Friday, 9 December 2016

The Binn. Burntisland. Black Rocks. Kinghorn. Firth of Forth. Inchkeith.

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Fife this time... over on the East Coast across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. Last Sunday's walk with Alan and his dog was really enjoyable. A very varied walk in excellent conditions that I've done a few times before over the years was improved even more by low tide occurring at 9:30am. We arrived in Burntisland's wide and spacious excellent free car park around 10:30am to be greeted with this view of the beach. A lovely sunny day and low tide levels with a view of the Black Rocks, a tidal lump of jagged dolerite sitting a kilometre out into the bay, and all around what looked like miles of empty sand. (You can also see the high level route back inland here.)
A curlew on the beach. Normally, on the other occasions I've been here to do this amazing walk, the mini mountain rising steeply above the town commands all the attention so I've headed for that first. Four hours later I've been over the Binn Summit, a volcanic plug at a mere 193 metres high (632 feet) but which appears far higher- like a tiny Rock of Gibraltar and then I've continued on down the spine of the lower hills into Kinghorn, a few miles further up the coast.
This time though we could actually see an easy clear path out to the Black Rocks and as neither of us had explored them we headed for there. It was a hazy pastel tinted morning as overnight temperatures had fallen below zero but the early mist, ice and fog should burn away by lunchtime, according to the weather forecast. Isn't science wonderful? I consult it all the time, as any intelligent person would you would think? As you can see here the rocks rise around 8 to 10 feet high next to this dog walker.
And this is them in the middle of the bay with the tide coming in and only the highest part visible. I'd imagine in certain conditions they would be washed over completely but I've always had a mad notion to spend a night out here. Potentially dangerous though I'd imagine, if not fatal in rough sea conditions. This is a view from the Binn summit, a steep volcanic plug with grass fields and rolling farmland on the inland side and plunging cliffs of eroded basalt on the other, seaward side. Judging by the level here it might well be over 8 foot deep at full high tide around the islands with strong currents to be taken into account as well. I tried to walk over to them once as a child on holiday, around 10 or 12 years of age, but the sea was coming in fast and I lost my nerve and turned back just short of reaching them.
A dream finally realized as although I've done this favourite five star classic walk around five times now, (usually in December as it's a real sun trap) it's always been Binn first, then Kinghorn then beach.... by which time it's been full high tide and an adventurous  boulder hop beside the railway line on the tiny strip remaining free of the waves in the near dark. Trust me... if you can get the tides right pick the beach and Black Rocks first! It's much easier. This is a view from the rocks over to the village of Kinghorn, around a mile and a half away. (or two kilometres) We would be heading there next but first we started walking out across the sands to the very edge of the Firth of Forth. This beach walk really is a cracker and not that busy... only a few dog walkers and a lone jogger so fantastic for photography. When any beach gets too busy it soon loses its appeal for me but this one was perfect. Those folk not keen on the full circuit over the ridge line could just do the low tide beach walk... then explore Kinghorn and return via the flat pavement on the A921 crossing over the railway by several available bridges... the last bridge being reached from the beach near another Kinghorn seafront caravan site to the west of that town. Three different walking options there and all equally enjoyable. Boots or wellies advisable to avoid wet feet and safe enough for children if they are with an adult.
A lone jogger on the edge of the Firth of Forth with Inchkeith (a remote and hard to reach island) in the distance. This was where we were heading next as nothing beats that feeling of being able to walk out into a major estuary at low tide as far as you can possibly go. A King Canute moment of stepping across the sands further and further out into the unknown where only mermaids should rightfully be.

Dog and oil rig platform. Firth of Forth.
Dead seal found at the Black Rocks. Judging by the neat cut line through the body this has been hit by a propeller of some sort or maybe sliced open for some reason with a blade to find out how it died. It did have a tag on it. Number 75258 for anyone interested. It seems too neat a cut to be natural.

