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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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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.

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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

 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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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!

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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).

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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.

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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
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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.

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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 Magnus Way – final reflections

St Magnus Way – reflections

Reflecting is a vital part of taking a walk. It helps to embed or integrate the walking experiences – where I have been, and what I have learned – in the hope that any changes wrought will last.

Most of all, though, I failed to comprehend that the best things in life aren’t things that are visibly sexy on the surface. They don’t scream for attention, and they rarely invite adrenaline. Rather they come from quiet commitment, respectful engagement, and a love of something greater than yourself.

Design Luck

Where lies the greatest learning?

Before a sitting meditation I start by acknowledging or noting any issues which are bothering me, either to clear my mind, to problem-solve, or create focus. Then I try to simply sit. I have been doing that for years. As a result I sometimes come up with creative ideas, solutions and greater understanding, or at the very least a recognition of patterns of behaviour.

Walking is a kind of meditation and the more I walk, the more I realise it’s the pilgrimage itself which presents the learning – simply by starting, trekking, and getting to the end of it.

I have habits that I try to pretend aren’t there, aren’t really so bad, or that I can’t help. These come to the fore when walking a pilgrimage. It is in the planning and facing of the realities of the land and the practicalities of accommodation and food which bring me face to face with myself.

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A cross by the roadside in Spain (Via de la Plata) with an inscription by Pablo Neruda. May 2017

Is walking pilgrimage synonymous with being religious?

I do not follow a recognised religion. I was christened into the Church of England by my parents and had to learn tracts of the bible overnight for reciting in primary school the next day. Joining in assembly every morning at secondary school was obligatory, and I sang and read lessons during services; went on a Sunday School holiday; and spent years in the Girl Guides where Christianity was important.

I was steeped in it – the tenets of it seem to be in my soul (or my cells). Religion provided me with a moral and ethical language at the time when I was learning to speak, and I have discovered that it is hard to shrug off.

I might be on a mission to get rid of the destructive part of what I was taught in those early years: I was encouraged to feel guilty; it was assumed that I had Original Sin; and I was told that I was bad in my core, like every other human being. Perhaps I take ecumenical walks to give myself the time to recognise the impact of this and to let go of such negatives.

Nowadays I visit churches sometimes, and I certainly respect believers, but I do not take communion. I have read widely, listened and discussed with friends, but I cannot follow a Faith which seems to exclude or criticise people for being the way they are or believing what they do.

So, I do understand why people keep asking me why I walk pilgrimage. After all, historically it was a religious practice.

Thereafter, his (Bruce Chatwin’s) religious faith became subsumed in his nomadic theory: he believed that movement made religion redundant and only when people settled did they need it.

From Nicholas Shakespeare’s article about Chatwin’s visit to Mount Athos.

Why pilgrimage?

This question is asked of Guy Stagg who wrote The Crossway. Personally, he knew why he had set out – it was primarily for his mental health – but he repeatedly asked himself, ‘Why pilgrimage, why not just a nice trek?’ The astonished monks asked him too, as he battled through the alps in the middle of winter. Not having been satisfied with going from London to Canterbury he decided to go on to Jerusalem no less.

Tim Moore in Spanish Steps, Travels with my Donkey asks himself, why he is doing the barmy thing of finding, caring for and walking with a donkey along the camino in Spain when he is not religious.

For me, it is a walk but with added zizz! There is an in-built beginning, middle and end; it’s a project all in itself, and it is so much more than a wander round my local park.

it is essential as a reunion with oneself and with others. It’s almost a phenomenon of resistance: walking does not mean saving time, but rather losing it, making a détour to catch one’s breath!

David le Breton, on the Via Compostella

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Seville, Spain. April 2018

Spirit, soul and understanding

In Chinese Medicine I was delighted to learn that there are a number of different ways to describe the spirit or soul. In Icelandic there are more words for snow than we have in English; in the Orient the parts of ourselves which relate to spirituality, to nature or to our innate relationship with other people are as important as our physical and mental aspects. Although the spirit is amorphous, hard to define, it is something I have a tangible sense of, particularly when I walk in nature. Although sometimes I am content to ‘be’, at other times I become curious and try to understand this puzzle.

When I sit and meditate in my Shiatsu room in Edinburgh I can simultaneously be in Tibet or Japan or China. I don’t know why that is or how it happens and I ponder on these things as I walk. I privately think (well, not so privately now!) that at least one explanation is that I was a nun and a monk in former lives. It is the best explanation I have come across so far.  The feeling I had, for example, when I crossed the sands, barefoot, to Mont Saint Michel was real – I ‘knew’ I had walked there before.

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Walking across the sands to Mont Saint Michel, France May 2017

What is ‘knowing’?

We have discovered in the last 100 years or so that our physical cells destruct and reconstruct, so the ones I have now shouldn’t be the same ones I had when I was a baby, never mind the ones my mother or grandmother had. And yet we know that we share genetic material.

There is a theory that there is a collective knowledge which accumulates from the generations which came before. It could be this wisdom which tells me where to go to find what I seek, and what has got me here in the first place. However, current scientific methodology and outcomes deny me entry into this collective unconscious. It insists that I enter through the portal of logic and I am not sure that logic is the right way into that sort of understanding.

I have an intrinsic sense of the English phrase, ‘I know it in my bones’. My bones are made up of cells and therein lies my genetic material, yet in every text I read about pilgrimage something inside me recognises it. I seem to share the centuries of that collective knowledge, it is familiar.

Osteocytes

* . . . live inside the bone and have long branches which allow them to contact each other …

https://depts.washington.edu/bonebio/ASBMRed/cells.html

There is my DNA and my body. There are my mind and my thoughts. There is my self, my soul, my spirit. In my work and my walking I am enquiring into the connections and (re)discovering dissociations between these.

It’s all about love

The more I listen to myself as I traipse, and to my clients in the Shiatsu room, the more I think that what we all seek is the connection to LOVE. It sounds like a familiar new-age thing to say, it is straight out of the ‘all you need is ….’ 1960s, but I keep coming back to it.

