272. Elie to Buckhaven

October 2013

This was the last day of this 3 day trip and so because I was having to travel home later in order to get home for work the next day, I made an early start to make the most of the day. Today was cloudy but dry (though it did keep looking like it might brighten up, but never did).

Due to bus connections from the hotel I was staying at in Glenrothes I wasn’t starting this walk from the end point of my previous walk (Buckhaven) as the connections back from points east of Elie were worse and I didn’t want to risk a missed bus connection causing me to miss my train home. So I opted to get the longer part of the bus journey done first, to Elie. This went well, I took an express bus from the roundabout outside my hotel (Glenrothes Travelodge) to Kirkcaldy Bus station. Here I made a quick connection onto another bus on to Elie. Both buses were in fact coaches and they are so much more comfortable than the usual bumpy, rattly bus!

I decided that my planned walk from Elie to Buckhaven was a little shorter than I’d like but the next village up the coast, St Monans a bit too far for me to want to risk in case I didn’t make it to Buckhaven and left a gap I’d have to fill next time. So I opted for the shorter starting point of Elie. There was another reason, too. I’d heard about the Elie Chainwalk. This is a section of coast “path” that is only usable at low tide (another reason I started from Elie). Here chains have been built onto parts of the cliffs face to enable you to make your away around the actual cliffs at low tide, rather than walk on top of them. I had thoughts I might like to at least try this so having a bit of time “in hand” to allow for this was also useful.

On reaching Elie I stopped at the local shop to buy food for lunch and then headed down to the harbour.

Elie

Elie

Elie looked to be a rather pleasant place, with attractive buildings in the village centre and a nice little beach and harbour (though the beach appeared to only exist at low tide).

Elie

Elie

Rather than immediately turn right I decided to turn left and explore the little harbour first, so I followed the roads around to this.

Elie

I headed along to the end of the road (at a car park).

IMG_3052

Elie

Here I had intended to stop at the harbour and turn back along the coast but the sight of a lighthouse just beyond tempted me onwards a short distance further along the coast path to take a closer look.

Wood Haven

This rather pretty and unusual lighthouse is called Elie Ness Lighthouse. It is still in use today though it is no longer lived in.

Saucher Point

Though I had walked quite some distance from Edinburgh I was still in sight of the Scottish capital and I could look out over to the far side of the Firth of Forth to again make out Arthur’s Seat which I had walked up previously.

The Firth of Forth from Elie

I could also see Bass Rock further along the coast. Some sort of ruined castle tempted me to continue to walk further east to take a closer look but this time I decided I’d have to wait until next time. The point of this walk was to be walking west, to connect with my previous walk, not east. The ruined castle tower would have to wait until next time!

Elie

Looking back to Elie from the lighthouse too gave me a lovely views and the town is in a nice location with hills just behind and a large expanse of sand on the shore.

Elie

Elie

I had a closer look at the lighthouse but it was not possible to look inside, all the doors had been further reinforced with metal gates in front of them.

I now returned along the coast path back around the little headland to the harbour at Elie.

Elie

Elie

In fact Elie merges with the next village, Earlsferry to form a strip of development along the coast of about a mile in length. A sign told me though the two Burghs were only united in 1929 and Earlsferry is the older, dating from 1373. Elie by way of comparison dates from 1589 and once had ferries over the Firth of Forth.

The small harbour at Elie looks to be used mostly for leisure purposes now. I followed the road around from the harbour and when this turned inland I turned left along another road to keep along the shore.

Elie

For some reason, the official Fife Coast Path also turns inland and follows the main A-road through Elie which seemed an odd decision for a coast path when there was the option of walking on a much quieter road nearer the sea instead!

Elie

Elie

Initially this didn’t have houses on the left so I had fine views over the coast but soon there were houses on both sides. Once again I found many of the houses very attractive with sort of castellated or stepped stone around their roofs and gables (I’m sure that has a proper name, but I don’t know what it is). Slightly Dutch in style I felt.

Elie

Elie

Soon the houses ended but just after this road too turned inland. I could rejoin the official route of the Fife Coast Path here, or I could stick to the coast and walk on the beach. I opted for the latter, since the tide was well out.

Elie

The beach was a mixture of sand and rocks, but the sand was mostly firm and there was always a way through between the rocks. It was a lovely walk along the beach with the fresh sea air and the sound of the sea beside me.

