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Fife Coastal Path section 3 - Kinghorn to Elie

Fife Coastal Path section 3 - Kinghorn to Elie


Postby nigheandonn » Mon Mar 05, 2018 11:23 am

Route description: Fife Coastal Path

Date walked: 24/02/2018

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Section 1 - Kincardine to Ferry Toll
Section 2 - Ferry Toll to Kinghorn
Section 4 - Elie to St Andrews
Section 5 - St Andrews to Newburgh

Saturday 24th February 2018

I had a long way to go this time, having missed out three miles of the last day's allocation, and I had a definite deadline to be back in Edinburgh by 7.30pm for a friend's dinner party, so an early start was required - I even almost managed it, because although I left the house a bit too late for the 7:50 from South Gyle, I had plenty of time to get the bus in to Haymarket for the 8:14 and still be walking before 9.

So down the steep slope again from the station to Kinghorn harbour - not much of a harbour, really, but a nice collection of buildings.

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Kinghorn Harbour

It was another nice day, but much hazier than the last two, with just pale blue shapes showing on the other side of the water.

Beyond Kinghorn was a stretch of much emptier coast, starting with some rocks which apparently were the remains of a shipyard, and ending with Seafield tower just on the edge of Kirkcaldy.

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Seafield Tower

Kirkcaldy from the sea, with its tower blocks, looked almost like a city. It's not a place that can easily be seen this way, except by walking along the coast - unlike an Edinburgh or Dundee which can be looked at from across the water - and to be honest it's a place I've mainly seen inside out from a train.

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Kirkcaldy from the sea

When I had the choice I stuck to the beach with its families and dogwalkers, rather than turning up to walk along what looked like an industrial estate, but eventually I met an uncrossable stream and had to turn up across rough ground and over a low wall to get onto the bridge to cross it.

From there a long promenade, apparently built in the early 1920s 'to relieve unemployment' led along beside a road which was presumably the bypass for the parallel main street, and seemed to mainly be the backs of things. I did turn up to the main street, which had all the shops you might expect, but came back down to the sea to carry on.

The little dock was a bit of a surprise, and the fact that a ship was unloading at it more so - apparently it was closed to commercial traffic for 20 years before reopening to supply the adjacent flour mill.

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Kirkcaldy dock

The apparently historic Merchant's House at the end of the main street had looked much like any other house, but there were some nice buildings further along, with steep medieval routes inland still running up between them.

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Old passageway

A long hill then led up, past the external walls of Nairn's linoleum factory surrounding a new building inside them, and another nice old house, to Pathhead at the top. This was once a separate village, and is where Anna and John Buchan grew up, so I wasted a while hunting round for the church where their father was the minister - there were a few churches marked on the map!

I had lost the path where it turned down to Pathhead links, but met it again on the main road, and followed it down to another choice of low tide route by the beach or high tide route by the park. I had only a very hazy idea of what the tide was doing, but thought it must be on the way out even if it hadn’t got very far, and as it turned out there was plenty of shore to walk on - a nice little beach with an old dovecot and tiny towers on the walls at the far end, as well as the castle up above.

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Ravenscraig beach

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Ravenscraig Castle

The path left the beach to skirt the edge of the park, and then suddenly emerge through a little tunnel to the harbour at Dysart, an attractive muddle of boats and harbour walls and houses and old tower behind. The classic postcard shot, though, is further along the village, white houses with stepped gables all looking perfectly preserved.

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Dysart

Beyond the end of Dysart is another sudden change, rough open ground and the winding gear of the Frances colliery up at the top of the slope, which the path climbs up to pass.

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Frances Colliery winding gear

West Wemyss, with a large car park and slightly battered houses, looked like a place which everyone wanted to visit and no one wanted to live in. It’s making an effort, though, with a tiny heritage centre and cafe, and a community run pub - I popped into the centre, which was essentially a little mining museum, but didn’t visit the cafe, which was a mistake.

The main street is a long line of houses all the same, but the backs are all different colours facing the sea. At the far end of the village, past some newer houses, was the church, with a war memorial on the surrounding wall, unusual because the names were arranged chronologically by date of death, rather than alphabetically or by rank.

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West Wemyss

Past Wemyss Castle the path was bizarrely diverted onto the stony beach for a short distance and then back again, despite the existence of a continuing path. Beyond that the coast was strongly reminiscent of East Lothian on the other side of the water - wide dark path and sea buckthorn bushes everywhere, their orange berries faded but uneaten after the winter.

I had thought I would get something to eat in East Wemyss, which looked like a decent sized place on the map, but there was nothing to be seen but houses and an unpromising pub - and a memorial to Jimmy Shand. (There does seem to be a shop right up on the main road, but nothing clearly leads up there when you’re down by the sea.)

So instead I pushed on past a line of caves - a sign at the end of the village made them sound both interesting and important, but they mostly had either ‘Danger do not enter’ signs or locked gates, and there was nothing by the caves themselves to tell you what to look out for - one accessible one had obviously been a doocot, however, with boxes carved into the walls.

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Caves and castle

From the last cave I doubled back to climb up to Macduff’s castle, and then up across a field path to the road. The sudden view of bare brown farmland with the Lomond hills in the distance was a bit of a shock to the system after so long tucked between the sea and the edge of the land.

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Farmland

A path which had once been a railway line led along to the top of Buckhaven, with information boards along the last part. The shore below had apparently once been a popular beach, until a large amount of spoil from local collieries was dumped there.

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Buckhaven

The path wanted me to stay up at the top, but I couldn’t resist dropping down to the shore, before climbing up again by the streets.