I have a hunger for that ‘something for which we search’. And I know it isn’t just me, because when I tell folk what I do, they say, ‘Oh, I wish I could do that’ or, ‘I have wanted to do that for ages’. Or maybe they too have already started!

I seem to be part of a contemporary pilgrimage movement in which it is possible that we are seeking ways to integrate, comprehend and connect our-selves, personally and in community.

Pilgrims walking the Via de la Plata, Spain; Tourists flocking to the Sacre Coeur in Paris, France.

Restlessness

In addition to all this, I notice a compunction to move on, to save my soul, to find, to seek. The ‘thing’ I am looking for is at the same time inside me right now and just ahead of me. It is that towards which I reach or walk. It isn’t new. Everything I have done in my life so far is part of this instinctive movement towards being purer, ironing out the creases. That’s what I believe we are all doing wherever we are.

I know that inside me lies this knowledge just as tangibly as I know my organs are there. I recognise that I am part of a continuum, a humanity of seekers. What is necessary is the time and space to better hear what is happening, and that is hard to find when I am at home looking after people and my surroundings, doing what most of us do in our adult Western lives.

The answer, it seems, lies in introspection. Without trying to be precious, I go quietly back inside myself when I walk to hear the still, small voice.

But it takes intentional steps to change our pace and encounter one another as pilgrims on a journey along with Way. In our time of frenetic political intensity, within a culture addicted to speed, we need to hear and heed the call of this step by step pilgrimage.. Wes Granberg-Michaelson https://sojo.net/articles/all-are-pilgrims

And so it appears I am descended from the ascetics and hermits of my history. I’m reborn into the liberated 21st century. I am, at one and the same time, part of a shared community -walkers and pilgrims, fellow monks and nuns, a group with shared values – and I am alone for to ponder.

Some things are proving intractable and I expect that’s why I have to keep on doing it!

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Scapa Beach, Kirkwall, Orkney. May 2018

Clean Language practitioner and author of Words That Touch, Nick Pole

Bone cells https://www.sciencefocus.com/the-human-body/why-cant-bones-grow-back/

 

Walking the Camino

Do you want to walk the Spanish Camino?

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Monte Gozo – the last stop before Santiago de Compostella, Spain
What does camino mean?

Camino means both the act of walking and path in Spanish. There are many caminos and they all end up at Santiago de Compostella in the top left hand corner of Spain.

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Traditional pilgrim statue, Finisterre
Where is the camino?

When you hear someone talking about walking the Camino they usually mean that they are following all or part of the east to west route called the Camino Francés, the most popular.

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Following the yellow arrows is easy – you don’t even need a guidebook for the Camino Francés
In what part of Spain is the camino?

This camino starts in France at Saint Jean Pied de Port (Saint John at the foot of the pass) in the Pyrénées-Atlantiques region, crosses the Pyrénées mountains to Roncesvalles, passes through the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia, ending at….. you have guessed it, Santiago. You can start anywhere along this route.

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The final way marker of the Camino Francés, Finisterre, Spain.
Sorry, what is it called again ?

Also known as The Way of St James (Sant (saint) iago (James) in Spanish), The French Way, or The Camino de Santiago, it is 500 miles long (near enough 800kms), and takes between 25 and 50 days hiking. You can also cycle it which is quicker, but that’s another story.

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Free wine – early on the Camino Frances, Spain.
Pilgrimage

The Way is a pilgrimage and those who walk it are traditionally known as pilgrims – peregrinas (female) or peregrinos (males) in Spanish.

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Carrying everything you need. Pilgrim crossing an ancient stone bridge in Galicia, Spain
Pilgrim Passport / scallop shell

Carrying a pilgrim passport or Credencial del Peregrino which gets stamped every time you stop for the night is a great way to keep a record of your hike. Hanging a scallop shell, symbol of Saint James, on the back of your rucksack is a proud way to indicate your sense of belonging to this famous confraternity.

Camino shell and credential
A record and mementoes of my first camino in 2016
Who can walk the camino?

People of all ages and nationalities make this trek and they do so for many reasons: religious (especially Catholic); social (it is a great way of making friends); fitness (sensible walking is good for your breathing, circulation and musculo skeletal system); and personal (at times of major life changes, or for the benefit of their mental health).

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Jolly Spanish house sign
Do I have to walk ALL of it?

You can walk as much or as little as you like. Some go the length and others do sections several times a year or year-by-year. The most popular part is the final 69 miles (111 kms) from Sarria to Santiago which earns you a Compostella, a certificate in Latin. Aficianados come back time and time again.

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A typical rural chapel on the camino, Spain
How far will I walk every day?

I highly recommend that you take it easy, at least to start with, whether you are young or old, male or female. This means 9 – 12.5 miles (15-20 kms) at the beginning. Even if you are fit and feel fabulous in the glorious Spanish sun, beware! You will almost certainly get blisters and a sprain or strain if you walk too far too soon (unless you honestly walk 9 miles (15 kms) or more every day at home in the same shoes or boots which you intend to wear).

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Autumn colours along the Way, Spain
Where do I sleep?

Most pilgrims stay in hostels or albergues. Their facilities vary, but almost all offer a basic bunk in a dormitory for between 5 and 12 euros (£4.50 – £11) per night. You do not have to book in advance, indeed sometimes you cannot. There are also hundreds of hotels and private hostels, usually at a higher cost with greater luxury.

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Statue of Saint James whose relics are supposed to be buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostella
What do I take with me? How much do I have to carry?

Historically everyone would have carried their own clothes and equipment in a backsack. (see What to Put in Your Rucksack). Nowadays there are many companies who offer to transport your stuff from hostel to hostel so that you can walk with a daypack and water only if you choose. You can even hire a donkey!

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walkingwithoutadonkey.com
Food

Many hostels offer a basic breakfast, and shared meals in the evenings can be a highlight. Kitchens, with (or sometimes without) utensils are the norm. There are cafes, bars and restaurants all along the way and at every stop where the food is often delicious and cheap. There are plenty of shops which will sell you most things you need such as suntan lotion or a single egg wrapped cleverly in a paper cone.

