This was the first day of a 3 day trip to walk the Fife Coast. The Fife Coast was actually the first part of the Scottish coast that I walked mainly because I knew the Scottish coast would be difficult and Fife is one of the few counties in Scotland that has a proper coast path (the Fife Coast Path), so I hoped it would make for a more gentle introduction.
I was starting the day from home so first had to make the long journey north to Scotland. I was travelling by train and I know how long it takes me to walk to the station so I hadn’t allowed much spare time. About 3 minutes from my front door I heard a ripping sound, which is not usually a good sign. This came from my rucksack and taking it off my shoulder part of the stitching on the top had ripped open leaving a gaping hole. Not big enough things would just fall out but big enough people could reach in and remove things and rain could get in. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to go back home and do anything about it without missing my train. Since my ticket was only valid on that specific train it would cost me a lot to delay my journey. So I opted to continue hoping my rucksack would hold together until I reached the station. Thankfully it did and also thankfully, it wasn’t raining so at least the contents of my bag didn’t get wet.
I then took the train to London Waterloo, two tube trains to London Kings Cross. On reaching London Kings Cross I was surprised to see a steam locomotive and old carriages on the next platform, this was running a tour somewhere though I don’t remember where.
The journey to Edinburgh was uneventful and I then transferred on a local train to North Queensferry, crossing the Forth Bridge as I did so.
I had debated stopping off in Edinburgh to replace my bag but given it was October and so it would be getting dark early that would mean cutting my walk short so I decided to continue in the hope that it didn’t disintegrate entirely.
On reaching North Queensferry I headed down to the waterfront admiring the wonderful views of the Forth Rail bridge as I did so.
Indeed I couldn’t resist a quick walk out along the town pier for a better view.
Having done so I followed the coast road along the waterfront, soon to pass under the rail bridge.
Unfortunately I hadn’t checked the map and I was heading to a dead-end. The lower road soon became private for vehicles but I continued only to find it ended at a private house. So I turned back along the next road and this too passed two houses and then ended at a third house. I re-traced my steps once more and took the next right. This led me to a small car park and was again a dead-end.
This was rather frustrating, but at least the car park had a nice view so I took a photo of that before returning towards the town pier.
It was at this point I decided consulting the map might be an idea, since I’d not seen a single Fife Coast Path sign so far.
The map showed the coast path was actually a bit back from the coast here, so I had to head back up the main road and take a path off to the right at a junction I must have walked past earlier without noticing. I found the path and now at last I was on the Fife Coast Path and was hoping that now I’d found a sign it would lead me onwards.
From up here it was clear what was going on. North Queensferry was on two distinct levels, I think as a result of quarrying over the years and the area I had been on had a sheer drop into the old quarry behind.
Now on the right route at last I soon rounded the corner of Carlingnose Point to head north into Inverkeithing Bay. Down below me was the remains of some sort of pier or jetty presumably once serving some long-gone industry.
As I continued north views soon opened out of the Firth of Forth which was rapidly getting wider as I headed back towards the sea.
The path soon passed a slightly shingle sandy beach, Port Lang.
It’s not a port now but the remains of some structures at the back suggested it once was.
At the far end of the beach the path continued along what I suspect was once industry, with rock armour having been built to protect the coast from erosion.
Looking along the coast I could see lots of modern white houses which I worked out to be Dalgety Bay. The path I was following soon became enclosed by fences as it headed through an area of derelict industry. I didn’t particularly like this section but soon it joined a road and continued along now passing more former industry, now mostly derelict, apart from a “metal recycling” business (or a scrapyard, as we used to call it).
The road soon approached the B981 and according to the map (which I was now using) followed this for about 3/4 of a mile. However immediately before the railway line there was a path off to the right behind a warehouse that was also signed as the Fife Coast Path. I suspected the B981 would not have a pavement so I decided to follow this path instead. It ran past more derelict industry and beside an old railway line (where there was some fly-tipping) before finally emerging on a road beside more derelict buildings (one of which was a pub). This walk wasn’t getting off to the best of starts!
This road was beside a run-down looking dock area.
At the end of this road I had re-joined the route of the coast path marked on the map (if not the ground) and now continued beside a sports ground. Rather than stick to the road here I headed to the shore side since the sports ground was not in use. At the end was another warehouse this time beside the former Prestonhill Quarry that was marked on the map. This had two jetties attached to it and I went the landward side of this to then return to the official route of the coast path at Preston Crescent.
Once more I was walking through more derelict industry, the disused remains of this large quarry with an old metal jetty off to the left that I imagine was once used by boats taking the material out of the quarry.
