275. Leuchars to St. Andrews

May 2014

This was actually the first of a 4 day trip to Fife, as I didn’t walk this stretch of coast in order. The reason for this is that the Fife Coast (especially to the north of the county) is not well served with railway stations and I was travelling from the south of England by train. Given the distance I now am from home this takes quite a while and so on the first day I wanted to get walking as fast as possible so as to be able to walk a reasonable distance on the day I arrived. So it made sense from one of the few places on this part of the coast that has a station, Leuchars.

I had booked a train ticket a few months before from London to Edinburgh for only £24 which was a good deal. From there I took a local train onwards to Leuchars.

Leuchars Station

It is a little after 2pm when I arrive, so I’m keen to get moving. This is also why today’s walk is quite short. The station in Leuchars is a little south of the village and unusually has fields around it, rather than houses.

View from Leuchars Station

The view from the station footbridge (which seems extremely high) is that the immediate surroundings are very flat!

Sadly although there is an official coast path in Fife it looks like from the map that this section is pretty much all along roads. Not what I was hoping for. This starts with a walk along the A919 as I need to cross the Eden Estuary and the most coastal place I can do so is the bridge which carries the A919 over the estuary , known as Inner Bridge, according to the map. Thankfully the A919 has a pavement, and set back a bit from the road, too.

I soon reach the bridge and find there are in fact two bridges. The most coastal is the A919 bridge I’m on but there is an older bridge alongside.

Inner Bridge, Guardbridge

Presumably this was too narrow for modern traffic and a new bridge was built, but with the old one left in place. I think it’s now only used by pedestrians and cyclists. I decide to take a quick diversion so I can view the river upstream too, which seems to narrow very quickly.

The Eden Estuary near Leuchars

There is some industry beside the estuary too.

The Eden Estuary near Leuchars

It looks like a mill of some kind to me but turns out to be the Eden Mill Distillery (so presumably it was originally a mill). In fact the mill was obviously once much bigger and some buildings look to he been demolished. Either way it is not very friendly to the walker since the whole complex has a fence or wall alongside it, so I can’t see much inside, or get to the coast beyond. Disappointingly there isn’t a shop either, so I’ve no idea what the Whiskey and Gin they produce is like.

Thankfully the pavement continues beside the mill and then takes me to the small village of Guardbridge.  Reluctantly I continue with the main coast path beside the A919 through the village but at least the pavement continues. Now I need to cross the river Eden itself (rather than the estuary).

So I continue with the road to Guard Bridge (presumably how the village I’d just passed through got it’s name), where the road ahead becomes the A91. Here once again there are two bridges and older bridge (now for pedestrians and cyclists) and a more modern replacement, which is now the route of the A91. This time the old bridge is closest to the coast so I cross that one but it’s clear looking downstream that there was once another bridge here too.

The River Eden at Guardbridge

This once carried a railway line that served St Andrews. It’s gone now, sadly (as I might have started from St Andrews if I could have got the train there).

The River Eden at Guardbridge

I had wondered if I might be able to follow the route of the old railway tracks to avoid walking on the A91 but it is fenced off behind a pub, so I’m out of luck.

So reluctantly, I carry on along the road. At least the road from the old bridge is Old St Andrews Road and parallel with the A91 it is only used by local traffic, the new route of the A91 acting as a bypass. This soon takes me back down to the A91 however, though at least it has a pavement still even though i’m at the end of the village. I’m resigned to my fate, following the A91 all the way to St Andrews, as the map suggested. It will be a dull walk.

The Eden Estuary near Guardbridge

However as the road starts to turn right, away from the coast, I’m pleased to find a signed footpath to my left. It isn’t signed as the coast path but as a path to the Eden Estuary Nature reserve. Well the Eden Estuary is what I want to be walking next too, so I decided to at least follow it to see where it goes. It might be a dead-end but at least it gets me off the boring road for a while.

It soon becomes a good track and heads out to the tip of Sand Ford Head.

The Eden Estuary near Guardbridge

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

I go through a gate and reach the end of this little spit of land. I now have a lovely view over the estuary and can see back to the large mill I passed earlier and some hills beyond it. It is nice to finally be on the coast – this is meant to be a coastal walk, after all!

