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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 – 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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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 – 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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Back to the (Atlantic) Wall

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

Atlantic Wall pano , Sheriffmuir 074 copy

Atlantic wall Panorama

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.

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 006 copy

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 011 copy

The wall at its thickest

You can see the anti-tank ditch to the right of this picture

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 061 copy

The Wall at its thinnest

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 030 copy

The Wall as it thins down

Now the blasting bits. The largest breech is this 4m section in the thickest part of the wall

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 070 copy

Front “Seaward” side

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 026 copy

Section and along the top of the wall,seaward to the right

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 023 copy

The breech from the “landward” side of the wall

The wall has been perforated in various places

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 060 copy

Rear, a large 8″ or so hole and a number of smaller 40mm sized indentations

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 063 copy

Front. A hit near the top blasted clean through. Note the ball indentations on the reinforcing rods

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 009 copy

Front. A low down hit from a large caliber wine bottle

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 036 copy

Front. The projectile about 3″ hit square on and bounced out to the left. Note the tip of the reinforcing bar bent outwards

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 062 copy

Front. A 3″ hole clean through. Note the ball marks on the reinforcing bars and the bent bar to the right.

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 033 copy

Front. A tunnel with damage to the top of the wall

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 068 copy

Rear. The back of the wall has been beveled by something. There may have been a door or a blast wall here at one time.

Atlantic Wall , Sheriffmuir 038 copy

Rear. The end sections of the wall have been totally destroyed.

Bunker 1

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.

Tobruk shelter , Sheriffmuir 013 copy

The top of the Tobruk Shelter with the seaward side to the left, two firing positions on top and two entrances either side

 

 

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Fife Coastal Path – East Wemyss to Elie (Part 2.)

Going Coastal, my Blisters or Burst walk along the Fife Coastal Path, this section describes the path between Lundin Links to Elie.

Leaving the Homeland Trust Cafe, I walked down the road towards the golf course and around the corner towards the Clubhouse. The way goes through the car park and onto a small lane beyond, which comes out at an open grassy space by the water. It is tempting to walk along the coast, it can be done, although there is a river ahead and getting back up to the path may be a problem although not in insurmountable one….
The Fife Coastal Path, FCP then follows a  residential street for a short distance before dropping down to cross the river by a bridge. The Crusoe Hotel is on your right and was my intended lunch stop.
The FCP continues along a narrow road to come out by the water and a remarkable statue created by local artist Alan Faulds, entitled “Malagan” – named after sculptures from Papua New Guinea. It was carved from five separate sections of Scottish oak. A carved gate behind it is also worth looking at.

Malagan

A short distance beyond that, mounted high on a house to your left is a statue of Alexander Selkirk, who was said to the the inspiration to Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. By all accounts Selkirk was crabbit and his ship mates could be forgiven for marooning him on Más a Tierra Island some 400 miles off the coast of Chile. However, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. He did by all accounts be proved right in the end as the ship he was sailing in was un-seaworthy and it foundered a short while later. Robinson Crusoe is an enduring story.

Alexander Selkirk Memorial

The road continues for a short distance before making a sharp bend towards the sea. The FCP then continues between the strangely named Cardy House and Cardy Cottage along a narrow lane. The Cardy Works, over the wall to your left was once a fishing net making factory.

Cardy Lane

The lane comes out at a car park, with public toilets to your right.
The FCP goes up a set of steps to your immediate left to the old railway.
You can continue along the street by the shore as they both end up at the same place to continue along the old railway out of the town. The going here is a little uneven with the railway ballast poking up through the surface. I noticed a parallel path on the shore side of the railway, which may make for an alternative for anyone going coastal.

Old Railway, Lower Largo

A coastal path joins the railway at a ruined farmstead.

Ruined farmstead

The going along the railway gets a bit better for a short stretch and then gets rougher as you near Carrick Villa. The FCP then leaves the railway and heads towards the dunes and the sea, with the high tide option of going along the dunes or you could as I done and go coastal with a walk along the sands at Largo Bay.

About half way along the beach you will come to two strangely built pillboxes, I say strange as they have no embrasures, firing slits the point directly towards the sea, rather than having one at each side firing along the line of the beach with short walls limiting the field of fire away from the beach. Apart from a line of cubes going along part of the beach and a strangely aligned set of cubes going inland, that is all the defensive structures on this beach and yet this must have been a likely invasion spot.

Cubes Dunbarnie

Bat Bunker, Dumbarnie

Bunkers, Dumbarnie

The pillboxes have been given over to roosting bats and I found a swarm of snails (I don’t know what the collective noun is for a group of snails,) in one of the embrasures.

Swarming snails

There are a few anti-invasion posts dotted here and there along the beach to look at.

