Day 3: North Queensferry to Kinghorn (15 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 32 Miles
1st September 2014
2014 is flying by and so is the Fife Coastal Path adventure!
This was a significant day. I got over my homesickness and started to enjoy myself, and made it one quarter of the way around the path.
The day started in North Queensferry. The Forth bridges have been a familiar sight throughout my life and have always captured my imagination. Countless childhood trips to Edinburgh to visit my grandparents followed by ten years of living in Edinburgh, with frequent trips home to Perth, sent me over the Forth Road Bridge hundreds (if not thousands) of times. Nowadays I catch the train from Inverness to Edinburgh every couple of weeks. Whilst other passengers tap away on their laptops and mobile phones, I allow myself a brief respite from the screen before me to gaze upstream to the Forth Road Bridge and the ongoing Queensferry Crossing construction works beyond, and to look up and admire this monument to Victorian engineering. It is AWESOME.
I set off on my walk with frequent glances back over my shoulder to the Forth Bridge. I did the North Queensferry – Inverkeithing section of the path a couple of years ago, on my final Edinburgh-based birthday, and it was good to be back. I was still feeling a bit overwhelmed by the challenge before me. My feet were already sore and I started the day on Mile 17 – exactly 100 miles to go.
I was really touched by the response I received to my Cancer Research fundraising campaign but there was a certain amount of pressure that came with it. I had to fulfil my obligation and complete the Fife Coastal Path. I rounded Carlingnose Point, heading for Inverkeithing, and asked myself, “What if I physically can’t do this?” Maybe I would have to nip home (a ~300 mile round trip) to pick up my bike… maybe not. I put the thought out of my head for the time being and pressed on through the wildlife reserve and past the scrapyard. The disused quarries of Carlingnose are home to rich fauna including plants which are uncommon in Fife, such as Dropwort.
I made a conscious decision on Day 1 not to stray from the path unless absolutely necessary. It would have been nice to explore various villages along the way, however clocking up extra miles wasn’t going to do my poor feet any favours. I already knew Fife extremely well so I wouldn’t miss out too much. I carried all my food and drink with me each day so that I wouldn’t have to leave the path and go in search of a shop. I did however decide to treat myself along the way if the path took me past somewhere particularly appealing! I first succumbed to temptation on Inverkeithing High Street, by popping into a bakers for an empire biscuit. I ate half and saved the rest for later. I still wasn’t eating properly and had done the last 19 miles on a near-empty stomach – not the best.
I passed the mercat cross which is regarded as one of the finest in Scotland. The cross dates from the sixteenth century and the unicorn and shield were added in 1688.
I passed St David’s Harbour, Dalgety Bay and some barley fields which reminded me of my home on the Black Isle, and I enjoyed views over to Edinburgh. Sadly, since 1990, over 2,500 radioactive hotspots have been found on the shoreline at Dalgety Bay. The contamination comes from eroded landfill containing debris from Second World War aircraft. Long-term management options for the site are currently being considered.
I paused for lunch on a bench on the approach to Aberdour and picked at my food yet again. Time to give myself a good talking to! “Yes, you’re missing the Black Isle and a bit of company, but so what? Home will be there when you head back next week. This is supposed to be an adventure, not a punishment. This is one week out of your life. Enjoy it. Life’s too short. You need to cheer up before your birthday tomorrow otherwise you’re going to be miserable!”
From that moment on, I enjoyed the Fife Coastal Path adventure. I decided to split the walk into two sections so that I could head home for a wee break part way through, then tackle the final section with my parents the following weekend. I figured out I needed to get to Leuchars or Tayport solo. Better crack on. I picked up my map, hat and rucksack and marched into Aberdour, 25 miles under my belt. I rounded a corner and spotted a café. Time for a treat. Double choca mocha!
I must have passed through Aberdour a good number of times over the years but I couldn’t recall previously visiting the harbour or the beach (Silversands Bay). The sun was shining, the sea was sparkling, and I was enjoying my surroundings and views towards Edinburgh and the Pentlands. I was happy again. It really was idyllic and I’ll certainly return to this stretch of coastline again in the future.
