Posts Tagged Scotland

Union Canal – Linlithgow to Ratho

Thirteen miles in six photos, the second part of my walking blog along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Ratho.

I started off from a free, long-term car park in Linlithgow near St. Mary’s Hospital, walking into town to join the towing path where I left if last week… and it was still there!

The boats in the basin have changed around, giving me a clear photo of Victoria, the steam yacht I seen last week, so that was nice. Walking out along the tow path I seen a canal boat round the corner and disappear, a lost opportunity I thought then I realised that I was catching it up, my 3 mph ish walking pace was actually faster than the boat’s cruising speed.
Catching up with it, I joked about the Tortoise and the Hare and then left if in my dust as I strode away from it. I’m not that daft as I know that I will soon start to tire while that engine will keep on plodding along all day at the same speed but the thought was nice when it lasted.

I discovered a new stone on the tow path marked “L PB.” Checking up on some old maps I found out that it marked the border of the Linlithgow Parliamentary and Police boundary, perhaps shades of the wild west with the boats sprinting away from the cops, giving up the chase at the county line.

About two miles out of Linlithgow I came across The Park Bistro, it looked like a nice place to stop and rest, too early for me plus I had already brought my sandwiches so I kept on walking.
This was certainly the busiest stretch for boats meeting another coming towards me a mile or so later, a veritable rush-hour on water.
I took this photo near Philipston, the colour was just too good to convert to monochrome

The blue skies were deceptive as there was a wicked wind blowing behind me… good for pushing me on but not so good for keeping me warm, although I did manage to walk for almost all the way wearing a T-shirt.

The red topped shale bings of Philipston dominates the next part of the walk. This was the site of Scotland’s first oil boom, were oil was extracted from shale by heat, the red stone residue being dumped in huge spoil heaps that are dotted around West Lothian.

The bings gave great shelter and it was really pleasant walking here, so much so that I found a place to stop and have lunch and that canal boat, which I left behind at Linlithgow caught me up.
A car park about a mile past Philipston gave a degree or mirth, the Police are trying to curb the off road motorbikes and they urge anyone to report bikes, giving the “locus as Philipstoun North Bings.” Who else would use the word Locus but the polis?

The view at Bridge 38

Bridge 35 gave some variety, with a monogrammed key stone and iron balustrades. It seems to be over a minor road bridge but they must have been out to impress someone as monogrammed stone work costs extra.

Another stone, which proved to be a real oddity came up near Winchburgh, it stood beside a regular mile stone bearing the inscription ” DIVISION BETWINT SECOND AND THIRD STACKS.” Strange enough that it is in old Scots but just what was the second and third stacks?

Further on, past Winchburgh, a canal barge lies rusting in the weeds on the opposite bank its side half gone.

A contrast as a modern barge with crew accommodation and a hydraulic grab moored up a while later.

Another oddity, all the British Waterway gates across the tow path that I have encountered since leaving Falkirk have been open but one at Winchburgh which was locked closed.

Uncharacteristically Bridge 31 bore the date of 1820 on the key stone, the canal being opened in 1822, provided some interest. A little while later at Bells Hill Wharf and the headquarters of the Bridge 19-40 Canal Society, no disputing their territory then. More power to folk like this as they believe in the canal and it’s future.

Out of town and the partially restored Niddry Castle comes up on the left, the folks have taken a long time to restore this old tower house. A little further on and the Broxburn Alps comes into view, this large collection of shale bings dominates the view as the canal curves around them.This is taken from a distance with the town of Broxburn at the foot of the bings and a hail shower is threatening. The canal contours for five miles, when the direct route is only two, but then again no locks were needed to be built so money was saved.
I nearly caught up with that canal boat again as I was nearing Broxburn, the wind must have played merry hell with its speed. I could have overtook it once more but I still had a long way to walk so I screwed the bubbin’ and kept my walking pace at a sensible rate.

The trip through Broxburn wasn’t that bad except for the large number of dog-eggs by the path, that’s folk for you.

