Day 4: Kinghorn to Leven (13 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 45 Miles
2nd September 2014
And so it begins – the last year of my twenties.
I was relieved to wake up with that special ‘birthday feeling’ despite being on my own in Fife. I opened my cards and displayed them in the cramped confines of the tent then got organised for the day ahead. It was a bit strange spending most of my birthday alone. It wasn’t how I’d originally planned it (my loner tendencies aren’t that extreme!) but Mark was in Falkirk training for his new job and, consequently, my parents were up on the Black Isle on Guinea Pig Duty!
I drove to Kinghorn, parked near the station and began my walk through this picturesque village. Kinghorn was once a Royal Burgh. A ferry, linking both sides of the Firth of Forth, operated here until the late eighteenth century. The village was transformed in 1846 when the railway viaduct was constructed and the station opened. I paused to admire the views across the Forth to Edinburgh and to read an influx of birthday text messages from friends and colleagues!
I arrived in Kirkcaldy. The town enjoyed prosperity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as the home of the linoleum industry. I have happy childhood memories of Kirkcaldy, thanks to trips to the shows (the Links Market, the longest street fair in Europe) and a weekend spent at Dunnikier Caravan Park, which has since closed down. This time I saw it with a fresh pair of eyes. Kirkcaldy is badly in need of a facelift. Thankfully extensive works are underway to revamp the esplanade. Unfortunately for me this meant a two mile walk along the pavement, most of it sandwiched between traffic and the construction works. I really struggled to get a half decent photograph here. In the end, I captured a shot of the harbour and didn’t have to resort to my back-up – a Fife Coastal Path sticker on a lamp post!
The surroundings improved once I arrived in Ravenscraig Park. Ravenscraig Castle was built by King James II of Scotland and dates from 1460. The king died in battle in the same year and so the castle was never completed as originally planned.
I paused for a bite to eat and cast my mind back to when I was last in Ravenscraig Park, five years ago on a family day out, when my brother was home from China for a week. I reflected on how we went about our family routine, the four of us, day in, day out, for fifteen years. Then things changed. My brother left home to go to university; I followed three years later; then three years after that, my brother moved to the other side of the world. Suddenly day trips like these – events that were once the norm – became incredibly rare. If only you could turn back time.
I carried on along the coast and through a tunnel to emerge in Dysart, a quaint fishing village dating from the thirteenth century and once a busy commercial port; now a quiet suburb of Kirkcaldy. I called in at the Harbourmaster’s House; a coastal visitor centre and the headquarters of the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, who manage, promote and maintain the Fife Coastal Path. The building and the harbour have a long and interesting history and are well worth a visit. I treated myself to a hot chocolate, had a quick scout around (another place to return to when I can spare more time!), signed the visitors’ book and continued on my way.
The path passed the remains of the disused Frances Colliery. The coal pit closed in 1995 and a memorial stands next to the path to remember those people who lost their lives here.
The path dropped down to sea level again and passed some sandstone cliffs on the approach to West Wemyss, a sleepy village which was once one of the most important ports in Fife.
I was feeling chuffed that I’d now completed a third of the walk. Looking at a map of Fife, I could see that I was really starting to make an impression on this challenge of mine! What had seemed like an impossible task the previous morning in Inverkeithing thankfully now seemed achievable.
I passed through East Wemyss, the birthplace of Jimmy Shand and home to the Weymss Caves, which apparently contain more carvings than the caves in the rest of Britain combined. Wow! The carvings are Pictish, Christian and Viking, and many are of animals, gods and fertility symbols. The caves are protected by the Save the Wemyss Ancient Caves Society which was established in 1986 after vandals drove a car into one of the caves and set it alight, resulting in the destruction of the swan drawing. I wanted to check out the caves but the clock was ticking. This is another place I’ll have to come back to.
I pressed on to Buckhaven and passed a combine harvester which reminded me of home, before heading into the housing estate. I flipped the map to reveal the fourth section of the Fife Coastal Path (Buckhaven to Elie). Making good progress!
I turned a street corner and caught sight of a chap getting bundled into the back of a police van parked outside a pub. I crossed the road. I passed a young woman pushing a buggy. “I’m down to ma last tenner, man, ya ken”, she informed her mobile phone. So… this was Buckhaven. I felt like I’d beamed down from another planet.
The pavement went on and on until, at some point, Buckhaven merged with Methil. This wasn’t much better. I discreetly dislodged my camera from its pouch and grabbed a shot of the Fife Energy Park; a renewable energy manufacturing and research hub built on the site of the old coal-fired Methil Power Station which was a prominent feature on the skyline until it was demolished in 2011.
I decided my car wouldn’t thank me for spending the next day parked in Buckhaven or Methil, so I pressed on to Leven. My mum spent most of her childhood holidays here. The family saying goes, “It’s always sunny in Leven!” It didn’t disappoint. 44.5 miles of walking without so much as a drop of rain. I’d chosen a good week for my trek. Luck was on my side as I hopped on a bus which took me all the way back to Kinghorn – no need to waste time trying to catch a connection in Kirkcaldy.
Back in the car, I eased off my walking boots and changed into jeans and a top. All set for my birthday night out! I consulted a roadmap and drove through Fife to the bridges. I was amazed at how far I’d walked. I allowed myself a quick glance over my shoulder as I crossed the Forth Road Bridge. I could see the chimney of the Longannet Power Station in the distance. Kincardine felt like a distant memory now. I joined the M9 and the M876 and finally arrived in Larbert. My spirits soared as I rounded a corner and caught sight of Mark, my other half. Only four days had passed since we went out separate ways on the Black Isle but it felt like longer. We swapped stories about the Fife Coastal Path and Mark’s new job over birthday dinner and presents and I treated myself to a night in the Premier Inn, to avoid a late night drive all the way back to Lundin Links.
Well, that’s another birthday over. 30 now looms on the distant horizon but it’s okay; I’ve achieved most of the things I wanted to achieve this decade and there’s still a year to go. With the Bucket List at the forefront of my mind, I’ve already hatched a plan for next year. I think my 30th birthday will be a great opportunity to tick off another item: ‘Climb Goatfell again’. It’s certainly overdue. The one and only time I’ve climbed to the highest point on the Isle of Arran was on a family holiday in the summer of 1989; the week in which my earliest memories were formed. I’ve been back to Arran but the weather hasn’t been on my side for a walk up Goatfell. Fingers crossed for another fine day on 2nd September 2015.
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