I followed the railway line through woodland and arrived at Burntisland Beach an hour later. 29 miles done. Just a few hours left to go until my 29th birthday.
I get the train down to Edinburgh every couple of weeks. The line passes through my home town of Perth then meanders through Fife, calling at Ladybank, Markinch, Kirkcaldy and Inverkeithing. With the exception of the Forth Bridge, my favourite part of the journey is the stretch between Kirkcaldy and Burntisland. The track reaches the coast and I’m rewarded with views over Burntisland Beach and the Firth of Forth. This journey is one of the factors that inspired me to take on the Fife Coastal Path adventure. For months I had been looking forward to walking this section of the path. Seriously, for the east coast, this is a cracking beach.
I was greeted by this sign which informed me that the low tide route to Kinghorn follows the beach and that the high tide route follows the A921. You know what’s coming. I stuck my head round the corner. Ah… that’ll be high tide then.
I walked on pavement for the next two miles until I reached Pettycur. Buses, cars and the occasional lorry whizzed by as I clung to the inside of the pavement. I captured a poorly lit shot of the Alexander III monument. The king had been riding home from Edinburgh Castle to Kinghorn in poor weather on the night of 18th March 1286 when he fell to his death, less than two miles from Kinghorn. Alexander’s three children had died in the five years preceding his death. The queen was pregnant at the time of Alexander’s death but the unborn child, the heir to the throne, didn’t survive. Consequently Alexander’s granddaughter Margaret, the Maid of Norway, became the heir however she died on the journey to Scotland. The coronation of John Balliol took place on 30th November 1292 and brought to end the six year period following Alexander’s death in which the Guardians of Scotland governed the country.
I paused near the monument and gazed longingly in the direction of the sands that hadn’t been covered by the tide. I couldn’t even cross the road to get a photograph of the beach as there wasn’t a pavement on the other side! A day trip from Perth to Aberdour and Burntisland (at low tide!) is now high on the priority list…
I made it to Pettycur in one piece and turned my back on the A road. I walked through a residential area, lost the Fife Coastal Path momentarily and picked it up again. I’d consulted the train timetable on my laptop at the campsite that morning. I checked the time on my phone (I stopped wearing a watch when I moved to the Black Isle) and increased my pace. I arrived at Kinghorn station and grabbed a seat. Ten minutes later I hopped on a train and purchased a ticket to North Queensferry. This more than made up for Day 2’s travel fiasco!
I grabbed my usual seat and smiled to myself as the train trundled along the Fife coast stopping at Burntisland, Aberdour, Dalgety Bay and Inverkeithing before arriving in North Queensferry, en route to Edinburgh. I had walked a long way! In fact, I had now completed a quarter of the Fife Coastal Path! I returned to the campsite in high spirits, cooked dinner and murdered some pasta. I was feeling pretty upbeat and my appetite was back!
Later in the evening, I lay in the tent and wrote my diary. Another 1st September over. Another birthday looming. I cast my mind back some 25 years to 1st September 1989, the day that my parents, brother and I embarked on our debut caravan trip (to Blair Atholl) in our first caravan, on the weekend of my fourth birthday. Was it really a quarter of a century ago? My dad had spent what seemed like the entire summer renovating the caravan in our driveway. It was smashed to smithereens on the A9 a week or so after my birthday weekend, en route to Stirling on our second ever trip with the caravan. The car in front had stopped to pick up a hitchhiker on the dual carriageway and a lorry crashed into the back of us. End of caravan. I can still see the car in front speeding off. One of the items salvaged was an orange mattress; the very mattress I was lying on in my tent in Fife now aged (almost) 29. Some things never change. Thankfully my parents did pretty well out of their insurance claim and they purchased their second caravan later that month. We made it to Stirling, I enjoyed a wonderful childhood (bullying aside) filled with caravan holidays, and I fell in love with Scotland: the likes of Fife, close to home; and the likes of the Highlands, where I now live.
Please consider making a donation to Cancer Research UK via my JustGiving page and remember to vote for your favourite photograph in the poll below.