Fife Coastal Path: Wormit to Newburgh

The final stage of the Fife Coastal Path (FCP)

Date: 3rd February 2019

From / to: Wormit to Newburgh

Distance: 15-18 miles (25-30 kms)

Direction: Walking east to west

Facilities: There are none on this stretch

Timing: Beware! the official coastal path website says this day’s walking takes 3-5 hours. I defy a human to do it in 3 hours – I think it is a mistake. I am not the quickest walker, but it took me 7 hours with 3 x 15 minute stops and a last minute detour

Overall: I would not recommend that people do this all in one day, especially immediately after the previous stage of the FCP, and with the transport difficulties and wintry conditions

Dundee to Woodhaven via St Andrews

My day began in Dundee where I had unwittingly spent the night. See Leuchars to Wormit for details. I took the earliest 99B bus to St Andrews (8.19) which was straightforward.

IMG_20190203_083350
Crossing the Tay back to Fife as the sun rose

Unfortunately when I arrived at the St A bus station the bus company no longer operated out of it. I phoned up to find out where I could get the 77 back to the Wormit road, connecting to the ’emergencies’ line and feeling a little guilty as it was not exactly a life and death situation.  I was concerned that I would not get to Newburgh before dark. The exceptionally kind man on the phone explained that there never has been a Sunday service of the sort I was waiting for! In the end, on hearing the note of desperation in my voice, he came up with a plan and 5 minutes later a second gentleman appeared in a van to pick me up. He had been called out of his bed to fill in for someone who was sick, left his own car at the depot and was on his way back to get it. He took me along with him!

IMG_20190203_094248
Woodhaven Pier, between Newport and Wormit, River Tay, Scotland

It was half an hour’s walk from Woodhaven to Wormit, first along the B946 (a residential connecting road where the pavement was all slippery from the snow which had hardened into ice overnight)……

IMG_20190203_095651
The air was very clear as I looked across someone’s wintry garden to Dundee, Scotland

….then taking a right onto Bay Road…..

IMG_20190203_095848
Tay Rail Bridge

….bypassing Wormit proper and heading straight to the beach where the FCP runs across the strand for a bit.

IMG_20190203_100803
I could see where I would be walking, Wormit Bay, Fife, Scotland

Wormit to Creich

It took half an hour to get to the start of this stage, so yesterday would have been exactly 7 hours if I had finished and today I must add an extra 30 minutes to the walk if I am to reach the final ending point in Newburgh.

It was raining / snowing – a dull, grey day.

IMG_20190203_101147
Tay Rail Bridge Memorial at Wormit Bay

The local lady was right that I was due for a climb, despite the way it appeared on the map. She said she had avoided it because it was so slidey underfoot. I passed through the metal gates to keep the cattle in, and further on I appreciated the landlocked wooden seal sculpture.

IMG_20190203_101705
Looking down onto the waterside
IMG_20190203_103742
Icicles in the dells
IMG_20190203_103906
The path wound through woods away from the coast, up and down steps and across wee burns
IMG_20190203_104102
Then it opened out – the arable fields were slopes of white and the copses made of bare twigs

Catkins dangled olive green, and other peoples’ footsteps showed me the way.

IMG_20190203_105339
Drawn to making more of my marks in the snow – the dynamic relationship between the elements of fire and water, sun and ice, passion and reflection
IMG_20190203_110614
Stripes of muted greys: snow, stone wall, shingle, the estuary and the white covered hills of Tayside in the distance
IMG_20190203_110727
There were occassional dwellings along the way. I saw no-one

There was a quiet, gentle lapping of waves on the shore as I went between two houses.

IMG_20190203_110759
A massive boulder covered in gorse-yellow lichen on the half-white beach. The rest was grey. A flock of oyster catchers whizzed past, low to the water, followed by a loner, white stripes flashing to match the snow

oyster catcher  A flying oyster catcher, from Wikipedia.

Near here were plaques with children’s poems about the sea on them: I liked, ‘River lying patient and flat’

There is a stretch of stony beach at Balmerino – unusual for the FCP. I checked with three extremely well armed fishermen and yes, for sure it was along here and then through the woods. It was a great curving bay of bleak beauty.

IMG_20190203_111738
Two little girls in their pink all-in-one ski suits pottered with their parents

I missed Balmerino Abbey which was marked on the map – it must have been inland, off the path.

At 11.30 I was having a lovely, peaceful, early lunch with my back against a gorgeous trunk with ivy vines twining up it, when the sounds of a boisterous group signalled they were clearly approaching from whence I had come. Surely they would have caught me with my knickers down had I followed the call of nature, so I didn’t do that! I hastily moved on and almost immediately passed another group going in the opposite direction. This pretty stretch is obviously popular for Sunday morning walking.

IMG_20190203_111812
The Fife Coastal Path between Wormit and Newburgh, February 2019

My thighs were tight and stiff this morning after yesterday, and I could feel the effects of carrying the heavy pack such a long way.

IMG_20190203_115513

Leaving the water behind, I started on the long, steep and icy uphill part. I realised that perhaps the official website meant 3 plus 5 hours not 3 to 5 hours, and I worried that I would not make it before dark. I was not sure what to do, so I picked up pace.

Up high and with a right turn I was on hard ground which was much quicker to walk on, near a residential area. I was trying to remember to keep my eyes open for the signs which are always harder to see in this type of situation.

IMG_20190203_125009
The hard climb rewarded this view – there are not many wide open vistas like this on the FCP

They made me think about hiking the Via Sacra in Austria and of some places I have walked in Switzerland.

I passed places with names like Hazelton Walls, Creich and Pittachope (perhaps meaning ‘farm of the willow-place’). Black Craig Hill (203 m) was on the right.

IMG_20190203_125649
Ruined castle at Creich, Fife

Pittachope to Glenduckie

At 1.30 I was hauling myself gradually up a rural road with the cold wind on my cheeks. There was good visibility but with damp and wet in the air. It was a bit of a plod but I was focusing more on the moment than the future.

IMG_20190203_132506

Then I took the left off the road to a steeper incline, passing a bearded man who cheerfully greeted me. His two boys were brightly clad in winter gear, and all three were pulling scarlet sledges up behind me, to play.

Ahead was Norman’s Law (285 m), the very same which was mentioned in the information I saw yesterday in Tentsmuir Forest. A law in this context, is a round or conical hill, often in isolation. It is at the eastern end of the Ochil Fault and you can walk in this place using the Walk Highlands directions. Also a hill fort site with its neighbour, Glenduckie Hill (what a great name!), you can follow Fifewalking’s instructions here.

IMG_20190203_133033
Serious, dark pines and red-brown crags, FCP, Scotland

What with the website duration being erroneous, gates which say ‘push’ when they mean ‘pull’, and these signs which say ‘keep left’ when they mean ‘right’ at the turn – nothing is as it seems – which exactly sums up my life right now!

IMG_20190203_133001
Looking back I admire the Tay from a height

It was misty at the top of the steep climb. Some of the snow was like soft egg-whites and therefore hard to walk on.

There was a gorgeous smell of burning pine, presumably not a natural occurrence in this icy weather. Maybe, I mused, it was not mist or snow blowing, but the smoke. I thought I was at the top and about to go down at last, but maybe not.

IMG_20190203_135059
A tree platform had been erected; the puddles were deeply frozen; I spied various animal tracks in the snow as I passed Red Fox Wood

I sat for a cup of tea and meditated for 5 minutes. There was a cave opposite and rustles were coming from it; a bird was making the sound which a dog makes when it has a squeezy, squeaky toy in its mouth. It was a peaceful moment.

IMG_20190203_143137
I was coming to terms with the fact that there was more climbing ahead which meant views revealing bodies of dusty blue water including one shaped like a bagel somewhere in the vicinity of Blinkbonny (another wonderful place name)
IMG_20190203_143142
Going slowly downhill but there was another challenge ahead: Glenduckie Hill

I zig-zagged around farmer’s fields – cows in one, sheep in another. It was 14.45 and the sun had come out.

IMG_20190203_143356
A brief lowland patch, past attractive cottages, well-loved gardens and woodland, nurtured sunshine anemones and snowdrops with their heads swaying from side to side in the breeze

Glenduckie was indeed an even steeper trawl uphill, albeit not to the actual summit. The path curved round and round, and up, and then there was a tiny slope down before another arduous climb.

I felt totally exhausted, but stopping meant that starting was well nigh impossible. It was still frozen underfoot – an icy rockscape and, beyond, windswept sheep.

IMG_20190203_154021
With great views of the mouth of the Tay Estuary, Fife

The approach to Newburgh

A steady descent, bumpy and slippery, meant I could see what I assumed was Newburgh in the distance for a long time – tantalising!

Lindores Hill (172 m) was on my left and to the right the estuary looked wonderful. The water was almost completely smooth, like glass. It reflected the tufty grey clouds and already there were the very faint hues of the sunset.

It struggled to stop thinking how tired I was, how much my body hurt, and that I hadn’t understood how long the day was going to be in advance. I spent some time using Clean Language questions to honestly ask myself why I was doing this. I knew I would get there eventually and that I wouldn’t do this again all in one stage. Once started it was tricky to stop, especially as I was so close to the end.

IMG_20190203_160309
No danger of getting lost on this continual farm track. Or so I thought…

According to the map, at Old Parkhill there should be a right – Newburgh was clearly there, but the sign was to the left, so against my better judgment I took it. Of course it was wrong! I went through one very difficult gate and then straight on where there were lots of roots to negotiate at the bottom of a tree-lined slope. I admit I felt a tad miserable.

I had to climb over two fences. There was a huge hay bale and the barbed wire had been pushed down, suggesting that I wasn’t the first person to make this mistake. I couldn’t get over because I was too short and had the rucksack, so I found another way through.

I was back on the A913, the Abernethy Road, going into Newburgh past the church where the bus I planned to take later rattled past me. I found my way to the water’s edge using google maps as the sun was going down.

IMG_20190203_164926
Oil-slick-smooth harbour water and a trek along the front to the park where the FCP ends, Newburgh, Fife

This last trundle seemed very long and the signs were once again poor. A helpful dog walker directed me at the last. Under the arch in Mugdrum Park, Newburgh I went, alone as I started….

the end!
Hooray – I had finished. How peculiar I always look in selfies!

From a public sign: ‘The Kings have gone but the kingdom lives on! Locked between the Firths of Forth and Tay, Fife is island-like, resolute and proud. It was the Pictish province of Fibh, last rules by a king in the 9th century. Today, Fife’s wealth lies in the variety of landscapes, seascapes and townscapes which you can savour. Some say it taks a lang spoon to sup wi a Fifer, but you can be sure of a warm welcome from the people of the Kingdom.’

I went through the car park, took a left down Shuttlefield Street and left again along the High Street, where I found the bus stop by the Co-op supermarket (chocolate was needed). Opposite was The Bear Tavern where I toasted myself with a reviving Famous Grouse (whiskey) at the fabulous price of £1.20. The pub is run by the friendliest of folk and full of locals who were curious to know why I was there.

The 36 bus took me to Glenrothes where I narrowly missed the connection to Edinburgh. Fortunately there was an X54 along soon after at 18.55, and I was back home in Edinburgh around 9pm.

You may like to know that there is a highly recommended Shiatsu practitioner and yoga teacher (Heidi) in Balmerino.

Fife Coastal Path: Leuchars to Wormit

Saturday 2nd February 2019. An extremely challenging day’s hike in the stunning, snowy Fife countryside. 8 hours (probably 6.5 – 7 if I had not got lost) = approximately 30kms (16.5 miles).

Beware – lots of snowy tree photos ahead!

Two weeks ago I finished at Guardbridge, just outside the town of Leuchars. Today my plan was to get the bus back there from Edinburgh to resume.

IMG_20190202_075551
Looking back towards Arthurs Seat and the snow covered Pentland Hills

There was snow last night and sleet was still pounding on my window in Edinburgh at 5.30am when the alarm went off. I was worried that I might not be able to make the journey, but I had booked my hostel and completed all the preparations, so I was determined. I did, however, change my mind and decided to take the train which is much quicker (and £2.50 more expensive). This meant I would miss the Guardbridge to Leuchars section (approximately 1 mile).

