The Fife Coastal Path (FCP) is 117 miles (188 kms) long. It runs between Kincardine Bridge and Newburgh through spectacular beaches, the remnants of the old industrial past (The St Mona’s salt mines, for example), inland through arable land and across many a river.
Below, you can read the important lesson that I re-learned while experiencing this amazing place.
What can you find on the FCP?
Geology, castle ruins, lighthouses and many a golf course line the way so that it is never boring. Traipse through caravan sites, sample scones in tea houses for refreshment and breathe in the clean sea air.
Beautiful bird watching and fascinating natural paths including the Tentsmuir Forest near Leuchars, it also takes you through the historial St Andrews and numerous pretty villages (Pittenweem, Crail and more).
My personal journey
I started at Inverkeithing and popped backwards and forwards from my home in Edinburgh over the course of 14 months, staying at hostels and travelling by local bus and train.
Although not a pilgrimage (the ancient Fife Pilgrim Way is about to re-open) there was learning in it for me: When I set off my aim was to explore the region’s coastline, but I ended with a greater self-knowledge. For me, the stages set by the organisers are too long. I began by setting my own itineraries, according to transport more than anything else, but by the end I realised that one of the important lessons I learned when walking the Camino in Spain had somehow become eroded.
I want my walking to be enjoyable and I am not interested in achieving a certain distance if it means that my body or mind suffers. There is an incredible surge these days in long-distance and gruelling activities (marathon running, Everest scaling etc), but this has never been my impetus. In fact, I went some considerable way towards not instilling this in my children as they were growing up, and have been practicing a life of balance for many years myself.
So, I asked myself as I walked the final two days, how have I found myself going so far this weekend and feeling so hard pressed that I am reduced to tears in one or two places? To some extent it was the pressure of place – the organisers state that there are no facilities on the final stretch for example. However, I had earlier had to leave the path to go and get a bus when it was getting dark, so this is not an impossible feat.
I have a prodigeous imagination and I had knew that I had walked up to and just over 30 kms in Spain sometimes and so assumed I could do it again in this context. What I failed to realise was that I did that in the context of a 30 day walk. I had strengthened and focused myself over time, my only activity was to put one foot in front of another, and I was going along a well trodden path where other back packers were around and facilities specifically laid out for trekkers. In the case of the FCP I was journeying back and forth across the Forth (sorry!) from Edinburgh at weekends. I was working inbetween and was not walking every day.
Staying within my limit
It is true that there must be the ‘challenger’ inside me – I dare say that people who know me would say that I can be competitive, certainly against myself, and in the final weekend of the FCP this determination showed itself. I knew, though, in advance that I could push myself against the odds because I have done that before. What has been more of a difficulty for me this past 2+ years, is to take it easy, to stay within my limit and to be comfortable, not to overstretch or strain, which I somehow learned at an early age.
Well, I have been reminded of that, and I would say that in this busy world it is a good thing for most people to muse on while walking. I am convinced that the ever-forcing, always-reaching way, particularly for the person who already has that natural ability or was bought up in a competitive environment, is much more of a challenge. Indeed, if you are interested in returns, I am sure that it brings a far greater reward than the other way – rewards such as being at peace, acceptance, and living longer.
So, if you are keen to explore this wonderful countryside then play with the start and end points of each day, choose the duration that genuinely suits your body, and find ways to enjoy it without stressing your system as a whole by over doing it.
If this is something which has happened to you, or you have an opinion, please leave a comment. It would be great to have a debate on this subject.
Here are the stages I took
Also in Fife, Aberdour