A sign on the outskirts of the town welcoming you to Port Buchan. I wonder that that was for?
I kept on going under the A8 road bridge, which didn’t have a number, indicating that this route was made later, after the opening of the canal and the original route of the A8 may have went through Broxburn at one time.
A strange piece of sculpture on the opposite bank, I later found out that it was entitled “Jupiter” part of the Kirkhill Pillar Project. “Saturn” appeared under Bridge 25. Stopping for a rest in the lee of the bridge I read a plaque that this and other art works were inspired by the Earl of Buchan’s 1775 Solar System, when Saturn was the furthest known planet and the drawing represents the motion and nature of Saturn’s rings as described by James Clark Maxwell.
Port Buchan for the Earl of Buchan, that makes sense now.

I took the picture of the above Broxburn Alps from near here.
The canal goes under the M8 motorway, it’s course being changed as the canal was closed to navigation with the building of the motorway. The new bridge built for the Millennium celebrations bore the usual inscription MM, standing for Millennium Money… and you thought it was the Roman numerals for 2,000?
The noise of the motorway is an unwelcome intrusion to the peace of the canal, it dies off but unfortunately comes back later on.

The Almond Aqueduct is not too far away, it is smaller than the Avon Aqueduct but none the less as impressive.
One more Aqueduct over a small road and you arrive at Wilkie’s basin with an island in the middle and a wooden fort, it must have been put there to amuse the motorway traffic, and although I have been driving by here for years and I can’t say that I have ever noticed it.

The Indoor climbing area come up on your left as the canal skirts past the old quarry and then you know you are nearing civilisation when the wall appears by the tow path, obviously built to keep people off the land. Rounding a corner you see a low building ahead, which is the beginning of the end as that’s Ratho basin and the end of the walk.

It started to hail again as I neared the Seagull Trusts’ building, sensing the end I never even bothered putting on the fleece, just took it in my stride and walked on. Finally leaving the path at Bridge 15 and a bus stop to the right. I only waited 10 minutes on the Lothian bus only to get chucked off because I didn’t have the £1.60 fare in the correct change, so I had to make a 3/4 mile walk down to Ratho Station to wait on the No. 38A First bus to take me back to Linlithgow and he had no problems taking my money.
I think the Lothian bus drivers are not allowed to count for themselves but keep that quiet.

So there we go, only eight miles left to do and I think I will cycle out and back along the tow path rather than rely on the Lothian buses as I now grudge them their money. All I have left to do now is find some place to leave the car and it’s done but there’s one thing for sure….

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Union Canal – Falkirk Wheel to Linlithgow

The next long distance walk that I would like to do is one that has also been on my to-do list for some time.
However, when I looking into the practicalities of doing it as a series of day walks I soon discovered that it was going to be harder than I thought, so I had to change my plans, turning my attention towards the Union Canal instead.

The Union Canal, was opened in 1822, linking Edinburgh with the Forth and Clyde (F&C) Canal at Falkirk. Having closed to commercial traffic in 1933 and officially closing in 1965.
The canal had a resurgence with the re-opening of the nearby Forth and Clyde Canal for leisure purposes.
The problem for the Union Canal was the final locks joining it to the F&C were filled in and the land developed for housing. The solution was the Falkirk Wheel, a modern engineering masterpiece, being able to lift one boat up, while lowering another down and all for a pittance in power consumption.

My goal for the day was to walk the first 12 miles of the Union Canal, from The Wheel to Linlithgow.

I am going to spare you a blow by blow account because navigation is straight forward and to be brutally honest it is less than interesting in places. It does have a few spots of interesting industrial archaeology, which I happen to be interested in, so I thought that I would cut the trip down to just six pictures.

The biggest thing in the area are the Kelpie Sculptures, which are located beside the F&C at Grangemouth. The prototype for the sculptures are being displayed in a car park close to the Wheel, which is in the background of this picture and to give you an idea of scale, there is a person bottom right standing looking upwards in awe at the size of the thing.

After walking up the path beside the Wheel, through the Roughcastle Tunnel, the towing path you are walking upon becomes tarred over its entire length, it is good for pushing prams and riding bicycles but after while, becomes painful for walking upon.

British Waterways, who operate the canal are in the process of continual maintenance and to control the weeds, which choke the canal, The task is made easier with this floating weed dredger, seen here moored up at the Roughcastle Basin.