IMG_20190202_083400
Sunrise over Fife

From the train I watched the sun coming up over the horizon. All the fields were white and the buildings etched with a black line. There were fields of dome-shaped greenhouses, some covered and some simply skeletons in the middle of winter.

At 8.36 I left Leuchars Station. There was a heavy, dull grey cloud cover above, but between that and the ground there were bare branches of trees showing against a delicate bird-egg-blue sky. In that space were horizontal clouds touched with peach, apricot and a darker, bruised blue. The land was glowing white, everywhere was covered in snow, although the roads were clear. Oh! the air smelled so crisp as it passed through my nostrils.

 

br-logo

I turned left out of the train station. * Note that on Google Maps, ‘Leuchars Station’ is the Royal Air Force (RAF) Base. Make sure you look for the red train symbol if you are locating the railway station.

 

Although Leuchars is best known as the RAF base (which probably explains the amount of buses and the cost of the train), there must be others who live here because the out-of-breath man who ran up just as the train was pulling away had a cello with him.

I made my way past extensive barbed wire fences, cars rushing past. There was just one other man walking and he had a white Scottie dog. (I have called my Scottish blogs Walking Without A Dog because although I do not have one, it sometimes seems as if everyone else does).

IMG_20190202_084349
Part of the Leuchars RAF Base, Fife, Scotland

I was setting off walking again and my tummy, which had been all excited for the previous two hours, turned over. My nose was sniffly from the cold. I found that I didn’t know which way to look when crossing the road, a throw back to all the hiking I have done on the continent! Here the temperature was a mere one degrees.

I was following signs to the Fife Coastal path (FCP) which took me by the road. On the right is a cluster of shops (a Spar supermarket with a butcher’s shop opposite) and a sign off to the left for it, but I recommend taking the left which goes steeply uphill for a few minutes to the beautiful Medieval church of St Athernase.

IMG_20190202_085512
The Romanesque architecture (known in the British Isles as Norman) of St Athernase, a Church of Scotland with fine blind arched features and an half-round apse from 12th century
IMG_20190202_085343
Notice the weather vane – a golden cockerel

As usual it is hard to know where to find the way as you exit a town. There were clear signs for the cycle path and various ones for the FCP, but it was hard to know if they were for the cars or hikers. I headed off down School Hill / Pitlethie Road, hoping that was right. A merry hello was exchanged with two women. When I passed a slow lady with a stick afterwards which reminded me of my patients at the hospice, I felt grateful that I could walk.

As I started getting into my stride and the town started to peter out, the sun was out and the birds were singing. More and more of the sky was blue. My shadow was so long that my head was right over the other side of the road on a field looking very funny. Past Castleknowe housing estate and Pitlethie House on the left, I understood why people wear gaiters because the snow was going down the back of my heel, inbetween my boot and foot which very chilly. A blackbird was foraging in the snow.

IMG_20190202_090617 (1)
Pitlethie House

Although I knew I was heading out of town in the right general direction and knew where the sea was, there were no official indications (a sure sign that I wasn’t right!) I was on a country road now with no pavements, but with fields on both sides and well shaved hedges in blobs – thorny and prickly with flat tops. Some of the tree trunks were going off at a very acute angles implying how strong the wind could be here. I could see the forest in the distance.

IMG_20190202_091207
Not the FCP one but still, a sign!

Then I turned right to cross on a path between the fields, heading towards the coast. There was incredibly bright sun on my right, making the snow sparkle, and lots of footprints and bike tracks on the snow ahead of me, even though it was only 9am.

I heard shots off to the left – hunting or soldiers practicing maybe? It was bumpy and the ground was ice hard underneath so my feet crunched.

IMG_20190202_091540
Ducks majestically swam up a very narrow, but totally still, irrigation channel. Each individual blade of grass was carrying its own load of snow, the upper ones melting in the sun

There were engine sounds emanating from somewhere. It was deserted. A tower in the distance was topped with a slowly turning satellite; cubes of houses with pointy rooves were covered in snow; tractor tyre grooves  were clear; and shadows far, far longer than the height of the trees themselves.

IMG_20190202_092049 (1)
Rabbit foot prints and a fence where the snow has settled on the pattern of the wire making it look like honeycomb

A helicopter came loudly into view as I turned the corner and passed between pretty Scots pines and snow-covered gorse. I took my gloves off. Yellow flowers showed through where the sun had exposed them; and the silverbirch trunks matched the fields behind.

I needed a pee, but was sure I would be seen by surveillance given the nearness of the Base.  When it became imperative, I imagined the soldiers having a laugh at the sight of me on camera. I left no trace.

Chaffinches sat on hawthorn bushes, tweeting and then swooping from top of bush to top of bush just ahead of me. There were sparrows too, and beehives on my left in a little clearing. The tree trunks were are all intertwining and covered in yellow lichen, positively glowing, one with its seedpods drooping and shiny.

My attention was attracted to the barbed wire strip at the top of the fence where each of the barbs had little piles of snow on them, softening the sharpness and making them look like embroidery, like a row of stitching with cotton knots at regular intervals.

Shush shush as I walked, a crunch at the end of each step as my toe pushed down into the packed snow. There was a constant sound of distant shooting and I realised that I was skirting the Base. I turned right at the farmhouse with the red door and went through a gate (remembering to shut it after me). There was a miniature thicket of trees which the sun didn’t reach so it was immediately cold, but not for long.

Then I was on the proper FCP with the correct signs. A gentleman dressed all in dark colours gave me a nice smile as he held the gate open and then briskly strode off with his head down.

IMG_20190202_093945
Rejoining the FCP

Over a bed of pine cones I went, reflecting that that must have been some sort of detour I had taken. The FCP website said to allow 7 hours for this walk so even though some of it would have been from Guardbridge to where I started, nevertheless I didn’t really want to do any extra.

IMG_20190202_094540
My walking pole got temporarily stuck between the planks of the boardwalk but I was still glad that I had bought it with me this weekend! Fife Coastal Path, Scotland

I took a sharp left which was signposted. There were two gates – the first said push but you had to pull! I was heading towards the trees and hills covered in snow, but away from where I thought the coast was – the cold breeze on my left cheek helped me to orientate myself.

IMG_20190202_094923
A sign warned of wild stock, and huge piles of manure testified to this – Highland Cattle with glorious horns were lowing loudly while they walked towards me, covered in blankets of snow

Up and down and curving around went the path. Only one set of footprints were ahead of me now, with a dog. I took two steps for every one of his! The path twisted and turned, slippery and very uneven. Everything was so very beautiful, clad in white.  The big trees were not covered in snow the same way as the small ones and the bushes were. There are fallen-down logs and the oh-so-delicate grasses carried their heavy loads – tilting and drooping with the weight of it all.

IMG_20190202_100354

I amused myself with the tracks in the snow – the guy I fancied I was following seemed to have lost his dog –  hmm interesting! It was useful to have the prints as it meant that I could see where the deep parts were.

The path wound between pine trees with various types of cones, rounder ones on the branches and long, thin ones on the ground.

IMG_20190202_111743
See how the sun shines off the snowy ground even at 10am!

‘There are two species of native conifer tree that produce cones: Scots pine and common juniper. The non-native black pine can also be found in the UK. All of these trees have different shaped pine cones and will hold on to the cones for different lengths of time.’ From The Woodland Trust. The red squirrels love to eat them!

IMG_20190202_100446
The deciduous trees are white, the evergreens sprinkled

The snow got thicker and there were two sets of dog paws, or maybe another sort of animal trails alongside the man’s now – it must be very interesting to be able to read them properly.

Bracken stalks cracked over from the weight of the snow. Black broom pods showed up starkly against the white.

IMG_20190202_100525
The smell had changed from the one of snowy air and open ground to one of pine, and yes, it looked just like a Christmas Card!

I had a very quick stop – standing because there was nowhere to sit – for some absolutely delicious, warm jasmine tea. My pack was heavier than normal as I had bought enough food with me to last until Sunday night (two days). All I could think was, oh it is so beautiful!

There were mini pine trees growing between the massive trunks and because they were covered in snow they were lit up and my eye was drawn to them, back and back, layer upon layer of undergrowth where there were tiny, fine branches and twigs. In some places there was no snow, and it looked bright green, marvellous next to the white. As I walked, the snow fell from the trees down the back of my neck while at the same time my feet were tossing up snow which was going down my ankles. Brrr – cold!

IMG_20190202_102123

I came to some sort of crossroads where there was a man with a bouncy spaniel, ears flying as he enjoyed the snow. I had a happy feeling and a sense of something, a sort of dropping down into my belly and a deep breath, like a much heavier lump, a weight. I was going along a road now, past the Polish Camp Road, and the signs seemed to be going straight on. There were cycles and cars ahead driving past. A woman with two great dogs assured me, yes, I was on the right track.

Beech woods now, a line of them and the smell had changed again, a different woody one. There were straplings, all bronzed and covered by the blanched quilt. Walking on the new snow rather than the slippy, packed stuff, I saw a light ahead like a fairy bower – silver and bright enticing me onwards.

Down a dip I tripped and went over on the same ankle I had sprained slightly in my Argentine Tango class a few nights ago. I felt it ricochet right through my system up to my neck, but thankfully there was no pain as I walked on.

IMG_20190202_103315
The horses come to the fence to greet me and I scrape some grass to feed them

When I came to the Kinshaldy Riding Stables three more horses were being led by a man with a little dog who had an overcoat on. A series of paddocks each had another horse in and children looked as if they were running just for the joy of it.

At 10.45am I was at the Tentsmuir National Park Road, the edge of the Nature Reserve. Today I was recording on my phone, experimenting with the idea of a podcast. In fact, unable to splice and mix, I  transcribed them later at home. The sound of my heavy breathing on the recordings was off-putting apart from anything else! (It is not as easy as typing notes which can then be cut and pasted into WordPress. Maybe I could find an app which I can speak into which will transform that into the written word?)

IMG_20190202_104722
Trunks looking black against the white backdrop

Of course the last time I was walking in the snow was in Greece in November where I was looking after horses.

Creak creak went my boots on the snow when suddenly, there was The Crêpe Shack  looking most incongruous after miles of nothing but gorgeous natural landscape. It was shut. There was also a playpark and picnic benches, so I sat down to have my elevenses. I was starving!

Traipsing between the dunes with a fuller stomach, I could not find any signs. I was pretty sure that in a few minutes I would see the sea and Kinshaldy beach so simply set off in that direction.

IMG_20190202_105245
The entrance to the car park and picnic area by Kinshaldy Beach and the Tentsmuir National Park, Fife

I get so fed up when I have to retrace my tracks, especially as deep snow is such hard work with a rucksack on. The path was not over the sand dunes (as the man with the horses had said), but back through the car park with spaces for coaches and where there are more playparks (so it is obviously very busy in the summer). I wiped away the snow and there was the sign I was looking for – heading back into the forest.

The snow was twice as deep: an inch (2 cms) rather than a half – solid and scrunchy. There was a sky blue as blue could be.

When I had stood up after my snack, I had a dizzy spell which was a first. The whole world span just like my clients described it to me, and the back of my left knee hurt.

IMG_20190202_112259
This sort of scene is the reason why I walk in these places!

The birds were tweet tweeting high up in the pines. Four or five bikes had gone ahead of me, and some people with dogs. When I looked closely at the trees, it didn’t really look like they were covered in icing sugar but with dust, the same way that really thick dust clings to every surface, all the twists and turns of something, like some sort of growth. Some looked like cauliflower heads, white like they say people’s hair sometimes turns overnight from shock.

I was thinking that this must be an old forest because there was no evidence of tree felling. Gradations of vegetation: from the little tufts of grass at the path edges, to the taller ones just behind, then the saplings, which were in front of the medium sized trees, and behind them the absolute giants. All were different textures, some more vertical, others more horizontal, with the vista occasionally broken by waterways.

IMG_20190202_110751
Frozen pond

It was unspeakably beautiful in the brilliant sunshine against the blue sky with no-one around – just amazing.