The next part of the route was all streets, for a long time - Buckhaven had a fancy old hospital building, built in 1909, Methil had the yellow cranes which had been in view for quite a well and another heritage centre, although I didn’t go in, but mostly it was just a trudge down streets where all the shops seemed to be shut.

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Methil cranes

A line of more suburban houses brough me to the bridge at the start of Leven before I expected it, and the big Sainsburys just over the bridge provided very welcome food and toilets. Leven is being thoroughly roadworked, or pavementworked, apparently in some kind of pedestrianisation exercise which will probably be quite nice when it's finished, but is chaotic now.

The route led on along some kind of shore path, but the beach was broad and firm and empty and irresistable, so I just pointed myself roughly at Largo Law and kept walking, until I found myself winding through the maze of rocks on the shore at Lundin Links.

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Leven Links

Meeting the river at Lower Largo turned me back up onto the road just where I wanted to be, about 20 minutes before the bus was due. It was all very pretty, with the river and the tiny harbour at its mouth and the first tinge of sunset light in the sky, but my camera battery decided to give up again.

So no sunset picture to finish today - although for a while I was taking a journey straight into the sunset, on the long straight road out of Lundin Links. Because so much of the trip had been on the roads, the first half of the bus journey felt a bit like undoing all my hard work as the bus retraced my steps, before taking the wiggliest route possibly through Kirkcaldy to come out at the station quite unexpectedly.

Sunday 4th March 2018

And then the snow came.

The one fixed deadline on this project was that if I was going to finish by the end of March, I had to walk from Crail to St Andrews on the 11th of March - I'm busy on the 10th and the 24th, and the tides are plain wrong any other day. So the weekend before was supposed to be a double - Largo Law and on to Elie on the Saturday, and through the East Neuk on the Sunday.

On Saturday morning the buses were still running no further than Leven, or I might have gone over in spite of the snow - I was thoroughly tired of staying inside. By Sunday morning there were buses running into the East Neuk, although still bypassing Lower Largo, so I was off, on a long wandering bus journey through Fife which eventually left me at the top of the road running down to the harbour.

Lower Largo probably wasn’t quite as pretty in the dull wet as in the soft early sunset light of the week before, but it wasn’t doing too badly.

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Lower Largo

This is the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, one of the inspirations of the Robinson Crusoe story, and there is a monument to him on the site of the cottage where he was born.

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Alexander Selkirk statue

Technically the path ran on from the end of the village along a path which was once the railway line, but as it was a mess of wet snow and the beach was a long stretch of clear firm sand, I just stuck to the beach again.

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Largo beach

There were signs all along the coast of quite fierce storms, where Edinburgh had been more just snowing and snowing and snowing - various things washed up, although mostly long brown seaweed on stems. At one point I suddenly felt like I was walking on pistachio nuts, and found quite a collection of things at my feet.

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Assorted shells

The beach ran on past a few rocky outcrops, and then opened out again to a long expanse with the remains of WWII defences. There was never any view inland, because the path ran first on its own little embankment and then through low dunes - just beach and grey sea and a hazy view of the points ahead.

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Old defenses

At Ruddons Point the path the beach ran out and a line of trees blocked the way ahead, and the path turned slightly inland to cross a winding burn on wooden walkways. I hadn’t been missing much without a view inland, it seemed, because it was mostly just a wet flat wasteland, with Largo Law hiding in the cloud.

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Walkways

The road through the caravan park hadn’t been cleared at all, so made quite a change from the clear beach - sometime patches of grass were showing through thin snow, but in other places it was still shin deep. Beyond the park entrance the path followed the edge of sloping fields, which was even more interesting - first a mix of deep snow and mud, and then a long place where a line of grass was just about showing through the snow at the field edge, but what might have been the actual path was under a bank of dirty snow which sloped straight down to the rocks and the sea.

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Snowy fields

I was thoroughly enjoying myself just the same, though - it had drizzled a bit along the end of the beach and round the little point, but now that had stopped, and finding a way through was always just challenging - and sometimes unexpected - enough to be fun.

The corner of the point was presumably the start of the chain walk, but although the rocks were bare I doubt it would appeal to anyone at the moment - even if the tide was out. Instead a little set of stone steps half buried in the snow wound up towards the top of the point, a bit precariously as some of the steps that couldn’t be seen sloped quite a lot.

The path along the top was a good earth one, past masts and a trig point and the remains of old gun emplacements, only to become a bit snowfilled as it wound down again.

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Kincraig Point

The path came down at the edge of the golf links, which were snowy in patches, and I thought I would have a look at the low tide route by the beach - it was almost covered, but I thought I had time to get past, and could always scramble out onto the dunes if I was wrong. One particularly adventurous wave just about touched my feet in the middle of the beach, but the far side was clearer again.

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Earlsferry Links beach

Earlsferry was a long place of assorted houses with even more assorted names, which turned into Elie without any obvious change. I was very glad to come to a sign pointing up to a cafe at the golf club advertising hot food all day, because it had been drizzling again and I was wet and cold from all sides - tea and a bacon roll and a seat by the radiator were very welcome, and it was a pretty late lunch even if I hadn’t been very aware of being hungry.

It would have been useful from the point of view of the next time if I had managed to push on to St Monans, but I’d started a bit late and I wasn’t sure I’d make it now for the 5:30ish bus - and out in this distant corner I’m more than two hours from home. So instead a wander down to the harbour in Elie, and back to the snowy green for the 4.30 bus and the meandering journey home - at least the bus from Leven to Edinburgh had its heating on.

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Elie
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nigheandonn
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