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Space for thinking quiet thoughts on the camino in winter
Time of year to walk the camino

All times of the year are good for walking the camino! It is hot in the summer (and crowded); cooler in the Autumn with great natural colours (it can also be really warm but with cold nights); pretty with wild flowers in the Spring (lots of daylight); and peaceful in Winter (though some of the albergues will be shut).

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The wonderful chestnut woods of Galicia
Speaking Spanish. Yo hablo espanol.

It really helps if you speak some Spanish. It’s polite, respectful and fun to be able to communicate with the local people. You are also more likely to be served what you have ordered.

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The familiar sign of the Galician albergues, Spain.
Travel from the UK

You can take a boat to Santander (71.5 / 155 kms to Burgos) from the UK; There is an airport in Santiago itself (from there you can take a bus back east to the place where you want to start walking) itself, as well as La Coruna (82 miles / 132 kms from Sarria). Also, Asturias airport for Leon (from Stansted only), Bilbao (from Edinburgh, Manchester and others) for Pamplona, and Biarritz (33.5 / 54 kms from Saint Jean from Birmingham and others); Overland, there are trains taking 5 hours from Paris (4 per day, approx. 35 euros) and the Eurostar from London is smooth and efficient (around £50 and just over 2 hours). You can also take Alsa (long distance) buses or try Bla Bla Car (car pooling).

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You can tack on an extra 3 days of walking after Santiago and to to the sea at Finistere.

There are many books and online guides to help you find your way, pointing towards places to stay and eat. Gerald Kelly and John Brierley’s are the best known in English. Using this guide means that you will inevitably walk the same steps (stages of the walk) as other English speaking folk and will therefore have pals to walk and share meals with before long. The municipal hostels at the end of these stages are the busiest.

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There is wifi and places to charge your phone at most hostels, Spain
Top tip!

Start slowly, in short stages, do not be too ambitious until the second week, and that way you will avoid going home early and in pain (I have seen this happen many times). It doesn’t matter if other people are going further. You will either catch up with them later or you will find new companions instead, ones who are enjoying the scenery as much as you.

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Misty mornings herald a hot day, Spain

There are also other caminos in Spain: The Via de la Plata which starts in Seville and goes through Salamanca; the Camino Norte along the coast passing through San Sebastian; the Inglés from A Coruña; Mozarabe through Malaga and Cordoba, and many others. Criss crossing this stunning country, the walking is delightful, the people colourful, and the experience one which you will remember for the rest of your life.

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Getting into my stride – the Camino Francés 2016

Have you walked the Camino Francés or any of the other ones in Spain? Leave a comment and share your experience.

Tweedbank Station to Melrose, walking the Scottish Borders

December 2018 – a rail journey from Edinburgh to Tweedbank and a short but stunning walk to Melrose in Roxburghshire, where you will find the ruins of a magnificent Medieval Abbey.

The Tweed River, Scottish Borders.

I took the train to Tweedbank in the Borders – it’s the end of the line. It takes 1 hr and the service runs every half hour. It costs £9.30 with an Over 50s Railcard ( I booked the ticket and renewed the rail card last night online through Scotrail for £15 for the year and it took about 5 minutes). Then it’s a 40 minutes walk each way into the town of Melrose, although that doesn’t allow for what I call ‘astonishment time’ ie time for stopping at intervals because, Oh my, look at that, oh I must take a photo, I just can’t believe it, it’s so gorgeous!

The Tweed River between Tweedbank and Melrose, Scottish Borders.

If you like you can stop reading this now and open YouTube or Spotify and find Fording the Tweed By Savourna Stevenson, so that you have something magical to listen to as you continue reading and imagining you are taking this journey with me.

Choose a day where it won’t go above 2 degrees celsius so that it stays white and hard underfoot. Wear thermals under your normal clothes, plus a coat, woolly hat and cosy gloves.

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Jack Frost was at work overnight.

You know what they say, it’s not the weather that’s the problem in Scotland it’s having the right clothes! Not being able to bend your elbows because you have a thick jumper on under your not-quite-big-enough jacket is a small price to pay for all this beauty.

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You can see Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland hills from the train.

You will travel on the Waverley Route, so called as it refers to Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. Start by facing in the direction you are coming from and sitting on the left. This way you will have wonderful views of Edinburgh – Arthur’s Seat. Ignore the rest unless you enjoy the industrial outskirts of cities.

When you hear the nice lady announce Gorebridge, change seats so that you are looking the way you are going and you can either plump for right or left (the views are equally attractive) or, like me you can leap from side to side because, well because the views are both enticing.

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Expanses of farm land in the sun, Lothian Region, Scotland.

People seem to have it in for Galashiels, so I will blog separately about that. Suffice to say that it is impossible for a whole town to be boring and I know some lovely people who live there and they like it a lot. It has an excellent brass band for a start.

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Leaving Galashiels. Straight out of the 19th century! Scotland.

You will not need a map nor must you look up the way in advance or use your phone. Believe me, if it’s possible to get lost I would have and it’s not. I promise. Sit back and relax. Feast your eyes on the hills, rivers, pretty houses, and majestic trees. Over on one side you will spy the traffic – be pleased that you are not driving, have a nice cup of tea and a comfy seat – you can just gawp.

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From the train window between Edinburgh and Tweedback on a chilly morning, Scotland.

Tweedbank station is new and modern with a massive car park. There is one line, two platforms and everything is properly signposted. There is a bus if you prefer.

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The end of the line, Waverley Route, Tweedbank Station. Waiting areas and ticket machines in the middle.
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Connecting buses, Tweedbank Station, Borders.

Otherwise, walk along the only way you can and straight ahead you will see the cycle path.

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Cycle path from Tweedback Station towards Melrose, Scottish Borders.

Today I was enchanted by the way the hoar highlighted the seed heads, fence posts, and each individual blade of grass.

