Day 2: Valleyfield to North Queensferry (11 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 17 Miles
31st August 2014
At the time of writing, I’ve completed nearly 75% of my walk around the Fife Coastal Path. The original plan had been to update my blog every day but this proved to be even more difficult than tackling the 117 mile hike! So, I’m writing this back home, in the comfort of my own kitchen, with a dram of whisky and my Fife Coastal Path map and guidebook on the table. I’ve had time to reflect, my legs and feet have recovered, and I expect I’ll write a better piece than I would have written hunched over the laptop in the tent.
I’ll begin by setting the scene. I camped at Woodland Gardens at Lundin Links near Leven for a week. Each day I drove to my starting point, walked up to 14.5 miles (my destination always being somewhere I could park the following day), then I made my way back to the car by public transport – various combinations of train, bus and taxi. Once this is over, I’ll offset my carbon footprint so that the donations made to charity in my name will effectively be carbon-neutral.
I would have loved to have carried my Nikon D300 and tripod but the weight would have been prohibitive. I suffered with a couple of blisters and sore calf muscles and hamstrings. Throwing a 10kg camera bag into the mix wouldn’t have helped matters! It wasn’t practical to be out and about at dusk and dawn, and I completed most of the walk in flat light, so even if I had carried the D300, I would only have used it for a handful of shots.
From the outset, I focused on having an adventure as opposed to pursuing great landscape photography. I relied on my Nikon Coolpix P330, a high end compact camera which offers full manual control, so I didn’t feel as though I was compromising too much. My camera was attached to my belt, along with my pedometer which gave me my daily stats: how far I’d walked (although I knew that from my map); how many calories I’d burned; the number of steps I’d taken (over 38,000 on the longest day); and the length of time I’d walked for (typically up to 5.5 hours of walking time per day).
Safely tucked in its waterproof cover, my Fife Coastal Path map never left my hand, so as to avoid the risk of dropping into a long daydream and forgetting to take a photograph every mile! I carried a hydration pack, meaning I was constantly drinking water without having to drop my pace, stop, or remove my backpack. I also carried a small flask, food, a cagoule, my Fife Coastal Path guidebook and a few other bits and bobs. Keeping the weight to a minimum was key to enjoying the experience.
My days were pretty intense. I got up at 6:40 each morning to beat the rush for the campsite showers. I made breakfast at my picnic table, prepared a packed lunch, charged batteries, planned the day ahead, spent too much time on facebook, and left the campsite around 9:00 each day. I arrived back around 7:00 in the evenings, sometimes later, and it was a race against time to cook dinner and wash up before darkness closed in. The campsite was excellent (one of the best I’ve ever stayed on and I’m saying that after 25 years of caravanning/camping). I had the option of the sitting in the plush recreation room, which I did a couple of times. However, I normally preferred to back up photos and plan the next day snuggled up in the tent. Sleep soon washed over me each evening and blogging dropped off my radar.
I swung by Argos in Dunfermline on my way to Valleyfield on the morning of Day 2 to replace my stove. This is one of Argos’s new digital concept stores. Catalogues have been replaced by tablets. I thought I’d stepped on to the bridge of the Star Trek Enterprise! I tested the new stove in the car park then made my way to Valleyfield, where I sat in the sun, boiled some water, knocked back a coffee, picked at some porridge (I had no appetite), then set off on my walk.
There wasn’t a huge amount of enjoyment in Day 2. I missed the company of my parents who had walked with me the previous day, I was missing home, and feeling alarmed by the challenge that lay before me. Also, this was a bit of Fife that I didn’t know and so I didn’t have the comfort of familiar surroundings. I was almost embarrassed by the fact that I had lived relatively close by in Edinburgh for a decade and had never heard of Newmills, Torryburn, Crombie, Charlestown or Limekilns, let alone visited them. Culross was the extent of my knowledge of the first section of the path (Kincardine to Limekilns), thanks to some family days out long ago and an S3 Geography fieldtrip back in the late ’90s.
