338. South Queensferry to Prestonpans

I had based myself in a B&B in Leith for the two nights of this trip, at a fairly reasonable rate for city such as Edinburgh. I had already worked out how many miles I could clock up on two successive days of long distance walking, and decided that I should be able to reach Prestonpans today. Although after yesterday’s exertions I was a bit apprehensive about completing the distance.

I decided to drive to and park at the railway station in Prestonpans. I then caught the 06:26 train to Edinburgh Waverley, and then had a short walk to the end of Princess Street to catch the 06:57 #43 bus to South Queensferry. I got off the bus very close to where I had parked yesterday. Today was forecast to be a dry warm day with lots of sun, and so it turned out to be.

The old cobbled streets of South Queensferry were deserted when I walked along them and although a small place, seemed to echo a rich history. What I did have on this beautiful morning was an unobstructed view of the Forth Bridge (the railway one) and I decided that this bridge was probably my favourite bridge, it had close competition from the nearby Queensferry Crossing and a bridge, about 5 miles from my home – Ironbridge in Shropshire.

Today’s walk would follow off-and-on the John Muir Way. I followed a good track out towards Hound Point and then SE along Drum Sands. The surrounding forest soon gave way to the impressive Dalmeny House, home to the Earl and Countess of Roseberry. I cut across the private golf course and headed along the shore a small distance. Even at this early hour there were many people out and about, particularly cyclists. At some point I knew I would have to divert inland for almost 2 miles, as the River Almond crossed my path, making its way towards the Firth of Forth. After crossing the River via the old bridge close to the A90 I headed north. The walk along the banks of the Almond was brilliant, full of rapids, a weir and a gorge, the walk was beautiful. Eventually the Almond emptied into the Firth of Forth at Cramond. I always associate Cramond with the House of Shaws in Stevenson’s novel Kidnapped, and John Laurie (Ebenezer Balfour) appearing at the window with Blunderbuss in hand to confront his nephew, David Balfour.

The cobbled streets of South Queensferry
The Forth Bridge
The Forth Bridge
Dalmeny House
Heading towards Leith along the Firth of Forth
Weir on the River Almond near Cramond
The River Almond flowing into The Firth of Forth
The low tide path out to Cramond Island
Stranded fish on Cramond beach

The next section of the walk was along the Cramond promenade which was really busy with runners, walkers, cyclists, dog walkers and others setting off on the low tide  towards Cramond Island. I did think about doing an out and back to the island, but with the long distance yesterday and still having a long way to go on todays walk I pressed on towards Leith.

The outer suburbs of Edinburgh began to appear, but I could see I was still some 4 miles from Leith. Eventually I passed the large marina developments of Granton Harbour and then onto the Port of Leith. The whole area is one of  huge residential developments that are still ongoing. The busy road seemed to go on forever and I was  glad when I lost the main road which had been with me for almost 4 miles now. I was rewarded with a glorious down onto the Portobello and Joppa beaches and the sweeping coastline of East Lothian heading towards North Berwick. I also began to see the appearance of road signs for Berwick-upon-Tweed; another reminder of the end of my walking journey around the Scottish coastline.  The promenade in Portobello was crowded and I struggled to keep my social distance as I passed through the throngs. By the time I reached Joppa, I had taken 3 or 4 rests and my feet are starting to complain.

I pressed on and began to fade as the miles ticked on, by the time I crossed over the River Esk at Musselburgh I had taken my fifth rest, as I contemplated the fact that I’ve just crossed over into East Lothian, my penultimate County, with just the Scottish Borders still to come. I struggled into Prestonpans and slowly made my way up the hill towards the train station.

Another tough day of 8 hours walking, even though I stop 5 or 6 times the rests are not always helpful as it gets difficult to get the legs and feet moving again after stopping!

Granton Lighthouse – built in 1850 as a training lighthouse for the Northern Lighthouse Board
Looking down on the beaches at Portobello and Joppa
Busy times on Portobello sea front
Silver Mussell sculpture at Musselburgh
Crossing the River Esk in Musselburgh

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25125

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance =6,225 miles

 

 

337. East Wemyss to South Queensferry

This could be my last 3 day walking trip to Scotland, as if all goes to plan I would reach North Berwick by the end of it, leaving two big walking days to Berwick -upon-Tweed, thus completing the Scottish section of my coastline walk around Great Britain.

