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The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)


Postby jester » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:43 am

Date walked: 20/06/2011

Time taken: 1 hours

Distance: 3 km

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For many years I used to holiday in Leven every summer. I got to know the area quite well, and although we could see Ruddons Point and Shell Bay at Earlsferry I had never walked that far round, our day walks usually going as far as Lower Largo. One of the problems with coastal walks is that there is so much to see and do that I always find myself stopping all the time. Hardly a bad thing though.

It was only last year that I heard of the Chain Walk at Elie, and it immediately went on my “to do” list. Indeed it went just about to the top, and would have been done a long time ago, had all the chains not been stolen. Fife Council have fully replaced it so I got on my bike and headed out to it.

Last year I cycled from St Andrews to Markinch. On that trip I came across the A915, and found the constant climbing uphill to be too much, my knee gave out somewhere about Methil. This time I would start at Markinch and go in the opposite direction, hopefully being assisted by the wind as well.

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Lower Largo

All went well and I passed through Leven, past Silverburn, and at Lundin Links I followed the sign for Lower Largo. While scanning the map I got chatting to two recently retired men from Leven, and they told me that I would be able to get my bike along the old railway line which forms part of the Fife Coastal Path.

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Fife Coastal Path

Almost immediately I came across a slight problem, a series of locked gates. While kissing gates allowed foot access, bikes couldn't get through. I managed, with some difficulty to lift the bike over, using a technique where the bike was lifted upside down, balanced on the gate, and rotated forwards to be placed on it's wheels. Farther along I found notices stating that quads and motorbikes were not allowed here, which explained the locked gates.

About a kilometre beyond Lower Largo, Carrick Villa stands alone overlooking Dumbarnie Links Nature Reserve. Recently the beach was incorrectly listed as a nudist beach, which led to one man ending up in court. Also part of the nature reserve are two WW2 pill-boxes, one of which can be accessed by the public, the other is now sealed as a bat colony.
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Coastal defences

There were numerous seabirds here, however as I made my way along to the pill-boxes a large raptor took off from just ahead of me. I could hear a bell ringing so I assumed it was an escaped falconers bird, and on asking around it appears it may have been a Lanner Falcon, a native of Africa and Southern Europe. Definitely not local.
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Lanner Falcon?

Entering the pill box I was almost hit by swallows bursting out of the door. Inside there were a number of nests and some very disturbing graffiti...

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All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy...

The old railway line carries on from here, past the anti-tank blocks and the ruins of Mount Pleasant to the main A917.

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Mount Pleasant

I was going to cycle directly to Elie, but I noticed the minor road to Earlsferry was signposted as part of the Fife Cycle Network, so I went that way instead. Through Earlsferry then and on to Elie, a delightful little village. I dug out the GPS, which indicated that the chain walk was back in Earlsferry. I about turned and headed off, and had soon found a sign indicating the way to the beach at NT 48057 99647. I quickly passed the golf course and was on the beach within a few minutes.

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Fife coastal path sign

With the bike locked up I began to make my way along the shore. I said earlier that coastal walks had so much to see on them, this was no exception. As soon as I set off I could hear a strange crying noise. I set off across the rocks, to find the source of the noise. It soon became apparent that it was a grey seal on a rock just off the coast. As I took a few photos another seal popped up just in front me. It checked me out for a few minutes and was then gone. I took the hint and headed off too.

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Grey Seal

The path begins along the beach at the western end.

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The path begins, the sign marks the start.

A path can be seen heading towards the rocks, leading to a sign at Grid NT 46846 99830.
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Read on, MacDuff

This details that there are eight chains, running either vertically or horizontally, and that you should be mindful of the tides. I'd already checked the tide times and my arrival was pretty much bang on for low tide. The weather was good, the tide was out, everything was perfect. Time to get started!

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Chain 1 on the right, chain 2 is across the gap.

