Day 9: Kingsbarns to St Andrews (8 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 95 Miles
12th September 2014
Following Day 8 of the Fife Coastal Path adventure, I headed home to the Black Isle for six nights to give myself a break before tackling the final thirty miles. I caught up on some DIY, relaxed and generally tried to avoid walking if at all possible! The days flew by and it was soon time to travel south again to Fife. I’d settled back into a routine at home and was lacking motivation for the rest of the trek.
I had a slow run down the A9, held up behind lorries doing less than 40 mph. The journey went from bad to worse when I became stuck in a traffic jam for 40 minutes on the outskirts of Perth. I tuned into the travel news, which informed me of a broken down bus up ahead. I sat and watched the minutes tick by, all the while aware that the tide was coming in at the East Neuk. I finally crawled past the bus, bypassed Perth, took the A90 to Dundee, crossed the Tay Road Bridge and found myself back in Fife. The second I rolled into Leuchars, back on my Fife Coastal Path turf, the last few days on the Black Isle left my mind and I was back in the zone.
After four and a half hours on the road, I parked at the shore in Kingsbarns, filled my lungs with fresh air and started walking at 2:00 pm. On Day 6, I had hobbled into Kingsbarns after a 13 mile walk from St Monans. The Kingsbarns section of the Fife Coastal Path is tidal. The tide times hadn’t been suitable on Days 7 and 8, so I’d skipped ahead to complete the St Andrews to Tayport section. It was good to back in Kingsbarns, my feet and legs having largely recovered. The sun was shining too!
I passed a sign warning of ‘rough and remote coastal terrain’ up ahead. I was entering the most challenging section of the Fife Coastal Path and racing against the incoming tide, thanks to the hold ups on the A9. I gobbled down my packed lunch and started power walking but still enjoyed my surroundings.
The three miles between Kingsbarns and Boarhills was one of the most enjoyable sections of the entire route – little beaches, golden barley fields, picturesque ruins, wild flowers, deciduous woodland with shafts of light penetrating the canopy, and a Dipper bobbing up and down in the Kenly Water. Idyllic.
I skirted the edge of Boarhills then descended towards Buddo Rock, an impressive stack of pink sandstone. The route became a bit of a challenge over the next couple of miles – up and down multiple flights of steps, up to the edge of the golf course and back down the cliffs to the shore. All the while the clock was ticking and I hadn’t yet reached the section marked on the map as impassable at high tide. I broke into a jog!
Before long I arrived at the tidal section, about an hour before high tide. The water had already submerged the path. I silently cursed the broken down bus at Perth and those precious 40 minutes wasted sitting in traffic. However, I had some good fortune. I hadn’t encountered another soul since leaving Kingsbarns until I met a couple here, also trying to negotiate the rocks and lapping water. If I had a mishap, help was at hand. After a failed attempt at clambering up some rocks, we scrambled up an earthy bank and followed a faint, narrow, precarious path above the incoming tide. Clearly we weren’t the first people to misjudge our timing here! The lady remarked to her husband, “You wouldn’t do this alone!” Want a bet? There was no way I was turning back to Kingsbarns!
I breathed a sigh of relief once the obstacle was safely negotiated. I should stress – don’t let this put you off completing this section of the Fife Coastal Path. There wouldn’t be a problem at low tide.
I bid farewell to the couple and pressed ahead in the direction of St Andrews. A few minutes later I passed the Rock and Spindle, another striking geological feature on this stretch of coastline. The vertical rock is the remains of a volcanic vent and the ‘spindle’ (facing away in the photograph below) comprises radiating basalt columns. It is well worth a visit.
The path then climbs a flight of steps at Kinkell Braes and emerges at the caravan site of the same name, where I have happy memories of my ninth birthday some twenty years ago! On a clear day, there is a lovely view towards St Andrews from up here but, as was typical of my Fife Coastal Path experience, it was spoiled by haze.
I emerged in St Andrews at the East Sands, then followed the cliff top path which gives a good view of the castle ruins. This picturesque ruin dates from around 1200 and was destroyed and rebuilt several times during the Wars of Scottish Independence. It became a centre of religious persecution and controversy during the Scottish Reformation. Eventually the castle fell into disrepair in the 1600s and the burgh council ordered that materials from the ruins be used in repairing the nearby pier.
A mile on, I found myself at the north end of the town, where I’d began my walk on Day 8. A short detour took me to the bus station and I caught the 6:00 pm bus which dropped me back at Kingsbarns at the end of a long day. It was a good feeling to have plugged this gap in the Fife Coastal Path and nice to be heading home to Perth to visit my parents. I’d now completed the 95 miles between Kincardine and Tayport, and was looking forward to tackling the Firth of Tay section over the next couple of days.
Please leave a comment and vote for your favourite photograph from Day 9 in the poll below. Also, it’s not too late to sponsor my Fife Coastal Path adventure on my JustGiving page!