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The stalks were as tall as me, upstanding!

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You won’t get lost – there are multiple signs: Melrose Link on the left; National Cycle Network on the right.

 

 

There will be aluminium buildings to your left. When the SPPA (Scottish Public Pensions Agency) is ahead, admire their gardens and peer at the poor folk inside working on such a wonderful day. Smile. Then walk to the right of them, following those signs.

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The SPPA gardens.

You will see that you are joining the Southern Upland Way.

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This little walk forms part of the Southern Upland Way.

Very soon there is a road to cross and opposite, through a little wooden gate at waist height, is a path with steps going down and there is the Tweed River, burbling on your left.

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Lowood Bridge over the River Tweed, Scottish Borders.

On the right you may be lucky enough to see two Highland cattle, and if it is cold enough it will look as if they are vaping with condensed air coming sideways simultaneously from both nostrils in opposite directions.

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Highland Cattle, Scottish Borders.
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Can you see him steaming?

I scraped the ice from the tourist board telling about the fantastically named Skirmish Hill where King James V’s men fought those of the Duke of Buccleuch and won. The 14 year old monarch is said to have watched from a safe place.

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Skirmish Hill hidden behind the tree, Scottish Borders.
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Follow the thistle signs!

At the kissing gate go to the left of the houses and you will see signs. Almost immediately continue through the woods to the left. The way goes uphill with a wooden handrail, green with lichen.

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Holy Trinity Church, Melrose, Scotland with the Eildon Hills behind.

The ferns were all flattened by frost as I came into a clearing, going gently downhill. Here I spied more information, this time about fishing: grayling and salmon who make the courageous journey from sea upstream to fresh waters to spawn, often against all odds.

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Honestly, the water did really look like this: shiny and luminous. Rver Tweed, Scotland.

There is a choice coming up:
You can either go past the hedge which is too high to see over (I stood on one of the handy benches to get a shot), ignore the sign and keep on going for a while to see the Chain Bridge, but then turn back and take the Town Centre sign. This will take you between the rugby club (left) and the green park (right)

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Taken on the way back when the sun was lowering, here is the bench mentioned above.

Or, keep walking past the church to the Chain Bridge and around behind the town centre coming in by the road directly to the Abbey.

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The impressive Chain Bridge, near Melrose, Scotland. Ice still on the ground at 11am.

I took the second option because it was signed Abbey Walk.

Everyone is very friendly as are their dogs. A collie politely laid her pink ball at my toes, her nose flat along the ground, eyes expectant. The second time she came back she showed me the tricks she could do with it, presumably as encouragement and to distract from my muddy fingers. The third time, the gap between me and her owner having widened considerably, I informed her this would be the last, before hurling it behind me.

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You can halt to admire the horses on the left, or perhaps the motorbikes on the right. (You can pick up a copy of their free magazine too.)

You will continue onto a small road. Turn left if you wish to visit Newstead.

Hang a right at the main road where the signs mysteriously disappear (sorry, I guess what I wrote above was wrong at this juncture).

Walk past the Abbey Woollen Mill shop, or visit if you like. Carry on by the houses and careful because it’s a busy road, but not for long.

Don’t take the next right (St Marys Road) unless visiting the Harmony Garden. The nearby Georgian Manor House is available for holiday lets.

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Instead go straight on see to see Melrose Abbey on the left, behind the wall. David I founded the first Cistercian Abbey in 1136. The heart of Robert the Bruce is believed to be buried in the chapter house there. The opening hours and link to the Historic Scotland page are at the end of this blog. The bus stop is to the right of the monument.

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Public toilets, Melrose, Scotland.
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The magnificent medieval Melrose Abbey ruins.

The town centre is in the middle of a triangle with a unicorn on an extremely high pillar in its middle. Originally this would have been the Mercat Cross where all typesiof goods wouldhhave been for sale, proclamations were made and criminals punished. The heraldic unicorn is the supporter for the Royal Arms. Here you will find a pharmacy, and library plus The Roman Centre. There are lots of hotels, cafés and nice independent shops, particularly bookshops, partly because the people who live there like to read, and there is also a Book Festival. Explore!

 

 

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The Bookroom at the bottom of Dingleton Road, Melrose, Scotland.
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One of the inscriptions on this window is ‘Outside a dog, a book is a man’s best friend – inside a dog, it’s too dark to read!’ This is the local library, right in the centre of the town where it should be, Melrose, Scotland.

After your browsing and sightseeing, you can return the other way if you did what I did: to get back to the station, walk out of town along the A6091 road with the Co-operative store (food) on your right, and head towards the Melrose Rugby Club. Anyone will be able to point you in that direction as rugby is THE sport in the Borders.

If it’s still light, enjoy the grand trees, admire the mole hills, and tune into the water as you wander.

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A gentleman and I passed the time of day as we recognised each other from the morning when we were then also going in the opposite direction.

Remember that things look different when retracing one’s steps! You must cross two roads and keep both the SPPA and the aluminium buildings on on your right. Keep following the white Scottish thistles and yellow arrow. The final cycle path part is fully lit when it’s darkling (3.30pm at this time of year).

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Birds twitched: robin, chaffinch, blackbird, pidgeon, crow, mallard and a heron unusually crouched by the riverbank. Luckily there were still plenty of berries available for them to feast on.

 

 

Station facilities:
There is a little shop at the station selling hot drinks, snacks and G’n’T. I was reliably informed that passengers usually buy it on the way up in the morning!

Don’t believe all the moaning complaints you might find on the internet. The trains are great. Well, we were only delayed 10 minutes homeward bound. I know I am not a commuter but.. take a leaf out of our school girl days (I took a daily return to school for 7 years) and if the train is cancelled don’t go to work, go for a walk instead. Look around you and inhale.

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Silhouette of a beech tree in its winter glory.

Tweed walking: Peebles, Coldstream etc.

I went there to see friends and give Shiatsu. I might go back so if you live there and would like a session let me know. Many thanks to the Chris (designer of my lovely website) and Penny for lunch and chat.

