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/