The canal towpath is busy around the built up areas with walkers, dog-walkers, ramblers, runners and cyclists, although I think I only saw four boats under way on the canal all the time I was walking along it.

The Falkirk Tunnel is noteworthy, it is 590 yards, 600m in length and is mostly bare rock with a safety rail running alongside, being lit by fluorescent strip lights and a string of coloured lights. It is well worth seeing. I brought along a torch with me but it really wasn’t necessary. It’s a bit wet at the beginning and at the end but is more or less dry in the middle.
I kind of broke with tradition and made a colour photo, rather than my usual monochrome.

Along the way is this swing bridge, rusting in the weeds. It connected both sides of the Nobel Explosives factory, which made detonators and is now history, the factory being demolished and developed.
The canal can be summed up as mile after mile of walking, sometimes town, sometimes country. The monotony being broken up by distance markers every half mile from the start of the old canal towards Edinburgh, so the first one you’ll see is 1/2 and 31-1/2 miles. They do become depressing to read as you realise how slow your progress is.
The bridges too are marked with numbers, starting from 62 and provide entertainment in trying to remember the number of the next one… I’m easily amused.
Number 62, is also known as the Laughin’/Greetin’ Bridge as a laughing is carved on one keystone and on the opposite the face is crying.

Four hours later and after crossing over the impressive Avon Aqueduct, I arrived at Linlithgow very much foot sore.
Some children, one in particular were being taught an important lesson in boat stability, he paid the price and was being dragged out of the water into the boat when I passed.

It’s a short walk down from the Linlithgow canal basin to the train station, for the train back to Camelon “Kemlon” and a half mile walk after that, along the F&C back to the car park at The Wheel.

Logistically, the remaining 22 miles poses a problem, too far for a day’s walk and apart from the prospect of a convoluted bus trip and no train stations until Edinburgh means that I may do this it by bicycle, returning from Edinburgh by train.

Well that’s all from me. I’ll be back with the concluding part sometime soon but there’s one thing for sure….

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Fife Coastal Path – Wormit Bay to Newburgh

 

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.

Tay rail Bridge Disaster memorial, Wormit FCP-116 300 copy

Path, Wormit FCP-116 306 copy

Dark hedges

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.

Seal, Wormit FCP-116 312 copy

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.

path, Balmerino FCP-116 331 copy

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.

Houses, Balmerino FCP-116 333 copy

Looking back

A seal and its pup are carved out of driftwood with a fine view up the river to the way ahead towards Newburgh.

Seal and pup, Balmerino FCP-116 336 copy

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.

Pier, Balmerino FCP-116 337 copy

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.

path, Balmerino FCP-116 338 copy

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.

 

Old Church, Creich FCP-116 351 copy

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.

Path, Norman's Law FCP-116 357 copy

Looking back the way I came

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

Old Barn, Glenduckie FCP-116 361 copy

Continue on for a half mile or so to another gate, a right turn and climb towards the trees.

Glenduckie FCP-116 364 copy

Looking back towards Norman’s Law on the far left


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,

That's Unusual, Glenduckie FCP-116 366 copy

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.

path, Glenduckie FCP-116 371 copy

Looking back


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.

What are Ewe looking at, Lindores FCP-116 380 copy

What are Ewe looking at?

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.

path, Lindores FCP-116 378 copy

The end’s in sight

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.

Path, Lindores FCP-116 382 copy

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.

path, Lindores FCP-116 383 copy

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.

Water wheel, Lindores FCP-116 387 copy

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.

Tay, Newburgh FCP-116 389 copy

Continue along the shore, the town had a strong salmon fishing industry at one time, now there are only memories.

Harbour, Newburgh FCP-116 394 copy

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….

Thurs mair two

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Fife Coastal Path – Tayport to Wormit Bay

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.

Tayport

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.

Lost message, Tayport , FCP-101 003 copy

Lost meaning

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.

Old Slipway, Tayport , FCP-101 010 copy
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.

Back into the water, Tayport , FCP-101 009 copy

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.

The Bell, Tayport , FCP-101 014 copy

Warehouse, Tayport , FCP-101 015 copy

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.