Today’s walk would be a big day and I needed a very early start. To do this I had to get about 5 hours sleep the previous evening and then drive up to Edinburgh through the night. I planned to catch the 6:32 #x58 bus from the slip road on the Forth Road Bridge, this bus would go all the way onto East Wemyss. The drive up from Shropshire was quick, as travelling through the wee small hours usually is. I parked at The Binks, in South Queensferry and walked the half mile onto the slip road of the Forth Road Bridge. I was not surprised to hear the bus driver say it was £12.70 for a single fare to East Wemyss. That would have been the most expensive bus journey ever for me. However, on the Scottish Traveline site I had seen that a day return ticket would be just £8. I have still yet to understand why these fare pricings are what they are!

Five minutes after getting off the bus in East Wemyss, the rain started and within 10 minutes I was soaking wet. The heavy rain shower was not forecast, which made me a bit annoyed. At least the walking was easy as I passed below Wemyss Castle, along the shore side Fife Coast Path.
I soon came to the first real built up area which was the old mining community at Dysart and the long since closed Frances Pit. The only visible remnants of this mining town were the info boards and the old winding gear. I passed around its charming little harbour and through a small tunnel which led to the shoreline. I passed by the ruined Ravenscraig Castle and came into Kirkcaldy. The rain returned again and I received a second soaking. I decided to get some respite from the rain by popping into Lidl to get some pastries. The walk through Kirkcaldy was easy along the wide sea front promenade.

Dawn at The Binks, South Queensferry looking across to Fife
Low tide at West Wemyss harbour
Looking south down The Firth of Forth at Chapel Wood Tower
The old headframe at Frances Colliery, Dysart
St. Serfs Tower and Church in Dysart
Rock tunnel towards Ravenscraig at Dysart harbour
Looking down on Pathhead Sands and Ravenscraig Castle

The sun eventually came out as continued south along the shoreline path into Kinghorn, here I had to divert inland slightly to get around the railway. Edinburgh was now becoming larger in my sights across the Firth of Forth as I followed the railway line into Burntisland. After walking through the town I re-joined the railway line along the Fife Coast Path. I passed along the steeply wooded area known as the Heughs, which displayed a number of recent landslides, with evidence of a small foot bridge being swept away. The next small town I came to was Aberdour which seemed to contain a number of “private” streets and looked to be “very well to do”. Here I had to divert inland to get around an oil terminal to the south, alongside a golf course.

The rain returned again as I entered the really posh areas of Dalgety Bay, fortunately I had not dried out from the last deluge so I did not get as wet this time. I could now make out the three bridges quite easy, as I left Dalgety Bay behind and  pushed on into Inverkeithing. I was now beginning to feel the effects of the long drive and the equally long walking mileage. I decided to give North Queensferry a miss and head straight for the Forth Road Bridge. I was now getting slightly nervous now as the wind speed had been building for a while now, although, I was sure the speed was less than the 50mph it needed to be before pedestrians were not allowed on the bridge.

By the time I reached the approach to the bridge warning signs had restricted the Queensferry Crossing (the Motorway Bridge and which I had walked over back in 2017) traffic to 40 mph. The speed on the Forth Road Bridge was a more sedate 20 mph, which the permitted traffic of buses, taxis, motorbikes obviously were not adhering to. It was certainly a unique setting to have these great bridges grouped so closely together. As I walked over the bridge I was surprised at how low the perimeter guard rail was and the huge drop to the water below. The length of the bridge is just over 1.5 miles  long and I was really pleased to finally reach the far side. After crossing the bridge all that remained was to complete the short walk back down to South Queensferry and my car. I had been walking for 9.25hours and I was quite fatigued.

Seafield Tower between Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, abandoned in 1733
Looking down on the sea front at Kinghorn
Zoomed shot down The Firth of Forth to the three bridges. Notice the wind speed has picked up
Zoomed shot across the Firth to Arthurs Seat, Salisbury Crags and Leith
Heading into Burntisland
Looking down on The Hawkcraig Point Leading Lights marking the deepwater channel from the east end of Mortimer’s Deep to the Forth Deepwater Channel, used by LPG tankers leaving the nearby Braefoot oil terminal
The ruins of St Bridgets Kirk
In the late 18th and early 19th cenbtury this small stone building adjacent to the kirk graveyard was used by relatives watching over the graves to ensure body-snatchers did not steal those recently buried
Looking across to the Queensferry Crossing
Looking back to the Queensferry Crossing from the Forth Road Bridge

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25124

Distance today = 25 miles
Total distance =6,202 miles

 

 

336. East Wemyss to Anstruther

The final day of another three day walking trip and I was keen to make a very early start for today’s walk. I was up at 3:30 and after packing, making a cup of coffee and consuming a bowl of muesli I set off for East Wemyss. As this was a Sunday morning I had something like 4 hours before public transport started running, so during these 4 hours I could get something like 12 miles under my belt.

