18 Apr 2011

Daytrip to Kirkcaldy and The Links Market

When I first arrived in Kirkcaldy I was underwhelmed.

My first impression was that of a practical town, a mix of the occasional charming stone building, horrendous apartment blocks that were all the range in the 1970s but which now resemble aging Lego pieces, and a high street where you can pick up a Greggs sausage roll on your way to buy designer sunglasses.

I arrived early (part of my German heritage - can’t be helped) in order to have time to wander around before taking in the annual celebration of noise and calorific merriment that is The Links Market, the longest street fair in Europe.

The high street in Kirkcaldy goes on for miles; it’s no wonder it’s often called "The Lang Toun." But other than the library, which has such lovely grounds it looks like a miniature university campus, it wasn't until I had made my way to the seaside esplanade that I began be be charmed by Kirkcaldy.

The steps at the far end of the beach curve like an amphitheatre, except instead of actors the sea itself is the show. At the intermission the tide comes in and tries to wash away the spectators.
In the 1600s Kirkcaldy was one of Scotland’s most vibrant ports. This same stretch of sea and sand would have been alive with all matter of trade.

Now the gulls scan the lunches of passing walkers, ready to make a meal of any unguarded chip, while the sandpipers wade through the shallows, busy and skittish. The broad harbour is vacant except for one lonely dredger heading back in to anchor.
Leaving the city centre the road leads uphill towards Ravenscraig Castle, which sits with the modern world at its back and the broad palette of nature before it.

James II built Ravenscraig in a fit of protective flamboyance, keen to erect something that could weather the storms of the fiercest weaponry of the 1450s.

A small bridge crosses the dried moat, giving access to the sparse ruins of the headland, where cliffs fall away steeply on either side and a twisting set of stairs lead down to the pebbled beach below.

The castle is unmanned and access to the interior is blocked off, but the views out to the sea are remarkable.
If I were to take you to this beach right now, I would be hard pressed to get you to leave. The pebble collecting value alone is worth several hours of exploration, let alone the intriguing trails that lead off along the coast.

But if we go now this post will be far too long, so I will save it for the next time. For now we make our way back to town, the esplanade and Links Market. It really does go on for a terribly long way, and can be summed up in a barage of rhythmic repetition:

Candyfloss-hotdogs-ballgame-crazy throw you through the air ride-crying child-barking dog-laughing child-whiff of hash-haunted house-burgers…(deep breath…) Candyfloss-hotdogs-ballgame-crazy throw you through the air ride-crying child-barking dog-laughing child-whiff of hash-haunted house-burgers…

Oh, and one old guy relating the perils of sin with a handmade sign. As you do.
So it goes. See you next time for a walk along a small but stunning section of The Fife Coastal Path.

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