Fife Coastal Path: Cambo and Tentsmuir

Cambo Country House

We’ve visited Cambo Gardens in Kingsbarns, Fife, a couple of times before, but not since they opened their Visitor Centre in the old stables in 2017. When we went last October, the café was open with outdoor seating in the courtyard (fortunately under a canopy) and we took advantage of that to have coffee when we arrived and lunch before we left. Both were very good but, sadly for anyone wishing to visit now, all facilities are closed under current restrictions, though you can still tour the gardens. The walled garden includes some quirky sculptures as well as plants.

From the gardens we walked round the side of Cambo House. The  estate has been in the Erskine family for over 300 years and is currently run as a wedding business, holiday accommodation, agriculture, and housing.

From here we took the Woodland Walk alongside Cambo Burn. Reaching the shore, we met the Fife Coastal Path and followed it east past Kingsbarn Golf Links to a minor road.

We then returned to the Visitor Centre on muddy estate paths past Cambo Farm. On the way, we admired the Mausoleum and the dovecot (doocot).

This was a lovely half-day out – in the afternoon, we drove to Crail and did the second half of the walk described in my last post. A full day out to a part of the coastal path we had not visited before was to Tentsmuir Forest between Leuchars and Tayport. The name originates from the 1780s when some of the sailors from a Danish shipwreck pitched tents on the moor.

There’s a large carpark at Tentsmuir Sands where we were pleased to find the toilets were open. There was also a van selling crêpes which we didn’t expect and didn’t use because we had brought a picnic lunch – but they smelled good! Tentsmuir Sands are absolutely glorious.

From there we walked out to Tentsmuir Point and back on a combination of paths through both dunes and forest.

The coastline of Tentsmuir has shifted constantly making it the fastest growing natural landmass in Scotland. In the Second World War, concrete blocks were placed along the high water mark for defence, since when the shoreline has grown further and further away from them at an annual rate of about 5 metres. Other relics from WW2 include an observation tower and an old railway wagon which re-emerged from the sands in 2010.

The beaches and estuaries around Tentsmuir were once important for salmon fishing which has also left its mark. The March Stone, dated 1794, acted as a boundary for fishing rights, dividing the Shanwell and Old Muirs salmon fishing areas. The nearby ice house from the 1850s was used to preserve the fish before shipping it south.

We didn’t see any cattle, apart from this sculpture, but apparently a hungry herd grazes the dunes to keep them free from tree cover. Wind pumps keep the dune slacks (the natural hollows between dunes) from drying out, conserving the habitat for a variety of plants and wildlife. So although this looks like a natural wilderness, it is carefully managed and preserved by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Of all the places we visited doing our October week in Fife, Tentsmuir was my favourite. I have just one more post to complete the story and that will take us to Lower Largo.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk.

Fife Coastal Path: Cellardyke to Crail

Cellardyke bathing pool

On this walk (or actually, two walks) we left Cellardyke to the east, passing another of those old outdoor bathing pools. This one was apparently popular from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Nearby was the rather dilapidated looking East Neuk Outdoors – a few licks of paint needed I think.

This lady was gazing out to sea from her bench. Was she watching this little lobster fishing boat?

Or simply contemplating the view of the Isle of May, the Bass Rock, and North Berwick Law?

From here we looked back at Cellardyke:

There was bird life aplenty:

And as we neared Caiplie this rather large bull – fortunately behind a fence:

An unusual sandstone outcrop has eroded into Caiplie Caves (and arches) with early Christian crosses carved on the wall of the largest cave. We were fascinated by the shapes and colours here.

The distance from Celladyke to Crail is just under 4 miles and Caiplie is about the half way mark. On the first of these walks we had set out after lunch, and by the time we had finished exploring the caves it was gone 3 o’clock. No way could we walk to Crail and back to Cellardyke before dark (this was October) so we turned round here. A few days later, we walked out to the caves again, this time from Crail, another charming East Neuk fishing village which boasts one of the UK’s most photographed harbours.

We admired the village from its old houses (1632 is the earliest date I can read) to its topical take on the pandemic (masked garden ornaments).

So our two walks met in the middle which meant we had covered the whole section of the Fife Coastal Path from Cellardyke to Crail. Next time is also a tale of two halves with a garden and some glorious sand dunes.