The Firth of Forth at Earlsferry

Earlsferry

Sadly it soon ended and so I made my way up off the beach to the road just beyond. The road soon ended at the end of the little headland but the path continued out to what looked like the remains of a building, with just the end gable still standing.

Earlsferry

Out to sea I could see a rock with a sort of metal pyramid built on top of it. I’ve seen these structures before blocking off the tops of old mines in Cornwall and I did wonder if that is what this was for too, but I don’t think it can be since the mind would have filled up each time the tide came in! I assume instead it is a light to warn ships of the rocks.

Craigforth

This headland marks the end of Earlsferry (I hadn’t really noticed when Elie became Earslferry) so I’d now reached the end of the two villages, though I still had Earlsferry Links Golf course to get passed. There are certainly a lot of golf courses in Scotland! However here rather than round the golf course I headed down onto the lovely sandy beach of Earlsferry Links.

Earlsferry Links

The beach is lovely, a nice sandy beach backed by dunes (and the golf course just behind) but much higher cliffs ahead. There were only about half a dozen people on the whole beach, too.

Earlsferry Links

About 2/3 of the way around the beach the official coast path made it’s way off the beach to get to the cliff tops before they came too high (the coast path is the green wiggly line you can see near the top right above). However the Elie chain walk begins further ahead at the base of the cliffs at the end of the bay instead so I wanted to see that.

Earlsferry Links

I’m amazed this exists these days frankly, given the amount of Health and Safety, that someone hasn’t decided it’s too dangerous and must be closed down, but thankfully they haven’t. Chains have been attached to the rocks allowing you to scramble around the cliffs. Immediately it looked harder than I had expected, but I gave it a go climbing up onto the first part of the cliffs. and around the corner into a bigger gully. Here I could see the chains climbing up the other side, but in the gully (I’ve just cut them out of shot, deliberately) was what I took to be a school party of about a dozen children. All kitted out with proper things to clip onto the chains, hard hats and high-visibility jackets.

Fife Chain Walk

It would have been a squeeze to have got past them all easily, but I was also worried about a few possibilities. The first that I was at risk of been given a lecture about how I wasn’t properly equipped (which was true) and so setting a bad example to the children etc by the teacher or leader. The second was that if I did continue and then slip or make a prat of myself I’d do so in front of an audience, which I was also keen to avoid (“you see children, this is what can happen if you are not properly equipped”). Thirdly if I did find it too hard and wanted to come back I’d have to try and get back past the school group again, causing further embarrassment.

So in the end I’m afraid I wimped out and decided to use the coast path on the cliff top instead. (In hindsight I slightly regret not trying to get any further – but I can always go back and give it a try another time). In fact as a postscript I did do a “walk” last year (2019) whilst on holiday in Norway to the Kjerag boulder which involved a good deal of hauling yourself up rocks on chains to get to the top and then, standing on this boulder wedged 1km above a sheer drop to the Fjord far below – and here is the proof. So having done that I feel more confident I could manage the chain walk if I was to try again.

Me on Kjeragbolten

Anyway back to my coast walk, now I returned along the beach and made the steep climb up to the now high cliffs. This gave me a fine view back over the golf course and back to Earlsferry and Elie, as well as to Edinburgh in the distance.

Kincraig Point

Kincraig Point

At the top of the cliffs were various concrete structures, the remains of a World War II Gun Battery. I can see why this would have been a good location, high up on cliffs overlooking the important Firth of Forth and in sight of Edinburgh, it would have been about the last line of defence, I imagine.

At the top of the cliffs (Kingcraig Hill) I had a fine view of the coast ahead, though the next bay, Shell Bay had a huge caravan park behind, which was not very attractive.

Kincraig Point

Still despite that, this was a lovely bit of coast path, a nice easy path right along the very top of these high cliffs, I got some lovely views.

The path now descended with the cliffs and round into Shell Bay, which had quite a bit of sea weed.

Shell Bay

Shell Bay

A little stream flows out onto the beach here but there is a footbridge across it. Once again the official route of the coast path is on a road, this time the most coastal road in the caravan park. So I decided to ignore it and walk along the beach instead, which I think was much nicer, even with the sea weed and rocks to dodge.