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Melrose Abbey is open all year round. April to September 9.30 – 17.30; October to March 10 – 16.00.

The McInroy and Wood Lecture featured Robert Peston in 2018.

Samobor, Croatia – a walk

A hike from Samobor through Cerje to Okic and part of the way back. November 2018, Croatia. Approx. 20kms.

Samobor is on the eastern slopes of Samoborsko gorje. Situated 20 kms from Zagreb, the journey takes about half an hour and cost 31 kun there (from the ticket office) and 28 kun return (from the driver) .

Samoborsko gorje (Samobor mountains), Croatia

I took the tram to the bus station and then the Samborcek bus to Samobor, a regular service. Platform 610 is in the furthest corner of Zagreb bus station and it is just a matter of going and waiting there. Don’t expect to find anyone official to ask or see any signs – simply look on the ground for the number and trust!

The River Gradna

There is not much of note along the way to this popular summer and weekend destination for those who live in the capital city and tourists.

One of the many bridges across the Gradna Stream, built in 1906

It is a 10 minute walk from the bus station in Samobor to the centre – follow the signs to Centar.

A stall holder at the market in Samobor, Croatia

I visited the market first, walking round initially to see what was on offer, and then choosing certain women for their fresh looking produce.

Seasonal greens and sunshine crysanthemums being sold at the market, Samobor, Croatia

Long tables were punctuated with stallholders wrapped in shawls sitting in front of a handful of spinach, a pile of rosy apples or bunches of parsley. Without a doubt everything was local, seasonal, and had just been picked that morning.

It was very difficult to make myself understood, even with gestures and smiles. I wanted to buy from every one as they all seemed so keen, perhaps had come a long way with a paucity of goods, presumably relied upon sales for their livelihood.

I checked out a bakery kiosk looking for the speciality Fasnik, I had read about. It looked like a custard tart. What I found was yoghurt based and I was unsure if it was the right thing so I waited.

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View of Samobor, Croatia

After a brief visit to the King Tomislav square with it’s cafés, and having failed to find the Tourist Information, I made my way towards a spire on the skyline (I had read a little before I came and had a list of places in my notebook).

The Parish Church of Saint Anastasia (above and below), Samobor, Croatia.

From there I followed my nose, as they say, climbing through the woods. It was the lure of the red and white circles I think, reminding me of previous treks.

Past the municipal cemetery, Samobor, Croatia
It was really misty although at ground level the leaves glowed all the same.
Tepec Hill, Samobor, Croatia
St Anne’s (patron Saint of Samobor) Chapel, Samobor, Croatia

As I stepped up from one Station of the Cross to another I relished the fresh smell and feel of the soft earth beneath my feet.

A pavillion in the woods, Samobor, Croatia
Here is St George fighting his dragon again (see Zagreb 9).
Stations of ther Cross in the oak forest, Samobor, Croatia

More red and white waymarkers, Samobor, Croatia
St George’s Chapel , Samobor, Croatia

The second Chapel (St George’s) was plainer and round the back was a young dog who barked at me. The man with him had made a beautiful yet simple sculpture of stones and sticks which complemented the architecture and natural surroundings.

I started spying an array of fungi taking me back to the Via Sacra last Autumn in Austria.
Chestnut and beech foliage now
The Anindol Pyramid

There is probably a magnificent view from up there but my tummy turned over at the thought of it and as there was zero visibility I didn’t feel too bad.

In fact the sun was beginning to stream between the trees as I got higher and it was warm on my cheek. It was breathtaking. I couldn’t help myself going on and on.

I stopped to admire the dew laden spiders webs and I smiled

Suddenly I was on a road and soon a sign indicating the village of Cerje. I was still going steeply uphill but the red and white waymarkers continued to draw me.

Vines, laden orchards and layers of red rooves
A wayside shrine

People were working on the land and apples littered the path which I juicily enjoyed. I skipped from side to side where there was a pavement, to be safe on the tight bends.

I knelt to capture wild flowers with my phone camera and, as I relaxed into my stride thoughts pestered me

Note to self: learn legilimency (as J K called it) to develop the ability to push out the unhelpful memories and worries, once acknowledged!

High up now I could see down to the valley and had to choose between there and uphill. I chose the latter

I spent time at a bus stop because I knew I was on a one-way walk and that the daylight of course ends at 5pm here in November. I photographed the timetable and carried on, confident I would get back to Samobor that way (a bus had passed me earlier).

The homesteads were strung out and I began to wonder if I might actually turn back if the trail was going to continue on asphalt.

 

Caffe Bar ´Uzbuna´

A sign to a café with a stunning view didn’t yield the desired result: open from 5pm, presumably because it is dark by then and there needs to be somewhere to meet up during the long evenings.

Feast your eyes
Barking dogs and basking cats; turkeys with red gizzards huddling
Autumn squash to last the winter
Horreos full of sweetcorn, first seen in Spain but because those ones are stone you cannot see what’s inside.
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A Galician north west Spain) winter storeage unit.
Hay packed up to the rafters. Literally
The bridge was down across this stream so I took a great leap (across a narrower part!)
Through woods where I lost the signs more than once

I had to retrace my steps sometimes because the way is generally so well marked that as soon as 10 minutes passed without a sign I knew I was wrong.

Still new green ferns, even at this time of the year

There were lots of trees down blocking the way, but walkers or cyclists had been there before me if I looked carefully.

 

It was downhill at times at this stage and tantalising signs to Okic, which when I looked on Googlemaps said it was a tourist attraction.

As I neared, worrying a bit about the time, I wondered if it would be worth it.