Chain No1 runs horizontally into a gully, known as MacDuffs Cave Inlet. I found this one tricky, as I'd just applied sun cream and my hands were slipping on the new chains. I put on a pair of leather gloves and this helped immensely. There are some steps cut in the rock and the technique here is to move along , crab-like, using the footholds. This chain then angles down and finished with a short length which hangs free.
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Looking out from MacDuffs Cave Inlet, Chain 1 is on the left

Chain No2 is on the other side of the inlet and starts with a mirror image, a hanging rope chain. It then angles upwards and round the rock.
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The way is not always immediately apparent (look for the steps here)

The way ahead is not always apparent and the next chains aren't always visible. I made my way across the next rocks to a pebbled beach. At the far end, beyond some impressive basalt columns, the next chain is visible in a v-shaped cleft in the rock.
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Towards Chain No 3

Chain No3 rises vertically to the cleft in the rock. At this point there is a metal pole to hold on to.
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Chain No3

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Chain 4 starts from here, use the pole to steady yourself

Chain No4 immediately drops down in two sections, the first section has small links, the second section has larger links, and there are footholds cut into the rock.
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Chain No4

I took a slip here as the bottom is strewn with loose rock. This chain ends in a small but impressive inlet, next to basalt colums known apparently as the “organ pipes”. Moving on here, this section is flatter, known as “The Flairs”, and an old searchlight battery building stands on the cliffs above. It looks like should the tide come in there would be a reasonable escape route up here.
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Towards Chain No5. Notice the light coloured strip of rock which appears to hang like a chain.

There are white deposits in the rock which, from a distance, fool the eye into thinking they are chains glinting in the sun. The real chain can be seen further on...
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Chain No5

Chain No5 is a straightforward vertical climb up to another pole which acts as a handrail, and Chain 6 commences immediately from here, dropping down quite spectacularly in two stages, with an intermediate pole part-way down.
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Descending Chain No6

There are good footholds all the way down, which are useful as this is a fairly big drop. At the bottom is a small gap and crossing this leads to Chain No7, a horizontal chain which leads towards the mouth of a small cave. The far end of the cave is full of empty plastic bottles and old polystyrene, washed there by the tides which obviously come right up here. No refuge from the tides here then!
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Chain No7

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Cave entrance

At the other end of this inlet is Chain No8- the final chain. It's a short length of vertical chain hanging from a silver pole.
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Chain No8

The path then continues over the rocks, ending at a carbon copy of the sign at the other end, at NT 46353 99741.
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The cave at the end of the walk (or the start...)

I carried on another few metres and clambered down to another larger cave which is worth a visit. Having come all this way I thought it would be a waste to walk along the cliff top, so I did the chain walk again- in reverse. Knowing the route it took me about twenty minutes, not including the time I waited on a school group clearing one of the sections.
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School party on the Chain Walk

I then cycled north, through beautiful well kept villages such as Kilqonquhar where a gardener was tending the flowers around the village bus shelter.
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Kilconquhar

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Kilconquhar bus stop

Cycling to St Andrews is certainly easier than cycling from it, with a breeze and the gradient assisting me it was quite enjoyable dropping down and seeing the coast open up ahead of me. A quick potter round St Andrews and I was off again, taking the cyclepath to Leuchars. The last time I cycled this route I made the mistake of going on the road, which is far too busy with traffic for an enjoyable cycle. The wide pavement is designated a mixed use path and is far safer, and it wasn't long until I was at Leuchars Station. I could see the semaphore signals were off. For once my timing was perfect and the London train drew in within minutes. I settled in for the short journey to Edinburgh, thankful that the new railway line meant I would be soon home with my feet up, their coastal itch for now scratched.

