club and a noisy and unpleasant metals recycling yard.
I left the shore and headed inland to get my bus back to Kirkcaldy but there’s one thing for sure…..