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

I round the headland and the path seems to continue, sometimes on the foreshore and sometimes on grass behind it. A little rough in places and as I begin to doubt i’m still on any sort of path at all I pass a seat, so clearly I am meant to walk here.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

Across the estuary I can see a radar tower. This is because there is an airfield on the other side of the estuary, Leuchars Airfield which is an RAF base I believe.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

I continue on the path along the foreshore and can see the town of St Andrews ahead of me now.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

I make it along the foreshore without much difficult to reach a slipway (marked on the map) which looks a bit like it might once have been some sort of small harbour, as there are stone walls beside it too. As some water flows out here I headed up onto the grass behind this to get around the water.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

There is a thin strip of grass between the fields on my right and the estuary to my left so I continue walking along this. It is pleasant and easy enough and the foreshore is now dotted with a few small streams (or should that be burns) that flow out into the estuary, so it is easiest to keep above these.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

Soon I reach what I initially though was a little bird hide. But I don’t think it is because just off to my right is the hallowed turf of the St Andrews Links golf club. It costs close on £200 to play a round here I believe (and I heard you have to book months in advance, too). I think this hut is probably some sort of shelter for the golfers if the weather turns bad (thunderstorms especially I expect).

Beyond it the ground becomes a bit rougher but there is a “sort of” path through it and soon I am right beside the neatly mown turf of the golf course itself.

St Andrews Links golf course

St Andrews Links golf course

Now it’s worth pointing out that under the Scottish open access laws it is permitted to walk on a golf course (but you must give way to golfers, which makes sense, since golf is the primary purpose after all).

So I walked on the very edge of the golf course trying to keep outside the white posts which I think mark the edge of the golf course.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

The coast beside St Andrews Links golf course

However one thing that is tricky is the course is quite busy. When you see people standing up in the distance with the bright sky behind them it can be difficult to see which way they are facing and if they are about to be teeing off straight towards me. So I don’t especially like this bit as I feel like I might get hit by a golf ball.

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

The Eden Estuary near St Andrews

Thankfully to my left the mud soon gives way to some low sandy cliffs and a bit of a beach. So I head down there.

The coast beside St Andrews Links

St Andrews West Sands

Now I am out of sight (and hopefully range) of the golfers and can relax a bit more now I don’t have to keep a look out for the players on the golf course.

St Andrews West Sands

It soon becomes a very wide beach as I approach the end of the spit at the end of the golf course (Out Head). Soon I’m rounding the corner at the tip of the headland and can see St Andrews ahead of me, in the distance.

This is a glorious beach, wide and sandy, it is backed by dunes (behind which is the golf course). The beach stretches for around a mile and a half to St Andrews. It’s a big space and is proving quite popular. There are some people land yachting which looks quite fun to me (you don’t get so wet as normal yachting for one thing!).

St Andrews West Sands

I head down to the shore and make quick progress on the firm sand, with the waves just to my left and the town of St Andrews getting gradually closer.

St Andrews West Sands

St Andrews West Sands

St Andrews West Sands

As I’m nearing the town however there is another stream flowing out onto the beach so I followed a path off to the right which headed through the dunes to the coach park.

St Andrews from West Sands

St Andrews from West Sands

I walked though to approach the golf course, ending up alongside a putting green beyond the car park.

St Andrews Links

St Andrews Links

I followed the fenced-in road (or is it a path?) south beside the car park and golf course and soon could turn onto the road right behind the beach, West Sands Road.

St Andrews Links

I follow this road behind the end of the beach to the public car park and walk through this. The coast path onwards is along the road through St Andrews. However it is some distance on to the next settlement and as I found out a few days later, the coast beyond St Andrews is quite remote and rugged. I didn’t have time to go beyond St Andrews today.

St Andrews West Sands

St Andrews West Sands

So instead I made do with a bit of a wander around the town itself and as much of the coast as I could get to. I headed down to the harbour area behind the car park, where the aquarium is where the beach was a mixture of rock and sand.

St Andrews

St Andrews Links

I made my way along the beach for a bit but it soon became too rocky and covered in sea weed to safely continue. So I returned and walked along the road passing many of the grand buildings that are part of the University.

St Andrews

The coast at St Andrews

At the end of the road is the cathedral and castle. It was 4:55pm and of course these both close at 5pm. So I wasn’t able to look around them today (but I did at least explore the castle when I was here a day or two later, which is the previous walk I wrote up).

I did however get down onto the beach behind the castle which did allow me to see how it is built right into the cliffs and rocks and the tide washes up to the castle walls.

St Andrews Castle

The coast at St Andrews

I then headed back up and made do with a look over the wall at the castle!

St Andrews Castle

I then moved on to have a look at the ruins of the cathedral (which I mentioned in the previous walk I wrote up, so won’t go on about again).

The coast at St Andrews

I continued down to the harbour and the beach beyond (which I also explored a few days later and wrote about last time).