A great reference for the Chain Walk is also at http://albertlawrie.co.uk/
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jester
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby Paul Webster » Tue Jun 28, 2011 11:19 am

Really cracking report jester. I think this will be very useful to anyone planning to give it a bash and wondering what to expect :D
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby jester » Tue Jun 28, 2011 12:14 pm

Thanks Paul. :)
The hardest part was finding out exactly where it starts, which is why I went to Elie, got the map out and found I had already passed it at Earlsferry.
If there are any geocachers out there, there are two on the route and tons more nearby. :D
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby Cuil Lodair » Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:10 pm

Hi Jester,

The falcon in your picture is a Saker Falcon.
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby chicaguapa » Tue Jun 28, 2011 1:26 pm

Great report. I've done bits of the coastal walk in the past but always wondered about the chain walk. I'm now more inclined to give it a try.
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby nathan79 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 7:06 pm

As a born and bred Fifer, I've only been aware of the chain walk for the past year or two, though i've still not done it yet. I'll often head along to Elie on a sunny day off when not doing a hill, but i'd never come across any hint of the chain walk. If it's actually in Earlsferry that explains alot!

Looks like you had a great day, i'll hopefully follow in your footsteps sometime soon. (No doubt followed by a chippie along at Anstruther).
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby jester » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:46 pm

Cuil Lodair wrote:Hi Jester,

The falcon in your picture is a Saker Falcon.

That's the THIRD different ID I've had for it. :lol: Either way it's not local!
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby jester » Tue Jun 28, 2011 8:50 pm

nathan79 wrote:As a born and bred Fifer, I've only been aware of the chain walk for the past year or two, though i've still not done it yet. I'll often head along to Elie on a sunny day off when not doing a hill, but i'd never come across any hint of the chain walk. If it's actually in Earlsferry that explains alot!

Looks like you had a great day, i'll hopefully follow in your footsteps sometime soon. (No doubt followed by a chippie along at Anstruther).


I didn't know where it started, but I did know there was a geocache along it. I arrived at Elie, and pressed GO to search for the cache, and it took me back to Earlsferry. As soon as I got there I asked a chap who was out gardening where the walk was and he pointed it out. 8) It's amazingly under promoted, considering that some Fifers don't know it's there.
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby U059361 » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:00 pm

Great report, I'm another Fifer and thought the walk had a couple of chains in it. Looks a challenge but worth the effort.
Thanks for including all the pics.
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby ridgerunner » Tue Jun 28, 2011 9:09 pm

Your pictures brought back good memories as myself,wife and daughters used to do the chain walk most years when we were through at our Kilconquhar time share , and as you mentioned its not that simple.
We didnt see any difference in the nature of the walk after the chains had been replaced.
However my wife and i didnt do it this year as someone was killed last year when they fell about 15 ft and although i suppose i accept similar risks hill walking by myself , wife decided we shouldn't take the risk any more.
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby Merry-walker » Tue Jun 28, 2011 10:36 pm

Absolutely fantastic. :thumbup: I really would like to give this a try.

Your pictures are great 8)
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby stevemillar » Wed Jun 29, 2011 8:02 pm

Hi Jester,

I'm just back from the chain walk today, and was going to file a report, but must bow to your far superior pics and report. Well done.

The only addition I would make to it, is apart from 'chain one', I climb the walk without using the chains and do as many of the crags as possible whilst I'm there also. It's not a macho thing, but more of a training tool, as whilst I'm not a climber, I think we have all been in situations where something steeper than a scramble is required, so it's useful to know you can, if needed, climb a bit.
IMG_0474.JPG
My nephew at the vertical crags
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IMG_0475.JPG
At the top of the eye of the needle. Note swimmer below.
IMG_0473.JPG
Looking down into the wee cave
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby bar72 » Sat Aug 15, 2015 12:54 pm

cheers for the report, Jester. taking the teenagers down today, just after high tide ;
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Re: The Chain Walk, Elie (Earlsferry)

Postby cjonesfz » Sun Aug 16, 2015 4:45 pm

I was there yesterday with some friends from that area, it's great fun! Some stunning scenery on the walk back to the golf course too!
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