Duke of Kent, Tayport , FCP-101 018 copy
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.

Playing dangerously, Tayport , FCP-101 026 copy
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.

Lighthouse, Taymort , FCP-101 034 copy

Lighthouse, Tayport , FCP-101 035 copy
Soon after passing the lighthouse the view opens up with vistas of the road bridge and Dundee.

First glimpse of the Road Bridge, Tayport , FCP-101 037 copy

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.

Distant Perspectives, Newport , FCP-101 045 copy

A fine pair of legs, Newport , FCP-101 047 copy

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

VR post box, Newport , FCP-101 048 copy
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.

Past Glory, Newport , FCP-101 058 copy

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.

Ferry Terminal, Newport , FCP-101 059 copy

Tay Ferry Terminal, Newport, FCP-101 061_stitch copy

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.

 

Stamped out, Newport , FCP-101 060 copy

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.

Castle Brae, Newport , FCP-101 073 copy

Woodhaven

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.

Norwegian memorial, Woodhaven , FCP-101 090 copy

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.

TS Mars Memorial, Woodhaven , FCP-101 078 copy

Wormit

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. )

Tay Rail Bridge Panorama , FCP-101 099 copy

The view back from Wormit Bay

 

… and that concludes the penultimate part of Going Coastal, along the Fife Coastal Path… but there’s one thing for sure…

Thurs mair

 

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Fife Coastal Path – Guardbridge to Tayport

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.

Mill clock, Guardbridge FCP-94 003 copy

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.

Bridge, Guardbridge FCP-94 009 copy

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.

Empty MQ, Leuchars FCP-94 023 copy
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.

Cuddy, Leuchars FCP-94 024 copy

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.

Path, Tentsmuir FCP-94 030 copy

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.

Boardwalk, Tentsmuir FCP-94 031 copy

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.

The way ahead, Tentsmuir FCP-94 036 copy

In among the trees and this spectacularly broken Pine tree, like tortured horses reaching for the sky.
Wooden horses, Tentsmuir FCP-94 034 copy
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.

The road, Tentsmuir FCP-94 041 copy
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.

Kerching, Tentsmuir FCP-94 042 copy
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.

SNH fence, Tentsmuir FCP-94 046 copy
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.
Branch, Tentsmuir FCP-94 056 copy
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.

Moving target, Tentsmuir FCP-94 054 copy

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.

Beach Panorama, Tentsmuir FCP-94 050 copy

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.

Clouds, Tentsmuir FCP-94 075 copy
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.

Fallen Cubes, Tentsmuir FCP-94 078 copy

Anti-Glider obstructions, Tentsmuir FCP-94 072 copy

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.

Spiggot Mortar, Tentsmuir FCP-94 081 copy
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.

Cubes in the sand, Tentsmuir FCP-94 085 copy

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.

Balloon store, Tayport FCP-94 103 copy
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….

Thurs mair

 

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Following the front wheel – until I ran out of road.

Went for a run on the Beemer today, badly needing some BMW therapy, I didn’t know where I was going but I knew where I didn’t want to go, into Perthshire or into Fife as I have been spending too much time there lately. The south meant going over the Bridge the road works just boil my brain, so west it was.

Along the hillfoots; Muckhart, Dollar, Tillicoultry, Alva and Menstrie to Stirling, Through Stirling and out towards Balfron, not Aberfoyle, too many tourists, too many dawdlers.
Drymen, then until I literally ran out of road on the shores of Loch Lomond.

It’s the first time that I have been here in nearly 30 years and a lot has changed. The biggest thing was the establishment of the Loch Lomond National Park, they have certainly had their fingers in a lot of pies, effectively killing off the common man culture that used to come up from Glasgow, camp up, make a fire by the loch and drink themselves happy.
That’s all gone. First it was an alcohol ban and then just recently a wild camping ban. Now you need a permit to pitch your tent by the shores and only at designated places.

