Saturday, 3 February 2018

Fife Coastal Path. Kirkcaldy to Buckhaven. Ships, Wildlife, and Castles. Part One.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
A trip this time to visit the Kingdom of Fife, a large garden spade shaped peninsula on the east coast of Scotland lying between the cities of Edinburgh and Dundee. Fife is an ancient Pictish kingdom separated from the rest of Scotland by the wide Firth of Forth on its southern flank and the Firth of Tay on its northern shoreline. Although connected to the mainland by a 25 mile wide strip of terrain... sizable deep rivers running far inland in an age before long bridge construction would mean that most commerce or travel taking place would be by boat or ferry. If you lived in Fife before modern road, bridge and rail connections it would feel very much like a proper island and the easiest way then to reach your neighbours worth knowing... for trade or imported goods would be by boat or ferry. Even today that sense of independent island spirit lingers on here and it's still called the Kingdom of Fife. An isolated realm in land terms with its own customs in former times.
Grangemouth Oil Refinery here, near Edinburgh, seen from Fife across the wide Firth of Forth. Early morning haze and steam rising.
A shale gas ship with Bass Rock behind- holding the world's largest colony of Northern gannets this vertical chunk of volcanic resistance turns chalk white with birds and droppings every breeding season in Spring. Bass rock is an isolated island monolith off the east coast near the town of North Berwick.
A view from Kirkcaldy beach looking towards Kinghorn, Arthur's Seat and the Firth of Forth. The Fife Coastal Path is a long distance walk around the Kingdom of Fife just short of 120 miles featuring a range of varied landscapes and terrain. Although I know Fife pretty well and have climbed most of the hills here and a good chunk of the coastal path already the ten mile Kirkcaldy to Buckhaven section was completely new territory for me.  Link and zoom in map here.
This is the waterfront promenade in Kirkcaldy, a sizable post industrial town of around 50,000 inhabitants. Similar to Greenock or nearby Dundee, across the water, it's not really a fashionable holiday destination at the moment but just like them- I liked it straight away. There's a lot to see here and some great history to discover. The promenade is wide- so its good on a bike for getting around but fairly tedious on foot if you are walking any distance. However at low tide a large expanse of firm sand allows you to walk for miles along the beaches here.This is a higher tide shot so not much sand exposed in this one. A couple of streets up from the shoreline ( five minutes flat walk away) you hit the main shopping street which is flat and interesting with a wide range of shops, modern shopping arcades. and period buildings including an indoor market. With roughly 100,000 people a 30 minute drive away in the surrounding districts, in smaller communities lying outside Kirkcaldy, its shopping district is larger than you might expect for a town this size. With high streets everywhere under serious pressure from online shopping, changing tastes, and outlying retail parks this still looked busy enough when I explored it recently, apart from one half empty mall beside the bus station. See it before they all disappear is my only advice to the younger generation- a glimpse of the way things used to be. The traditional old fashioned high street experience. Even though I don't shop much myself nowadays, except for foodstuffs and a few essentials- I'll miss this extra treat in towns on journeys around the country if they disappear altogether as the current general trend seems to be away from bricks and mortar in town shopping towards a largely cashless online society- whether everyone wants it or not. You can't really have a proper town centre feeling without a thriving shopping centre district at it's heart... but maybe I'm wrong. Vinyl LPs appear to be making something of a comeback after a lean period so you never know what the future holds. The bus station sits right in the middle of the High Street reached by a short lane so its very handy.
Anyway, on to the walk again and it turned out to be a five star classic. This is the harbour at Port Brae just a short distance from Kirkcaldy promenade. Probably a busy working harbour years ago its now a scenic backwater and home to new apartments and a collection of small boats. Carrs flour mill seen here and still in operation by the looks of it.
This is the point where I thought to myself- "hey! I'm enjoying this!" as I followed an attractive path round the harbour.
I also spotted a little raft of unusual diving ducks with white cheek markings. Goldeneye.
Shortly after that the wow factor jumped up a gear with the first sight of Ravenscraig Castle, Ravenscraig Park, and the path dropping down from the main road, (skirting inland briefly to pass Carrs Flour Mill) back to the now rugged coastline.
This stretch of coast, running below the wooded Ravenscraig Park was delightful- full of old ruins, a cliff top castle and a rocky beachfront. "Hey! I really am enjoying this!" came to my mind unbidden, as I did a full turn around appreciation survey of the scenery where I was standing...
A look back along the beach towards Kirkcaldy.A car park sits here beside the castle, just after Carrs mill. (Pathhead Sands) Another car park exists on the shoreline at Linktown on the other (southern) side of Kirkcaldy.
Steps and cliffs leading down to the beach. Ravenscraig Park. A local gem of an area. It feels slightly exotic and Mediterranean here on a warm sunny day.
At the end of Ravenscraig public park you arrive at this short tunnel entrance which leads you through the cliff to Dysart village and its unique natural harbour. By this time I was looking around for Alice and the Mad Hatter as it already felt like I'd entered some kind of real life Wonderland. A surreal experience... even for the Fife coast..
Dysart tunnel ends....
And leads the walker out at historic Dysart- once a busy coal mining and fishing village- like so many others along this coastline.
The inner harbour was unique however- a sheltered suntrap bowl ringed by vertical towering cliffs.
and in the cliffs were many holes- all filled by bird-life.
A humble pigeon. The wild rural cousin of the ubiquitous hordes seen everywhere in towns and cities but a beautiful bird in its natural state on sea cliffs, ledges, caves, and fissures.
A seal enjoying the winter sunshine. In this sheltered oasis it did feel like a spring day. Warm and restful out the wind.
Cormorants enjoying the day.
Been fishing- now drying off.
A boat decorated with Peter Pan imagery- told you it was surreal here.
Unusual false house in a cliff.
Mosaic Art Swans.
More seals.
Grey Heron and Eider Duck. Islands apart.