St Andrews

St Andrews Cathedral

St Andrews

St Andrews Castle

St Andrews harbour

Now I felt I had explored most of the coastal part of the town that was at least open at this time of day I headed back along a road into the town. This road however was like nothing I have seen before!

The arch over the road I presumed was once some sort of town wall. However on passing through it I quickly realised the road has been built through what was once a church! Quite interesting (but not very respectful).

St Andrews

St Andrews Cathedral

The town centre too was lovely with a wide cobbled street.

St Andrews

St Andrews

St Andrews

Many of the shops were very student with a lot of book shops, and of course gown high and outfitters and coffee shops. All in all the town had a nice atmosphere to it and I had enjoyed my look around.

For this trip I was staying in the Premier Inn at the eastern edge of Dundee. So now I needed to get to Dundee to check in. I headed back to the bus station in St Andrews. At least it was possible to wait inside, as I got there just as a shower arrived. I was impressed to see that whilst there isn’t a station at St Andrews, the bus goes directly to Leuchars station and the departures from the station are listed on a screen in the bus station. The bus soon arrived and took me quite quickly to Dundee. It was busy with students and I realised many students live in Dundee and commute to St Andrews.

Dundee

This was the first time I had been to Dundee so I stopped for a quick look around the waterfront with fine views over the Firth of Tay (which I’d just crossed on the bus), with it’s road and rail bridge and a large ship called the RRS Discovery.

RRS Discovery, Dundee

RRS Discovery, Dundee

The Tay Road bridge

The Tay Rail bridge

(Though this walk was done a little over 5 years ago at the time of writing this in 2020 I gather this area around the water-front of Dundee has changed hugely since I walked here).

However I was keen to find my hotel and not linger in Dundee, since I’d be walking back to the city soon. I knew what bus I needed to catch to my hotel but not where it went from. Since the station was behind the RRS Discovery I headed there and found a train was due shortly to Balmossie Station. That was about a mile walk from my hotel and I figured it would be quicker and easier to get that then work out where the bus went wait for it and wait for it to get there. (I later found out this is the ONLY train of the day going east that actually stops there – I was very surprised a station in heavily built up area in a large city got such a poor service).

I bought a ticket and checked the screen. The train turned up and I checked the screen again which confirmed the train would stop at Balmossie. We stopped at the first stop, Broughty Ferry. A couple of minutes later the train stopped again, but there was no announcement and the doors didn’t open. Looking out the window I could just see the end of a platform ahead. I quickly realised this was Balmossie – the station had a short platform and so I suspected only the doors in the front part of the train had been opened, though this was never announced or displayed on the screens on either the train or the station. So I ran through the train just as the door was closing. I shouted to the guard “hang on” and thankfully he opened the doors for me to get off, as I explained I didn’t know it had a short platform!

Having (eventually) got off the train, the station was located right by the shores of the Firth of Tay, there was quite a nice view.

The Firth of Tay at Balmossie

A sign informed me the station had been awarded a bronze award for in the “Tidy Station Standard”. Well I guess with just one train a day in each direction there aren’t go to be many people using it to make a mess! The platform was made of wood with a wooden shelter.

Balmossie Station platform

From here I followed the roads north to reach the Premier Inn Dundee East where I was staying and after checking in had dinner at the hotel restaurant.

This had been a walk of two halves really. The first part was not especially pleasant following the busy A919 and A91 around the Eden Estuary, but at least I’d managed to find a more coastal route to walk than the coastal path for much of it. However the second half around the golf course at St Andrews and along the beach was lovely, as it was an easy walk and I could walk right beside the sea. St Andrews too had turned out to be a lovely town which I had enjoyed walking.

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Stagecoach bus route 99 : St Andrews – Guardbridge – Leuchars – Dundee. Every 7-8 minutes Monday – Saturday. 4 times per hour on Sunday. It takes around 10 minutes to travel between St Andrews and Leuchars.

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

This entry was posted in Fife and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to 275. Leuchars to St. Andrews

  1. The V&A is right next to the Discovery now – probably a building site when you were there!

  2. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, looking forward to visiting St. Andrews. I used to play golf for many years up until 1998. Eden Mills make a great selection of Gins and I believe they sponsor the Scottish Rugby Team. Just back from a single days excursion to Essex. Next trip should see me through Southend.

    • jcombe says:

      Yes St Andrews was a highlight of Fife for me. Good luck on your future walks around Essex, it’s not so good once you get to the Thames estuary I’m afraid (though Leigh-on-Sea west of Southend was quite nice). Take care if you going to give Foulness a go, I don’t think there is anyone doing guided walks out there now (Brian Dawson, the guide I used, seems to have deleted his website and entirely disappeared from the internet now, which is a shame).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s