Alan walking out to the furthest edge of the land. Burntisland was once a major shipbuilding town and also important for coal and shale oil deposits in the past. It still has a semi industrial feel about it in places and has an important engineering and fabrication yard for the oil and gas industry still operating at the docks to this day which is maybe why three oil rig platforms could be seen offshore in the Firth of Forth and also several large ships. Either that or they are static here due to the downturn in the oil industry at present. The East Coast has a completely different feel to the Scottish West Coast, different landscapes and look about it- half the rainfall levels- a great deal more sunshine- and I've always loved coming here. Burntisland itself is an interesting place for day trips with lovely beach walks, historic D.I.Y town trail, many unusual buildings, a nice park, and of course the Binn.
A view of the main street from the car park and meadows area. Ladies and gents toilets are just to the left of this photo and a decent chip shop sits across from the car. All you really need for a great day out.
A fine church in Burntisland viewed from the beach front. Sheltered seating and a short but enjoyable concrete promenade walk here. The path up the Binn can be found on the A909 at Silverbarton where a signposted hole in the wall is found just past the last house on the upper left side of the town's outskirts.
A Redshank, a small wading bird usually found on beaches and estuaries in the winter months when the ground inland is frozen hard and no use for finding worms and grubs with its long probing bill.
We also noticed on the walk across the sands to Kinghorn the remains of hundreds of wooden posts sticking out the ground in long rows. Only the tips of these were visible, heavily eroded and we speculated they might be low tide piers of some sort or even medieval fish traps. After talking to a local however he informed us they were built during the war to stop German planes landing on this flat expanse of sand. Any plane landing when they were at full height might have had their wings chopped off running along the beach.
A very different walk and my new favourite place. All my photographic guidebooks on Kindle tend to be areas of Scotland like this, unfashionable but really scenic and unusual, off the beaten track, so with Christmas coming they might be worth a couple of quid as a present as they all highlight a range of unusual places to visit in Scotland, like this one. Welcome to the Fife Riviera.
From Kinghorn, which is an interesting wee place as well, we walked up through sunny streets named after kings and great locals then passed glorious beaches like this one. Both Burntisland and Kinghorn lie on the route of the long distance Fife Coastal Path which is a gem in itself. Many years ago, after finishing the Munros, I started collecting beaches all over the UK... 'Captain Coastwalk' was my somewhat derogatory nickname then, bestowed by my amused mountaineering friends who showed no inclination to join me on my travels... long before that in my teens (as hinted at in my first book Autohighography) I collected humans... again from all over the UK... before that, in childhood, I was an egg collector... at least the eggs stayed put where I placed them- people prove much trickier as a rule. In short, I've always swam against the tide and popular trends, by inclination rather than any design, going my own way and picking my own pursuits.
At Kinghorn we headed inland up through this small town to the golf course then up through that and a caravan park on a right of way track past a farm (dogs on lead here) to walk past The Bents and Grangehill (on OS Landranger map 66 Edinburgh) As we climbed higher up the ridge great views opened out over the Firth of Forth but the scenery inland was not too shabby either. This is a view of Kinghorn Loch, above.
And one of a rapidly shrinking sandbar from the hillside caravan park and the beach where we walked at low tide a mere two hours before.
Ships and oil platforms moored out on the Firth of Forth near Kirkcaldy, one of the largest towns in the Kingdom of Fife, which in turn is a large hand shaped peninsula lying on the East Coast just north of Edinburgh. Shale gas ship seen here in full screen view, probably coming from or going into Grangemouth oil refinery.
A distant view of Kirkcaldy gleaming in the sunshine as viewed from the Binn.
One of Inchkeith. A scattering of wonderful islands lie out in the Firth of Forth- all of them individual, well spaced apart, and uniquely different. Unless you have a private boat or you are a sea kayaker with experience in a group for safety they are hard to reach although a ferry does go out to one from Queensferry to Inchcolm in the summer months. I've visited a few, including Inchcolm, but not Inchkeith which is too far flung and dangerous for my own inflatable kayak to reach. An island I've always wondered about though.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inchkeith A fascinating history and map of the island in this link including its use as an early quarantine outpost for syphilis and other unfortunate human conditions including the extraordinarily cruel James IV's linguistic experiment which is worth a read and mind boggling.
The rolling Fife landscape behind the Binn. Although it was warm and toasty down on the suntrap sands and over most of the rising ridge line these slopes here were still in deep shade and the turf underfoot was frozen solid with no sign of a thaw.
The rocky cliffs of the Binn on the seaward side.  Rock of Gibraltar comparisons? Well, when you are up here in sunshine looking down, if a few Barbary Macaques appeared on a boulder below your feet they would not seem out of place at all.
It's hard to tell you in words how good this fantastic walk is... just try it for yourself. 4 to 6 hours depending on fitness, tea-breaks and speed. We took 5 hours as it's so good it's not one to rush. Around 10 to 12 kilometres full circuit.

