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Fife Coastal Path section 4 - Elie to St Andrews

Fife Coastal Path section 4 - Elie to St Andrews

Postby nigheandonn » Tue Mar 27, 2018 11:34 pm

Route description: Fife Coastal Path

Date walked: 10/03/2018

Time taken: 2 days

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Section 1 - Kincardine to Ferry Toll
Section 2 - Ferry Toll to Kinghorn
Section 3 - Kinghorn to Elie
Section 5 - St Andrews to Newburgh

Saturday 10th March

Desperate times call for desperate measures - I had to be in Perth by about 2, and it was forecast to rain all day, but if I was going to keep myself on track to push right through to St Andrews the next day, I had to get as far as Anstruther on the Saturday.

So definitely not a lazy weekend - the first bus from Edinburgh would have meant too late a start, so I was on a 7am train to Kirkcaldy, to wait for a bus to Elie in the pale grey gloom.

The harbour in Elie is hidden down behind the main street, a bit like Aberdour - the harbour buildings are on a little promontory of their own, so the next bit of shore gives a view back over them to the houses of Earlsferry and Elie.


The next little point, Elie Ness, has two towers - a little lighthouse, and the older Lady's Tower, used as a changing room for sea bathing.

Elie Ness lighthouse

Beyond the towers the coast was fairly empty, following the edge of one sandy bay and then another to the farm buildings and ruins at Ardross.


Just before Newark Castle before St Monans was what should have been a useful sign, telling you to use the high water route if the tide had reached a large post - I'm never sure how you're supposed to decide if the tide is too high in a place where you've never been. Only there wasn't any high tide or low tide path at that point, just one single path climbing high round the back of the castle, which made the sign mostly confusing.

The high tide section turned out to be a bit further on, a tiny length of path clinging to the outside of the church wall which could have been avoided by climbing a stile and crossing the church grounds, as some people in front of me did.

St Monans

I took the prescribed path, however, up tiny steps cut out of the slanting edge of the wall and down a path between houses to come out and skirt one edge of the harbour. Then it was up through houses again, with some nice old ones with stepped gables, following signs for a windmill, and on along a path above the rocky shore to the windmill itself.


An earth path led on round the edge of another long bay to the start of Pittenweem, pretty even in the rain - but the day was genuinely dismal, and it was hard to keep the rain out of the camera lens. I was soaking wet myself despite waterproofs - it was the kind of day when the water just seeped in at all the edges.

Pittenweem in the rain

I spent a couple of holidays in Pittenweem as a child, but I really didn't recognise anything - what I remember of it is the grounds of the place where we stayed, full of big trees and rhododendrons with dens in the middle, not the village itself. I do vaguely remember the cave, but didn't really have time for a detour even if it had appealed.

Pittenweem harbour

On past the backs of houses to skirt the edge of the first golf course for a while, where patches of snow lingered in the curves of the bank.

First golf course

The villages were getting closer together - less than a mile from the end of Pittenweem to the first houses of Anstruther, past a tower and a playpark and the clubhouse. I was fairly sure I'd missed the 11 o'clock bus to St Andrews, or at least would have done by the time I got to the road, but had to hurry up to make sure - I had, and came back came to follow the path towards the harbour, including a small detour over stepping stones which were just about above the water.


The rest of the day was long and wet, although the event I was going to Perth for was fine in itself - a cold wait for the next bus to St Andrews, bus to Dundee, train to Perth, which had the advantage over the buses of being actually warm - and then reverse, with the added excitement of the bus stop behind the train station in Dundee being shut - possibly - but not saying it was shut or where to go - just some of the buses didn't bother to stop there whether you waved at them or not. So a traipse through Dundee to try to find another stop, where I got on the wrong (slow) bus and had another cold wait in St Andrews for the slow coastal bus to Anstruther.

