Day 10: Tayport to Balmerino (9 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 104 Miles
13th September 2014
I’d shuffled into Tayport on Day 7 thoroughly soaked after a day of walking in the rain. I’d since enjoyed a week at home on the Black Isle and also completed the section of the Fife Coastal Path between Kingsbarns and Guardbridge. It was lovely to be back in Tayport in warm, sunny weather. I also had some company! My parents joined me on Day 1 of my Fife Coastal Path adventure on the first five miles between Kincardine and Low Valleyfield. After 91 miles of walking solo, I had the pleasure of their company again when they walked with me on the eight mile stretch from Tayport to Balmerino. With over 80% of the long distance route already completed and on the penultimate day of the trek, I was really starting to feel that I was on the home straight.
I couldn’t figure out a practical way of returning to our starting point by public transport and so we’d driven through Fife in convoy and left my car in Balmerino, before driving on to Tayport. After eating our picnic at Tayport harbour, we made a start on the Firth of Tay section of the path. We followed the disused railway line, passed old lighthouses and recalled day trips and weekends spent in Broughty Ferry, Carnoustie, Monifieth and Dundee, all visible on the other side of the Tay.
Before long we arrived at the Tay Road Bridge. The bridge was built in 1966 and links Fife with Dundee to the north. We paused to read an interpretation panel. For years I’ve known that the River Tay is the longest river in Scotland, but until now I hadn’t quite grasped its length. It is 117 miles long – the same length as the Fife Coastal Path! I’m terrible at remembering figures but this one will definitely stick in my mind.
We walked under the road bridge into Newport and stopped at the pier to read about the ferries which once operated on the Tay. Back in the day, four ferry services linked Balmerino, Woodhaven, Newport and Tayport with Dundee and Broughty Ferry to the north. The last sailing between Newport and Dundee took place on 18th August 1966, following the opening of the road bridge earlier that day. As I write this, I’m reflecting on various road bridges up and down the country – Forth, Kessock, Skye, Kylesku, Ballachulish (to name only a few) – and how their construction must have transformed the communities living near them. I’m thinking back to the construction of the Skye Bridge in 1995. I love the convenience of being able to nip over to Skye nowadays but the loss of the ferries has robbed Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin of something magical. It must have been the same here, at Newport, back in the mid ’60s.
I arrived at the Tay Bridge with 100 miles under my belt. This structure isn’t hugely inspiring but the stumps of the old railway bridge have always captured my imagination. I have fond memories of my dad reading to me when I was a child; not just Enid Blyton but also non-fiction, in particular a book about disasters! One such disaster was that of the Tay Bridge. In a violent storm on 28th December 1879, the high girders of the original Tay Bridge – designed by Thomas Bouch – fell into the icy waters of the Tay below, taking the Burntisland to Dundee train with it and claiming the lives of everyone on board.
Memorials to the victims have been erected on both sides of the firth, at Wormit and Dundee. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining – the hopelessly inadequate single track bridge was replaced with William Henry Barlow’s twin track bridge in 1887 and Thomas Bouch’s ghastly design for the Forth Bridge was scrapped in favour of Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker’s magnificent, indestructible cantilever structure which has recently been designated Scotland’s sixth UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Moving on from the memorial at Wormit Bay, the Fife Coastal Path enters woodland and climbs above the shoreline in the direction of Balmerino. It’s funny to think that this quiet little hamlet once had a ferry service to Dundee.
My car sat waiting for me outside the ruins of Balmerino Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1229 by a band of Cistercian monks from Melrose and was overthrown by Protestant reformers in 1559. The ruins are overlooked by a Sweet Chestnut tree (visible in the photograph below) which is over 400 years old – it certainly puts your sense of time into perspective.
10 days and 104 miles done; 1 day and 13 miles to go! Please leave a comment and vote for your favourite photograph from Day 10 in the poll below. Also, it’s not too late to sponsor me on my JustGiving page!