Good video here showing some of the other islands in the Firth of Forth. This gentleman has a collection of other interesting kayak videos on You Tube. Few things beat the feeling of an island reached by kayak.

















16 comments:

Rosemary said...

Fabulous spot for a walk and on such a beautiful December day - great vistas, and wild life, apart from that poor seal, what could be better.

Anabel Marsh said...

Lovely. I'm fond of Fife too, but more familiar with the East Neuk. I looked up the linguistic experiment - eek! These kings who think they can just do anything with people....

Linda said...

Such a wonderful post, and what a beautiful place for a walk, just to enjoy nature and life in general!

Linda W. said...

Love your seashore photos. Looks like you had great weather and a fabulous place to wander!

Ian Johnston said...

A bit of the country I know from the sea (from a ship) but have hardly visited - some great images here Bob, I really like the jogger against Inchkeith, very striking

Kind Regards

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Rosemary,
On closer inspection the seal looks like it has been peeled in one go with a sharp blade. Too neat otherwise. As you know skinned animals are very 'in' now in modern art. Maybe that if not for any other reason. Always new things to discover down the coast.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Burntisland is definitely worth a day trip for casual tourists as are South Queensferry, Falkland,Linlithgow,North Berwick, Anstruther, Culross and Dunbar as all have enough in them to be interesting... independent shops, easy flat walks, boat trips, old buildings, local museums etc.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Yes, that's certainly what its all about for me.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda W,
We both seem to have access to great unspoiled coastlines... lucky us :o) Can't imagine life without a coastline and sea views yet according to a recent survey one fifth of UK citizens have never visited a beach despite everyone here being only a day trip away from one.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ian,
by the sound of it you seem to have spent a fair part of your life on the ocean. I was intrigued to read in that link that Inchkeith became an English and a French garrison as well as a prison and a dumping ground for any spreadable illness. Fascinating history for one small island.

Carol said...

Poor seal! Looks a fantastic area and I think it was one of my parents' favourites. Still haven't been to Fife but Richard wants to go and soon so you never know.

Definitely don't try to spend a night on those rocks! :-o

Never seen a curlew on a beach - didn't know they went there.

surfnslide said...

Just proves how much interesting stuff and fine vistas there are in places I would never have imagined you'd find them

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Many species of birds and animals head for the coast in winter for better feeding opportunities if it's frozen inland.
Best places in Fife are the Lomond Hills and Bishop Hill climbed from Falkland.(East then West Lomond, Devil's Burdens, John Knox Cave,then Bishop Hill- return via Harperleas Dam and Little Ballo then Maspie Den Minor Road. A cracking 5 to 6 hour horseshoe.*****
The Ochil Hills and Glens Between Dumyat and Whitewisp/Dollar. Very scenic and unique hill walking. 5 to 6 hour horseshoe up Mill Glen, Ben Cleuch, etc, then return via Alva Glen to Woodland Park and car.*****
Kinshaldy to Tayport beach walk via Tentsmuir sands. Watch out for seals in large numbers near the elbow on sunny days here.****
St Andrews to Boarhills coastal walk return via local bus.***
Anstruther to St Monans coast walk. bus back *****
Elie Chain Walk.*****
Inchcolm**** and Isle of May**** Boat Trips.
That's the best other fun day trips in Fife for outdoor folk. Hope this info helps.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Andy,
Yep, I seem to specialize in the less well known areas but I've been richly rewarded usually although it does spoil you for the more popular honeypots if you return back to them occasionally as they just appear so crowded nowadays by comparison.

Carol said...

Hope I'm still up to those 5-6 hour rounds! My parents loved the Lomond hills when they were still walkers. Thanks for those suggestions anyway - saves on all the research!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
They are not hard days, just really enjoyable as they are varied, exciting and easy without any massive height climbed and probably the best outings in Fife. I forgot Norman's Law 285 metres from Luthrie via Whirly Kips Track. Another really enjoyable wee hill and surprisingly wild. Return over Black Craig. Great views of Dundee and the
Firth of Tay. St Andrews West Sands are not bad as well though St Andrews itself is too busy a honeypot with the golf and university. Only place in Fife I steer clear of...