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.

Glasgow Gallivanting: September 2017

Forth Bridge View

Let’s start with the highlight! That has to be our trip to the top of the Forth Bridge, part of a charity event in aid of Barnardo’s. Here we are 361 feet above the Firth of Forth. In case of doubt, we are holding hands romantically, not clinging on to the rail for safety 😉

We had booked the sunset slot, hoping for colourful skies, but it had been a cloudy day so they didn’t materialise. However, we still got great views both on the ground and from the top. There are now three bridges crossing the Forth from South Queensferry to North Queensferry (where the event took place), each from a different century – full history on the Forth Bridges website, but here’s the potted version. Until the Forth Bridge opened to trains in 1890, the only crossing was by ferry. In 1964, a road bridge was added, but by the 21st century it was proving inadequate for the volume of traffic passing over it. This year, the new Queensferry Crossing has opened with the original road bridge now reserved for pedestrians, cyclists and, eventually, public transport. Unlike many public infrastructure projects, the new bridge actually came in under budget (by £245m). Well done Scottish Government!

We arrived early to look round the village of North Queensferry and admire all the bridges.

Then it was time to don our hard-hats before riding the shoogly hoist to the top of the North Cantilever. The hoist was a tight squeeze, but the viewing platform was surprisingly large and we had about 20 minutes to wander about and take photographs. Several trains passed underneath us, each producing another little shoogle.

Then it was back down to earth, and dinner in one of the local hotels before getting the train back to Glasgow – across the Forth Bridge of course!

Doors Open Days

For the week of 11th-17th September, many institutions in Glasgow which would not normally be open to the public threw wide their doors for tours and events. I took part at two venues myself – on Wednesday, I was part of a Glasgow Women’s Library event on the hidden histories of women and how we can uncover them through, for example, heritage walks and a database of monuments and memorials. On Saturday, I led a canal walk at Maryhill (and totally forgot to take any photographs).

Sunday was our day for exploring, so I booked a back-stage tour of the Citizen’s Theatre for the morning. Our guide, Martin, was fabulous and gave us a bit of history before taking us behind the scenes. Originally opened in 1878, what became “The Citz” is the second oldest operational theatre in the UK (Leeds Grand opened 6 weeks earlier). Once we got out of the 1990 foyer this certainly showed, and I can understand why the theatre is closing next summer for two years of much-needed redevelopment. It’s what I would call a bit of a guddle.

However, the Citz will not dispose of its historical artefacts. It has the most complete working Victorian theatre machinery in the UK, and is the only theatre in Scotland still to have its original machinery under the stage. We got to visit that – and also stand on stage looking out to the auditorium.

Another piece of history is the original Victorian paint frame which is still used today to paint backcloths.

The Christmas production of Cinderella is coming up, and we saw a huge clock in preparation, which presumably will chime midnight at the appropriate time.

Designs for Cinderella were also in evidence in the costume department. I somehow don’t think any of these shoes will be suitable to play the glass slipper!

After lunch, we visited St Columba’s Gaelic Church, and Scottish Opera’s HQ. This was of interest less for its current role than for its origins (1907) as the home of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, as illustrated in the splendid stained glass by Stephen Adam.

I really appreciate the work of the hundreds of volunteers across the city who make these days such a success every year.

Blogging news

A new badge has appeared in my sidebar! I was very pleased to be included in a list of Top 30 International Retirement Blogs 2017 by Maxwell Salo of WeLoveCostaRica.com – thank you so much! I haven’t had time to explore the other 27 yet, but I did spot two friends, Donna of Retirement_Reflections and Debbie of Deb’s World. If you don’t know them too, why not visit?

I also joined in with Ishita of Italophilia and her #ItalophiliaPostcards project. Exchange a postcard with her and share the results on social media. Ishita’s card of Vienna has arrived here, but my card of Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens seems to have got lost somewhere on its way. Maybe it will have arrived by next month’s roundup….

Family news

I’m sad to say that one of my uncles, Ian McKay, died in September, just short of his 89th birthday. Ian was married to Elspeth, one of my Dad’s three younger sisters, and although they settled in Brisbane before I was born I still had opportunities to get to know them on their visits back to Scotland. It was Elspeth who looked after Dad and me when Mum was in hospital having my baby sister and it was Ian who taught me to swim. The last time I saw them in person was on our only visit (so far) to Australia, in 2004 when this picture was taken. Ian will be missed.

On a much happier note, John has been presented with the prestigious Chengdu Jinsha Friendship Award for “foreign experts” in recognition of his role in the development of the relationship between the University of Glasgow and the University of Electronic Science and Technology China in the city of Chengdu. As you usually see him wearing walking gear (and now a hard-hat) you might not recognise him in this smartly turned out gentleman. Doesn’t he scrub up well? More info on the University of Glasgow news page if you are interested.

The last bit

And finally, on to Scottish words of the month! I’ve used three that might not be totally familiar. If you’re puzzling over Firth of Forth, it means the mouth of the River Forth. (Firth is pronounced the same but spelled differently from furth meaning outside, e.g. outside Scotland would be “furth of Scotland”.)

The shoogly lift and bridge were shaking, but I think shoogle is a much more evocative word than shake. The Glasgow Subway makes extensive use of it in its advertising. It is also used in the phrase “yer jaiket’s on a shoogly nail” meaning “your jacket is hanging on a loose peg”, i.e. you could be out on your ear at any time.

Earlier, I described backstage at The Citz as a bit of a guddle, which is my favourite word to describe a mess of impressive proportions. It’s also possible to guddle about, which I quite enjoy doing, or to find yourself in a bit of a guddle, or a confusing situation where you don’t quite know what to do. I enjoy that less.

Of course, guddle rhymes with puddle – plenty of those here at the moment, where the weather is getting colder and wetter and the nights are fair drawing in, as my Grandad used to say. Who can believe we’re into the last quarter of the year already?

Let’s see what October brings.