Round Britain: Elie to Anstruther

On yet another wet morning we left Shell Bay and continued on the coast road. Passing the ruins of Ardross and Newark castles, we reached the east end of St Monans where the Auld Kirk stands.

St Monans (or Monance, Monanus, Monan: spelling variants have been in use over the centuries) was an Irish missionary who came to Fife in around 832. He is said to have been the first to preach the gospel on the Isle of May but was killed by Vikings in 875. The church was founded in 1265-7 on the site of the Saint’s shrine. Before 1477 the building was granted to the Dominican Friars whose priory stood on what is now the graveyard. It was burned down by English invaders in 1544 but by 1646 had been rebuilt and was the Parish Church. Various changes have been made over the years since then (some resulting from the Reformation) to how it stands today. It is open to visitors. We then walked around the town and harbour (where there were some eider ducks), stopping for coffee and enjoying the Welly Garden.

East of the town, by the coastal path stands a windmill. The Newark Coal and Salt Company was set up here in 1771, the windmill being used to power the heating of the salt pans to evaporate the water and the nearby Coal Farm is where low grade coal was mined.

Afterwards, we diverted inland slightly to Kellie Castle and Gardens. The castle dates from 1360 but was rescued and renovated by Professor James Lorimer in the 19th century. It is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. In addition to the castle, there is a walled garden and woodland walks.

As we left, passing fields of llamas or alpacas (I am not sure which) we saw a sign announcing a lost African Grey Parrot but sadly did not spot it. Back on the coast, the sun had come out and I donned my sunglasses for the first time this trip. We parked at the west end of Pittenweem by the crazy golf course and walked via the coastal path towards harbour and into town. The old seawater swimming pool lies at the foot of the cliffs but there is a sign warning swimmers that it is no longer maintained by the council and that they swim at their own risk.

It is a busy fishing port

but we also spotted a link with our recent Australian trip:

Our campsite was on the western side of Anstruther, by the coast so the following morning we walked into town in cold sunshine. Anstruther and Cellardykes are contiguous. We first came to Cellardyke Harbour which has been in existence since 1452. Over the centuries it has been destroyed by storms and rebuilt, most recently in 2002 after a 1996 storm. It was low tide when we passed by so there were no boats but it is a handy place to dry your washing.

The East Harbour in Anstruther has a small lighthouse and the waves were crashing against the end of the pier.

The main harbour was full of boats. From here you can take a boat trip to the Isle of May which we have never visited but as high winds were forecast for the afternoon (I am not a good sailor in small boats) and we needed some downtime before driving home in the morning, we decided to defer that to another time. One thing we had to do was to have lunch at the award-winning Fish Restaurant, said to be the best in Scotland and the UK. The batter on their fried haddock is made to a secret recipe. It was certainly tasty and we got a table before the big rush.

We will be saying goodbye to Fife in the morning but returning to continue our journey in May. This leg was a total of 91 miles driven and quite a few walked.

Round Britain: Lundin Links to Elie

The overnight rain had cleared so before we left the campsite, we had a walk in the woodland opposite. Keil’s Den is a narrow deciduous wood on the slopes of the Keil Burn. It is managed by the Woodland Trust and there are various walks. We did the 5km circuit.

Bluebell foliage was emerging and Dogs’ Mercury, but the primroses were blooming.

It reminded me very much of the woodland I spent many hours in when I lived in Menstrie at the foot of the Ochil Hills in the early 1970s. Afterwards we picked up supplies in Lundin Links and then drove down to the sea front in Lower Largo. Alexander Selkirk was born here and became a sailor. Unfortunately, he had a disagreement with his captain who then abandoned him on the island of Juan Fernandez, in the Pacific Ocean. Selkirk lived there alone for four years until he was rescued by a passing ship. He became a celebrity when he returned to British shores, and his adventures were fictionalised by Defoe as Robinson Crusoe. The house on Main Street where Selkirk was born no longer stands, but the building on the site is now decorated by a statue of him, looking out to sea.

There is a sign outside the Crusoe Hotel indicating the distance to Juan Fernandez which Lower Largo is twinned with.