PS in my last post, I mentioned the windmill and old salt pans at St Monans. I was interested to read a BBC article last week about Darren Peattie who aims to restore salt harvesting to the village, two hundred years after it ended, and also plans to reconstruct one of the nine old salt pan houses to turn it into a visitor centre.

Fife Coastal Path: Cellardyke to St Monans

Anstruther Harbour

The Fife Coastal Path passes right through Cellardyke, where we spent our October break. Every day, we explored a different part of it. Walking west from our front door we passed through the fishing villages of Anstruther, Pittenweem, and St Monans.

Anstruther

Probably the most notable features of Anstruther (pop. c 3,600) are the Scottish Fisheries Museum and the Anstruther Fish Bar, neither of which we visited. However, the window from which two faces are peering  in the gallery below is part of the museum. We did visit the Dreel Tavern (though not on the day of this walk) where a plaque on the wall commemorates the time that James V (1513-42) was carried across the Dreel Burn by a beggar woman because he was frightened of getting his stockings wet!

We also looked at the monument to Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), First Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland, and later found his birthplace.

From Anstruther, we continued along the coast to our next port of call, Pittenweem.

Pittenweem

Pittenweem, with a population under 2,000, is much smaller than Anstruther. The name is said to mean place of the caves, and you can still see St Fillan’s Cave, dating from the 7th century, though in these strange times you can’t go inside. We admired the pretty houses, had a good lunch in the Clock Tower Café, and examined the poignant new Fishermen’s Memorial by sculptor Alan Heriot, unveiled in 2019. It depicts a fisherman’s wife and child scanning the horizon for the return of their loved one. The plaque reads “This memorial is dedicated to the men and women who make their living from the sea and to those who have lost their lives in so doing”. It is thought around 400 lives have been lost in a 28-mile stretch of the Firth of Forth off the East Neuk since the early 1800s, many of them never recovered.

From Pittenweem, we continued along the coast to St Monans.

St Monans

St Monans is even smaller than Pittenweem with a population under 1500. Before you reach the village, a restored windmill and the remains of a few pan-houses are testament to the area’s industrial history: the Newark Coal and Salt Works Company founded in 1771.

It’s hard to tell what’s natural and what isn’t in the rocks! There’s a swimming pool created in the sea, as in many of these villages. Much too cold to try out!

As with the other two villages, there was a harbour and some pretty, colourful houses to admire, this time with the added attraction of a Welly Garden. It was raining quite hard by this time, so stealing a pair might have been a good option!

Rain or no rain, from St Monans we had to turn round and do the walk in reverse to get back to our holiday home in Cellardyke: 7-8 miles in total. In the next post, I’ll turn east from our front door and take you along the coastal path to Crail.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walk.

Fife Coastal Path: North Queensferry to Dalgety Bay

Start of the walk – Forth Bridge

Remember the fabulous weather we had at Easter? On Good Friday, we decided to take advantage of it to walk part of the Fife Coastal Path. We’ve done the sections between the East Neuk fishing villages on several occasions, so chose something different this time: North Queensferry to Dalgety Bay and back, approximately 5 miles each way.

Last year, we both ascended to the viewing platform at the top of the Forth Bridge and also sailed under it on the Maid of the Forth. This year, we left the car at its base and merely walked under it to the start of the path where there are two ancient wells.

The path leads up between them, decorated by a series of collages made by local school children and set into the stone wall.

We then climbed up and under the bridge again to reach Carlingnose Point Wildlife Reserve, named because of its resemblance to an old woman’s nose. (Carlin means old woman: Scottish but of Old Norse origin.)

Here, there was a poignant memorial bench – Wee John was only 23 when he died. I thought at first the shells were attached to the arms but they were loose – possibly left by mourners, or maybe just by kids playing.

Although sunny and warm it was quite hazy, so the views weren’t very clear. In one direction, we looked back to the Forth Bridge. In the other, we could see the beginning of Dalgety Bay. The old World War I jetty offshore is now a breeding site for tern.

As we passed through a disused quarry, we spotted a modern house perched above it. That is certainly a room with a view! It seems a Hibs fan had been here before us and left graffiti – I do hope it wasn’t anyone I know 😉 .

By the next bay there was another poignant memorial, this time to a young man who died in the First World War. From here, there was a less interesting part of the walk as we negotiated a working quarry and a scrapyard (just visible in the view below), followed by a boring stretch of road into Inverkeithing. However, Inverkeithing’s historic centre more than made up for the tedium and we took time out to explore.