Anti-glider obstacle

At one point I turned around and looked back along the beach to realise that I had this whole beach to myself, such a rare privilege.

There is a group of smaller posts in the sand, which is thought to be a fish trap.

Gone fishing

Things come to an end as you near a line of trees at Ruddon’s Point, there is a signpost up on the dunes directing you to a bridge a little inland to cross a river.

Ruddon’s Point

The tide marks here indicate that the bridge could be flooded blocking your way forward.
There’s another smaller bridge beyond but the bed beneath is relatively dry and so I walked past without going over.
Looking back you get a nice view of the Bay, which was too nice a picture to leave in monochrome

Largo Bay from Ruddon’s Point

The FCP then continues for a short distance before going into a small line of trees blocked with a set of Dragons Teeth, anti-tank-obstacles, which is also the entrance to the Shell Bay Holiday park.

 

Dragons Teeth, Shell bay

Follow the road through the site, past the static caravans to a finger board at the end of the site. There may be an alternative route from the Dragons Teeth to go to the right over the dunes and onto Shell Bay.

Either way the FCP then continues along a narrow path, which can be muddy in places as it makes its way around Kincraig Point.

There is an alternative route, known as the “Elie Chain walk” it is not sign posted so you have to know that it is there to use it. The chain walk goes around the base of the cliffs at Kincraig Point, aided by a series of stainless steel chains and footholds cut into the rock. This MUST be done at low tide, you MUST have a head for heights and you MUST be fit enough for a three-point scramble over the rocks. This is not something to be undertaken lightly. At one point the chain was slack and I was leaning backwards, holding on with my arms wrapped around a slippery wet chain, so be warned.
At one point I came to realise how dangerous this is; no safety nets, no risk assessments, no one to come to my aid if I muck up, refreshing in a terrifying kind of way.

The prospect of fun, Elie Chain Walk

The chain walk finishes at the Earlsferry beach.

I will show more of the chain walk pictures in a separate post.

The FCP climbs up over Kincraig Point past an abandoned coastal defence gun battery to eventually come down to the beach at Earlsferry Links golf course. I had done this part of the walk last year so I wasn’t missing anything.

It’s a nice walk along the beach towards some houses at the end, where the FCP then crosses the golf course.

Earlsferry Beach

Earlsferry Links golf course path

Look out both ways for flying golf balls as you cross the fairways, then turn right to follow a fence towards the houses, going around the point, eventually to a grassy area with a great view of Earlsferry and Elie beyond. The ruin here is of a 12th century chapel.
There is a short cut if you want to miss this section by remaining on the golf Course path heading straight along the street in front of you.

Earlsferry finger board and chapel

Elie and Earlsferry panorama

I was recommended to visit The Pavillions Cafe near the golf Clubhouse to the left but it was too late for lunch and more importantly, I wanted home by this stage.

Earlsferry is fair steeped in history and several interesting plaques to its famous sons and one to the Polish parachute Regiment based here during WW2 are dotted along the way.

Polish Paratroops Memorial

There is a single pink coloured stair house along the way, this is a classic old Scots stair house; living accommodation upstairs, workshop, animals, net store downstairs.

The FCP eventually comes out onto the main road, a nice wee bakers on the left at the junction and further on there is a nice Deli and cafe also on the left. Turn right at the hotel to head back towards the sea and it is at this point that I stopped the walk just short of the 54 mile mark and nearly half way through my Fife Coastal Walk and this Blisters or burst tale…. but there’s one thing for sure…
Mair tae come

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Fife Coastal Path – East Wemyss to Elie (Part 1.)

Another instalment of my Blisters or burst “Going Coastal” blog as I walk along the 116 mile Fife Coastal Path, between Kincardine on the Forth to Newburgh on the Tay.

Photography.
I have slightly changed my picture style. The previous pictures had a soft, dreamy look to them almost verging on a near infra red type picture and they seemed to be suffering from over exposed highlights. The pictures were fine up to the point the monochrome conversion process started after that they seemed to loose details in the brighter areas so I’ve done a bit of digital dodging to protect the highlights a bit more.The lens on the X-Pro1 was changed to the 21mm (50mm equivalent) and I didn’t really miss the wider angle lens.

East Wemyss.
It started out to be a miserable morning at East Wemyss, raining on the drive over and it was threatening to rain again as I parked my car up close to the semi-ruined St Mary’s by the Sea church.
Quite a bit of work has been made to build up the sea defences here, with the result of a nice path along by the sea wall. Quite soon I came to two monuments, the first one commemorates three fishermen who died in a boating accident August 2015, while out fishing. Once again illustrating the old saying that behind every fish landed is a widows tear.
The second monument commemorates Sir Jimmy Shand, who was born not too far away from the memorial. A great accordion player and band leader who never forgot his roots but ended up living in Auchtermuchty and was buried there.