IMG_20190202_114818
The aptly named Ice House originally built in 1852 for keeping ice to freeze the salmon from the River Tay. The ice was taken from local ponds (as above). Layers of heather or straw were used to pack around it ,providing insulation like a deep-freeze. The salmon was shipped to the south

When I stopped and stood still there were only two sounds: distant waves that could have been traffic; and a sort of moaning, groaning, almost a woolf-type sound, but not at all scary. The latter was very difficult to reproduce and as I stood still it stopped. There were some logs which had been recently cut down in that part – I could smell the newly cut wood.

There were also paths off to the right at intervals, for access to the sea, but most of them were closed for building works.

IMG_20190202_115818
The March Stone erected as a boundary marker for fishing rights in 1764. The word March denotes an area of land on the border, and this March was between the Shanwell and Old Muirs salmon fishing, making a straight line from Old Norman’s Law (a hill) which though it seemed ever so far away I was to find myself climbing the next day!

Then wow! Once again I emerged from a long wander through samey landscape, lulled with the regularity of putting one foot in front of another, and suddenly was out of the trees. There was the matching blue water – I had reached Tentsmuir Point at the edge of the promontory where the land turns around the estuary of the River Tay. I stopped to admire the city of Dundee spread out on the opposite bank.

IMG_20190202_121343
Spectacular isn’t it!
IMG_20190202_121400
There is something surprising about sand covered with snow somehow

There seemed to be a area of ice where the land met the sea, and a sort of fence going out at right angles into the water. There were very gentle waves. Two gulls as white as the snow were catching the sun nearby, and hundreds more were floating miles away.

IMG_20190202_121808

I walked on: a wee pond opaque with ice; thoughts of past love; a train trundling by; and guns sounding. I was at right angles to the point and it was so icy that my pole clattered. I was tired and my feet were aching, although my knee wasn’t. My eyelid did the annoying fluttering thing it used to when I was a teenager. Ploughing on, I heard pee por pee por pee por – thin bird calls, and the almost-sound of snow falling.

IMG_20190202_121618
Really I should have known and stopped, because if there were no signs I must be wrong. And I was

There were signs every now and then for the cycle path and forest trails but not for the FCP. A cyclist and women were coming towards me in pairs with hounds. I took a minute’s turn through the heather onto a hillock to get a view of the Tay . It was littered with gulls, and I admired the hills and wind turbines on Tayside. It was almost midday, so more melting was going on.

IMG_20190202_122436
To get a view of the Tay
IMG_20190202_124654
Snow on the hills opposite

As I made hand prints in the snow I remembered a TV programme about the Pech Merle in Cabrerets in France perhaps 16,000 to 25,000 BC. Someone recreated them (maybe made by women), and they analysed why people were drawn to make these marks.

IMG_20190202_130032
Making my mark

It wasn’t easy to locate the signs. Here was Tayport Heath at the edge of the forest and I was coming up to Lundin Bridge – a map helped me to get my bearings. After another tea break I picked up speed, when a sudden lick on my left hand made me look down and there was a young brown greyhound. Bounding beside her mistress was a much older wolfhound with glassy eyes who was more afraid of me than me of him. They were easily overtaking me so I must have been going slowly, what with the rucksack and it being my fifth hour.

As the dogs receded into the distance, they were growling and playfighting. There was a horrible smell of chemical manure.

IMG_20190202_132757
Bird tracks

I found myself at houses and ponds and when I looked at the map I was right in the middle of the forest again. There were no signs and when I asked three men, they confirmed I was a long way away from where I was meant to be. I took a right, following their instructions, and came to a dead end with clear signs saying Private. I went left and the snow got deeper and deeper, my feet plunging down. At a gate I was unsure if I should go through. Away from any sort of path, I was only just able to negotiate and it was really hard going. Swearing away I realised I had done an enormous loop – extra trekking – and as a result I was tired and fed up. It was frustrating to the point of tears.

IMG_20190202_135916
I was lost until I came across these signs

After my mini drama I spoke to Isobel on the phone by chance which gave me some perspective. I made my way out of the forest and into Tayport, stopping a woman and her bewildered daughter for directions, which were sound. I found a cafe very close to the sea (look left as you approach!) and fell in through the door to the amusement of a couple who wanted to know everything about what I was doing and why. Good question.

IMG_20190202_152146
Detail of the fishermen’s monument, close to The Harbour Cafe in Tayport.

The Harbour Cafe was started 6 years ago as part of Tayport Community Enterprise. It is broadly run by volunteers and is amazing! It is just set back from the bijou working harbour which looked great in the sun when I emerged a while later, refreshed, to continue my walk.

IMG_20190202_152226
Tayport Harbour, Fife, Scotland

I went along the disused railway line. Right down by the water’s edge, a good way away from me, there was a strip of green where the snow had melted. A row of orangey grasses was punctuated occasionally by a single tree and this strip of sunlit green was absolutely beautiful in the evening sunshine. The bridge was in full view, cars whizzing past and lots of industrial buildings on the opposite side.

IMG_20190202_154147
Looking past the lighthouse, across the River Tay to Dundee, Scotland

I had pain in my right hip – first time for ages – and sore feet. Overall, though, I was feeling much more balanced.

IMG_20190202_161002
Modern sculpture by the entrance to the Tay Bridge, Fife, Scotland

Luckily I am separated from the road by a stone wall. There was a wren looping from fence post to fence post almost letting me catch up with her, causing me to smile. Wren song.

An hour’s walk to Newport, I went under the bridge. Weirdly, there were also signs up to the bridge – I didn’t know why unless it was for the view.

IMG_20190202_161459
The Tay (Road) Bridge still catching the sun although the rest was now in shadow, Scotland

Around a white golden orb that is the sun, almost directly ahead of me most of the time. preparing to sink below the hills which are tapering down into the Tay Firth. A lot of conurbation ahead which could be Newport or Wormit (the end), but I suspected the former. I was trying not to think about the end at this stage other than planning to be in bed for a long period of time when I got there!

IMG_20190202_163648
The elegant architecture of the ferry terminal for the ‘Fifies’ (what Dundonians called the ferries), Newport-on-Tay, Scotland

‘In 1715 a new pier and inn were built, the work being funded by the Guilds of Dundee which resulted in the settlement being called “New Dundee”. Thomas Telford built a new harbour in the 1820s, and the town expanded and grew into a commuter suburb of Dundee as the prosperous jute manufacturers, industrialists and the middle and upper working class of Dundee established fashionable residences in Newport.’ from Wikipedia

It was very, very beautiful. The water was shimmering and trembling. There was a long line of gold cast by the sun and the completely clear sky was amazing and impossible to capture on my camera.

IMG_20190202_162423
This elaborate structure has golden herons, River Tay, Scotland

At 5pm the sun had all but gone down and I was probably 5/10 minutes short of where I should have ended, but it was very nearly dark and I knew a bus was due. I had been checking every stop as I walked through the residential area, all on pavement, amusing myself by looking at the gardens and architecture.

IMG_20190202_164707
Right on the main road from Newport to Wormit were impressive homes with a view across the water, Scotland

‘Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay! I hope that God will protect all passengers By night and by day, And that no accident will befall them while crossing…’ From The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay

‘But when the train came near to Wormit Bay, Boreas he did loud and angry bray, And shook the central girders of the Bridge of Tay On the last Sabbath day of 1879, Which will be remember’d for a very long time.’ From The Tay Bridge Disaster

IMG_20190202_165148
A last sight of the Tay (Rail) Bridge before sunset. The original bridge which collapsed in 1879 six months after it was opened, with the loss of all 75 passengers and crew and was immortalised in William McGonagall’s poems (‘a notoriously unskilled Scottish poet’ Wikipedia  

Aahh – I sat down at last on the 92A bus from Southport Road, near Woodhaven to go back to St Andrews. The bus driver was really sweet: I was the only person on the bus and he explained that although it doesn’t go the bus station anymore, he would take me to the end of the route in the town, wait 3 minutes and then drop me off where I wanted to go.

It was only a short stumble to the hostel where I had booked a bunk a week of so earlier but when I arrived it was unavailable – there was some sort of booking mix-up which he said had happened before. I was more than crest fallen when he explained that I would have to go to Dundee to get a similar priced bunk – St Andrews is an extremely expensive place – but happy that he allowed me to use the facilities and have a hot shower.

I took another bus to Dundee and stayed in the Backpackers Hostel there instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fife Coastal Path – Kingsbarns to Guardbridge

Sunday 20 January 2019

I am not exactly following the Fife Coastal Path (FCP) official map, partly because the daylight is too short and partly because of accommodation and transport plans. Judging by the website, the FCP people are guessing that folk will be doing it by car, although how they get back to their vehicles I don’t know unless someone picks them up at the end of each stage. I have come across one long-suffering wife who, together with friends, has been supporting her husband to walk around the whole coast of Scotland by ferrying him from Edinburgh, so perhaps this is more common than I thought! Be warned that although there are good places to stay if you look carefully, it requires quite some research and flexibility to do this.

IMG_20190120_084433
Due east of Cambo Estate, Fife

I recently came across a woman who pitched her tent approximately half way along the path and went back and forth with her car, so that’s another way of doing it, but it will still require the taking of buses and taxis of course. Here is her blog.

img_20180121_153213

I retraced my steps by taking the early Sunday morning bus from Anstruther leaving at 8.30am in the dark and waving goodbye to my dormitory companion who was making shorter stages. I watched her setting off with her head torch along the section I had taken the previous day.

Half an hour later I was set down close to the Cambo Estate entrance, (cafe opens at 10am) a place I would like to visit some time, and regained the Fife Coastal Path from the main road which took 20 minutes, passing the darkened kitchen window  where the kind woman had directed me 15 hours before. From there I completed the final part of the previous day: Cambo Sands to the Kingsbarns car park. (Where there are facilities: picnic benches and toilets. There were people asleep in their camper vans and lots of dog walkers even though it was not yet 9am on a Sunday morning). There were signs to The Cheesy Shack but I could not see it!

IMG_20190120_085535

Kingsbarns to Boarhills (around 1.5 hours)

I knew from the instructions that today ‘may be the roughest part of the whole route’, and that it ‘should only be walked at low tide’, so I was against the clock which caused some stress, day light being at a minimum in February and the high tide being around 1pm.

It was definitely colder, than the day before, maybe because it was earlier or maybe because there was a slight breeze coming into my face. I could see my breath ahead of me. It was brighter than Saturday with lots of cloud but also an area of pale blue showing inbetween.

The first thing I passed was a warning of remote bumpy landscape beside a field with a very strong smell of brassicas which overwhelmed the sea scent.

IMG_20190120_091043
Past the place of no return?

Another golf course and stretches of golden sands stretch as far as the eye can see. So far it is low tide, thank goodness, which is what I am going to need to manage the next part. There are little pillar-box-red poles all the way along, perhaps showing where you can get down to the beach.

IMG_20190120_091856
The sheer sands near Babbet Ness, Fife

It was hard going as they warned it would be, especially on the sand, beautiful though it was in colour and smooth surface. People and dogs had been there ahead of me. Then back on the scrubby grassland beside the shore the path was very uneven. The water in my bottle was almost too cold for me to drink which showed how cold it was.

Just to think that when most of us are in our cosy houses in cities and villages, the birds and cattle are here all through the night wheeping away, floating on the waves and managing the elements, whatever the weather!

IMG_20190120_094215
Flocks and flocks of black birds, alighting and taking off, swooping around, fighting and jostling to find their place, mostly on walls, fence posts, electrical wires and strand

Inland

There was a detour inland to Boarhills where I crossed the Kenly Water – a well kept path beside mossy boulders and where water bumbled over stones. It was well signposted over a metal bridge, and then there was a tarmac farm road followed by an equally long, straight grassy way heading back to the shore.

IMG_20190120_102113
The corn bunting or corn dumpling, the Fat Bird of the Barley can be spotted near here. A Red List species, it flocks in winter, fluttering its wings and dangling its legs in its identifiable fashion

IMG_20190120_103657

Boarhills to St Andrews

Next was a further geological treat: Buddo Rock, a stack of pink sandstone with a muted rainbow of organic colours and weathered into fascinating shapes and spaces.

