Day 11: Balmerino to Newburgh (13 Miles)
Total Distance Walked: 117 Miles
£517 raised for Cancer Research UK
14th September 2014
Somehow nearly a whole year has gone by since I walked the Fife Coastal Path and I’m only completing my blog now! Oh well, better late than never…
I was fortunate to get another dry spell of weather for the final day of my trek. I left my parents’ house in Perth bright and early and set off for Balmerino. I drove through Newburgh and took the minor road which runs parallel with the coast. Mile after mile went by before I parked up at Balmerino Abbey – I had another long day ahead of me.
The section of path between Balmerino and Newburgh is enjoyable but a little frustrating too. I liked the variety – woodland paths and tracks, quiet country roads and farmland – however much of the route is set well inland from the Tay (definitely not ‘coastal’!). It also takes a rather convoluted route, climbing and zigzagging from sea level at Balmerino to ~230m where it skirts around Norman’s Law, before dropping steadily to sea level again towards Newburgh. Following the coastal road through Flisk and Logie would probably make more sense as it would cover a shorter distance and would require considerably less effort. However, as a stickler for the rules, I pulled on my walking boots at Balmerino and diligently set off on the official route, weaving my way across the countryside and over hills for the final thirteen miles, enjoying bits of Fife that I hadn’t even known existed.
The path follows an old farm road lined with hedgerows and wild flowers for the first couple of miles west of Balmerino. I joined a road I’d driven earlier in the day and marched swiftly past a field full of frisky cattle – my walking pole wasn’t going to offer me much protection against a possible stampede!
A mile on, I passed the ruins of Creich Castle. My Fife Coastal Path guidebook informs me that there has been a castle on this site since at least the thirteenth century, although the present building is thought to date from the early 1500s.
The quiet country surroundings continued as I passed by the hamlet of Brunton and paused to admire a colourful tangle of Brambles and Nettles growing over a dry stane dyke. I flipped over my map to reveal the final nine miles of the Fife Coastal Path as I approached Pittachope. Here I encountered the penultimate interpretation panel and captured yet another ‘selfie’ to record a significant moment. I’d trekked 108 miles all the way from Kincardine and had stopped to read and photograph every information board on the way. Finally I’d reached an interpretation panel showing Newburgh on it – the end of the Fife Coastal Path. Not far to go now!
My map informed me that I was heading into rough and remote terrain again. I’d arranged to rendezvous with my parents near Newburgh in order to catch a lift back to my car at Balmerino (thus avoiding a Sunday back-of-beyond public transport nightmare). I fired off a text to let them know I was heading into potentially dodgy phone signal territory and would see them in a couple of hours’ time when I would emerge closer to civilisation!
I left the public road at Pittachope, made my way uphill and contoured around Norman’s Law on deserted forest track heading in the direction of Glenduckie. I don’t recall seeing much in the way of wildlife but my Fife Coastal Path guidebook informs me that green hairstreak butterfly can be spotted in these parts.
I was also surprised to read that there’s a decent chance of spotting White-tailed Eagles in this neck of the woods. In 2007, white-tailed eagles were re-introduced to Fife when chicks were brought over from Norway. According to the RSPB blog, the Fife white-tailed eagles have raised three chicks this year, and the birds can be seen flying over the Tay and inland lochs. 2015 is a landmark year for this species. It marks the fortieth anniversary of the re-introduction of white-tailed eagles to Scotland and it was announced earlier in the year that there are now 100 pairs across the country.
All my efforts of the previous couple of weeks – blood, sweat and tears (not to mention pulled muscles, cramp and blisters) – were worthwhile when I crested Higham Hill and was rewarded with a lovely (albeit slightly hazy) view of the River Tay and Newburgh up ahead. I should point out that walkers wouldn’t be rewarded with this vista from the unofficial alternative Flisk/Logie road route.
I spotted my parents up ahead admiring the view of the River Tay as I descended towards Newburgh with only a couple of miles to go. Until meeting my folks, I’d only encountered one other person on the path since leaving Balmerino over 10 miles earlier. You can’t beat a bit of peace and quiet!
The three of us walked into Newburgh; a small town which was granted Royal Burgh status in the fifteenth century. It was once a busy port exporting linen from Fife to the West Indies and South America and importing timber from Scandinavia and North America. Efforts are currently ongoing to restore the dilapidated piers with a view to creating new opportunities for the town.
We had a quick scout around the ruins of Lindores Abbey, which was founded in the twelfth century as an offshoot of Kelso Abbey, then made our way down to the riverbank. The Tay is home to the largest reed bed in Britain and supports sedge warblers, marsh harriers and bearded tits, amongst many other species.
It was good to finally be back at the water’s edge after a day of inland walking! Appropriately the Fife Coastal Path ends a stone’s throw from the waterfront. We walked through Mugdrum Park at the west end of Newburgh, followed the path uphill towards the car park and I took my final steps on the Fife Coastal Path.
The end of the walk felt as surreal as the beginning. After posing for a few photographs and receiving hugs and a round of applause from my parents, I sat in the back of the car drinking a well-earned cup of coffee. I folded and re-folded my Fife Coastal Path map (which I’d carried in my hand every step of the way) and reflected on my journey. I experienced a huge sense of achievement but was both sad yet relieved that it was all over! Sitting drinking that cup of coffee, I re-visited every mile of the path in my mind’s eye. I had memories from every single mile without even having to look at the photographs. Nearly a year on, the memories aren’t quite so clear but the map, guidebook and my photographs still get a fair bit of attention from me and they certainly help to bring the memories back to life.
I’ve (finally!) written up all eleven days of my Fife Coastal Path trek but do pop back in a couple of weeks’ time to see the photographs that you voted for and to read my concluding thoughts on this adventure as well as some musings on the health benefits of walking and the meaning of life!
Please take a moment to vote for your favourite photograph from Day 11 in the poll below and leave a comment. Please also consider making a donation to Cancer Research UK via my my JustGiving page.
Have you walked one of Scotland’s Great Trails? Has ‘117 Miles, 117 Photos’ inspired you to get out and stretch your legs? I hope so!