Posts Tagged Walking
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….
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…..
A Wee Jaggy Bits o’ History Special on how the British Army trained on how to crack Hitler’s Atlantic Wall on D-Day.
Hitler was determined to fortify the coastline of the occupied countries and he charged the Organisation Todt with building a series of coastal defences along continental Europe to deter invasion and the odd Commando raid.
The Allies had a problem in that they knew they would have to face the German coastal defences but they didn’t know what the best way of tackling them.
So they built replicas of the defences on a moor near Stirling and basically blasted them to bits with various types of ordinance to see what worked best.
The moorland had been used in WW1 for trench warfare training and range practice, it was fairly remote. Stirling Castle and a whole host of army bods were nearby so Sherifmuir was the logical choice for the tests.
The site is broken into four areas, the largest is a 86m length of Atlantic Wall of varying thickness, 3m in height with an anti-tank ditch in front. The remaining three sites are various styles of bunkers.
The Atlantic Wall
The wall may have been topped with barbed wire, although no trace of this remains and the stanchions for the wire may have been vertical when built and some scallywags have bent them all over.
You can see the anti-tank ditch to the right of this picture
Now the blasting bits. The largest breech is this 4m section in the thickest part of the wall
The wall has been perforated in various places
This bunker was built using lessons learned from the German North African campaign. The bunker has two firing platforms on top and a shelter in between.
No real damage can be seen to this bunker, the front or seaward side has an earth embankment in front of it and there’s certainly no damage to the landward side.
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…..
The “Blisters of burst” photo-blog of my walk along the 116 miles of the Fife Coastal Path. This time it is the six mile section between Burntisland to the “Lang-toon” Kirkcaldy.
This was a “daftie” walk, I just took the fancy to go and I went, giving little thought as to how I was going to get back, better I suppose, to travel in hope than not to travel at all.
The overall aim was to keep the distance down to a manageable figure this time rather than push myself too hard and do myself a mischief.
The car was parked up at the free car park just off the Links, on road to the Beacon swimming pool. From here it is a matter of following Lammerlaws Road over the railway bridge and down to the water.
There is a building here that has been intriguing me for some time, it is at the foot of the railway bridge and is currently being used by a diving company called the “Dive Bunker.”
Usually wartime buildings were built to a standard pattern, you wanted a building to do this job, then you went to a standard set of plans and constructed it but this one is unique.
The overall impression is the building’s strength, it is heavily reinforced with concrete and has a concrete blast shield in front of the back door (edge on to the right of the bunker), it even has a tall concrete chimney!
My guess is some sort of command post.
The Fife Coastal Path (FCP) then follows the coast along the esplanade for a short distance and all the way around the shore line in the picture above.
That line of black along the shore isn’t sea weed, it is made up of small fragments of coal washed up on the beach.
At the end of the esplanade, the FCP passes through a set of gates to a building that was once a beach tea room with wonderful ironwork outside.
Things get interesting at this point. The FCP really can not get any more literal than the next stage, it really is a coastal path, which when the tide is out is along the beach and when the tide is in and impassable, the alternative route is along the A921. There are also two ominously titled “escape routes” under the railway, to use if you are in danger of getting stuck. This escape is not a call the RNLI, life or death, stuck on cliffs sort of thing, the railway embankment is steep and it may be possible to traverse to an escape point but going by the black tide mark on the embankment this place can get some impressively high tides so go canny and use the head.
Anyway, today was just after high tide, so it wasn’t going to get any worse so I decided to go along the high crumbling embankment to the first escape point and re-evaluate the way forward. You can see the beach getting progressively narrower the farther you go along the embankment.
There seemed to be a passable route along rocks, so I went on, along the narrow strip of rocks towards Pettycur Bay, where the shore got larger and larger, opening out into a large promentary and the path problems became non-existent.
It should be noted that the second escape point involves walking through a culvert for a small burn under the railway and the tunnel gets progressively lower.
Not far from the second escape point, by the roadside is a memorial, erected to King Alexander III who, fell off his horse and died near here 1286.
If the tide is low you will notice a good number of poles sticking out of the sand, these were anti-glider landing posts, erected here during the last war. The beach opens out as you get near to Pettycur Bay.
The cockle shell encrusted shore makes for great walking, so make the most of it.
The coast narrows as you head towards the caravan site on the escarpment above, but don’t be fooled into thinking that the path climbs uphill, that is a private path for the caravan site.
Looking back along the beach at Pettycur Bay to an oil rig in the Firth.
The FCP continues along the immediate shore among the rocks and grass. It is not too bad going.
It will end at a small sandy shore before going up onto the promenade leading to the small harbour.
Stomping the beach back
About half way along the pier is a small hut built into the wall, which looks out of place among the row of wooden sheds. This was a WW1 searchlight or Defence Electric Lights and was part of the Kinghorn gun battery.
There is a rusty iron capstan at the end of the pier, which has seen better days.
Go back to the esplanade and follow the FCP up the road for a short distance, where you will see another searchlight in the garden of a block of modern flats. (It can just be seen in the second searchlight picture above.) The generator building for the searchlights was in one of the white buildings across the road and now converted to houses.
Follow the pavement up the hill and the way becomes less interesting, the broken glass on top of a wall or two reminds us how much things have changed. Razor Wire seems much more humane. On investigation I think this is part of the WW1 battery. A little bit beyond this is a small private lane heading down to the shore, there was a WW1 gun emplacement here, although nothing now remains.
I was puzzled by a row of nine square windows set into a wall, just before Alexander III Street, there were WW1 defensive loopholes for riflemen to fire through, which is interesting as they must have considered an invasion to be a threat.