Though time was galloping along, I had to stay a while and explore the nooks and crannies, and gasp at the intricate patterns which had developed over centuries.

IMG_20190120_102947
The Baddo Rock in the deserted landscape where I was surprised by another photographer

It is gentle land, unassuming and quiet, seeing to itself. Nature and birds are simply doing their thing – a situation which allows me to think what I want, do what I want, because it doesn’t care.

IMG_20190120_103112
View through the rocks, Fife

Gorse and lichen a matching yellow were situated amongst twisted shrubs which were sharp and almost bare of leaves. I padded along soft paths at the sides of which the sun lit up swathes of bright beige grasses with lavender coloured seedheads. Drystone walls cut into the shoreline at right angles and the sea turned alternate shades of baby blue and slate gray depending on the cloud movement.

glowing grasses

St Andrews in the distance
St Andrews started to show, glowing in the distance while the coast behind me when I turned round, was gloomy
IMG_20190120_105310
Up and down tons of steps, it was very steep and hard work. Then back on the shore before climbing again, Fife Coastal Path

A jogger running past. A man doing a pee, very embarrassed as he spied me.

IMG_20190120_105647
The sun went in and there was a definite sense that the rain might be coming on, then it cleared – it was changeable

There were more walkers than I had seen before on any of the FCP – there’s nothing like the Real Tough Part for attracting lots of folk! Both enthusiastic and uninformed walkers I would have said, given what they were wearing on their feet. It sure was tricky in places: steep like a roller coaster, and a real scramble up jaggedy rocks at others. The water came very close, even before the tide turned, but I didn’t get my feet wet!

In one place there was a thin plank, the width of one foot, over a narrow chasm and a couple were in front of me. The man went first with the dog and held it as it growled at me. As I passed I heard him murmuring, ‘mummy’s coming, mummy’s coming’ as the woman with beautiful makeup stood still and wondered if she wanted to cross. She took her time – there was no other way.

Rocky coastline
There was a white bit of plastic to step onto but my short legs couldn’t reach it! Precarious with a rucksack

Further along was the Rock and Spindle – an eye-catching, rather thrusting geological feature standing separate from the crowd just off the main shore.

IMG_20190120_113019
Stones are set into the grass for climbing – sometimes with wooden hand rails and sometimes not. Pointing to the skies is the Rock and Spindle. See how the sea has eroded the land making semi-circular furrows which fill with water around it

 

IMG_20190120_113218
The Rock and Spindle closer up. Walking on pebbles, squelchy and noisy

St Andrews

High up on Kinkell Ness I stopped a very tall gentleman in an orange top with a beard and a petite woman and labradour beside him. Yes! 15 minutes over the high ground, he assured me, and I would be in St Andrews – I had done it, with a real sense of elation. I even laughed as the rain came down!

IMG_20190120_120602
St Andrews at last!

I heard children and looked down the steep cliffs to the beach, but no, it was a trick of sound over water – about 8 of them were in a boat in the bay.

IMG_20190120_121733
East Sands, St Andrews

The astonishing thing is that you do actually get there! However exhausted your muscles are, mine were all tense and brittle from yesterday’s exertion. On the East Sand, people wore trainers and sauntered with coffees, barking dogs and there were four white sails in the harbour.

IMG_20190120_120841
Jacob Polley’s poem, East Sands, Salt Prints winner of the TS Eliot Award for Poetry at East Shore, St Andrews

Reads, ‘to pry apart a sunbeam and find yellow like imperfect gilding, violet and purplish black laquer of a lobster claw, bottle-green depths and dandelion interiors, the frilly white of shoreline and seashell, and all light’s silverwork laid bare in a solution of common salt on the common sand.’

What did I find surrounded by a small crowd but the Cheesy Shack which I had seen advertised back at Kingsbarns Car Park!

There is the option here to carry on around the cliffs and past St Andrews Castle, or turn inland through the city. I did the latter. It was a bit of a walk as there are only a few places where you can cross the Kinness Burn and take the Pends into the city. I was pretty wet now and needed shelter.

IMG_20190120_122406
The Kirkheugh remains are near the Church of St Mary on the Rocks and St Andrews Cathedral on my right as I left the sea behind me
IMG_20190120_122547
Under the arch of the St Andrews Cathedral Priory Gatehouse – Medieval ruins

I took a left along South Street to find somewhere to find hot food and somewhere to recharge my phone. The soup was spicy and warm at the North Point Cafe, an unsophisticated wee place where the staff were attentive.

Be very careful when picking up a path leaving a town – it is always one of the most difficult things on a trail like this. There is a massive and most famous golf course on the edge of St Andrews and it is in many places uncrossable, so do not skirt the sea (where the toilets were closed) or you will have a very long walk!

I eventually found my way into the club house and the receptionists were kind and let me use their sumptuous facilities!

IMG_20190120_135124
The St Andrews Old Course where the famous golfers play with the Old Course Hotel on the left, in front of which the cycle path and the FCP runs to Leuchars

If you too stopped here for lunch here is my advice: find the main road A91 out of the city (the continuation of North street), direction: northwards. Alternatively you could askfor the Old Course if you dare (it is assumed you know where it is as it is so well known!). Keep to the left of it ie do not follow the coast road through the car park (West Sands Road) even though it does say coastal walk, but instead head for the enormous hotel and the facade which is facing away from the sea, inland. You are looking for the tree-lined North Sea Cycle Path which goes to the left of the Tom Morris Building (turf on the roof).

cycle path
This straight path takes you from St A to Leuchars, the next village, and tracks the main road

It was a long haul on hard ground after such a challenging day and there is little to entertain you but traffic noise. I changed into my other shoes, but it felt like I was wearing slippers and my feet were sore. You could always take the bus as they are frequent and cheap.

IMG_20190120_151633
On the right is a Nature Reserve, close to Guardbridge and the mouth of the River Eden. Arable land (blackcurrants?) and pastures where sheep crop
IMG_20190120_153124
The evening light was low and the industrial warehouses and hills covered in snow in the distance were lit up

I was very tired and looking for the Guardbridge Hotel when I saw that I could get the X59 bus back to Edinburgh. I stopped and waited on the same side of the road where I had been walking until a local bus stopped and said I was on the wrong side!

Ten minutes later I was hurtling back across Fife, taking the route through Glenrothes towards the Forth Road Bridge and home in the dark. I hadn’t made it to Leuchars, the end of the day’s walk, but then again I had started at Kingsbarns instead of Cambo Sands.

IMG_20190120_154356
I have been reliably informed that Traveline (see the phone number at the bottom of the photo) is an excellent resource for buses all over Scotland.

You may be interested in:

Walking Scotland’s Coast blog

St Monans to Kingsbarns

Saturday 19 January 2019 (one year since the last leg of the journey). 26kms (16 miles)

IMG_20190119_083553

After last weekend’s walk on the Berwickshire Coastal Path I was aware of the short day-light at this time of year, so I set out in the dark with a rucksack that I found upstairs looking like it had never been used, telling myself:

  • It’s going to be harder than you think it’s going to be
  • You never know what’s going to happen

Slowly the sky lightened as I trundled through the countryside on the train from Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy, a blue glow over the misty fields. My phone registered one degrees.

IMG_20190119_084848
The majestic Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, Fife

The X60 Stagecoach from Bennochy Road (close to Kirkcaldy railway station) dropped me off by the entrance to the Holiday Park with its puffin sign on the outside of St Monans and the memorial to George Hutchison 1945-90.

Time flies, Shadows fall, Love is forever, Over all.

By 10am I had walked through it and down the steps to the mirror clear water of the salt pans, the mini windmill, and onto the beach.

IMG_20190119_100033
On the sea side of the Holiday Park, St Monans, Fife
IMG_20190119_100354
The first of the salt pans where ‘at the end of the 18th century the dirty, smokey process of salt-making went on around the clock’ (public notice), St Monans, Fife

I heard the sea before I saw it as there was no wind. Somebody was ahead of me, somebody behind me.

IMG_20190119_100521
The windmill, another tangible reminder of the salt production industry, St Monans, Fife
IMG_20190119_100650
The remains of the St Monans pan houses where 6-8 tons of coal was needed to produce 1 ton of salt. Fife

Like last weekend, white waves rolled over themselves, but there were no cliffs just flat, jagged rocks the colour of sandstone. Closer to the water they were black, etched deeply, at right angles to the land making little coves of apricot sand. A yellow gorse bush was tucked under the eroding edge. A pair of mallards drifted, and the air was very still with the smell of smoked fish.

Big white birds perched on the outcrop and, looking closely, almost hidden, black-on-black, large dark ones as well, one standing up and opening its wide wings: cormorants.

IMG_20190119_100946
Water sliding over the rocks, slippery with weed in shades of teal
IMG_20190119_101334 (1)
The constant sound of the waves as the tide came in

IMG_20190119_101425

I could see Pittenweem’s orange roofs ahead but it was too early for a stop. I was hoping to find somewhere to buy something to eat later on though, as a picnic with my flask of (not very hot) Jasmine tea.

IMG_20190119_102407
The approaching view of Pittenweem, Fife

A bunch of friendly ladies all dressed in pink and purple left strong wafts of perfume as they chattered by, each saying ‘morning’ to me.

I had expected a cold bright sunny day like yesterday, but it was dull instead so I could not see into the distance and it was warmer as a result.

IMG_20190119_102928

Here the stink of seaweed was palpable and friendly dog walkers were out and about. Pretty cottages, all marled in pale hues – beige, pumpkin, baby blue and the odd lavender – line the harbour. Wood smoke hung in the air and as I passed a bicycle decorated with scallop shells I wondered if it was owned by a fellow camino walker.

IMG_20190119_102828

In Pittenweem I could have tasted ice cream or supped on fish and chips, drank a dram at the Larachmhor Tavern or admired the arts and antiquities off to the left. Were the toilets open? Yes, and well supplied – warm, light and clean – excellent as public facilities go. What I couldn’t spot was a food shop. Pittenweem is an active harbour, however it being the winter months, the Dory Bistro and Gallery was shut and there were few people around considering it was a Saturday morning.

IMG_20190119_103647
Pittenweem harbour, Fife

Coming out of the village, I noticed that there were not many wild flowers – one or two orange marigolds (calendula) and a few with tiny dandelion-like heads to a stalk. The path goes along the back of what look like holiday cottages. Here pink mallow in someone’s garden, there a pinky-purple hebe, otherwise not much colour at this time of year.

IMG_20190119_104710
Found poetry: soar alba / free Scotland scrawled in Gaelic, and ‘bee (sic) happy’ written in shells on the rocks

I was walking higher up now above the sea and behind a fence. Down below, right by the shoreline were man-made concrete blocks, presumably the remains of WW2 battlements or look-out towers. On my other side were well manured and beautifully ploughed dark brown fields.

The cropped green of the well manicured links (golf course) contrasted with the improvised yellow lichen of the fence posts.

A cormorant’s proud neck and head were at right angles to its body and suddenly it dove down amongst the tumultuous waves.

IMG_20190119_105744

Then I too was right down by the beach, enjoying the lovely gentle colours of the rocks – threads of khaki and caramel with carmine underneath and black above.

Sparrows trotted along with pointy beaks dabbing amongst the blades. A single cormorant flew past, neck reaching, its body the shape of a black cigar remaining dead parallel to the sea, while both black wings flapped up and down simultaneously.

I passed a big group of hikers, some of them properly dressed to tackle the north face of the Eiger. A castellated tower had a list of names below it; a war memorial.

As I entered Anstruther I spotted a street labelled ‘Formerly Witches Wynd’. I thought wryly, that’ll be before they killed them then!

IMG_20190119_110800
The Dreel Burn, Anstruther, Fife

A nearby sign read: ‘James V travelled incognito through Fife as the ‘Guid Man o’Ballengiech’, coming to the Dreel Burn and fearful of wetting his hose, he was carried across at this point by a stout gaberlunzie (beggar) woman, who was rewarded with the king’s purse.’

IMG_20190119_110956
Shell House, Anstruther

Around an extremely sharp and very dangerous bend with no pavement, was more coquille Saint-Jaques decorating a house and the Dreel Halls with a lot to see – the church architecture, its graveyard and various monuments and inscriptions.