First we came to the remains of a late medieval Franciscan Friary. The Hospitium (guest house) of the Grey Friars is the best surviving example of a friary building left in Scotland and the garden contains earlier 14th century ruins.

We saw the birthplace of a Russian Admiral:

The Mercat (Market) Cross has another of those Scottish Unicorns:

The cross is said to date from c. 1400, but the unicorn wasn’t carved until 1688 by, according to the plaque, “Mr John Boyd of South Queensferry to secure his admittance to the Inverkeithing Trades Guildry”. Literally a “master” piece?

The town has many other fine buildings:

Then we were out the other side of it, past some pretty cottages.

And back onto the coastal path towards St David’s Harbour. Someone is a Last of the Summer Wine fan here.

St David’s Harbour, an area still being built, is the beginnings of Dalgety Bay. To me, it looks attractive in a soulless, rather clinical sort of way.

Dalgety Bay is a new town, built in the 1960s on the estate of the Earls of Moray. As we discovered later when we left the coastal path in search of somewhere to eat, the further you got from the sea the less grand are the houses, but they are still a huge contrast to the fishing villages further round the coast. Everywhere is pristine – it looks as though the garden police will come round if there is a blade of grass out of place. Although I admit to envying one or two of the balconies, which must have amazing views, on the whole I didn’t warm to this chunk of Suburbia-by-the-Sea.

Parts of the old estate, Donibristle, remain. In the late 20th century the wings of Donibristle House and the nearby stable block were restored as housing, and a new apartment building was erected in place of the main block of the house.

A short way off the path is the mortuary chapel (1731) in which nine earls of Moray are buried. This is definitely more my sort of thing!

The estate’s woodlands have been taken over by the community – and a very nice job they have made of them too with lots of colourful information boards.

We decided to carry on as far as the ruined St Bridget’s Kirk before turning round. Originally dating from 1178, it was altered for Protestant worship in the 17th century. As usual, we enjoyed an extended tour of the graveyard and its interesting old stones.

From here, we went up into Dalgety Bay for a (very late) lunch, then returned to the coastal path to retrace our steps. I didn’t notice these elephant gates in Inverkeithing on the way out.

Eventually, we arrived back in North Queensferry, passing back under the Forth Bridge to return to our car.

By the time I got to bed that night, my Fitbit was registering over 15 miles, and my feet certainly felt as if they needed a good long rest, but it was worth it for a glorious day out.

Fife Coastal Path

Inn at Lathones
Inn at Lathones

Between Christmas and New Year we stayed a few nights at the Inn at Lathones, just outside St Andrews, with the intention of walking a few stretches of the Fife Coastal Path. It’s our third time at this historic hotel where we enjoy the cosy atmosphere and good food. This time, we had a room in the Old Forge with access to the deck overlooking the farmland at the back. This would be lovely for sitting out in warmer weather but not in December – however, it did mean we always had something to look at.

Day 1 – Crail to Fife Ness

On our first full day, we headed for Crail, a traditional fishing village with a 17th century harbour.

Although we’d been to Crail many times before, we had never taken the path to Fife Ness which we now set out to do. Near the edge of town, we passed the 16th century doocot (used to harvest doves for meat), then a children’s playground and a very large caravan park. After this it became more interesting as we entered the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve where seabirds, such as shag, eider, cormorant and guillemot can be seen.

Some colourful cottages appeared above us, then we rounded a corner to the lighthouse at Fife Ness – a squat building rather than the usual attractive white tower.

Fife Ness is the most easterly corner of Fife. Its harbour dates from the sixteenth century and was used for fishing until the end of the eighteenth. It was then converted into a sea beacon construction yard, hence the circular grooves in the stone, and lightships were also built here to guide shipping before the lighthouse was constructed in 1975.

The next part of the path skirted a golf course, and then we came to Constantine’s Cave. Local legend has it that King Constantine I (one of the early Pictish Kings) was killed in this cave following a battle with the Danes in 874.

At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock were just visible across the Firth of Forth.

In Crail, we took time to admire the buildings before heading back to the hotel.

We were particularly impressed with Penman the butcher’s Christmas window!

Day 2 – St Andrews and Pittenweem

The following day, we didn’t do so much walking. John’s cousin, Lindy, lives in Anstruther and they kindly asked us to lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beforehand, we had a quick stroll around St Andrews.