I was again a little uneasy on this section, though I enjoyed the fine views back to the Forth Rail Bridge with the ever changing light picking out parts of the structure.
However I was glad when the path through the quarry ended and bought me into the town of Dalgety Bay.
This is a new town and it shows. Lots of rather soulless looking houses and apartment buildings line the coast here. From the map I couldn’t even work out where the town centre was, if indeed it has one. It feels like the sort of place people only live in in order to commute somewhere else (probably Edinburgh). Still at least it felt clean and safe, unlike the industry I had just been walking through.
Dalgety Bay in fact seemed to consist of a number of small little beaches and bays, some of which had some areas of sand and looked quite nice.
Out in the Firth of Forth I was now getting close to the island of Inchcolm (which I visited on a later date but have previously written up), you can see it in the photo below.
The pleasant grassy path along the coast soon took me past the remains of some older buildings (I wondered if they might have been barracks at some point) and an old stable block, that had now been included in the more recent housing development.
However though the beaches looked nice I soon rounded the corner into the bay of Dalgety Bay (as opposed to the town) where a sign warned me that “Radioactive material has been found on in the area indicated on the map” which was the coast to my right and that you should not pick up or remove material from the beach and wash your hands after leaving. It didn’t seem like a good place to linger!
The notice didn’t indicate how it might be that this nuclear material had arrived at the beach but all in all I wasn’t exactly warming to Dalgety Bay it seemed the area around it is suffering the effects of former industry. (I later found out, via Wikipedia that the radioactive material has come from an eroded former landfill area that contains the remains of World War II aircraft that had radium dials).
Ahead I soon reached Dalgety Bay Sailing Club and followed the path around this.
The pleasant path then continued through a small area of woodland (Ross Plantation) and into the last part of Dalgety Bay, running alongside the bottom of the back gardens of the houses. When the houses ended the pleasant path continued through more woodland.
This bought me out to a most impressive ruined church, St Bridget’s Kirk. Although marked as “remains of” on the map there was far more left than I expected, in fact it seemed to be mostly just the roof that was missing.
The church dates back to 1178 at least and is about all that remains of the old village of Dalgety which was presumably abandoned for some reason with the current town was created in the 1960s.
I stopped for a rest here and some refreshment, taking in the fine views from the former church.
Once refreshed I resumed. The official route of the Fife Coast Path now headed a bit inland along a track a few hundred metres inland. However I spotted another footpath sign showing a route closer to the coast that headed to Braefoot Point. I decided to follow this instead, since it was closer to the coast. It soon came to a junction where I could turn left or right. I opted to turn right heading into the woodlands of Braefoot Plantation heading to Braefoot Point. I reached this where I could get views of the Firth of Forth and, less scenically, the oil terminal alongside the woodland.
Still it was a fine view with Inchcolm now very close directly ahead and also fine views of Edinburgh with Arthur’s Seat clearly visible ahead.
I had hoped there would be a path onwards through the woodlands along the coast, but it wasn’t possible to get past the Oil Terminal as I kept meeting the fence that protected the site. I did however also find some remains of World War II defences (I presume) up here where a large gun looked like it had once been mounted.
Having reached a dead-end I had to head back to the junction and follow another part of the path to re-join the official route of the Fife Coast Path (but at least I didn’t have to go all the way back to the ruined church).
Having now got passed the Oil Terminal the coast path was now soon running alongside a golf course to my right. In Scotland, golf courses are included within the right to roam so I left the path to make my way over the golf course to the shore and walk there instead, I thought it would be more pleasant than the official route, as it was (and is closer to the sea, too).
I soon reached the golf course club house and followed the road that serves it to re-join the official coast path again by in the village of Aberdour.
I was quickly growing to like the architecture of Fife as many of the houses were attractive stone buildings with different coloured door and window frames. I followed the path along the road to the small harbour. It was quite beautiful in the early evening sun and with the autumn colours.
It was around 5 pm now and I considered ending the walk here. Aberdour had a railway station so it would make a convenient place to end and being mid October it would soon be getting dark. However I was enjoying the walk and so having checked the map decided to continue to the next settlement along the coast, Burntisland which I worked out should take me an hour or so to reach.
This followed a harbour wall over the stream that flows into the harbour and then continues along the other side of the harbour into light woodland approaching a tiny hamlet called Forth View.
Here there was another broken jetty (more former industry) and wonderful views over to Edinburgh.
The coast path now made it’s way around the back of the houses to Hawkcraig Point which offered stunning views over the Firth of Forth and the numerous little rocky islands near it’s mouth.