IMG_20190119_111029
Concealing a casket, Dreel Halls, Anstruther, Fife

Around the glass the inscription reads: There is a stone coffin which has stood exposed to the injuries of the weather in the churchyard. Tradition says it once contained the relics of St Adrian. Time immemorial.

IMG_20190119_111118

Written on the stone is a poem about God:

‘…He drops into the kirk, and sits as sunlight on a rear pew. It is warm, the sermon’s mighty long.  He sucks a mint and dozes…’

Taken from ‘In Anster’, engraved on a stone in the yard, by Andrew Greig, 2013 who grew up in the town.

The path takes walkers into the town but remember to take a right turn at the wee shop, walking between the A & A Stores and The Bank hotel! The path turns quickly to the right down a very narrow wynd back to the sea.

IMG_20190119_113021

At the harbour there is the ubiquitous fish bar plus a post office, cash point and the Scottish Fisheries Museum (shut but the cafe was open and there were eco toilets that I have never seen before where the water for cleaning your hands fills the cistern after use).

You can learn about the desperate outcome of a collision in 1918 between submarine troops on an exercise who, due to the wartime blackout, collided with minesweepers, leaving 108 dead.

This is where one can take a trip to the Isle of May during the summer months.

IMG_20190119_122244
Teasal plants and an orange glow to the horizon where you can see the Island of May

Islands of the Forth

Anstruther is an extensive town made up of 3 or 4 boroughs (depending on which source you consult). It was bustling, and I happily spotted the elegant hostel where I would be spending the night.

IMG_20190119_111941
The Murray Library Hostel, Anstruther. I gave it 5 stars

Nearby was an artisan bakery where I treated myself to an expensive packet of thick and chunky cheese oatcakes (made, so the board informed, of ‘Anster cheese crafted by Jane Stewart’) which came in very handy for the remainder of the trip (ie I ate them for breakfast, lunch and tea!)

IMG_20190119_112022
They were also selling traditional Scottish fare!

A wee way along was Cellardyke Harbour (known locally as Skinfast Haven created in  1452) with washing lines beside it. I sat down and supped my tea.

IMG_20190119_113600
The Plough and the Reaper, Marion Smith. Anstruther, Fife
IMG_20190119_114707
Cellardyke harbour where there are washing lines to dry your clothes
IMG_20190119_114855
I sat a while here, looking out to sea and having a snack, Cellardyke, Fife

Oooh weep, oooh weep – big crowds of curlew with their long thin, curvy beaks. A stretch of uneven grassy path and it was definitely sniffly weather. A couple trundled ahead of me; the sea rolled and crashed close to my right shoulder; and then a kissing gate which I really had to squeeze through because I never want to take the rucksack off when I have got it comfy and settled on my back.

The high point of the day were the rocks. Sandy to the touch and with amazing colours, stripes, indentations, wave patterns and all manner of other shapes that you could make stories up about. I stood underneath them and looked up to the sky and out to the sea. There was something very powerful about the place.

IMG_20190119_124019
The colours (the camera did not do them justice)…
IMG_20190119_124147
… and patterns of these rocks amazed me
IMG_20190119_124502
Partly eroded, they create fantastic shapes, …
IMG_20190119_124630
… holes and arches to crane through

More cormorants seemed mammoths compared to the orange-legged oyster catchers beside them up to their knees at the water’s edge.

birds high quality
Taken with the zoom, this photo is blurred and no cormorants, but you can identify the oyster catchers paddling and, on a rock on the right, a lapwing
IMG_20190119_123050
The land tapering into the sea in the distance
IMG_20190119_125749
The Coastal Path sign warns of danger!
IMG_20190119_130857
Climbing up I snapped a bird in flight – there isn’t much uphill on this stretch

A stony beach meant that the withdrawing waves cause the rocks to clatter against each other and tufty puffs of white foam rise high between rocks. What’s left of the water in the pools had the setting sun reflected in them, even though it looks as though it’s way over to the horizon and nowhere near overhead.

IMG_20190119_122808
The sea was active, crashing and washing over the rocks

It was 1 o’ clock and I was already starting to feel tired and slightly anxious about the evening, a bit cranky as I came into Crail!

Crail
Crail, Fife

I lost the signs and asked a couple who directed me back the way I had come and they recommended the Golf Hotel where I duly stopped for a cup of tea and some ‘rocky road’. Report: very nice waitress, very slow service, not my sort of place.

Once out there was a clear sign downhill to the sea – I must have needed that boost!

IMG_20190119_132531
Crail coat of arms, Fife. The panel reads. ‘Restored and given new life by The National trust for Scotland’ but if you search their site they have no results for this village!
IMG_20190119_141932
Sauchope Caravan Park, Fife

Roome Bay was next and caravan site #3: Sauchope Links. There is lots of space for visitors with little huts, white yurts with little chimneys coming out of the side and a swimming pool. One larger dwelling had a hot tub on its balcony, and overall it could not be closer to the sea. Like a spotlessly clean small village, everything is well kept and perhaps because only a few are inhabited at this time of year it seemed soulless.

Out to the ocean, I watched while banks of water gathered, dark on the forward slope, white bubbles teetering on the edge before crashing down and running into the bay. Sometimes when you think you get to the top of a mountain it turns out to be a false summit, and this was the same: that long wave was all over until it turned out that it wasn’t and there was another edge, and another beyond that, and…

IMG_20190119_124940
I looked at them and they looked at me!

My attention was attracted by baah and the sheep’s great thick ruffs of coat bunched up around their necks. When they have their heads down it looks as if you might be able to extend them, opening up those folds like a concertina.

IMG_20190119_143436
Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve, Fife and more rock stacks
IMG_20190119_123649
Symmetrical square and rectangular chunks lined up in a row

The massive rocks were sometimes triangular but never curved, gravity having squashed down the layers of the land. Even the vertical cuts and breaks were all at right angles.

IMG_20190119_145147
3pm saw me rounding the tip by the lighthouse and the Fife Ness bird watching hide

A little further on there were some demure cottages, more caravans and golf links. It was darkening now. The birds were in clusters and from a distance they looked as jaggedy as the rocks at very corner, battered by the waves, like dinosaurs’ backs across the peach sand to the sea.

IMG_20190119_150232

The odd quack came from ducks all settled down comfortably on the pungent seaweed interspersed with a squawk of ravens. As the cormorants were standing with their wings open but there was no sun, I could only conclude that they too were having hot sweats and needing to cool down!

Constantine’s Cave is just here. According to tradition, King Constantine I was killed in this place after a battle with Dubhghall (‘dark foreigners or Danes’) in 874.

IMG_20190119_163956

I was nervous of being stranded by the sea at night, so I took a left before I got to Cambo Ness. Although Kingsbarns village is covered up by a panel of writing on the Coastal Path map for stage 5, I had researched in advance and knew I could get a bus from there. I found my way across the corner of the golf course and up the beginnings of a small road where I spied a lit window where a woman was washing up. She kindly came to the door and advised me it would be quicker to stay by the sea. However, she is familiar with the area and I was not, so I took off up the farm track, through the yard, and narrowly missed the bus by about 3 minutes as it thundered past on the main A917. Then I had to do what she said I would and walk at the side of a very busy road, initially with no pavement, and into Kingsbarns by the church where I waited nearly half an hour for the 95 bus.

IMG_20190119_164321
I thought it looked like a member of the KKK!

Back I went to Anstruther and to the Murray House Hostel which I had seen earlier. The French hospitalier was extremely helpful and let me practice my French. The communal rooms are large, and I was put with the other solo woman Coastal Path walker in a 4-bed (usually more expensive) dorm which was very kind. Cost £14 (not including breakfast). I was told that I had to sample the famous fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar and Restaurant which I dutifully did – I gave it 4 stars! The hostel has a very decent kitchen and a supermarket is not far away so there’s no need to eat out. Do book the hostel in advance during this time of year though, as it will open for 2 or more people but may be shut if you turn up on spec.

 

I had a very good, long sleep to prepare me for an early start to stage 6 the next day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lundin Links to St Monans

Sunday 21st January 2018 Lundin Links to St Monans, Fife Coastal Path, Scotland

This is the second day of a winter walking weekend. Here is the sister blog!

img_20180121_094148 (1)
Acres of caravans for the pickers, polytunnels reduced to skeletons

At 9.30am I left my air bnb with numb feet. Snow was on the ground, there was a pink sky, and almost no-one else about.

hill
Largo Law now in the morning light
img_20180121_100559
It turns out that Silverburn Park is not a secret Garden as I thought last night!

I walked briskly between ploughed fields towards the sea, across the main road and through the park. Past the sweet wee red brick cottages (not open on Sundays) I went and met the first lot of dog walkers including a woman in high heels with her breakfast hot chocolate.

img_20180121_101413
By time got to the beach (10.15am) my toes were all but thawed but I was walking slower than usual on account of a dodgy left knee. Joggers went past and dogs were constantly barking and disturbing my peace.

img_20180121_101750
Another of Fife’s sublime beaches

The tide was way out revealing water with a smooth metallic look about it. It was the light catching the shallows sands which was so beautiful. Wind was on my right cheek today, rather than heat, as I made my way eastwards along the coast.

Mountain bikers took the path well trodden. I went across streets which were treacherously icy with puddles deeply frozen, and the only sign of the sun was the pink rim on the eastern horizon.

swings
I never pass up a wee swing

As I swung forwards I surveyed the changed shoreline with its diagonal black rocks familiar from stage 2. Then straight on I went, past the orange house where a white-haired saunterer in shorts returned from getting the morning paper. Readers of my blog know that I love my shorts but not in this weather!

img_20180121_105529 (1)
Lower Largo

Lower Largo is a very pretty village with brightly painted doors and model yachts in windows.

img_20180121_105928
Here is Alexander Selkirk, view haloo! Lower Largo

Alexander Selkirk, mariner, is the original Robinson Crusoe, who lived in solitude on the island of Juan Fernandez for 4 years and 4 months.

It has to be said that it was all a little bleak this morning with only a weak sun.

img_20180121_113224
The Fife Coastal Path

Multi-coloured rocks and bright green pebbles with shiny brown seaweed and opaque glass pieces could be found along the shore. Oyster catchers were peeping and others trilling. A couple held hands and battered shells littered the ground.

img_20180121_153213.jpg

It was a hard walk in a good stretch of nature. I saw a couple of thrushes and a tall, friendly man with a ruddy face. His long-legged red setter had a neon tennis ball clamped in its jaws as we crossed the Dumbarnie Links Nature Reserve. Here there were raven-esque, empty mussel caskets (I was directly opposite the town of Musselburgh!) and I felt melancholy.

It was what I call wonky walking where one of my feet is on higher ground than the other. The strand stretched out ahead and while gulls swooped, black and white waders dipped orange beaks.

img_20180121_115658

Berwick Law in East Lothian to the south, was snow covered too. Here was only one other human in sight. There seemed to be miles of those lumpy sea creatures’ corpses, all rubbery, and simply trillions of shells on their way to becoming sand creating quite a different crunch underfoot compared with the ice and snow.

To follow this part of the coastal path, just keep walking along the beach before a long line of dark green trees with appear across your view. Then you will see a sign to the left heralding a change of terrain.

img_20180121_121312
Shell Bay: evergreens signal a change of landscape, Fife Coastal Path
img_20180121_121620
Between bleached grasses, round and over the peedie bridge
img_20180121_121834
Brilliant clear air and the stillest of waters makes for magnificent reflections
img_20180121_130912
A World War II look-out post  – what a cold job that must have been!

Up and over the cliffs runs the way, some roughness and muddyness, steep but not very high. Sadly I missed the part where there is a chain to climb up. Apparently people have died so on second thoughts that was probably a good thing, although being me I would have liked the challenge.

img_20180121_131724
Earlsferry Beach, Fife, Scotland

Around 1.30pm I arrived at Elie beach with its yellow brown sand and a headless seal. People were foraging for cockles and a feathered wren hopped by my side.

img_20180121_132424
Cove after cove was made of delicately hued sands

The next urbanisation, Earlsferry, seemed to be a well-to-do area with mansion turrets and BMWs all over the place.

img_20180121_135804
Earlsferry Church, dated 1872, Fife, Scotland

There is a library and care home but no shops or pubs. The sky was fair lowering (getting dark – looks like rain!) and I was getting hungry, so I took a detour until I spied a golf club and the Pavillon Cafe which was busy. What incredible luck as ever!