The FCP is signposted to the right and you head down a short lane to a number of footpaths. It’s not important which path you take so long as you head down towards the Lifeboat station at the foot of the promenade.
Just beyond here is a white house with the name PROVIDENCE HOUSE, 1923. Being provident five years after the war to end all wars ended seemed like a good idea to me. I don’t know what it was but it’s a grand name for any house.
The path then turns away from the harbour going directly uphill, under the railway before turning right going through a children’s play park, then under the railway onto a narrow whinstone path sandwiched between the caravan site and the railway.
At the end of the caravan site, the path opens out to the right with good views of the Firth and it is like this all the way to Kirkcaldy. The one good thing about this path is it not tarred and so easier going on the feet, it may be muddy in places and there may be the occasional “dog egg” or two but it is a whole lot better than walking on a hard pavement
Nothing much happens for a while, you will pass close to the Linton Court houses on the left but keep on going, at one point, at the top of a hill, the path gets very close to the railway, this marks the beginning of the end as you start to loose height, heading down towards the shore, Seafield Tower and Kirkcaldy.
This ruined medieval tower house dates to the 16th century. It is badly crumbling and has been fenced off. Nothing much to see really…. in saying that I did see a Grey Seal on one of the rocks just off shore.
The rocks here shows great fault lines, you can imaging the coal seams trapped in between the layers of rock.
There is an absolutely huge but ruined concrete breakwater here and I don’t know what its purpose was. Unless it was something to do with the domed culvert taking water from underground out to sea, perhaps it was a little dirty maybe polluted as it left the Seafield Pit, which was on the hill above and now all housing.
The path eventually comes to a carpark then continues over the grass for a short period before going through an access gate and right heading alongside the Morrisons Supermarket to the main road. I grabbed some lunch here. There was no way that I was going to take a photo of a supermarket, even I have standards!
Turn right and follow the road towards the water. You will pass a controversial sculpture made from a large piece of driftwood with thousands of rusty nails hammered into it.
Over a small bridge and turn right onto which looks like a wide road alongside the burn, around the car park and onto the promenade. This has recently been updated to improve the flood defences here, some fairly spectacular waves have been known to break over the sea wall here.
About half way along the promenade is a memorial stone, the promenade was built between 1922 and 1923 to provide employment during the Great Depression.
I stopped my walk along the FCP a short while later, opposite a multi-storey car park at mile 35 and headed into town to get the train back to Burntisland. The route to the station passes right by the bus station, so of you prefer, look for stance 13, bus 7, which will take you back. The train from Platform 1, took nine minutes although I did wait 20 minutes on the train, on top of the slow and ponderous walk up to the station.
I took the scenic route back through Burntisland, stopping off at the unique in Scotland square section Burntisland Parish Church. It’s a one way straight up from here.
Anyway, that’s all from me and this section of the Fife Coastal Path but there’s one thing for sure….
The weather was pure dreich, one of those days that’s totally uninspiring for photography and I badly needed a dose of Photo-Therapy, it was also an excuse to try out the revised workflow for my photos, so off I went into the dreichness in search for something to photograph.
Plan A was to catch up on a couple of places that I missed last week on the walk between Kincardine to North Queensferry, that was until I got stopped by the police…. well it was a rolling road block and I didn’t fancy following behind their slow moving convoy, so off I went in the opposite direction, following Plan B instead.
Inverkeithing was the nearest anything so I headed down to the shore to have a look at the old Prestonhill Quarry as it may be a candidate for a future photo one day.
I parked in a small car park just off Preston Crescent, very handy for the Fife Coastal Path (FCP). The FCP goes behind a busy Stevedore warehouse and no sooner had I went around the warehouse than I bumped into one of my former managers, whom I hadn’t seen since he retired many years before me- small world indeed.
The activity was all down to the unloading of the MV Hav Marlin a 1990 ton general cargo ship. I reset the aspect ratio from square to landscape format because I would have not been able to go back far enough to get the whole ship in the picture, having made one exception, I thought that I may as well use colour as well. Here she is in all her glory.
The trim is well down at the bow, it looks like the mooring line is also a bit on the tight side. Most of the cargo is at the front, which may explain the bow down trim.
Just beyond the jetty is the now abandoned Prestonhill Quarry. It had a conveyor belt loading system to put rock straight onto a ship. All of the shore side of the pier has disappeared, There is an interesting concrete structure beside the pier, reminds me of a Japanese shrine
See what I mean?
The quarry rock face was the next point of interest, kind of interesting fissures… well I think so.
The quarry was the scene of a recent tragedy when in 2015 an 18 year old boy drowned following an ice bucket challenge that went wrong. The typical knee-jerk reaction by the grown-ups was to fence the quarry off…. and two years later, the fence gates are wide open…. and someone has knicked the fencing!
Doesn’t look like the CCTV camera mounted on the lamp post opposite is working then?
There was another cargo ship making its way into the harbour at Inverkeithing, bound for the RM Metals pier. Many a famous ship has ended her days at that pier, nowadays the main business is scrap car recycling.
It’s a very tight channel and the MV Luhnau, 2450 tons was making slow headway to berth. That’s the old Prestonhill Pier in the foreground. I just could not resist a wee scramble up the edge of the quarry for a better view.
The path up to the vantage point is… interesting if not a little jaggy in places.
So there we have it. The photo-therapy went well, and I’m pleased with the way the photos turned out. I hope you agree.
So all I have left to do now is find a spot of nicer weather, stick the boots on and go for a donner along the Fife Coastal Path, but there’s one thing for sure….