Shell Bay

Shell Bay

Shell Bay

At the far end of the beach is Ruddons Point, a low sandy headland which for some reason the coast path cuts off. I didn’t as there was an easy path around it and at the far side, where there were some pine tree plantations there was a coast path in front of the trees that gave me a fine view over Largo Bay.

Largo Bay from Ruddons Point

Largo Bay from Ruddons Point

This is a lovely beach, a mixture of sand, rock and a few areas of shingle, but it stretches for almost 3 miles. The only settlement is at the far end, Lower Largo, so it was very quiet too. However first I had to get around the Cocklemill Burn which flows out over the beach at it’s most southern end.

Cocklemill Burn

Fortunately by now I had rejoined the official Fife Coast Path again and two bridges have been provided to cross the two parts of the burn so I don’t have to head far in land to get round it or get wet feet trying to ford it.

It was a nice easy part of the walk to follow this fine beach for several miles and I briefly stopped to eat some of my lunch on a deserted part of the beach.

Largo Bay

Largo Bay

Largo Bay

In places the beach was lined with numerous concrete blocks. I think again rather than coastal defence, this is another remnant of World War II when these blocks were installed on many British beaches to prevent (or at least hinder) any tanks that might have been landed onto the beaches from being driven off inland.

Mostly these were parallel with the shore, but one line went 90 degrees right across the beach (and I later checked on Google Earth and see they continue some distance inland over the dunes, too).

Largo Links

As I approached the large village of Lower Largo the beach became more rocky and shingle, so it was a little harder going.

Largo Bay

Largo Bay

The gardens of the houses and their walls came right down to the back of the beach here too so I decided to re-join the official coast path on the minor road just behind.

Lower Largo

Once again, Lower Largo proved to be a pretty place again with lovely stone built houses and cottages painted different colours and with different styles of stones to frame the windows, I thought it was very pretty.

Lower Largo

Soon the houses on the left ended, giving views back over the sea again and passing toilets, before heading inland again where I passed a statue of Robinson Crusoe built into the top of two houses!

Robinson Crusoe monument at Lower Largo

I continued along this road (Main Street) which soon returned to the coast by this rather unusual art work (a totem pole?).

Lower Largo

More houses soon began on the left of the road, limiting views of the coast but there was also a shop where I could buy more to drink, so that was handy.

The road soon comes to a little harbour where the Hatton Burn flows through the town to the sea. This was rather larger than the suffix “burn” suggests and it was also crossed by an impressive viaduct just back from the shore.

Lower Largo

It was pretty obvious what this was, but in case there was any doubt, the road was called Station Wynd and beside it The Railway Inn. Yes, this was a former railway line.

Lower Largo

Like so many railway lines, it was closed in the 1960s. However this may not be the end. It is now planned (having been approved by the Scottish Government in August 2019) to re-open the part of this line between Thornton Junction (on the still open Fife Circle route) as far as Leven, with a planned re-opening in 2024. Perhaps in future years this might be extended back to Lower Largo. Either way it is surely good news.

Lower Largo

Beside the harbour to was the large Crusoe Hotel.

Lower Largo

The Robinson Crusoe connection is that Alexander Selkirk, who was born in the town was said to be the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe and it is in fact his statute that I passed earlier.

Once across the harbour I continued along the road which soon climbed gently away from the river.

Lower Largo

Soon the path forks off the road to the left to head down steps and join what I think is the route of the old railway line for a time. This heads to the car park of Lundin Golf Club.

The path then follows the edge of the golf course but one big different in Scotland is that people actually use golf courses in Scotland.

Lundin Links

In England many seem to be mostly a status symbol for the rich, with exclusive and difficult to gain membership being required to be able to play on them (and hence hardly anyone ever does).

So rather than dodge golf balls I decided to drop down onto the beach.

Largo Bay east of Leven

Again there is another lovely sandy beach that stretches for almost 2 miles to the next town, Leven, and that seemed a nicer (and safer) route than following the edge of the golf course. In fact when Lundin Golf Club ends then you reach the start of Leven Link Golf Course. So whilst the towns don’t join, their golf courses do!

Largo Bay east of Leven

Largo Bay east of Leven

Largo Bay east of Leven

As I neared Leven there was a line of caravans and then a promenade so I joined that. It had a bridge meaning I could avoid trying to cross this on the beach (as the two people below were trying to do)! It’s Scoonie Burn.