Inside I not only found warmth, hot victuals and a distinct lack of wind, but I unexpectedly spotted a familiar face. I ordered my food and said ‘Hi’ to a colleague from long ago. We struck up a conversation and with true kindness he and his partner announced that they lived in St Monan’s (my destination) and asked if I would like to stay the night. I gratefully accepted because I had nowhere booked and transport back to Edinburgh from small Fife villages is hard to find on a Sunday evening. I declined a lift though, and made my way back out into the slightly rainy and dull afternoon (3.15pm) with a cosy tummy and glowing heart.

img_20180121_152423
From the evocatively named Ruby Bay (pink sand), Fife, Scotland
img_20180121_153734 (1)
Elie Ness Lighthouse Tower, Fife, Scotland
img_20180121_154000
Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower, Fife, Scotland

There’s a great story here about Lady Janet’s sea bathing!

img_20180121_162447
Ruins, Fife Coastal path, Scotland

The last stretch is full of interest : a lighthouse and a palace, two castles (Newark and St Monans), divers ruins and a famous church (but it was too dark for a photo).

IMG_20180121_154408
Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower, Fife, Scotland

With wilder, darkening waves pounding I walked through pinkish bracken and I approached St Monans around the fields, arriving as the day the darkened at 5pm.

img_20180121_163511

What a pretty village! I was really taken with it.

img_20180121_164328
Here is the wellie garden, St Monans, Fife
img_20180121_164341
Typical architecture with outside steps up to pink doorwars, St Monans, Fife
img_20180121_164608
My camera cannot cope with the dark, but the colours and reflections were worth reproducing here. St Monans, Fife

I am told that the East Pier Smokehouse is well worth a visit, however it is shut between October and June. There is famous parish church and a Heritage Collection. The hotel I saw was also shut in the winter months so it’s a good thing there are air bnb’s nowadays and Margaret’s sounded great when I made enquiries. I was lucky and stayed with J and J whom I had fortuitously met earlier and had a lovely evening and comfy bed.

I travelled back by car with J to Kirkcaldy station across the flat lands as dawn revealed another wintry sky. Then we got the train to Waverley Station in Edinburgh. To get back to Edinburgh from St Monans by bus would cost £10 with a change at Leven and it takes ages.

IMG_20180122_083643

Sometimes when I walk I crunch, sometimes my footsteps thud on the grass or whisper on sand. Occasionally there is a rumble of small stones or snap of stick, splinter of ice, even hollow bump into the peat or squelch because of the wetness. These things I notice as I walk the paths of Fife early in the year.

Fife Coastal Path – East Wemyss to Lundin Links

Saturday 20th January 2018.

Fife Coastal Path, Scotland. Stage 3, East Wemyss to Lundin Links 11.5kms. 3.5 hours.

Stagecoach Edinburgh Bus Station (also other starting points) to East Wemys (there’s only one stop) £10 single, very prompt, 2 hours.

IMG_20180120_095711 (640x480)

‘Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished’ – Lao Tzu (Thanks to Jackie Jarvis for reminding me of this from the Tao Te Ching https://inpursuitofslow.com/books/

I am trying to maintain my strength for the longer walks in Spring carrying a heavy rucksack, plus I wanted to be able to write in the evenings, so I took my old laptop. (Thanks to Gustaf at the Wild Geese Sangha for the prompt to do less kilometres (after all, it is winter). The Walk Highlands website lists these stages as short anyway.  Just as I left I spotted my new baton. I have been training myself to act on these intuitive moments so took it just in case, and that turned out to be a good move.

Before the bus stop I was already feeling the familiar relaxing bubble of excitement in my tummy knowing I would be walking all weekend. It just seems to suit me, this particular pursuit!

A woman who also had a pink rucksack was waiting and we struck up a conversation. She was travelling to Carlisle to present her PhD on lichen (she works at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens). I mentioned a good novel about botany and moss where many of the characters spend a great deal of time on their knees at ground level. ‘The world had scaled itself down into endless inches of possibility,’ (Elizabeth Gilbert’s The Signature of All Things).

IMG_20180120_150721 (480x640)
Snow on the ground and the sea to my right as I walked east to west.

When walking I become fascinated by the small things and in the dark morning the pavements were sparkling with ice. After yesterday’s amber weather warning I did wonder if it was perhaps foolhardy, but being used to solo mountain treks and the fact that this track is never far from a conurbation it seemed worth starting. And the birds were in full voice and the Edinburgh skyline was very pretty. I tried to meditate on the journey but was itching to start so it seemed to take a very long time. Then again, crossing the Firth of Forth at sunrise was special and the views through the (sadly darkened) coach windows were spectacular.

IMG_20180120_084256 (640x480)
As I made my way down from the primary school in East Wemyss to the sea, past a dainty church in a snowy graveyard, the sun was dim behind soft cloud cover. Then gaps revealed patches of blue sky and they were reflected in the sea. I had arrived, back on the Way, soft snow puff and crunch cold ice under my feet, clean air in my nostrils, starlings arguing, and street with names like ‘Back Dykes’.

IMG_20180120_102132 (640x480)

Seagulls fought over fish in mid air, gravestones were silhouetted up on the hill, and industrial reminders lay ahead cheek by jowl with more recent wind turbines.

IMG_20180120_103658 (480x640)
Thanks to the black clad man (with identically coloured dog) who rather reluctantly helped me get my water bottle into the side pocket of my rucksack. Some of the path is along the route of the old railway.

The sun continued to shine and the snow sparkled. The gorse’s corn kernals glowed, and soon the first steep steps ascended and descended with Macduff’s Castle at the top. I took a détour to visit the caves.

IMG_20180120_101703 (480x640)

IMG_20180120_100100 (640x480)
Here was the first of the famous Wemyss Caves with its warning sign which in fact could be ‘dance’ not ‘danger’.

Pigeons cooed as they flapped in and out of the doo (dove) holes in the second cave.

Soft stone tones – rose, gold, pale pewter – and a low winter sun threw my shadows.

IMG_20180120_102541 (640x480) (640x480)
Carvings – old and new – in these Neolithic caverns.

IMG_20180120_102529 (640x480)

Although there were seriously snowy hills behind me, underfoot was variously green and white depending on the shade. It was quiet here, well, except for the birds which sqwarked and twittered and ‘arrgh-ed’ and trilled. Indeed, they cawed and cheep cheep cheeped, just like they are supposed to.

IMG_20180120_102156 (480x640)
Instead of retracing my steps as directed, I took a left past this tree.

Macduff’s Castle – from the 14th century – is supposed to be haunted by the ‘Grey Lady, Mary Sibbald. According to Wikipedia, Randolph Wemyss was a descendant of Macduff, as well as the local laird and mine owner.

IMG_20180120_100909 (480x640)

IMG_20180120_101806 (480x640)
Matching: the monument above, and more caves below.
IMG_20180120_101102 (480x640)
Is this the name of my true-love-to-be?

A robin sat silently and showed off his orange breast in the sunshine. He was camouflaged perfectly with the orange pink stone.

Out to sea were the Bass Rock (its puffins too small to be seen), oil riggs, and Berwick Law, the only high ground on that stretch of the opposite shore. Land and sea birds’ voices competed.

IMG_20180120_101457 (640x480)

As soon as I zipped my camera in my pocket, out it had to come again because it was all just so bonny.

IMG_20180120_100601 (480x640)
The Fife Coastal Path logo, found all along the way.

Helpful hint: zip up your pockets every single time in case you lose something vital and have to go back to search.

I felt extremely happy, and even nervous Hugo (the little grey dog who waited for me to go past and made a snorty sneezing noise) could not change that. I noted that, like pregnant tummies, everyone pats dogs when they are out walking. They are so abundant that I chose the name ‘Walking Without A Dog’ for my Scottish blog (rather than ‘Walking Without A Donkey’ which is the overall title of my foreign ones) because I do not have one.

Of course the snow throws everything into brilliant relief, the blackbird in the leaf-less branches is always visible at this time of year, and the old nests are exposed. Brambles tickled as they caught my hand. The fields curved smoothly. To the left side were rooves of distant dolls houses which frontages I fancied I could open for spying on the family inside. A jut of headland was beyond, with its black foundation below and green lawn layer on top: Buckhaven. Gentle steps were sensible because it was very slippy in places.

IMG_20180120_104456 (640x397)

Remember to turn right here, as instructed. Do not go straight on as I did (where there were diggers and, ‘aargh!’ traffic noise) and then have to go back….

IMG_20180120_105458 (640x480)
…or you will miss Buckhaven harbour and brae where ‘the hawthorn supports 200 different species of insects’ alone (from the info board).

My kneecaps were bothering me and I had to take my gloves off to relieve the sweatyness, but just look at the view!

IMG_20180120_110641 (480x640)
Looking back towards Wemyss.

There were higgeldy piggeldy boats houses, and copious signs telling you about the bay and fishing. St James stood in someone’s front garden and welcomed me .

IMG_20180120_111159 (480x640)
A reminder of my caminos (Spanish for Way) to Santiago de Compostella where some of the remains of St James are interred.

They are really trying hard in Buckhaven, providing a good range of services: bank, post office, shops, bakery/cafe and lots of butchers along its wide main road (initially made like that for the tram lines which were lifted in 1936 to make way for the more popular buses), though much was shut on this Saturday morning.

IMG_20180120_112034 (480x640)
An impressive mural dates from the 2013 Book Week, ‘Reading is a form of transport. Everyone is entitled to a travel pass.’
IMG_20180120_112828 (640x480)
Yellow and pink icing for the apple turnovers, and yes, those really are baked beans on top of the pies. Traditional Scottish fare!

When I emerged, fortified by my cup of tea, I smelled not just fresh air but snow too. There is a Heritage Trail here and one oval sign explains that the community orchard was started from apple cores thrown by the Globe cinema goers (1921-50s) or railway travellers (1888-1955).

IMG_20180120_112500 (640x480)

At the far edge of Buckhaven the Wellesley Colliery, or what remains of it, can be found, looking really rather grand and shiny in this weather.

IMG_20180120_115551 (640x480)
The surprisingly beautiful structures of the disused Wellesley colliery which has been ‘closed for years’ said the woman I asked. Great giants are toppled, sharing the space with an example of the newer wind turbine (here owned by ORE, Offshore Renewable Energy, a not-for-profit company and used for research purposes). There is no trace of the even earlier salt panning industry.

Even these few left-over buildings dominate, and it’s not hard to understand the devastation that Margaret Thatcher’s government wreaked when they were closed in the 80s. (A similar situation in Northern England is well portrayed in the film Billy Elliot directed by Stephen Daldry.) Tellingly, as so many died underground, Denbeath Funeralcare is over the road.

There are rows of the sorts of cottages which have become expensive in today’s housing market, similar to ones in Granton which we thought must have been for the workers but no, they would not have been able to afford them. They were actually for the bosses, or at least the ‘middle management ‘.

IMG_20180120_120108 (594x640)
There is a molten candlewaxy smell and a factory has replaced the mine with something more chemical. As I round the corner the sign on the warehouse says ‘Fab’ and tower blocks and roundabouts are the order of the day.

The ice is starting to melt, trickling down drains, and my stick taps on the bare pavement. People complain about this stage of the walk because of the long stretch through towns and villages, but it’s alive with the real history of the area and not too ugly in this sunny moment. Next: Methil with its docks.

There was a slight warmth when I was in the open sun, meanwhile Stagecoaches roared back and forth along the main road when I got near it (rarely, thank goodness). My body called my attention again, a niggling right shoulder, but it was nothing serious.  The sidewalks were very icy here so I walked on the grassy verges to avoid tumbling. The Tap Haus wall sports the slogan, ‘get yer juice!’ It seems we are a nation who treats alcohol as juice, which might explain our problem. (In the late 19th century, the Wellesley Pub was run on Gothenburg Principles to limit excessive drinking.)