Monuments, East Wemyss

Wemyss Caves.
The sea wall ends at a buddist garden  and a short distance from that is one of my greatest “roundtoits” The Wemyss caves with their enigmatic rock carvings. The caves are only open on a small number of days through the year, so maybe one day I’ll be able to see them for myself. There are a number of information boards by the road before you get to the end of the sea wall on the caves and their carvings.

Wemyss caves

The nesting site of the Fabulous Rock. Curious as to why anyone would want to leave stones in this hollow.

Rock Nest

The path then climbs away from the coast going uphill to the ruined 14th century Macduff Castle…

Macduff Castle

…with it’s bijou 21st century drinking den in the basement.

Bijou Drinking Den.

There are a number of 17th century gun loops along the wall by the path, I don’t know whether they were for decoration or had a practical purpose in repelling attackers. This is the only outer wall that remains.

Gun loops, Macduff castle

Buckhaven.
The path continues along the side of the cemetery to join up with a disused railway line heading for Buckhaven.

Old railway line path

The going here is good with a nice view over the Forth to the southern shore. There may be a wreck just off shore as there is a yellow marker buoy just off shore in the bay.
For some reason the path climbs up a flight of steps to join another railway line as it enters Buckhaven.
There are a number of local interest boards set out on the grass beside the path, you can take the short cut by crossing the grassy area to the right or continuing along the FCP to come to an archway for another path to the “A955 and The Bird Scheme.”

Water Baulk and the Bird Scheme Path

Before you is an impressive mural painted on the fence, go up to the mural and turn right and follow the road.

Mural, Buckhaven

There are a number of local history points along this road, to look out for.

Without a doubt Buckhaven must have been some place in its day. Unfortunately those days are long gone but you can get a feel for the glory days just by the size of this local Co-op on what is a dead end road. The folk must have had the money to shop here indicating prosperity, the shop opened in 1868 and closed in 1994.

Old Co-op, Buckhaven

It would be an act of self denial to say that the walk through Buckhaven and Methil is a pleasant one but there are things to see…

Like this wane trapped behind the door of this craft butchers.

Wane trapped behind the door

Like the Mother Ship. Stewards of Buckhaven have been pie champions off and on for years, so I stopped by for a Steak Pie and a doughnut, not your wishy-washy modern baked kind but a traditional calories be damned fried one and good it was too.

The Mother Ship

The road comes up to a junction and you turn right. It should be said that way marking could be better here. There has been an outbreak of the new stainless steel lamp posts here, which has probably removed a lot of the way marking stickers. It is nice to be reminded that one is still on the correct path.
At the junction is a shop that just looks wrong. It sells electronic goods but was built for a different purpose, my guess is a traditional chip shop / cafe kind of place.

It once was a…

Methil.
Further down the road you come to the nondescript modern Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital and then after that the old hospital, rich with the architecture of its day, looking grand with its clock tower and stone carving, proudly declaring that it was built in 1908.

Randolph Wemyss Memorial Hospital

On the other side of the road the view is dominated by the massive experimental wind turbine operated by the strangely titled ORE Catapult company in what was the RGC Offshore Construction Yard, who built massive platforms for the oil industry in the 1980s. Today it is The Fife Energy Park.

Wind Turbine, Methil

The road comes to a four way junction, the FCP isn’t well way marked here, you turn right and head down hill. Just before you do have a look among the trees to your right and see the top of an underground command bunker that controlled a submarine mine field off Methil harbour. The entrance to the bunker has been filled in and would make for an interesting visitor attraction. These bunkers are fairly rare, certainly it’s the first one that I have seen.

Command post

Armour plate shutters were here

The FCP heads down hill to a roundabout, cross the road before you get there and follow the footpath along side the Energy Park. Over on the right is the old Methil Goods Yard. The station is now being used by a removals company.

The road comes to a roundabout, go straight on, into the quiet road ahead, you can follow the road to the right, they both end up at the same point but the ahead route is quieter and there’s more to look at along the High Street. Admittedly this isn’t the best shopping area in the world, times have changed in Methil and things have got harder for the folk that live there.
I had a very short glimpse of a poacher at work. A Sparrow Hawk was perched on the fence of a house waiting for a small bird to come to the bird feeding table, I managed to get one, pathetic shot of it with my little camera, I’ve even pointed it out for you!

The Poacher

The High Street will eventually join the bypass alongside the docks. I crossed over to the dock side of the road, following the road all the way to a roundabout in front of a Shell Filling Station. Turn right and cross over the Bawbee Bridge, proudly opened by none other than the Rt. Ho. J.S. Maclay MP, Secretary of State for Scotland, 1st November 1957.

