Day 1: 117 Miles, 117 Photos – Finding My Feet on the Fife Coastal Path

Day 1: Kincardine to Valleyfield (6 Miles)

Total Distance Walked: 6 Miles

30th August 2014

On 30th August 2014 I took the first tentative steps of my 117 mile Fife Coastal Path adventure. I’d been looking forward to (and dreading) this moment for the past few months. The plan is to walk all 117 miles of the path and post 117 photos on my blog – 1 photo per mile long section of the path.

I figured this would be an excellent opportunity to raise funds for a good cause. So far my fantastic family, friends and colleagues have raised over £355 for Cancer Research (with some extra money for the Red Cross ebola appeal too). This is well over my initial target of £117 (£1 per mile). I lost my grandpa to cancer in 2006 and my grandad is currently fighting a losing battle with the disease, so this is a cause which is close to my heart. Please consider making a donation on my secure Just Giving page here and quote a number between 1 and 117 for every £1 you donate. You will be sponsoring that/those specific mile(s) of the walk and you can look out for the corresponding photograph(s) on my blog.

DSCN1497 Mile 17 Start Edited Re-Sized

I wrote a Bucket List in early 2014 and one of the items on it is to complete one of Scotland’s great trails (formerly known as long distance routes). The Kingdom of Fife is a peninsula in Scotland’s central belt, bounded by the Firth of Forth to the south and the Firth of Tay to the north. The coastal path was created in 2002 at which time it spanned the 82 miles between the Forth and Tay bridges. The route was extended in 2011 to include the Kincardine to North Queensferry section, and again in 2012 to include the Tayport to Newburgh stretch. The 117 mile route now encompasses the entire coastline of Fife and takes in quaint fishing villages, industrial towns, forestry, rugged cliffs, award winning beaches and wildlife reserves.

I was born and brought up in Perth, just a short distance from Fife. As such, I’ve spent countless day trips and weekends in this neck of the woods. In fact, my first ever holiday was to Boarhills near St Andrews when I was a baby. I’ve always felt an affinity with Fife and, before the start of this adventure, I’d walked several sections of the coastal path over the years. The idea of walking all 117 miles from Kincardine to Newburgh and linking up all these memories really appealed to me.

The days running up to the start of my walk were hectic – a busy week at work combined with packing and planning. I certainly didn’t clock up any long distances on Day 1, but I guess I deserved a leisurely start to my walk. I did my food shopping in the morning, visited my granny at lunchtime to celebrate her 85th birthday, then made tracks for Fife.

I was delighted to be joined by my parents for the first section of the walk. After two wrong turns in the car (one which sent us over the Kincardine Bridge and another which sent us driving back over the Forth across the Clackmannanshire Bridge!), we parked up in Kincardine at 3pm and began walking. We captured some photos at the start line and I took my first steps along the path. It was pretty surreal. The point of no return!

Kincardine – the start of the Fife Coastal Path

The path starts at the Kincardine Bridge which was built between 1932 and 1936. At the time it opened, it was the longest road bridge in Britain with a span of 822 metres. The bridge was designed so that the central span could rotate to allow large ships to sail upstream to Alloa.

Mile 1 - Looking back towards Kincardine. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 1 – Looking back towards Kincardine. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.

The next notable feature on the path is Longannet Power Station. Opened in 1973 and with a generating capacity of 2,400 megawatts, Longannet is a coal-fired power station which also co-fires biomass, natural gas and sludge. The chimney stack is 183m high and is a feature on the skyline for miles around.

Mile 2 - Longannet Power Station. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 2 – Longannet Power Station. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.

We followed the tarmac path through deciduous woodland and emerged at the water’s edge on the approach to Culross in glorious sunshine. The Forth Bridges appeared on the horizon and we looked across the estuary to Bo’ness and the Grangemouth refinery.

Mile 3 - View Towards Grangemouth. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling and Rory Carmichael.
Mile 3 – View Towards Grangemouth. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling and Rory Carmichael.
Mile 4 - Heading towards Culross. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 4 – Heading towards Culross. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.

Sixteenth century Culross is well worth a visit, with its cobbled streets and mustard yellow buildings. However the clock was ticking and so we didn’t linger. We followed the coastal path for another mile until we reached Valleyfield, our destination for the day. We bypassed the Valleyfield Lagoons – reclaimed land where ash from Longannet Power Station is deposited and landscaped, and a good location for wildlife watching. I felt a bit sad as I waved goodbye to my parents but I was delighted that they had been able to share the first few miles with me and I looked forward to meeting them at the far end of the path, in Newburgh, in a little over a week’s time (if everything goes according to plan!).

Mile 5 - Fife Coastal Path waymarker. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 5 – Fife Coastal Path waymarker. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 6 - Valleyfield at the end of Day 1. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.
Mile 6 – Valleyfield at the end of Day 1. Sponsored by Sam and Emily Hesling.

So, you’ve now seen the first few photos from the walk. Don’t worry, I realise I’m not going to win the ‘Landscape Photographer of the Year’ accolade based on these! Whilst on holiday on Eigg a few months ago, I conceded that there is a limit to how far I can carry my Nikon D300, tripod and other paraphernalia in a day. Mark and I abandoned our first attempt of An Sgùrr when the walk from Cleadale to the other side of the island left me exhausted, weighed down by gear. I’ve learned from my mistakes and ‘117 Miles, 117 Photos’ is about having an adventure with a lightweight backpack and compact camera. It will be a huge achievement if I complete the Fife Coastal Path but it probably wouldn’t happen if I was lugging around my kit and pausing to set up my tripod every mile. This is a good reconnaissance exercise. If I find some great locations for photography then I can return with the D300 another time in the preferred conditions. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos all the same and spare a moment to vote for your favourite image from each day of the walk.

Please vote in the poll below and consider making a donation to Cancer Research UK on my JustGiving page.

Click here to be re-directed to my website.

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