I easily amused myself during the long stretch of tarmac by likening splodges on the ground to jellyfish, and swinging my cane like Mr Banks in the happy bit of the film, Mary Poppins. Everywhere looks good in the sun, even the garish pink house with the gold railings, and I enjoyed the cacophony of sparrows (if that is not the collective name then it certainly should be).

Then, over the river to Leven.

IMG_20180120_123422 (480x640)
The River Leven beside which a gentleman was rooting around intently with a long branch.

In Spain they have elaborate art work and enormous signs in the middle of roundabouts. In Edinburgh they are hoping to turn Picardy Place roundabout into a ‘gateway to the World Heritage Site’. Here there is a miniscule advert for safety boots and footwear.

DSC_0026 (640x360)
Ribera del Guadiama.

‘Leven Welcomes You’ with its three steeples set against the decent sized, snow covered Largo Law (hill). The tall chimney mentioned in the directions I was using had indeed disappeared. At 12 noon I felt the first sign of weariness. A spider-legged, hooded youth wafted past in a cloud of strong aftershave, and then I was finally back to bingo and beach. I found myself disapproving of a man smoking in a car with a baby in the back, and my back was aching. It was not a proper hiking backpack having no upper strap, and that was where I was feeling it, at the top vertebrae. I had to pay 30p for the toilet and kids were screaming relentlessly in the neighbouring Action Centre. Ah, see my mood? I must be hungry.

IMG_20180120_130507 (480x640)
The azure sky mimics the sea. Can you spot the upturned shopping trolley?

The further I went from the town, the more the landscape became sand, stones and the sound of lapping waves. Really it did! There was a reassuring briny odour as I traipsed 1.5 kms of strand, which made up for the caravan park’s monotonous green cabins.

IMG_20180120_131449 (640x366)
Unattractive but perfectly situated holiday park.

There were none of the sea stacks of stage 2, nor the rock formation; simply uninterrupted sandy heaven, and watching other people’s dogs caper in the waves.

The sea was leaving its tracks behind.

Walking across these sands towards Bass rock was like my entry to Mont Saint Michel.

IMG_20180120_133046 (480x640)
It would be damned romantic if…

IMG_20180120_125608 (640x480)

IMG_20180120_140459 (640x480)
Despite the time of year, I slept here on the grass because it was too early to go to the air bnb, and I had my snack, the sun warm on my face.

Walking back in the direction from whence I had come, all was quiet inside. Only  occasional practicalities took me from my pacing: a runny nose in the wind, the water bottle falling out as I crawled under the fence, or a song from yesterday’s choir repeating in my head.

Must I take short cuts? At this time of the day I often find that I do, yes. I was following google maps to my destination. Surely, I thought, I can just go across here instead of all the way round? So I crossed Lundin Links with its soft feminine curves of virgin snow.

IMG_20180120_145653 (480x640)
The ends of the bunkers which faced south were greener, each with its own rake.

But three times I came to a dead end. Luckily, not only was everywhere interesting and beautiful to survey, but I discovered unexpected gems: Silverburn Park with its hidden garden, pebble walled paths and frozen pond.

IMG_20180120_152049 (640x480)
Through the windows to a winter wonderland.
IMG_20180120_152555 (480x640)
What a contrast to the beach and the snow scenes!
IMG_20180120_152623 (640x480)
The iced pond made for a strange perspective between the trees catching the sun.

When I found myself stuck, I asked folk the way: two men with far-away dogs and hi-vis jackets were helpful, indeed one gave me a ‘bunk-up’ across the cemetery wall, despite my boots and his bare hands.

IMG_20180120_154113 (480x640)
Scoonie Cemetery in Leven.

My host had texted me ‘I wouldn’t advise walking up the main road there’s no paths and can be a fast road. There’s a glen called “letham glen” it’s lovely ! Walk though the glen and up the hill. Turn right and follow the path and your here!’ (sic). The best air bnb owners share local knowledge and are helpful like this.

The brilliantly named Bawbee Bridge was near my penultimate destination:  Letham Glen where six grown lads were engaged in a lively snowball fight while their broad Fife accents overlapped excitedly. Initially the Glen is all about children playing, but deeper into the woods there are quaint stone bridges over babbling burns and although there was no real wildness on this hike, here was some ‘Deep peace of the running wave..’ (Gaelic Blessing set to music by Rutter. See below).

IMG_20180120_154801 (480x640)
Sledging on a Saturday afternoon.
IMG_20180120_155310 (480x640)
The bronze light set a backdrop for this wintry gentleman.

IMG_20180120_155002 (480x640)

Largo Law (hill) is a permanent feature along this part of the Fife Coastal Path and in the late afternoon, as I negotiated today’s final stage, it was on fire.

IMG_20180120_160458 (640x480)
You can just see Largo Law in the distance in the stunning bronze light from the setting sun.

I stayed at the Country Farm House with Caroline and Will, Lexie the dog and Lucy the cat, and they could not have been more kind and obliging. The evening meal and breakfast were home prepared, and the bread and butter pudding with Baileys and After Eights was delicious. Look out for Caroline’s cuisine at Ladybank Golf Club where she has recently won the catering contract. I highly recommend their facilities, and if you own and love horses you will be in heaven because you can bring them for a sleep-over here and take them for beach rambles while you are treated to an idyllic rural break.

Rutter’s setting of the Gaelic Blessing, ‘Deep peace of the running wave to you..’ http://www.amaranthpublishing.com/GaelicBlessing.htm

I have just come across this: ‘Walking clears your mind and feeds your soul #inpursuitofslow

Walk Highlands website: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fife-stirling/east-wemyss-lower-largo.shtml

Wild Geese Sangha (meditation group), Edinburgh https://wildgeesezen.org/

Review of The Signature of All Things https://www.theguardian.com/books/2013/oct/06/signature-all-things-elizabeth-gilbert-review

Ladybank Golf Club, Annsmuir, Ladybank, Fife, KY15 7RA. Tel: +44 (0) 1337 830725 Email: info@ladybankgolf.co.uk

Horse to Home Holidays facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Horse-to-Home-Holidays-184466762083175/

Scotland – Fife Coastal Path stage 2

A dander along the Fife coast from Burntisland at low tide 9.15am to East Wemyss at high tide 3.45pm. Twelth Night – 6th January 2018.

400px-FIFE_&_KINROSS_SHIRES_Civil_Parish_map
Fife, the shape of a (Scottish) terrier’s head.

Fantastically well signposted (almost impossible to get lost if you pay attention). Distance: 19.5 kilometres (12.25 miles). Duration: the website said 4.5 – 5.5 hours, but if you have short legs and are out of practice (or both), and want to stop to take photos and have a cup of tea etc, then it takes longer. I took the 8.39 train from Edinburgh.

IMG_20180106_092422 (640x368)
Burntisland with pink buildings to rival Austria (almost).

 Terrain: mostly flat: there are a few sets of steps (ascending and descending), and a couple of sloping roads (out of Kirkcaldy, for example). There is some tarmac, but it is chiefly sand, grass, small stones and once (I am sure you could avoid it) a great tumble of rocks.

IMG_20180106_095325 (480x640)
In real life the rocks are actually black, so contrasting with the yellow gorse or whin.
IMG_20180106_100234 (640x480)
The tips of the sharp grasses are prickly in these ‘botanically important areas’.
IMG_20180106_110125 (640x480)
Ringlets of old man’s beard.

Linking the Forth and Tay Estuaries (Kincardine to Newburgh), the Fife Coastal Path runs for over 183km (117 or 105 miles according to different websites), through the varied landscapes of Fife. The route links some of Scotland’s most picturesque former fishing villages as well as the home of golf – St Andrews with its ancient University. In between are miles of golden beaches, attractive woods and nature reserves but the route also threads its way through industrial towns such as Kirkcaldy and Leven. History is everywhere, from the winding gear of the former coalyards (see below) to ruined castles and the pictish and prehistoric carvings in the Wemyss caves. (Mostly taken from Walking Highlands, with info from Fife Coastal Path and Birding the Fife Coast).

IMG_20180106_100923 (640x480)
Stunning beaches along the Fife Coastal Path.

I started at Burntisland, opposite my house on the other side of the Firth of Forth, regularly spied through my binoculars on a sunny day. A ferry used to run between the two.

IMG_20180106_091516 (640x480)
Too high for me to get a readable photo: it says ‘..station opened 1847..with a ferry to Granton (my home harbour) and thence by train to Edinburgh. The world’s first train ferry service started on this route in 1850. It ended in 1890 when The Forth Bridge opened with a new link line to Burntisland…’.

A few minutes from the station, the path begins near the links (links are green spaces in Scottish places, often on the dunes and used for golf courses). Straight down to the beach, I was going briskly to keep warm and happy to watch the dogs, spot shells (razors which I tasted for the first time in Santiago de Compostella at the end of the Camino Frances, cockles and the odd strongbow can.) All who passed wished a good morning, and that it was.

IMG_20180106_100131 (640x480)
A range of shells on the beach.

The path runs adjacent to the railway with its occassional very short trains and fumes punctuating my rural idyll. A bubble of joy was in me to be setting off on a hike again.

IMG_20180106_111513 (640x480)
The railway line, always there beside the path, glimpsed through the railings.
IMG_20180106_094020 (640x480)
The sun’s slanting rays emanated through the clouds – what a great antidote to doing the end-of-year accounts!

I chose the low tide route across the grass littered with droppings (deer? rabbit?). There was a sea odour; a raven with its dipped, dull head; the plaintive cry of the gull and peeping of the oyster catcher. Ahead was an obstacle and, immediately, boulders to clambering over. That definitely raised the body temperature. Anyone who follows my exploits knows this is business as usual, and it did not last long.

IMG_20180106_094737 (640x480)

IMG_20180106_100423 (640x480)
The scarlet gash of a kite: what a brilliant Saturday morning de-stressor from a sedentary day job.

After pacing the pavements of the city the sand was oh-so-soft away from it all.

IMG_20180106_101058 (480x640)

IMG_20180106_105203 (640x480)
Here was Petycur Caravan Site whose windows catch the sun so I can see them from my sitting room.

There is the constant background sound of the most attractive white horses rolling onto the edge of the beach. My peace is interrupted by a train or car, but otherwise I can focus on the wonderful sands and the marks of the dog who had been there before me. With a quietening in my belly I surveyed the uncreased sands.

IMG_20180106_100923 (640x480)

Kinghorn is the first of the dainty villages with its 5 or 6 boats tucked into the first harbour. Round the corner is a second with a lifeboat and pretty church. There is a smell of chips as I pass the cafe and another jolly greeting from those sitting outside at 10.40am.

IMG_20180106_103907 (480x640)
What a fantastic place for a holiday here in Kinghorn with its beach side bed and breakfasts – all pretty and welcoming.

 

 

It turns out that you can skip the ‘A’ road mentioned in the directions as I did, and get all the way here by beach, but you would miss the monument to Alexander III ‘who fell to his death nearby in the 13th century.’ (Fife Coastal Path website – see below for the link). The sand along the coast is black as well as golden, a reference to the once profitable, now plundered coal seams of this area. I glory in the muted palette of winter, similar but different to the Yorkshire Dales I walked 2 weeks ago.

IMG_20180106_103202 (640x480)

IMG_20171225_143025 (640x480)
Comparing the gentle winter colour scheme of the Yorkshire Dales…
IMG_20180106_125203 (640x480)
….with Fife.
IMG_20180106_145643 (640x480)
‘Black Gold’ (coal dust), a remnant of the past industry.

Out at sea are the ubiquitous oil riggs and red bottomed tankers. On land the municipal toilets are shut for the season. Perhaps, I wonder, I should have paid 30p at the last ones. There are lots of folk around so I cannae squat now!

IMG_20180106_150531 (640x480)
Two oil rigs and a tanker inbetween.

The path is well waymarked but I get very easily waylaid by views and ideas when I walk. The path moves away from the coast here under the aforementioned railway into a playpark, and through a little tunnel. It was nose-running weather but as per normal I was lucky – no rain and not too much wind though it was very cold even when the sun came out in the last third of the day.