Leven.
Continue on the footpath, passing the Swimming Pool, until you come to the river, which just happens to the outfall of Loch Leven.

Leven outfall

You are now in the resort town of Leven. Strange how things go, I came here as a child in the 1960s and had a great time.
You now have the option of continuing along the promenade or “Going Coastal” along the beach. I opted to go coastal, with a photo of the oil rigs that have been my offshore companions all the way up from East Wemyss to my right.

Three Rigs, Leven

I shot this couple trying to get the shipping forecast by listening to a sea shell. I saved them the bother as I had just picked up one earlier and gave them the Forth report. They already had the one for Dog-ger.

The Shipping Forecast

The way ahead is dominated by the volcanic mound of Largo Law, one of a number of volcanic outlets linked to East and West Lomond.

Leven Beach panorama

This area was also a supposed likely spot for a German invasion during WW2 so the Town Council hid all the deck chairs, mined the beach, strung out the barbed wire and erected some anti-glider poles in the sand, some of which still survive.

Anti-invasion obstacle

I thought I found a live shell on the beach but it was a dud, although I don’t know if that was its name.

Shell

I thought that I would go closer to the water to get a shot of the surf and the Law, so checking the line of foam on the beach I stood by it only to discover the “seventh wave,” which shot past the line of foam and over my boots. The things that I do for a photo.

Wet feet

A small burn crosses the beach and it’s not much of a problem to charge on and cross at a wide shallow bit. There then follows a long pleasant walk along the beach, past some holiday caravans towards Lundin Links.

Daft Dug, Lundin Links

 

One last look at the oil rigs

Three Rigs, Lundin Links

Continue up the beach until nearly at Lundin Links to another burn crossing the beach, then head ashore as there should be a FCP sign on the sand dune. Go up to the sign and cross the burn by the little wooden bridge. There’s an XL sized cube, which blocked the burn from invading German tanks.

Big cube

There are more cubes in the sand along the Golf Course.

Cubes in the sand

Lundin Links.
The way ahead isn’t very clear but look both ways for golfers and golf balls, then follow the little burn inland heading towards a sewage treatment plant and onto a dirt road. Turn right here and head to the houses, and follow path beside the golf course. The road comes to a junction and the FCP goes off to the right towards the Club House.
If you fancy something to eat, then the small cafe at the Homelands Trust on the right is recommended. It’s well priced and the service is very friendly, although only open during lunch hours. My plan was to stop at the hotel in Largo but I am really glad that I stopped at the Homelands Trust cafe.

Homelands Trust

The view back to Leven

My original intention was to walk as far as the car park at the end of Lower Largo and get the bus back to my starting point but I was feeling so good and my feet hardly hurt at all so I decided to continue on to Elie and this brings me to the end of part one… but there’s one things for sure….

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Fife Coastal Path – Kirkcaldy to East Wemyss

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.

East Neuk?
It’s the name given to this part of the Kingdom that sticks out into the North Sea.

The Kingdom?
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.

Photography.
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.

 

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The Esplanade on a nice day

 

“Going coastal” by walking along the beach getting in a few abstract photos as I went along.

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Sand

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Coal ferns

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Kelp

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.

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The couple

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.

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The derelict.

I briefly returned to the FCP up a ramp at the end of the Esplanade…

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The way back up

… 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.

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Ramp down to the outer harbour.

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The railway swing bridge

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.

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MV Deuwent

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.

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Sailor’s Walk

Along the road to the right and you could almost be somewhere else.

 

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The frontage of the former St, Mary’s Canvas Works

 

A sign of Kirkcaldy’s once proud past. M Nairn, who made and still make linoleum in the town.

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An empty shell

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.

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Emptiness

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.

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The stairway

Going coastal past the Castle…

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The Twin Towers

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Dog walking

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.

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Looking back

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Doocot

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…”

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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.

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Life’s a beach

 

Dysart.

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.

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The Harbour Master’s House.

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.

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Sea Beams

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The Pan Ha’

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.

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Hie-Gait

Another Fife name is the Hie-Gait, or High Gate just beyond.

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XX marks the spot

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.

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The way ahead

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.

Frances Colliery Memorial

Frances Colliery Memorial, “… to the men and women that wrocht at Frances Colliery…”

Memorial and winding frame

Memorial and winding frame

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.

 

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The path

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.

 

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Knackered knees

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.

 

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Forbidden ruin

 

 

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16th century tower house

 

West Wemyss.

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.

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Mosaic house

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.

 

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The former Miners Institute

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.

 

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West Wemyss harbour

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.

 

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Main Street

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.

 

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Sea Mine tragedy memorial

 

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.

 

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Wemyss Castle

Coming to the end of our journey and I was impressed by the size of these beech trees.

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Big Beeches

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…..

Mair tae come

 

 

 

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