I passed through Balmaha, a village and a tourist destination of the eastern shore of Loch Lomond and kept on going to Rowardennan, some six miles down a narrow road, to the end of the road.
Coming out of Balmaha a large yellow and black sign proclaims, No stopping, No Parking for six miles. It’s a yellow sign, few people will realise it is an advisory notice, but the Park Nazis want you to behave and keep on going… however the first thing you come to is a car park, run by the National Park. So you can stop but only when they let you.

I stopped, got off the bike and went down to the loch shore and the first thing that struck me was that the place was so clean the whole area looks sanitised and made into some gardening center idyll. The stones on the shore were like gravel, no boulders, no driftwood, just boring gravel.

Rocks  Loch Lomond 004 copy

The grand scenery on the far side of the loch.

Time to get back on the bike and travel up and down, up and down, left and right until I ran  out of road at Rowardennan.

The Forestry Commission was getting in on the act here, £3 for a whole days parking! No mention of motorbikes being excepted, just where you stick the ticket if open to debate here!
The hotel here used to be a Mecca for bikers and now, not one other than myself. Times really have changed.

Beyond the car park, there is a granite memorial with an inscribed stone nearby, “this land rising from the shore of the loch to the summit of Ben Lomond, was dedicated in 1996 as the Ben Lomond National Park to be held in perpetuity as a tribute to those who gave their lives in the service of their country.”

Park Memorial, Rowardennan  Loch Lomond 014 copy

The memorial is like a large Q, for question.
Probably a symbolism between the all encompassing nature of the National Park and the top of Ben Lomond.

I noticed that the steamer pier has been fenced off with the ubiquitous Heras fencing. Allowed to go to rack and ruin when the Maid of the Loch was laid up. Let’s hope it will be refurbished when the boat is back in business.

Speaking of the Ben, it was shrouded in cloud, here it is towering above the Youth Hostel.

Youth Hostel, Rowardennan  Loch Lomond 006 copy

No doubt there would be a fair number of Munro baggers up there, queuing in the rain to get to the summit. I’m kind of glad that the last time I was up there, I came in from the north, away from all this nonsense.

I didn’t feel like making this one a true monochrome as the wee beech tree give the whole picture a little lift, so I bled some of the colour back into the monochrome.

With that done it was time to head back, down the wibbly-wobbly way to Balmaha and my appointment with a folk hero.

Tom Weir, a working class lad from Springburn in Glasgow became an accomplished climber, hill walker, author and television presenter, with his takes of his travels around Scotland.
He spent his latter years at Gartocharn, on the south end of the loch maintaining his association, with the Loch and the Ben.
He died in 2006 and a bronze statue was erected in Balmaha on the 100th anniversary of his birth in 2014.

Tom Weir, Balmaha  Loch Lomond 018 copy

Tam with his trade mark wooly bunnit.

I really wonder what Tam would make of all this now…

Time to start heading back, following the front wheel to Drymen, then up to near enough Aberfoyle (the Dukes Pass will wait for a quieter day), out past the Lake of Menteith, to Thornhill, Doune and up the A9 cutting through Gleneagles back home to Kinross, in time to give the bike a hose down and put it away for another day…. but there’s one thing for sure….

Thurs mair

Dedicated, as ever to my number one fan, my darlin’ wife.

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Fife Coastal Path – Anstruther to Kingsbarns (Part 2.)

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.

Tides

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?

sundial, Crail ,FCP-71 077 copy

Before the age of clocks there was a simple stick in the sand and then things got high tech…

A local landmark is this turret cum summer house, which stands above this walkway,  I decided to shoot this one as a silhouette.

Castle silhouette, Crail ,FCP-71 078 copy

The best Summer House in the business.

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.

Pillbox, Crail ,FCP-71 084 copy

Back to front

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.

Pillbox, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 093 copy

Hut base, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 094 copy

Straight through the hut

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.

Path, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 095 copy

Beach wire support post foundations

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?

Marker Post, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 103 copy

Bomb here

Fife Ness

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.

Lighthouse base, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 113 copy

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.

Fife Ness panorama ,FCP-71 115 copy

Tidal mill pond panorama

Path, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 116 copy

Turn right before the club house

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.

Domed Observation Post, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 118 copy

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.

Constantine's Cave, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 120 copy

Constantine’s Cave

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.