I started the day with 5.5 miles under my belt and 111.5 miles to go. I had barely moved on from Kincardine and the prospect of walking round the entire Fife coastline, all the way to Newburgh, was a daunting one. Every few miles, sometimes more, sometimes less, I encountered interpretation panels with information about the local area. My eye was always drawn to the little map of Fife with a marker showing my progress around the coast. On my own and with a huge walk ahead of me, walking to Newburgh seemed like an impossible task, particularly when it had taken me over an hour to drive from Kincardine to the East Neuk of Fife the previous evening, to set up at the campsite! I tried to put the end goal out of my mind and focus on the day ahead.
My first port of call was Torry Bay; a favourite spot amongst wildlife enthusiasts. The Torry Bay mudflats were designated as a nature reserve in 1996 as they attract a wide range of waders and ducks. The chimney of the Longannet Power Station is a prominent feature on the horizon. The path cuts inland after Torry Bay and re-joins the coast four miles on, between Charlestown and Limekilns.
My spirits lifted when I arrived in Limekilns, 11.5 miles done, at which point I re-folded my map to reveal the second section of the Fife Coastal Path (Limekilns to Burntisland) and experienced my first sense of achievement! I was very taken with Limekilns with its pretty harbour and beach. The sun was out and I was seeing this section of the path at its best.
This part of the Fife coastline is rich in limestone. Once quarried, limestone is burnt at high temperatures to produce lime, which forms the basis for a range of building materials. The lime industry once thrived in these parts. It is estimated that one third of building lime in the UK came from Fife, due to the vast quantities produced in Charlestown and Limekilns. Indeed much of the building work of Georgian Edinburgh used lime from the Fife quarries. The kilns closed in the 1950s. However the Scottish Lime Centre Trust, based at Charlestown, continues to promote the knowledge and skills required for the conservation, repair and maintenance of the historic built environment.
I left Limekilns, followed the steep incline up to the A985 and paused to catch my breath and take in the view towards Dunfermline. The path follows the main road for a mile or so before cutting through Rosyth. The path passes through a small area of woodland, home to the Rosyth Doocot. The doocot dates from the sixteenth century and contains 1500 square apertures inside for Pigeons to nest in. The interpretation panel informed me that in 1503 King James IV passed an act that required all landowners to provide deer parks, orchards or doocots to benefit their local communities. Doocots, such as the one here at Rosyth, would ensure the year-round availability of meat and eggs.
I pressed on to North Queensferry. The Forth Bridges had been on the horizon since Mile 3 of the path. It was great to get a good look at the Queensferry Crossing construction works, having read so much about it at the Forth Bridges Contact and Education Centre a few weeks previously. It’s quite something to think that this bridge will open within the next couple of years. With a 1.7 mile span, the Queensferry Crossing will be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world.
It was a relief to walk under the Forth Road Bridge, back on familiar territory, and know that the bus stop was less than a mile away. I looked up at the bridge and recalled my tower top trip the previous month (check out the July archives for more on this!). Thankfully the weather had improved since the pea souper that day!
I sat in the sun in North Queensferry and waited half an hour for a bus to Dunfermline. My luck ran out there! North Queensferry to Dunfermline is six miles as the crow flies but somehow it took the bus ONE HOUR. I knew I needed to catch a number 9 to High Valleyfield from Dunfermline bus station but I didn’t have a timetable. My bus finally reached its destination and I jumped out of my seat when I caught sight of a number 9 at the far side of the bus station, with a small queue of people boarding. I ran the length of the bus station, blisters exploding, only to find that this number 9 bus was going to Kelty, the opposite direction to High Valleyfield. It turned out I must have ran past the other number 9 bus, bound for High Valleyfield. Thanks for that, Stagecoach.
The next bus wasn’t due for another hour – 6:25 on a Sunday evening. I did a quick calculation and envisaged cooking dinner back at the campsite in darkness. I cut my losses, jumped in a taxi, coughed up £15 and was back at Valleyfield by 5:55pm. I cheered myself up by listening to the ‘Mary Poppins’ soundtrack on the drive back to Lundin Links! Oh, and the snorers in the neighbouring tent had moved on too. Result!
I’ve been camping since 2006 (caravanning since 1989) and this was the first night I brought electricity into the tent. I knew electricity was included in the price of my pitch and so I splashed out on a hook-up. It was pretty amazing to lie in my tent with the luxury of a bright light and the laptop on charge, connected to the site’s free Wifi. Yes, I’ll admit it, I was glamping!
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