 

It was: Okić, a Medieval town perched on top of an isolated hill south of Samobor is mentioned in 1193
Another magical vista

I didn´t let myself stay long (although long enough to admire the woman with the chain saw) and her produce. I rather rushed up the hill, despite my tiredness, and almost immediately lost my path. What made me plough on regardless I do not know, but I ended up in one of my fixes – very steep, knee deep in nettles, several dead ends and my head started to popund. In the end I went over a fence into someone´s garden and out through their front gate, only to hear a loud noise behind me – a bus. I was not at all sure where I was but I flagged down the bus and begged and, yes, he was on his way to Samobor.

wp-1541705606261..jpgSlowly I calmed down, somewhat embarrassed , and my head stopped throbbing. I was all but out of water. Up and down and round he drove at top speed, letting people off, driving round the village square and going back the way he had come through pretty places with shops, bars and attractive churches.

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Blurred as I took it through the coach window

Until we arrived back where I had started at the bus station in Samobor. I could not quite face a traipse back into the town, so instead I drank my green tea in the station cafe (full of smokers, so I sat outside) where the waitress the age of my daughters spoke customarily wonderful English and refilled my bottle adding ice. I marvelled at the table tennis room, the pop-up cinema and creche, all making up the modern station complex (free, clean loos as well!)

There more to see if you visit: a museum, a cave and a castle for example.

Lonely Planet on Zagreb

15 things to do in and around Zagreb

Bus timetables

King T Square

Visit Samobor – great site which even had a donkey on the front page (my patron saint – what does that say about me?

Have you visted Croatia? Leave a comment below with your favourite places if you like – I would love to hear from you.

Zagreb 4 – Museum of Broken Relationships and Croatian practicalities

November 2018

Zagreb, photo in Museum of Arts and Crafts. Croatia.
Zagreb, view over the rooftops. Croatia.

Booksa is a book club. Warm and friendly, you must pay an annual fee of 10 kun (£1.20, 1. 35 euros) to join. There is a small library including books in English, newspapers, comfy chairs, wifi and a cafe.

A book is to a man what a binocular is to an astronomer or a microscope to a medical student – an instrument improving observation ability. Matko Peić

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Booksa, Marticeva Street, Zagreb, Croatia.

They also have book readings etc, mostly in Croatian. The staff speak great English. Like all cafés in Zagreb, there is no food on sale, nor alcohol, but the jasmine tea (proper tea leaves) and hot chocolate are fab.

I spent many hours at Booksa – a convivial atmosphere.

Friday

Without realising quite how wet it was, I set off to walk into the city centre as usual (approx 1 hour from Sopot where I am staying), but the rain was torrential. The bus was quick and straightforward although I still had to walk for 20 minutes or so and therefore arrived at the Museum of Broken Relationships in a completely soaked state. The money in my purse in my bum bag was wet and the stamps stuck together!

On the way up the many steps to the Museum of Broken Relationships.
Giving great views of the city.
Zagreb cathedral at night.
The cafe at the Museum of Broken Relationships.
The caterpillar you can see in the picture is a story where the couple broke off one of its legs each time they met. They agreed that when all were off they would marry (at least I think that was it). Only 5 or so were gone by the time they broke up 😦

It is a most unusual and very popular place, particularly frequented by young people. The exhibits have all been donated by the public, made up from a collection of sad stories with connected items and memorabilia. Well curated, there is perhaps unsurprisingly a sombre atmosphere. The cafe is smart with WiFi and expensive. 40 kun to enter (cheaper for students or older folk).

One of the shortest funiculars in the world (according to Wikipedia). Croatia.
I found this in the city centre, leaning against a wall. A witch must have left her broomstick behind on Halloween!

Sunday

I took a river walk – after 2 days of torrential rain, I was happy that it was fine again, though cool and misty. The mountains in the distance had however disappeared.

There were three women walking solo – 2 of us were taking photos!

There are white paths stretching in both directions beside the Sava River. Between them and the banks there are expanses of grass which I guess are often deluged because there are mud covered plants there.

Under the bridge.
Another red line. (See previous blog).

Monday

I walked to the Botanics and they are gloriously free to enter, bijou and bonny.

The first sight of the Botanic Gardens from the underpass – a red pagoda similar to the one in Edinburgh.
Botanic Gardens, Zagreb – palm and fountains.

Here are some slideshows of plants, fungi, flowers, vegetables and the dome with the giant (up to 2 metres wide) water lilies from Souzth America inside it. Despite winter being right around the corner, there was plenty to see.

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I have added more Botanic Garden photos here so that this blog doesn´t take too long to load and look at.

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Cottage in the grounds of the Botanic Gardens, Zagreb. Rambling roses and everything.

Botanic Gardens The Zagreb Botanical Garden is a botanical garden located in downtown Zagreb, Croatia. Founded in 1889 by Antun Heinz, Professor of the University of Zagreb, and opened to public in 1891, it is part of the Faculty of Science.

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I was pleased with the colour scheme – the lady´s coat, the houses between the trees, the foliage of the Cyprus.

Zagreb Practicalities

The Privredna Bank: It was dry and warm, and when I got to the counter the currency exchange was smooth and straightforward. I got a much, much better rate of kun to euros than I did in Italy. But. I have almost never had to wait so long for anything. Ever.

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National Theatre, Zagreb. They like yellow buildings here. Croatia.

The Post Office: In contrast there was no queue at the post office and although the willing woman had almost no English I managed to make myself understood. Stamps to the UK cost 5.80 kun for a postcard.

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Evangelical Church, Zagreb, Croatia.

Bars and cafes do not serve food. Many allow smokers inside rather than making them go out, even though most have nice awnings with cosy blankets now in November.

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Getting around: buses and trams both seem to be very efficient. Buy tickets from tabac kiosks, 4 kun each, in advance and when you get on (you can use any door), go right to the front to find the little yellow box attached to one of the chrome uprights. Insert your ticket with the silver part towards you and wait for it to make a noise. Beware! most tabac kiosks are shut on Sundays so you might get stranded without a bus ticket. I asked and was directed by friendly waiters outside the theatre.

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Like lots of cities, Mondays are quiet with many buildings being closed eg Booksa and the Museum of Contemporary Art. However, the Museum of Broken Relationships is open, as are the Botanic Gardens, Maksimir and Gradski Parks.