The railway here was the victim of the Beeching cuts in the 1960s but there remains a very impressive viaduct in the village.

We got talking to one of the locals who said that as in many towns and cities around the world, houses were being bought and let out via Airbnb making the prices too expensive for local young people who were then being forced to move elsewhere. The mobile Post Office now only comes here for 2 hours every week and one of the local shops had recently shut down.

After looking at the beach, we moved on towards Elie, passing through Upper Largo and Drumeldrie before officially entering the East Neuk. As the weather forecast for the following day was not promising, we had a walk on the East Links; out to the lighthouse at Elie Ness

and the Lady’s Tower. The latter was built in 1760 as a summer house for Lady Anstruther who liked to bathe in the sea below.

At the other end of the town, Earlsferry acquired its name because ferries began a thousand years ago when Macduff, the Thane of Fife, took a boat from here to escape from Macbeth. Earlsferry was granted a Royal Charter by Macbeth’s successor. We reached our campsite at Shell Bay in time for a walk along the beach.

Today’s sea glass haul was better than the day before and included one piece of blue glass which is less common than clear, green or brown. Shell Bay had more rubbish (mainly plastic) among the seaweed and driftwood than the other beaches we have visited so far. On Tuesday we walked just over six miles in total. As predicted the night was wet and cold. We awoke to rain on Wednesday with the radio reporting that the snow gates were shut at Cockbridge in the Cairngorms.

The original plan was to walk from Shell Bay to Elie along the coastal path around Kincraig Point and Earlsferry but had to make do with a short stroll in a brief lull in the weather.

It finally dried up in the evening and I hoped to see the sunset through the clouds but it was hidden apart from a hint of pink.

Round Britain: Edinburgh to Lundin Links

We left Edinburgh on a bright sunny morning to start our journey around the coast of Britain. We crossed the Forth on the relatively new Queensferry Crossing. The bridge was in the news recently when three cars had their windscreens smashed by falling ice. Fortunately this was not a problem today but it did make me wonder how other countries design their bridges to avoid this. Perhaps we should seek some assistance from Scandinavia.

Over the bridge and now in Fife we turned left along the coast. On Dalgety Bay at the east end of the town lie the ruins of St Bridget’s Kirk. The church was built around 1178 to serve as the parish church of Dalgety. Worship was arranged by the Augustinian Canons of Inchcolm Abbey which lies on an island in the Forth. The church remained in use after the Protestant Reformation in 1560, though it was significantly altered for Protestant worship. It was abandoned in 1830 when the congregation was moved to another church. From the road it took us a while to locate the path down to it which is down a narrow alley off a residential street. It is more easily found from the Fife Coastal Path which passes closer by.

Close to the church is Crow Wood which was devoid of crows this morning because they were all feeding in a field above the bay. East of Dalgety Bay is the Exxon oil terminal but the next town along the coast is Aberdour.

After a coffee we walked down to the shore. Most of the residential streets had ‘Private Street’ notices, advising that only residents can park there, an indication of how busy the town can get in high season. Aberdour has a ruined castle (the coast here has many of them).

We walked along part of the coastal path to Hawkcraig Point where there is a small lighthouse.

Lunch was had at the Silver Sands, a beach west of the town where a lonely sandcastle sat by the sea. Plenty of others were under construction on the beach.

The coast road continues through Burntisland, Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy which has a large flour mill on the seafront. Further on is Dysart, Wemyss, Buckhaven and Methil. Inland from the road is Clatto Hill which is all of 248m, only one metre higher than Mow Cop near home. In Methil, a bridge crosses the Leven. Until 1821, the only bridge across the river was the Cameron Brig on the main Kirkcaldy – Cupar road. In that year, a pedestrian suspension bridge was built at Leven. It was replaced by a three-arched stone bridge in 1840. The toll to cross this bridge was a Scottish halfpenny, or bawbee Even though the stone bridge was replaced by a single-span bridge in 1957, it is still known locally as the Bawbee Brig. A little further on was Lundin Links which has a campsite for our first night’s stop. It is on the slope of Leven Law which is a slightly more respectable 290m.