Day 7: Guardbridge to Tayport (10 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 82 Miles
5th September 2014
Since I lasted posted, Christmas has been and gone and here we are in 2015. A new year and so many new opportunities ahead. Time for a final push to crack on and finish writing up ‘117 Miles, 117 Photos’.
I finished Day 6 at Kingsbarns and so logically Day 7 would have begun there. Well, no. There are a couple of sections of the Fife Coastal Path between Kingsbarns and St Andrews which are impassable at high tide (do pop back and read about this section which I completed on Day 9). I’d checked out the tide tables and I decided it just wasn’t practical to do this section on Day 6. I opted to crack on with the next significant stretch, Guardbridge to Tayport, most of it in heavy rain. The weather didn’t dampen my spirits. In fact, it was a welcome change from the monotonous haze and white skies of the last couple of days. The conditions weren’t great for photography but the rain certainly created an atmosphere in Tentsmuir Forest.
I parked up in Guardbridge at the mouth of the Eden Estuary, a Local Nature Reserve supporting Red-Breasted Merganser, Shelduck, Greylag Goose and the most northerly concentration of Bar-Tailed Godwits in Britain. The Fife Coast and Countryside Trust runs a small visitor centre here.
Within a few minutes I passed the Leuchars RAF base which dates from 1920 and was at the forefront of the Cold War. In 2013 it hosted the 65th Leuchars Airshow, the final such event before the transfer of the base to the Army, scheduled for 2015. It’s a loss for Fife. Around 40,000 people attended the final Airshow. I gazed over to the airfield and recalled a sunny day spent here, aged 11, with my family at the 1996 Airshow, watching spectacular displays and being deafened by a Harrier Jump Jet! Today there wasn’t a soul to be seen.
I left Leuchars and its airfield behind and didn’t pass another pedestrian for the next four miles. Either this is one of the less visited sections of the Fife Coastal Path or no-one else was crazy enough to be out walking given the weather forecast. Either way, I loved the peace and tranquillity on this stretch of path which, I should warn you, is nowhere near the coast! I followed a hedge-lined tarmac road, a track across open grassland and a rough path through coniferous plantation.
I felt really at home on this section of path. The experience of walking through coniferous plantation – bracken and toadstools at my feet, the threat of rain in the air, and not another human being in sight – reminded me of my walks through Millbuie Forest on the Black Isle.
The rain came on before I merged with the road down to Kinshaldy Beach/Tentsmuir Sands. I stopped below a horse chestnut tree to pick up a conker then made my way down to the road, to inquisitive looks from passing cars; their occupants warm and dry inside.
I’ve spent many a day at Tentsmuir (although this was a first in this weather). Local knowledge served me well and I knew I wouldn’t have to eat my lunch in the rain. I arrived at the car park which was empty except for a few dog walkers. On a sunny day, vehicles occupy every nook and cranny between the tree trunks and families enjoy picnics and barbeques on the grass. I took cover at the information point and read about the Tentsmuir Nature Reserve whilst eating porridge and oatcakes, washed down with a cup of tea. I heard voices in the distance before half of Dundee University emerged from the forest. My peace and quiet was shattered as a gaggle of drenched first year students descended on my lunch spot. I gobbled down the rest of my meal and continued on my way. There was no point in going down to the beach in this weather. I passed a young lady clad in high heels, hobbling through the forest with the aid of two lecturers. I offered a sympathetic smile and suddenly felt very old and geeky in my walking boots, Tilley hat and cagoule…
I paused at the ice house a mile and a half later, where I grabbed a seat on a dry bench, sheltered under a tree.
I finally arrived at Tentsmuir Point. I was quite excited about getting my first glimpse of the mighty silvery Tay – a sure sign of home (I am Perth born and bred). The moment didn’t quite live up to expectations as I strained my eyes to see where the rain stopped and the river began. I didn’t hang around.
I continued through the forest for another mile. My pace dropped as I shuffled into Tayport past the BMX track and through the caravan site – yet more childhood memories. I made my way up to the bus stop. My cagoule had given up the fight by this point and the damp was seeping through. The rain was playing havoc with the touch screen on my mobile phone. I got drenched for a further 15 minutes as I stood at the bus stop, puzzling over the bus timetable, trying to work out the difference between the 42, 42A and 42B. I’m still none the wiser. I boarded a bus and was promptly sent back out into the pouring rain, as it terminated in Tayport. This was shortly followed by the St Andrews bus which actually terminated at Leuchars Station, 5 miles north of St Andrews…!
I finally made it back to Guardbridge. I pulled on my winter coat and sat in the car shivering. I consulted my road map. I couldn’t cook back at the tent in this weather. My eye wandered over to Perth… very tempting, but no. I started the engine and drove into St Andrews. Friday night. Time to treat myself. I made my way to Zizzi’s for a three course meal and a break from camping food. I demolished my starter faster than you can say “crazy loner in restaurant!” Another day over. Another 10 miles closer to Newburgh.
Please leave a comment and vote for your favourite photograph from Day 7 in the poll below. Thanks!