It was high here so I had lovely views in all directions and could see the Forth Rail bridge once more.
I could also see ahead and sadly my destination, Burntisland, also looked rather industrial with cranes and docks visible.
I soon passed a little squat lighthouse at the end of the cliffs (or navigation beacon more likely) and followed the path that soon came down to the sandy beach of Silversands Bay.
The sun had now got low enough in the sky that the beach was now almost entirely in shade but I had fine views of the wooded coast beyond it.
At the end of the bay the coast path now reached a tarmac path that was squeezed beside the railway line just at the top of the wall to my left. This made for easy walking and because it was the edge of the woodland I could still enjoy views of the coast too.
After a while the path passed under the railway line and then run along the landward side of the railway but a spring marked on the map turned out to be a pretty little waterfall.
As the woodland ended the path continued on the landward side of the railway through some fields to reach the first of the houses of Burntisland. Eventually I was able to go back under the railway line past some sort of man-made lake (I suspect another old quarry) and then joined more residential roads where I turned left to follow Melville Gardens and West Broomhill Road which soon reaches a lovely old gate house built in the middle of the road! I think this is part of the remains of Rossend Castle which is marked on the map here.
Beyond this the road crosses the railway line which is in a deep cutting here.
Just over the railway I turned right on a path heading down steps to reach the High Street and then crossed this and continue ahead into Harbour Place which takes me back under the railway line again to reach the rather grand station at Burntisland.
I ended the walk here as the sun was about setting. I had about 10 minutes to wait, enough time to buy a ticket but avoiding a long wait. I must admit I know nothing about the place so I was a bit surprised when the train arrived to find the announcement system on the train called it “Burnt Island” (as if it was two words). I had assumed being one word it was pronounced like “Burnt-is-land”.
I found the name even more odd since it wasn’t an island and as far as I could see in the dusk-light it wasn’t burnt either. (Wikipedia suggests this came about from a possible nickname from the burning of fishermans huts on an islet that is now part of the reclaimed land of the docks).
I was staying at the Glenrothes Travelodge. I had selected this not so much for it’s convenience (it isn’t on the coast) but because of it’s extraordinary cheapness since I was paying a total of just £39 for two nights (albeit on a room-only basis) and this was for a family room, too. So I took the train to the station called Glenrothes with Thornton. This was the nearest station to the sizeable town of Glenrothers but it is nowhere near the town centre (which is nearly 3 miles from the station) but in the village of Thornton to the south. So from here I followed the road north towards my hotel (which was near the south east corner of the town by the first A92 junction). Sadly I don’t remember seeing any buses going past so in the end I walked the nearly 1.5 miles from the station to the hotel. Still it was a clean and comfortable room and I could hardly complain for under £20 a night. My torn bag had survived the walk too, though I really would have to do something about it tomorrow (though at least I’d be carrying less weight tomorrow as I could leave some of my stuff in the room).
The Travelodge is built for people arriving by car, not on foot and so the only place nearby to eat was a drive-through McDonalds or whatever I could get from the BP petrol station beside it. After all that walking I wanted something more substantial and a quick look on Google confirmed that a Premier Inn was the other side of the A92 roundabout and that had a Brewer’s Fayre pub attached so I headed there for dinner instead. It was a bit of a pain to cross the slip roads onto and off the A92 (I’d not want to do it at rush hour) but I made it there and back unscathed and was pleased to find that it offered an all you can eat buffet, which I took full advantage of!
This walk had been a bit mixed. I enjoyed the fine views of the Forth Rail Bridge at Queensferry and indeed of the Firth of Forth itself. But a lot of the walk had been through areas of derelict or former industry or been rather built up (such as radioactive Dalgety Bay). It had improved however towards the end and I hoped that was something that would continue tomorrow, as I headed further along the Firth of Forth and back to the open sea.
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Scotrail Fife Circle line. Edinburgh Waverley – Edinburgh Haymarket – South Gyle – Edinburgh Gateway – Dalmeny – North Queensferry – Inverkeithing – Dalgety Bay – Aberdour – Burntisland – Kinghorn – Kirkcaldy – Markinch – Glenrothes with Thornton – Cardenden – Lochgelly – Cowdenbeath – Dunfermline Queen Margaret – Dunfermline Town – Rosyth – Inverkeithing – North Queensferry – Dalmeny – Edinburgh Gateway – South Gyle – Edinburgh Haymarket – Edinburgh Waverley. Trains run twice per hour Monday – Saturday and hourly on Sundays. It takes a little over 15 minutes to travel between Burntisland and North Queensferry.
Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link