3 Apr 2011

Early spring on the Fife Coastal Path

Get your shoes; we’re going out. Yes, I know our supplies of tea and biscuits are here but they’ll be here when we get back. Yes, I promise.

I have your train ticket. We’re going to North Queensferry, and although I am sad to say I haven’t the necessary funds to treat you to a meal at the renowned Wee Restaurant, I will let you stand beneath the mountainous Forth Rail Bridge and pretend you are a giant who has built the whole thing out of enormous Meccano pieces. Yes, you can do the sound effects.

North Queensferry is the start of the Fife Coastal Path - aren’t you excited?!

We have barely started the walk and have yet to enter the small but diverse Carlingnose Point Wildlife Reserve, when we have to stop for a bit of house envy. For there, jutting out into the Forth, in all its white-with-terracotta- accents glory, is a home that appears to have its own wee lighthouse. Helpful for keeping an amused eye on jealous tourists, I would guess. Sigh.
A moving tangle of birdsong follows us as we walk, while the sun glints off the water and the slow-moving boats hulk past.

When we reach a small beach, we turn our backs to the posh houses and admire instead the view of tall grass and soft sand, and the sound of the waves speaking in wet whispers to the shore.
Soon however, things start to change.The natural world is slowly erased by scenes of industry and our trail passes right by a rather massive scrap metal recycling facility.

Over and over the giant claws come down, heaving chunks of cars and old refrigerators onto a conveyor belt. The pieces ride the belt into THE MACHINE and are spat out again as smaller pieces.

In terms of tourism jargon, the section of the trail leading into the town of Inverkeithing could be marketed to those with an interest in seeing what a post apocalyptic Scotland might look like.

Luckily, Inverkeithing’s town centre possesses more charm, including St. Peter’s Kirk and Fordell’s Lodging, the latter of which dates from 1670. As we cut down from the town towards the water again, there is a quirky wee house that looks like a thermos stuck onto the side of an 1980’s haircut.
You're not tired yet, are you? Come on, one foot in front of the other.

As we first enter the suburban stretch of Dalgety Bay, we pass through the eerily pristine world of St. David’s Harbour Village, which looks a great place to film a Scottish version of The Stepford Wives.

Where we may be suspicious of the new and almost too-perfect, we are charmed by the area around Donibristle Bay, with the beautiful 18th century wings of Donibristle House and the sight of boats bobbing in the small harbour.
Time to stop for a rest.

Sorry, I forgot to bring sandwiches. I do however have an organic, gluten-free seed bar in my bag. No? I didn’t think so.

Never mind. Have a seat on the bench, just for a wee minute or so:

Continuing on, we reach the highlight of our walk: a roofless rectangle of ruins that are made all the more mysterious by their location overlooking the bay.

There was a time, more than 800 years ago, that St. Bridget’s Church would have been the centre of village life for the community. Here the dead lie parallel to the shore, but time has caused the stones to sink crookedly, the wind and rain gradually scrubbing the names away.

We can wander this stone shell as long as we want, wondering at how the sun seems just as happy to warm abandoned walls. We take care to close the gate behind us when we leave, taking with us the ring of indifference the quiet click makes.
Now we have just to reach Aberdour and the train home, for that is as far are we are going today. Unfortunately we have missed the opening times for Aberdour Castle, but we shall try this another day because the gardens are meant to be lovely.

But before Aberdour, one last, grand view out to Inchcolm Island, home to Scotland’s best preserved group of monastic buildings. The island and the abbey sit like a postage stamp, enveloped by the busy Forth.
There - you’ve done it. You’re lucky I didn’t make you walk all the way to Burntisland, which had been my original plan. But I can see that you’re knackered and could do with a cuppa and a biscuit or four. I’ll boil the kettle and you dig the digestives out of the cupboard. Deal?

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