Despite the still constant rain, good fish and chips (eaten in the hostel kitchen, rather than by the harbourside!) cheered me up, and the hostel room was nice, with heating that actually warmed the room, and the sea making a big noise almost directly outside my window as it had an argument with the harbour wall.

Sunday 11th March

Sunday was dry in theory - dry from above - but the ground was exactly as you would expect after a solid day of rain at the end of winter, and the burns were running fast and deep and brown.

When I first decided to stay in Anstruther to get the early start I was expecting to be on the first bus to Crail, and when I knew I would be walking from Anstruther I still thought I would get away really early and be at least well on the way to Crail by the time the bus got there. Of course that didn't quite happen - I came back from the co-op just as the bus was leaving the stop outside the hostel - but it was still early enough to be a very morning light as I sat down by the harbour to eat my breakfast.

Anstruther harbour

The front street of Anstruther is open to the sea, but as it becomes Cellardykes it turns its back on the sea, with houses on both sides of the road - two storey ones at first, leading to an unexpectedly imposing town hall, and then a muddle of older cottages, with only occasional gaps through to the sea.


The little harbour amused me by apparently being used as a communal drying green, but it was a lovely spot - originally built in partnership with the Dutch, with the change from the original medieval stonework to the stonework of the 19th century extension still very visible on the back wall.

Cellardyke harbour

It was a hazy morning, but with that bright pale haze which always looks as if it's just about to burn off (although it never quite did), and where the sea was visible it was impressively wild, crashing up over the rocks near the water's edge.

Wild waves

The next section was possibly the first really remote feeling bit of the whole Fife coast - it smelt like Argyll, which seemed to be the result of a change from the long brown seaweed on stalks which had been ubiquitous until then, to black seaweed full of bumps. The very start was flagged after a fashion, but beyond that it was a broad wet grass path, probably pleasant walking in the dry but treacherous in the mud, so that I fell just by taking my mind off my left foot for a second so that it slid right under me and I fell along my left hip.

An odd rock formation full of arches and stripes of different colours was stunning and deserted - I felt that it should have people coming from all around to admire it!

The Coves

The Pans looks on the map like a tiny settlement, but is only a set of substantial ruins - presumably another salt works, judging by the name, like the windmill at St Monans.

Ruins at The Pans

Not far beyond that the first houses of Crail came into view, with the main road reached by an even muddier path - plain mud this time rather than sodden grass, so that I didn't exactly fall, just my feet slid off in different directions until I had to put my hands down to sort things out.

It's one of those places which you seem to come into from above, round past an old pair of leading lights to a fairly substantial main street, with its back well turned to the sea.


I decided that I could afford a break for coffee, but I didn't have time to do nearly as much wandering around Crail as I would have liked - and I didn't visit the harbour, because by the time I turned back down to the sea I was well past it. But it was a place which really took my fancy, so hopefully I'll be back.

Instead I was pushing on past caravans and then emptier places again to the cluster of buildings at Fife Ness - mostly, I think, to do with the lighthouse and coastguard station.

Fife Ness

I took a break for a second installment of elevenses sitting on the rocks just past the point, looking out towards the North Carr beacon. I had thought of this as a remote place, but all sorts of things seemed to have happened here - and the coast northward was simply a long stretch of golf course which walkers were (mostly) grudgingly allowed to creep around the edge of.

Constantine's cave, which a sign at the point had asked you not to try to visit, turned out to be sitting right beside the path and easily visitable, with signs to tell you all about it. But it was kind of a pop up cave - not a gap in a large expanse of rock, just a lump of rock surrounding a space.

Constantine's Cave

Beyond that the golfers' patience had apparently run out, and the path was turned onto the beach for a while, over rocks of every possible colour. After a while it was allowed back, although well supplied with warning signs - I could cope with being warned of golf ahead, but the idea of it sneaking up on me from behind caused unseemly giggling.