Afterwards, we visited Pittenweem, Fife’s only working fishing harbour, and the site of a cave used by St Fillan in the 7th century. The light was already starting to fade when we got to the harbour.

It gave the buildings a pleasing glow.

We saw several decorated bicycles – but only one decorated bench.

As we climbed away from the sea, it got darker and darker.

By the time we walked back down past the cave it was very dark indeed.

And the harbour looked even more beautiful with the lights shimmering in the sea.

Day 3 – Dysart to West Wemyss

On our last day, we decided to stop in Dysart, a Royal Burgh dating from the 7th century, to walk the coastal path to West Wemyss. The old Harbourmaster’s House, on the deliciously named Hot Pot Wynd, now houses the Coastal Centre Exhibition and the Harbour Bistro. Great – a coffee before we started. Wrong! Despite the notice outside, and having looked at the website before we left, the place was closed. This was 31st December so not a public holiday. I know a lot of places close for the whole period between Christmas and New Year but some information would be nice. Shame on you Fife Coast and Countryside Trust!

Undaunted, we spent some time wandering round the harbour. Donald Urquhart’s Sea Beams represent the colours of the sea at different times and in different lights.

The start of the walk took us along the shore past the 13th century St Serf’s Tower and the restored Pan Ha’ red tiled cottages, then up Hie Gait.

From Dysart the path climbs to the Frances Colliery memorial and preserved winding gear, testament to the former importance of the coal industry in the area. The colliery, with so many others, closed in the 1980s.

From Blair Point you can look down on West Wemyss.

From here, the path takes you past a walled chapel garden, the private burial ground of the Wemyss family, and some pretty mosaics.

West Wemyss originated as a planned town for workers on the Wemyss estate. At one time, it was one of the most important ports in Fife, trading in coal and salt with the Continent. It is certainly picturesque, but was almost deserted and once again everything was closed despite the local pub being listed on the coastal path information boards as a “Welcome Port”. We’d had a large hotel breakfast, so there was no danger of starving, but the wind was biting and somewhere to warm up would have been nice.

There was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to Dysart where The Man i’ the Rock was able to serve us a late lunch. After a quick look around it was back in the car and home to Glasgow for New Year.

I love this part of the coast: beautiful views, historic towns and villages with some industrial history thrown in. We’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m linking up to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in another of my favourite places this week, the Yorkshire Dales, and her cyber friends are walking all over the world. Please take a look!

A few days in Fife

Looking for a break between Christmas and New Year, we found a good bargain at the Inn at Lathones near St Andrews. The plan, if the weather was good, was to do some small sections of the long-distance Fife Coastal Path. The first day, we were really lucky. It was bitterly cold and windy to start with, but pleasant once the wind dropped. We set off from Elie to do the section up to St Monans, where we had lunch in the lovely Mayview Hotel. We did think of walking further and getting a bus back to the car, but having done no research on this we decided not to risk it and walked back the way we came. It’s a very good section of the path with a windmill and several ruined castles and towers and it seemed even more beautiful on the way back in the late afternoon light.

Elie from the harbour:

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Lighthouse at Ruby Bay where we parked:

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Lady’s Tower:

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Ardross Castle:

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Newark Castle and tower:

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St Monans:

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The windmill was part of the salt industry at one time; in the late eighteenth century it pumped water into the salt pans and you can still see traces of the panhouses – mostly just green mounds, but this one is clearer:

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Some of the atmospheric pictures from the way back:

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Our plans for the second day were to do a short section of the path near St Andrews, have lunch there and then drive further round the coast to do a bit more. However, while we were having lunch, the rain and sleet started and we abandoned that idea. We did get some walking in the morning though, starting from East Sands:

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After lunch and a bit of shopping, we headed back to the log fire in the hotel bar. This had two advantages: it was warm and it had wifi so that I could write this post. The same was not necessarily true of the rest of the hotel! The bedroom was quite cold until the evening when the heating cranked up, and the wifi wasn’t strong enough to allow us to connect there. However, the food was very good, the staff were great and the place was otherwise comfortable. It’s an old coaching inn, but the bedrooms are all comparatively modern as they have been constructed from outbuildings such as the Smithy and the Old Forge. It’s also a local music venue and seems to have had some good gigs. Last time we visited it was summertime and I think if I was coming again I would wait for better weather – mind you, that’s probably true of most places in this country!

Inn at Lathones

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