The Tourist Information office is in Ban Jelačić Square, not far from the man on horseback (below).
Josip Jelačić von Buzim, ban of Croatia (1948 – 49). He was a military man and responsible for abolishing serfs in Croatia so we like him for that.

The Tourist Information women had no information about walks (it was the same in Vienna) but were very kind and did tell me about Maksimir Park, for which I am very grateful.

Maksimir Park, Zagreb, Croatia.
Maksimir Park, Zagreb, Croatia.
Maksimir Park, Zagreb, Croatia.

Zagreb 3 – city squares

All Saints Day, 1 November 2018 – a walk to the centre, including King Tomislav and Nikola Subic Zrinski Squares.

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King Tomislav himself.
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Nikola Subic Zrinski Square.

I walked from Sopot to the centre for the first time, taking the straightest route past the Gradski City Park (details on Zagreb 1), over the fast flowing River Sava, and past the National and University Library (which was closed due to the National Holiday, and is where they are holding The First International Conference on Green Libraries very soon).

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Gradski Park, Zagreb.
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River Sava, Zagreb.
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A vista of skyscrapers, Zagreb.
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What a contrast between the old style red rooves and the new turquoise vertical swimming pool type!
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National and University Library of Zagreb.

I discovered the bus routes end point and underground Garaza shopping centre (also mostly closed) out of which you emerge in the King Tomislav Square (trg kralja Tomislava) by the Glavini railway station (Kolodov). This brought me to a whole other side of Zagreb I had not yet seen – national monuments resembling Vienna but less overtly grand, more comfortable somehow.

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Glavini Railway Station, Zagreb.
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I cannot identify this building. It is located in a smaller, prettier square next to the King Tomislav Square and above the Garaza shopping Centre.
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Starcevicev Dom, Zagreb.
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All Saints Day flowers for the graves of the deceased.
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Boy playing in the fountains.
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The Art Pavillion, Zagreb (also the title picture of this blog).
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Apartments opposite the King Tomislav Square – reminisecent of Vienna.
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Child playing behind the plane tree which reminded me of the Dunkeld Oak in Scotland which you can also go inside.
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Hrvatska (Croatian) Narodna Banka – a very fine building, Zagreb.
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There is a lot to see here!
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This is the way to use a statue – play on it! (Outside Booksa of that more later!)

Zagreb Information

Charenton-le-Pont to Richard – Lenoir: Paris walk

Charenton-le-Pont to Richard-Lenoir métro 5. 5 kms (Charenton-Ecoles metro, Place du Cardinal Lavigerie, Avenue Jean Jaurés, Rue Claude Decaen, Place Félix Eboué, Rue de Reuilly, Rue Faidherbe, Rue Godefroy Caraignac, Square Saint Aboise, Boulevard Voltaire, 11th arrondissement, Richard-Lenoir métro).

Parc Zoologique de Paris.

I was deposited by my bla bla car from Reims in an area I had never previously visited. I decided to walk T the Maria Canal for my Seiki Shiatsu workshop with Catherine Dompas, but I dawdled so much, I had to ake the tube the rest of the way!

Where people live – I have seen this all over London and Paris recently: more people made homeless by the rich-poor divide.

Circus Big top, Cirque Pinder, glimpsed through the fence.

Wherever you go in Paris there’s something lovely to see amidst the blocks of flats, supermarkets and cafés.

Beautiful sun throwing shadows.

Église de Saint-Esprit.

There is a garden in front of the Saint Aboise Church in memory of the Monks of Tibhirine (Algeria). They were horrifically murdered in their Abbey during the Algerian Civil War. A French film was made about it, Of Gods and Men, was awarded the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2010.

To get to Richard-Lenoir métro from Boulevard Voltaire you take a left and walk through a public gardens with vines and a playpark.

An impressive floral display for the end of October.

Yalding – circular walk via Nettlestead

October 10 2018: Kent – parts of the Greensand Way and Medway Valley Walk.

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A host of walks around the Garden of England, Kent

Distance: 6 miles / 9. 66 kms

Duration: 2.5 – 3 hours

Weather: glorious throughout

Green fields and the Downs in the distance, Kent

Stiles crossed: numerous

Railways crossed: 2

Boats sailing past: 3 yachts, 2 dinghies with outboard motors chugging away and 3 canoes

Churches: St Mary the Virgin, Nettlestead

Grand country houses : 2 – Roydon Hall and Nettlestead Manor

The River Medway, busy with water traffic, Kent

I started walking across the Lees in Yalding around 9.30 am after a starry night and a misty morning.

Crossing The Lees, Yalding, Kent
Over a tributary of the River Medway, Yalding, Kent

The Lees, a low-lying meadow, flood regularly caused by two rivers joining the Medway here – the Teise and Beult. Indeed my father once crossed the submerged road thinking he would be fine and became stranded, having to leave his car and wade back.

Hampstead Weir Bridge, Yalding, Kent

On a day like today, the water looked beautiful, producing stunning reflections on its smooth surface.

Hampstead Weir Bridge, Yalding, Kent
Where Hampstead Lane crosses the River Medway, Yalding, Kent

After some confusion caused by my thinking that the locks beside Teapot Island were the ones mentioned in the leaflet (details below), I set off along the pavement towards Yalding Station from where I walked a few days before using my phone torch in the pitch dark. With the canal on my left and the incongruous new wooden houses appearing upside down under the bridge, it was only a short way to the Marina and Hampstead Lock.

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River Medway, the B2162, Kent

 

Skirting past the new building, I took the left fork and crossed the first railway line. Then a series of fields and woods, easily found for the most part.

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Camomile growing at ground level, and at the edge of a field were delicious windfall pears.

There was a path which is accessed beside a sweet cottage and that is hard to find but a kind woman noticed my confusion and pointed it out.