It's behind you

The first of the low tide only sections was less impressive than I expected, just a place where rocks rose quite steeply from the shore for a short distance - there was probably a way round above, although I admit you don't want everyone scrambling up to try to find it. Beyond that the golf courses gave way to the edge of grazing land, until the start of Cambo Sands, busy with wanderers and dog walkers, where I took to the sand for a change from the path.

Cambo sands

The toilets in the car park were locked, which was a disappointment, but the beach still made a lovely lunch spot, with good seats on the wall of what seemed to be a tiny ruined pool. As I clambered down towards it my shadow suddenly reappeared and astonished me by being in the wrong place - I hadn't taken in that my turn round Fife Ness from north east to north west had swung south from my right to my left!

At the end of the beach a sign warned that the path ahead crossed 'rough and remote coastal terrain', but for the first section along to Boarhills it wasn't really true - you were always just at the bottom of somebody's field - and for the section beyond that where it was true, the sign wasn't repeated - the warning is probably useful, but would be far more useful in the right place.

The path turned back onto the rocky shore, but at first there was a kind of natural path along it in the form of a smooth vein of intruded rock - beyond that there was sand again and then a path above much rougher shore to a ruin by a tiny inlet with a solid old harbour wall.

Rock path

The path turns well inland to cross the Kenly Water, which was obviously running high - you could see why they hadn't tried to bridge it lower down, but it still seemed a long way to the footbridge by the second farm.

Kenly Water

Having got inland the path seemed to have decided to stay there, following the first road it had seen for quite a while up to turn off onto a farm track and skirt the very end of Boarhills, before finally turning back down another track towards the sea. The path down to the shore here was possibly the worst part of the whole thing, a choice between sliding uncontrollably down steep mud and more or less hugging gorse bushes to get at the vague hints of grass underneath - I took the second option, but got a fairly impressive thorn splinter in my hand to show for it.

An odd rock formation at the bottom looked so much like an old hand spindle at one end that I thought it must be the Rock and Spindle, but it turned out to be something else called Buddo Rock - it was impressive to look at all the same.

Buddo Rock

The next part was kind of great fun and kind of not - it was a very intrepid path which wound in and out and clambered up and down, but I was starting to feel tired - and then it climbed way up to the edge of another golf course, and down again to the main unpassable at high tide section, a stretch of rocky shore with the odd addition of a yellow plastic handle to help you up the edge of one small scramble.

The real Rock and Spindle were impressively large, but not so exciting in either their shape or their colour, although it didn't help that the haze was beginning to gather as damp grey mist.

Rock and spindle

A long walk through gorse bushes followed, and showed no signs of ending until I suddenly saw an odd sight ahead which turned out to be the very top of St Rule's Tower - and nothing else - floating above the mist which covered the rest of St Andrews.

From then the town was drifting in and out of the mist as it got closer, and although it still seemed a long way I was definitely getting somewhere - I'd walked more than 17 miles by the time I hit the river, so I suppose I was allowed to be tired.

St Andrews in the mist

Along the east sands to the odd little harbour in the river mouth, and then round behind the cathedral and past the castle and the Martyrs' monument in the failing light - I'd missed the last direct bus, but had plenty of time for the roundabout route to the bus station for the next one, a journey home slightly marred by a cold wait at Glenrothes, not really long enough to go anywhere else, which was a bit too reminiscent of all the waiting around the day before.
Last edited by nigheandonn on Mon Apr 09, 2018 10:34 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Fife Coastal Path section 4 - Elie to St Andrews

Postby Sgurr » Thu Apr 05, 2018 12:45 pm

You walked right past our front door. Pity you were in a hurry, or you could have dropped in for a cuppa.
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Re: Fife Coastal Path section 4 - Elie to St Andrews

Postby nigheandonn » Thu Apr 05, 2018 6:22 pm


That first day? I don't think you would have liked a soggy me dripping on your carpets!

You must live somewhere pretty, though :-)
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Location: Edinburgh

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