Leven

Beyond this there was a car park and I could walk through this back to the shore where there was now a small promenade.

Leven

The promenade ended at another car park where I rejoined the busy A955. This is at the mouth of the river Leven which I now need to cross.

Leven

Here I got slightly lost. On the A955 now there is a large indoor swimming pool on the left. The map suggests the route here is to take the road behind this alongside the mouth of the Leven where an old bridge crosses the river. However the far end of this was entirely blocked off with sturdy gates topped with barbed wire and high solid metal fencing either side. Behind this is a still working dock and it was clear there was no way through despite the map suggesting otherwise, as just beyond this bridge is the old railway bridge.

The River Leven

This is where the still existing (but disused) railway line runs, which it is planned to soon re-open for passengers.

So I retraced my steps back to the A955 and walked in front of the leisure centre and swimming pool. Now I could cross the river on the road bridge instead and turn onto the B932 back to the coast and the official route of the coast path marked on the map.

Sadly the rest of the days walk was on roads. The coast between here and my end for the day, Buckhaven is all working docks (and an “energy park”, whatever that might be, something to do with wind turbines I think) and not accessible so I had to follow roads parallel with the docks. Initially this was on the busy B932 right beside the docks, which did have a narrow pavement but was busy and ugly so when the official coast path opted to turn right and follow High Street, one road back from the dock road, I decided to do likewise and follow that in the hope it was more interesting – I couldn’t see the coast from the B932 anyway.

Although the name High Street might suggest shops, it was mostly not shops! But houses and bungalows most of which didn’t look as if they ever had been shops. When there were shops they were mostly closed. This was clearly not a wealthy part of Fife, being industrial and with a run-down feel.

Soon High Street ended and rejoined the road along the coast, the B932 beside the Energy Park. There was a view point here but it did not offer much of a view.

Fife Energy Park

Well unless you like views of lots of yellow pipes of different sizes and cranes. I don’t! When I reached the end of the Energy Park the coast path rejoined the main road through Buckhaven so I followed this route until I reached the exact bus stop I had ended my walk at the previous day.

Buckhaven

The several miles of road walking had taken their toll (especially as I was carrying 3 days worth of clothes with me too now, making my bag heavier than usual) so I was glad to reach this for a rest, as I was feeling quite tired now. I did not have long to wait for a bus to take me onto Kirkcaldy Bus Station. This time it was a double decker bus. Not as comfortable as a coach, but sitting upstairs I did at least get good views of the coast and the driver was no slouch!

From Kirkcaldy I took a train to Edinburgh. Here I had enough time to wander along part of Princes Street before the 5pm train to London I was booked to travel home on (for the bargain price of £17).

This had turned out to be a lovely walk, taking in some lovely sandy beaches and very pretty villages, which also had lovely views over the Firth of Forth. The only negative was the rather industrial end beside the docks of Leven but at least that was not for long.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk. There is a direct bus Monday – Saturday. On Sundays you need to change buses in Leven:-

Stagecoach Fife bus route X60. St Andrews – Dunino – Anstruther – Cellardyke – Pittenweem – St Monans – Elie – Upper Largo – Lundin Links – Leven – Buckhaven – East Wemyss – Dysart – Kirkcaldy – Halbeath Park and Ride – Ferrytoll – West End – Edinburgh (Bus Station). This runs hourly Monday – Saturday and takes around 35 minutes to travel between Elie and Buckhaven. Although the bus does run on Sundays it only runs between Leven and Edinburgh but not north of Leven, for details of an alternative bus, see route 95 below, then take this bus south from Leven to Buckhaven.

Stagecoach Fife bus route 95 : St Andrews – Kingsbarns – Crail – Cellardyke – Anstruther – ait – Pittenweem – St Monans – Elie – Kilconquhar – Colinsburgh – Upper Largo – Lower Largo – Lundin Links – Leven (bus station). Hourly seven days a week.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link.

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2 Responses to 272. Elie to Buckhaven

  1. I wouldn’t even contemplate the chain walk, and that picture of you on the boulder terrified me!

    • jcombe says:

      Sorry to have terrified you!
      I am hoping to come back to this area to visit the Isle of May and might try the chain walk again. At least the drop is not so high as the one from that boulder!

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