Walk to the left of this white cottage even though it looks as if you will go into its garden. If you are lucky, you too will enjoy the roses poking over the fence and the geese in the field beyond.
Crossing the railway near Yalding Station, Kent
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The walk takes us over the middle of a ploughed field, dry from the lack of rain and dangerously close to farmers spraying chemicals, Kent
Some sort of brassica had dew drops glistening on its leaves

The low point of the walk came when the leaflet directed me to cross straight through the middle of a huge field. It looked pretty but there was no obvious path as before and I spied a large red farm vehicle in the far corner, so I decided to skirt instead, through the long, wet grass. To my utter dismay the farmer was spraying green chemicals and went as close by me as he could without actually running me over. There was no way to avoid it and the smell hung in my nostrils for the next hour. (I arrived home with a most unusual headache and had to go to sleep. On waking I searched the Internet, discovering what they were and how harmful they can be up close. I showered and am hoping for the best).

Traditional farming country, kent

The noxious fumes abated temporarily as I made my way through the welcome cool woods, away from the acrid smell I thought, to the altogether sweeter scent of chestnuts. The fences made me wonder what they were protecting and brought to mind the small trucks I came across in the Austrian mountains where single men collected wood. There was no sun except in dapples and a grey squirrel leapt across the path. I could still hear the warning parp parp of the train as it came to level crossings in the distance and the drone of far-off traffic, but also the birds squawking and crawing and tweeting.

Public Footpath, Greensand Way, Kent
Soft and rolling (private) countryside, divided by landowner with barbed wire fences, Kent

Sadly, despite the wonderful view, once out of the trees the very strong fumes were evident for miles.

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Sweet chestnut in its prickly cases, Kent
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Beautiful native trees allow dappled sun to light up the first fall of autumn leaves, Kent

The fences became much stronger and the gates quite serious, when I came across the deer on my left standing still, observing me. I startled a reclining stag and away he bounded, taking off and landing from all four feet at the same time which always makes me laugh.

A herd of majestic deer with developing antlers, Kent

Then the flock of curious youngsters gathered and crept closer until one of the stags stretched forward his neck and bellowed, causing them to pause. He moved into the centre, whereupon the second, smaller male departed. The others continued to stare, their ears pricked. It reminded me of the grounds of Knole House in Sevenoaks where I grew up and where I first saw deer roaming like this. Further on, three more lazed in the shade of a great oak until I disturbed them. They had fawn spots on their backs and white bottoms with black stripes down the middle!

Three stags under an oak tree, Kent

The red brick Elizabethan Manor house, Roydon Hall was on my left now, with its stepped roof edges and old-fashioned chimneys. Apparently it has an escape route below the cellars, but it appeared to be boarded up although the the lawn was newly mown.

Roydon Hall, Kent

I expect they call this prison-like fencing, ‘managed land’.

Keeping us off his land, protecting us from the deer maybe, Kent

There was a square tower with a turret and lake to my left (though later I thought perhaps it was plastic-covered crops) and satellite dish to my right.

This was the only slight incline and at the top was what I assume was a folly. Its yellow stone and Grecian columns were set amidst lush foliage in the midday sun.

A bit of a folly amongst the foliage, Kent

As I strode down the lane, two women and four walking poles approached me to ask directions.

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There were beech nuts and conkers on the asphalt.
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Wild clematis
Glorious Autumn colours

Several miles along the road took me to the St Mary the Virgin church at Nettlestead with its simple 13th century tower and possible Saxon foundations.

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St Mary the Virgin, Nettlestead, Kent
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Stained glass at St Mary’s the Virgin, Nettlestead, Kent

Set in an equally charming churchyard, the building was started by the magnificently named de Pympe family. It has six notably large windows commissioned by Reginald de P.

At the top of each window stand angels with curiously feathered legs. (taken from the history leaflet)

In addition, I was shocked to read that

The original glass of this window with the rest of the 15th century glass in the church suffered damage by impious hands at a time unknown. (Taken from the plaque)

And furthermore, that the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury in July 24th 1895

… was well nigh “a visit of surprise” so short was our prior notice… And here let me say at once how troubled I am to think that in the hurry of the moment some members of the Parish Church Committee were overlooked. (From an account in the church).

Not far away was an entrance to the Medway river path where I stood back as a cyclist whizzed past.

It was a gentle stroll back to the Hampstead Marina alongside various water crafts including one propelled by a man with a long white ponytail and no shirt, sitting behind an infant in a baby seat and a woman who talked incessantly.

Tall trees shushed a plane and helicopter and the smells were all fruity or woody, wet or damp.

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Hampstead Mariner, Yalding, Kent

On arrival there were three men with two boats watching as a fourth opened the lock. I joined them as the water slowly filled the space between the gates, fascinated as they floated through and boarded for “a couple of miles down and back, and then a pint!”

Hampstead Mariner, Yalding, Kent
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New houses and the deep blue sky reflected in the water at Hampstead Mariner, Kent

I retraced my steps to The Boathouse for a half of Shepherd Neame’s Autumn Ale. I was admiring the hops when a couple stopped to tell me what they were and that they had been hop pickers years ago. Hundreds used to come from London to join the workforce at the picking season.

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Wild hops growing on the railings, source of the beer industry and more, Kent

The sign said,

Cheers! Yalding has always had a strong connection to alcohol! At one time it was producing more hops than any other parish in England. It is also famed for its cherry orchards and the (sic) remains of the Medieval Vineyards have been found in the area. The various crops have been used to produce wine, beer and cherry brandy..

It was a ‘driving with the top down’ sort of a day.

You can download the pdf of the walk leaflet here. It is pretty good and contains useful and accurate photos of fields with superimposed arrows showing where to go. The second paragraph of number 2 is a repeat so ignore this.

Roydon Hall info

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!

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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.

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Largo Law now in the morning light
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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Lower Largo

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Shell Bay: evergreens signal a change of landscape, Fife Coastal Path
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Between bleached grasses, round and over the peedie bridge
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Brilliant clear air and the stillest of waters makes for magnificent reflections
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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).

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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.

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

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Here is the wellie garden, St Monans, Fife
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Typical architecture with outside steps up to pink doorwars, St Monans, Fife
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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.

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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.