Men from the train passed, going in the opposite direction. I stood aside and one kind one said ‘we are making you walk on the grass, go on, you go past’. What a sweetie.

The increasingly beautiful scenes meant I just could not stop taking photos. My weight felt heavy on the ground now and it was lovely. More tramping than skittering as at the start. Here was the promised rugged coastline with its horizontal striations of gentle sandstone, pillowed volcanic rock, columnar jointing of basalt and great hunks of black volcanic dolerite (a reminder of an eruption of The Binn volcano over 300 million years ago).

IMG_20180106_233710 (640x401)

IMG_20180106_113217 (640x480)

 A gentle incline led to a sunny path and the blue sky was reflected in the rock pools below. Real crowds of ramblers went by, and whereas the local people were friendly to a one, those from Edinburgh were not all, especially the women.

IMG_20180106_111950 (480x640)
There was Seafield Tower in the distance.

The yellow lichen contrasted with its grey and brown hosts, and I remembered the Judi Dench documentary about trees from last night, a new sense of awe at the immense benefit of the connected aspects of nature. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09jxnv4

I listened to the unknown, feathered singer of dee doh dee doh dee doh dee doh deee.

IMG_20180106_112255 (640x480)
And Seafield Tower close up.

This tall beige and tan, broken 16th century castle with its 5 feet thick walls, stands above the beach where happy hounds bounce in the sea air, and there was a long legged, curved-beaked curlew at the waters edge. The chunks of rock cubes and parallelograms, the regular flat-topped mini cliffs of Dover, and occasional man-made stacks of concrete were all fascinating.

IMG_20180106_112951 (640x480)
Kirkcaldy was ahead with its three blocks of flats showing up their white frontages in the sun.

This poster was on the outside toilet wall and wholeheartedly subscribed to during my wanderings. Unless, that is, I have given Shiatsu, when a deep sense of relaxation is a happy thing to have left.

IMG_20180106_104148 (640x480)
‘Leave nothing but footprints!’

Walking over bumpy terrain is reputedly good for the brain. http://mxplx.com/meme/2622/  Plus, the inner ear has to constantly re-balance. My legs are starting to feel heavier but I am so glad this will not end soon.

I pass through the three quarters circular metal gate (a contrast to the stiles with tiny wooden ones in the Yorkshire Dales) into the Seafield carpark where there is a woman in her nighty and white ankle socks walking her dog. A man with purple lips at the end of his constitutional makes pithy conversation: ‘That’s a good walk that is’, he said, when I regaled him with my route, ‘I was a member of the Ramblers. Walked all over Britain we did.’ He corrected my pronunciation of Wemyss (say ‘weems’). ‘There’s a cafe in Dysart’ (say ‘die sut’) he went on ‘and toilets’. A fount of local information he was.

IMG_20171225_144929 (640x480) (640x480)
Each tiny stile also has a mini gate to pass through in the Yorkshire Dales.
IMG_20180106_114101 (640x480)
Whereas in Fife, it was this more mechanical one.

I made it to ‘The lang toun’ (meaning, the long town, which Kirkcaldy is known as) just after midday. There was the Raith Rovers football ground and a Morrisons. It is a large sprawl with inevitable industrial outskirts, space-age covered esplanade seats, and a weird public sculpture. I popped into Lidl for chocolate and a free pee where I saw what rosy cheeks I had developed from the wind. Then the way resumed by the really extreme sea wall of white concrete blocks which was a project for relieving unemployment in the Great Trade Depression of 1922/23. The Link Sands were softer, again, for my feet but with a smell of, what was it, chutney?

 

 

 

The Hutchison’s flour mill is like our very own Chancellot Mills in Newhaven, Edinburgh, and rows of  birds made a dotted silhouette on its roof like decorative braid. There was an unpleasant, burning plastic smell. Past ‘Ultimate Reptiles’ and hideous car parks I went, past the derelict Nairn Floor Cloth Manufactory (1847) which facade hid a modern place to learn fighting, and steeply up past the Nether Street cemetery into the spacious Ravenscraig Park with its Three Tree Legend. Apparently the three trees were planted over the graves of the trio of Sinclair brothers who, mistaking each other for robbers, killed the other. The dark shot of the nearby castle (built by James II for his wife Mary of Guelders) and bay behind was suitably sinister.

IMG_20180106_123224 (640x480)

IMG_20180106_124230 (640x480)

IMG_20180106_123334 (640x480)

IMG_20180106_124633 (640x480)
A Gothic looking, ‘Northanger Abbey’ type castle.

At the top of a flight of steps is a rather gruesome fishy poem by C W Berry (1927 – 1998). Here is the last stanza:

‘The gear’s aboard      reclining in the blood.     The slaughter’s done –     The silver’s down below.’

IMG_20180106_124840 (480x640)

There was an option here to go by the beach instead of following the signs, but this would have been missed. The sun’s rays splayed out over ripples of the rounded bay and in the distance the hills of Edinburgh showed in varying shades of grey, all lit up behind a path of silver sea.

IMG_20180106_125757 (640x480)

Stone art comes next, situated amongst foot-crunching beech husks. It is by Kenny Munro and features the poem Stanes by Duncan Glen (who ‘fittingly ascribes his achievements to his wife Margaret of 51 years’) with ‘Scots words [which] allude to the many stone features around us.’ (Quotes from the information sign nearby). There is also a doocot (dovecot) which provided the king and his court with meat.

IMG_20180106_130107 (480x640)

IMG_20180106_125426 (640x480)
The castle doocot (dovecot).

Next are a series of little coves divided by what look like noble curved walls. Many are  entered through tumbledown arches and are seriously narrow. Here are what one of Judi Dench’s experts called arboroglyphs (a great word for man-made tree carvings). As directed, I take a right at the four forks and trip under the railway to Dysart, ‘claustrophobic’ (as described by the Walk Highlands website) or idyllic, depending on your outlook. Here I saw ancient mariners in their wee huts flying the Scottish ensign; a handsome harbour master’s house (much mentioned as it is the official Fife Coastal Path headquarters but shut today despite the number of hikers and it being a weekend).

 

 

 

 

IMG_20180106_131148 (480x640)
Tree hieroglyphics.
IMG_20180106_132314 (640x480)
Fishermen busying themselves in and out of their huts.

There is a thunder of waves now, and another sculpture made up of wooden uprights in pastel blues and greens of the sea when seen in different lights. A herring gull with a gruesome beakful stands on a wall. A cute looking baby seal stranded on the beach was causing a right to-do.

IMG_20180106_132611 (640x480)
Modern scultpure, Dysart harbour.

 

Further on were many slightly incongruous, what I call Narnia lamp posts; gleaming white-washed stepped gabled houses; and I finally got my cup of tea which was a mere £1.50. It came with a sugary round of traditional Scottish shortbread, and I bought  a piece of tablet (a sort of hard fudge made here – popular and delicious if you have a sweet tooth) for my daughter.

IMG_20180106_133702 (640x480)

IMG_20180106_134607 (640x480)
Tea at the Timeless Tearooms.
IMG_20180106_141826 (480x640)
Dysart Tolbooth and Town House: erected in 1576, marking the Burgh’s medieval civic centre. It was originally partly a prison and still retains prisoner’s graffiti.
IMG_20180106_132036 (640x480)
Dysart harbour.

The next part of the path was sodden and my waterproof boots let the cold fluid in. The last remnant of the local coal mine has been left on this part of the Coastal Path as a reminder.

IMG_20180106_143220 (480x640)
The Frances Colliery Memorial, dedicated to the men and women who ‘wrocht’ (worked) there. Known locally as ‘The Dubbie’ because it stood above the Dubbie Braes (a brae is a steep bank or hillside).

Down a flight of steps I joined the very attractively stacked West Wemyss, and on the way in I passed another castle, this time with blue conical Chinese-looking hats atop its turrets. Behind the walls was an impressive hidden garden glimpsed through cracks. In the misty distance I spied Berwick Law (a low, lone peak in East Lothian- too far away for the camera to pick it up).

IMG_20180106_145133 (640x480)
West Wemyss beyond the magnificent sandstone boulders. The gulls breasts, like waiters’ bibs, caught the sun.

IMG_20180106_145245 (640x480)

 

The area has been decorated with lottery money and spring bulbs are starting to push upwards.

IMG_20180106_150654 (480x640)
Next time I plan to visit the Community Pub.

The tide was now crashing against the rocks and on the shingled and seeweed-covered shore there were more wonderful pinky orange rocks (colour-matched in the clouds). The words ‘gentle’ and ‘benign’ came to mind as I enjoyed their appearance in the glowing late afternoon sun. It was really so very pleasant.

IMG_20180106_145930 (640x480)
The Belvedere Miner’s Institute and Reading Room. Here you can see the same gorgeous stone (above) used for building West Wemyss.
IMG_20180106_152052 (480x640)
A coven of black cormorants, one with its familiar, jagged outstretched wings gathered at the end of the pier (blurry with the zoom).

IMG_20180106_150417 (640x480)

At the end of the day I enter East Wemyss, the home of Jimmy Shand (1908 – 2000) one of Scotland best known musicians (think ceilidh jigs and The Bluebell Polka).  you tube link

Do not turn off the path as soon as you arrive. Instead, stay on until you find Back Dykes (as I did not) on your left. At the end of that road turn left onto Main Street and then take an immediate right onto School Wynd. The bus stop is past the Primary School on the same side of the A955 High Road. If you are not sure, everyone is friendly and helpful, so ask.

IMG_20180108_144840 (640x336)
East Wemyss Primary School.

On the Stagecoach bus it took 15 minutes to get to Kirkcaldy, where it took me 3 hours to walk, and I drove home into the sunset, crossing the new Forth Road Bridge as the moon rose.

Fife 2 2017-02-20 006

Useful websites/information:

In case it is of use: for this cold January walk I wore long-legged thermals under thin jersey trousers with an elasticated waist (easy to pull up and down quickly when needed), my double layered walking socks (invaluable for avoiding blisters), a vest top, cotton long-sleeved blouse (better for the sweatiness), under a walking hoodie and jacket with a hat, gloves and scarf. I was cool enough what with all the movement, but also protected from the weather. Oh, and I had my sturdy boots on (thanks again, Sabine).

Scotrail. £6.70 for a one-way ticket from Edinburgh to Burntisland (it takes 35 mins). There is a toilet but no refreshments on the train.  https://www.scotrail.co.uk/

Stagecoach buses: £10 one way, £10.70 for all day and any bus. Buy on the bus or via the app. The journey takes 1.5 hrs Edinburgh to Burntisland with a change at Inverkeithing (which is why I took the train in the morning). In the evening the 16.03 from East Wemyss arrived at 17.15 in Edinburgh, and there were heated seats, wifi, a place to charge your phone, and a toilet. All 3 drivers I spoke to, though helpful, were very abrupt.

Timeless Tearooms, Dysart near the Tolbooth (no website). Not perfectly clean but there is a decent toilet, the staff were very friendly and helpful (she lent me a device so I could charge my phone while I drank). It was full of locals having a chat and crocheting, and there was a nice atmosphere and a good cup of tea. There are other cafes open in the summer season.

IMG_20180106_093732 (640x480)

 http://www.fifecoastalpath.co.uk/  This is the official Fife Coastal Path website, with the circular blue, yellow and green sign which is used to show the way. It has interesting facts but no detailed directions so I did not find it as useful as the Walk Highlands one below. Also the 2 websites divide the walk into different stages.

https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/fife-stirling/fife-coastal-path.shtml Walk Highlands has much more useful information. You have to register and they ask you to say which is your favourite mountain etc, but they have good downloads of maps. The directions for this walk are beside photos and so had to be cut and pasted into a hand-made doc/pdf (which I am happy to send you (www.tamsinlgrainger@gmail.com).

Geology http://www.burntisland.net/geology.htm

Beautiful birdsong https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/features/our-guide-to-birdsong

Some information about Duncan Glen  http://www.scottisharts.org.uk/1/artsinscotland/scots/archive/poemjunejuly2006.aspx