The Fife Coastal Path is the most accessible long-distance route I have walked so far; easy and flat walking, with multiple towns and villages that can make your walking day as short or long as you like. Ample public transit makes it easy to get to and from any trail head. Over time, I discovered that more people do it in sections than in one go. The people I saw most were local dog walkers and day hikers, but they all seemed equally pleased to be there.
Although not part of the walk itself, a Day 0, transition day, has its own charms and irritants; it is usually a travel day, brings you to new places, but with the challenges that car/bus/planes or trains add to any trip. This day was a longish drive plus a longer bus ride, with interesting new landscapes and multiple mis-directions from my Google Maps (Florence in the phone). First there was driving on the A82. This highway winds along the shore of Loch Lomand for a good 23 miles and has felt pretty scary and sick-inducing on my numerous bus rides. Would I be sick? Could I squeeze through some very narrow passes with aggressive on-coming traffic? But I was not a bus! My tiny mint green Fiat, negotiated those curves and round-abouts with skill. I did get confused finding the airport and my bus route was another one of those ‘gifts from Google’ that took me at least an hour and a half beyond my destination. On the plus side, I met a couple of lovely ladies, on their own ‘tour’, who shared stories of their homes and families. (y’know, they fight at weddings and funerals in Dundee…). I landed in a cozy, albeit very suburban house, where I was able to have my (self) congratulatory beer and crisps, my dinner, and calculate my route for the next day.
Although largely a bike trail, I was happy to be back on a multi-day walking gig. The ever present, reassuring trail signage, particularly at the trail head, had me humming in anticipation of a happy long-distance trudge.
I enjoyed ALL the infrastructure and industry on this and days to come, including the Kincardine Bridge, Longannat Power Station, and the ever present rail lines. The town of Culross was a gem and I deviated through the town itself. I also embraced other ‘deviations’ to get off the roads, or closer to the shore. The village of Limekilns, and its eponymous lime kilns were fascinating and the comfortable and well used beach in the village were a plus for this lover of public spaces.
The end of the day was a slight fishtail, long walking past a military base, emerging in a pub-less village (I know right?) but it was redeemed with an emergency stop in Inverkeithing to find some liquid refreshment and pub buddies.
North Queensferry: Who knew? Charming town, but painful access during the construction of the Queensferry Crossing. Except for the grumpy ‘you cannot pee here’ restaurant, it was lovely, albeit confusing without a blow-up of the town map to find the route out. There was a close encounter with a scrap yard, revisiting Inverkeithing, and a slog through the very suburban Dalgety Bay, my home-base for this part of the walk.
I was saved by the lovely ruin of St.Bridget’s Kirk and the town of Aberdour, after a walk through some rural land and ever present golf courses. Burntisland was a second, satisfying end-of-day pub stop where I learned much about the local highland games scene.
This was a stupendous shore walking day; given the low morning tides, I was able to keep to the sands for most of it. I saw a hill side trailer park, with its spread of uniform green boxes. There was a short stint with some local day walkers and we parted at Dysart, a small harbour town where I had a delightful lunch stop, leaning against a sea wall right on the beach. I passed Ravenscraig Castle, imagining a connection back to the former eponymous estate in Montreal, built by Scottish business tycoon Hugh Allen (I was wrong ☹). After East Wemyss there are a series of sea-side caves, with original neolithic carvings – and a shortcut back to the main trail, via the McDuff Castle. Though I couldn’t spot the original carvings, I did meet a fascinating young woman who was back-packing her way around the coast of Scotland. Wow.
Without being a bully, I would say to give the 2 km between Buckhaven and Leven a hard pass; nothing to see, inland roadways and nondescript industry. Starting in Leven, however, you can be on the coast for almost the entire remainder of the day.
I was joined there by a walking companion, David, who I met the previous week, and we continued on to St. Monans. After a stop for an early pint in Lower Largo (the home of the inspiration for and author of Robinson Carusoe) and a lunch stop on the rocky shores of Shell Bay, we sadly missed the turn-off for the legendary ‘Chainwalk’ along the cliffs. Nonetheless, the coast scenery did not disappoint.
Another pause in Elie, before arriving at St-Monans…oh wait, there was an additional detour to the fresh veg stand, another 2 km or so.
We were toast (knackered) by the time we arrived at my BnB, and I was relieved to get a message from him (after two hours of bus and car travel), saying he finally made it back to Pencuik.
My friend Lindsay joined me on this day, from Saint-Monans to Crail.
It was exceedingly civilized, a mere 7 miles, stopping for coffee on busy Shore Street in Anstruther. At the end of our walking day in Crail, we had tea and cake and a look around the shops. I was lucky again that day with the coast, the pretty villages, and of course the company. Lindsay is a serious cyclist and walker who always has a ton of stories about her other adventures; a shame about the Atlantic that separates us.
This was going to be a long day, and I had a rendez-vous in Saint-Andrews, to pick up my stuff and catch a bus to my final accommodation along the trail in Newburgh. I bolted from the breakfast table to catch an earlier bus, and felt like a heel the first part of the day, not having given my host, Fiona, a proper good-bye. For all the warnings about lack of services etc. along this coast, most of it followed golf courses, that over civilized version of the Scottish landscape.
I was largely able to follow the rocky and sandy coast, and arrived in Saint-Andrews, via their public beach, in time to wander through this seriously old university town. Once I was on the bus to Newburgh, I noticed the section of the path leaving town, and was horrified at its proximity to the very busy highway, and views of…nothing. My plan to ‘skip that mess’ started forming. Arriving in Newburgh, I was alternately charmed and miffed; it was a lovely little town, with almost no public transportation on Sundays, which was my next walking day.
This day, I did the final section of the walk, from Balmarino back to Newburgh, so day 8 on day 7. Given the town’s relative isolation, my host took pity on me, drove me to the trail head, and joined me for part of it with her big beautiful golden lab type doggie. This was a very different walk, inland, through woods and forestry, along streams, and roads with large views across open farm land.There was even a castle ruin within a farm.
A fantastic day, even though my phone went MIA, and some sweet locals crossed the field I had just left, and found it sitting there, by the fence I had jumped over…
A peculiar kind of day; feeling very intrepid at the outset, I managed to stay closer to the coast than was prescribed and enjoyed a long video chat with my brother in Oshawa for his birthday while walking through Tayport. The coast was lovely, although Dundee across the firth was invisible through the haar, the marina’s of Tayport were charming. In fact, I changed up the route a lot; going by Morton Lochs instead of following the outermost route through Tentsmuir forest, not walking into St. Andrews, but bussing from Leuchars, and taking the time to wander through the town upon arriving by bus.Fact: the forestry was not nice , wide and hot dirt roads– I wonder what it was like on the original route. Arriving back for my last night at the Air BnB, I prepared for my departure to Edinburgh. I was not feeling the decision to exclude part of the route, but you live and learn.
In the end, it was a very different kind of walk than those I had done before. It was clearly the most urban route; the Fife coast is a collection of suburbs and villages which makes for a more built up, populated experience. Despite it’s population AND popularity though, it was kind of isolating seeing as I met almost no one who was doing it as a multi-day long distance hike. But don’t let that stop you. With it’s varied coasts and cliffs, and the smatter of rural inland, it is definitely worth the detour.