Dysart historic village and old tower house. Coal mining, fishing and salt production were the big industries along this coastline prior to the industrial revolution kicking in. Plentiful coal reserves under Fife meant salt could be boiled off cheaply using large metal trays of seawater and along with inland farming produce these could be traded/sold via exports and imports which took place in the nearby Scottish east coast cities as well as further afield in the Low Countries and other coastal European ports. West coast Scotland was largely inaccessible back then due to mountainous terrain and poor roads but the sea was a major highway with far flung opportunities across the water to the east for anyone with a boat and settled conditions.
West Wemyss- (Spot the seals here.) The next village along on this delightful and varied coastal walk...and yet another new harbour.... to be continued...

A video that seems a perfect fit. I watched French crime drama 'Witnesses- A Frozen Death' a short while ago and really enjoyed it. You could pick holes in the script I suppose but great out of season locations along the French coastline, stylish twists, and unusual set pieces were enough to capture me during its run as a detective and her friend track down an illusive serial killer. This is a mix of scenery as some of it highlights the Devon and Cornwall Coastal Path as well... another long distance route I explored sections of decades ago.



Anabel Marsh said...

That was lovely. We did the bit between Dysart and East Wemyss (and back) on our way home from a short break in St Andrews a couple of years ago and enjoyed it. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Kirkcaldy (apart from driving round it’s bypass), sounds worth a visit.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Anabel,
Yeah, I really enjoyed that walk, especially the Kirkcaldy to West Wemyss section which is the really scenic part. You could get the no 7 bus back to Kirkcaldy after that but I walked to Buckhaven and caught it there. Part Two still to come. The X27, X24 and X25? run from BBS Glasgow every hour and take in Kincardine, Dunfermline, Glenrothes, Kirkcaldy, Leven, Cupar and St Andrews so plenty of scope there for future outings.

Carol said...

Looks very pretty at the coast. We will visit one day - not sure when - just so many places to see and, now I can't really hillwalk, I'm getting to visit them at last (still preferred the hillwalking though - I liked the challenge).

Robert Craig said...

I enjoyed the Fife coastal path much more than I expected to… favourite section was the two-day stretch between St Andrews and Elie. Least favourite part Leven to Buckhaven - we took a bus between the towns to minimise the time spent pounding urban streets.

Rosemary said...

Love that last section of your walk to Wemyss with the interesting wildlife, the beautiful stretches of beach and the views.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
picture postcard former villages in places.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi R.C.
I don't mind the urban areas and usually find them interesting as well. I'll go back hopefully to explore Leven to Buckhaven separately.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Rosemary,
That was a very scenic section and the basking seals and Goldeneye ducks were the icing on top.

Anonymous said...

A little gem of coastline, nothing like I would have expected.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy,
Not as wild and high as Pembroke or St David's Head cliffs but interesting all the same with some cracking villages, beaches and coves.

Gen Too said...

I always find lots to photograph along this section of coast and it constantly changes with the weather. Regarding Kirkcaldy Harbour - it is still a working harbour. The flour mill was modernised just a few years ago, the harbour was dredged and supplies of grain are now brought in by sea. A cargo ship squeezes into the harbour about once a week.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers for that local information Gen Too,
Very true- if it was a normal hill walk day I might have half a dozen good photos to show for it whereas on this day trip I've had to split it into two parts. I love Fife having first discovered it 40 odd years ago and I'm still finding new corners to explore.