Life boast Station, Fife Ness ,FCP-71 123 copy
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.

Cambo

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.

Forbidden field, Carnbo ,FCP-71 134 copy

Not on my land

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.

 

Fence posts, Cambo,FCP-71 131 copy

Beach obstacles

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.

Tree, Carnbo ,FCP-71 135 copy

Reflective mood

Kingsbarns

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.

Lions head public well, Kingsbarns ,FCP-71 151 copy

All’s well that ends well.

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….

Thurs mair

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Fife Coastal Path – Kingsbarns Harbour

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.

For all intents and purposes, you are looking due east along the curved line of the northern pier, which has two mooring bollards still standing.

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.

One of the bollards, against a moody sky.

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.

The line of the north jetty as it curves around bottom left to top right, you can get an appreciation of the width of the jetty at the top of the picture.

 

The north jetty and how the stones were laid, almost in an identical fashion to the method used by the Dutch dyke builders at Cellardyke.

 

The curved end of the northern jetty with the harbour entrance to the right and channel to the top of the picture.

 

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.

Rocks

Looking back down the coast towards Fife Ness

Dundee was getting plastered by snow

Possibly a channel marker post of some kind, with Fife Ness in the distance

 

Textures

Topographic sand, almost like an aerial photograph of a desert… except for the paw prints made by the 100ft dug.

Fossilised shells

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…..

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Fife Coastal Path – Anstruther to Kingsbarns (Part 1.)

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.

Fishing memorial, with the Isle of May in the background

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 lane

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.

 

Town Hall, Cellardyke ,FCP-71 007 copy

Cellardyke Town Hall

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.

 

Step House

I caught this inside one house. I don’t know if it was cheeky to photograph it or not but it deserves sharing

Star Trek protests

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.”

Peter the Poets house

The road eventually comes out at the harbour with a common drying green on the level below.

Skinfast Haven

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.

 

step house, Cellardyke ,FCP-71 019 copy

Stair house with lifting beams above the Dormer windows.

 

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?

Ar-Tigh

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.

Outdoor 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.

In memorium

That’s Caiplie farm in the background

Grassy track

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.

Footpath

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!

Cockle dredger

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.

Stepping stones

There is the keel of an old boat among the stones on the foreshore

Keel

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.

Baaa-bera having her lunch

Did I mention lovely colours, not much good in a monochrome photo, so breaking with tradition.

Caiplie Caves

The sheep must sleep in these caves as it’s rank inside. the largest one at the end has some interesting cave paintings.

Love under Orion, 2012 to 2015 Nothing lasts but nothing is lost.

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.

Take your litter home

A face in a rock.

Cubist face

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.

Wee floors

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 Pans

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.

Crail

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.

Crail Mile stone

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.

Channel marker

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.

Lunch time, Crail ,FCP-71 071 copy

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…..

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Fife Coastal Path – Elie to Anstruther

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.

Elie

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.

Split cube

Cubes on the escarpment

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.

Elie’s Stevenson Lighthouse

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.

Lady’s Tower slihouette

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.

Ruined walls

Vaulted cellar

A little farther on is an impressive railway bridge with a wall of brambles nestling underneath, natures barbed wire.

A tidal wave of brambles

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.

Newark Castle

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.

 

High Tide marker, St. Monans , FCP-61 027 copy

High tide marker post

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.

 

St. Monans

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.

St. Monans Church

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.

West End, St. Monans

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.”

A panel from a triptych “Fifty? Shades of Grey.”

The Welly Boot garden on the old slipway

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.

Stair House

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.

Windmill, St. Monans

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.

No Longer Maintained

Faded Grandeur, St. Monans

Salt Pans

Evaporation house

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.

Broon wattar

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?

Pittenweem

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

Pittenweem 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!

West Shore, Pittenweem

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 Gyles

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.

Firing platform

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.

Coastguard look-out station

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.

Wester Anstruther outdoor swimming pool

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.

Saltire on the rocks

Anstruther

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.

Old shop

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 Dreel tavern

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 Dreel Burn

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.

Sea shell gable end

Opposite is another old and long closed shop with empty, road grime encrusted bay windows looking out onto the busy road.

Past times

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….

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