I parked in a free car park on the shore front in East Wemyss and set off. It was still very dark and I needed to use my head torch to follow the path. I could see the early morning glow in the east, but would need my head torch for a while yet. I  immediately came upon a series of caves. I had never heard of these caves before, but on returning home and doing some online research I read that they were created 8000 – 5000 years ago by wave action. They were inhabited over 4000 years ago and have a high number of carvings  inscribed on their walls. The earliest of these are thought to date to the Bronze Age, whilst the vast majority are connected with the Pictish period. It was much too dark to venture into the caves, but on my next visit I’ll try and remember to have a look around them. In my research I also found out the correct way to pronounce Wemyss – or should I say “Weemz”? The footpath rose up from the shoreline to a cliff top path where I passed the ruins of Macduff’s Castle.

By the time I reached the small town of Buckhaven I was able to switch my head torch off. This part of the northern of the Firth of Forth has many small villages and towns with a rich history of both fishing and coal-mining. The next 3 or 4 miles would be along the deserted residential streets of Methil and Leven. Because of the Fife Energy Park and the old docks it was difficult to gain access to the shore.

Far too dark to take photo’s with my camera but the shape of Macduff’s ruined castle gives an eerie feel
Walking along the promenade at Leven

 

I found numerous dead Starfish on the beach near Leven, sensitive to pollution Starfish are also vulnerable to certain viruses that can destroy their communities
Heading along Largo Bay with Largo Law in the distance
Robinson Crusoe statue on an house in Lower Largo, birthplace of Alexander Selkirk

After crossing over the River Leven into Leven itself I was able to join the promenade which ran for some distance along the huge swinging shoreline of Largo Bay. I soon left Leven and the large industrial areas behind me.   I passed through the small town/village of Lower Largo, famous for being the home of Alexander Selkirk, the original Robinson Crusoe from Defoe’s classic novel. His 1885 statue adorns the side of a house on the site of his original birthplace in the village.

Ahead I could see the distinctive hill of Kingcraig Hill, which I was aiming for. Unfortunately I had forgotten about the Elie Chain walk, which is situated just to the west of Elie itself. I had made a mental note to have a go at the Chain walk some time ago – school boy error or just old age? I crossed the golf links into Earlsferry which adjoined the village of Elie. I followed the route of an old railway line and passed by the old ruins of the 14th Century Ardross Castle. As I approached the small village of St. Monans I passed the much better preserved 13th century Newark Castle and nearby dovecote.

The next village I would come to was Pittenweem, infamous for its witch trials and the lynching of Janet Cornford. At this point i realised I was running short of time to catch my bus back to Leven and East Wemyss, so I took to the main road and continued at a fast pace onto Anstruther.

From the lack of narrative in this report you can see that I rushed this section, although it did not appear so at the time. Fife is certainly a very interesting place to visit and possesses a great coastal path to walk along, plus lots of interesting history. Only 5 more days of walking in Scotland.

A zoomed shot across the Firth of Forth twoards Edinburgh
Looking across Elie Harbour
Ladys Tower – built in 1770 for Lady Janet Anstruther
The ruins of Ardross Castle
The ruins of Newark Castle near St. Monans
Heading into St. Monans
Low tide at St. Monans harbour
Looking down on Pittenweem

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25112

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance =6,177 miles

 

 

335. Guardbridge to Anstruther

I had based myself in the market town of Cupar which is situated roughly in the central part of Fife, this made it quite easy to drive to and from each walk.

This morning I felt like the “Elephant Man” with two rather swollen bumps on my face from the yesterday’s Cleg bites in the Tentsmuir Forest. I set off early from my B&B in Cupar to drive the 16 miles to Anstruther. Here I parked up and walked down to the harbour where I caught the 7:06 # 99 bus to St. Andrews. I decided to sit on the top deck at the front which gave some brilliant views of the coastline. At St. Andrews Bus Station I had a short wait before catching the #42 bus for the short distance to Guardbridge.

It was a gorgeous sunny morning when I set off from Guardbridge. I quickly made my way back into St. Andrews. I could have cut across 3 golf courses to make a b-line for St Andrews beach, but decided against it as the courses where very busy. I did pay a great deal of attention to the 17th & 18th holes of the Old Course as I had seen them countless times on the TV, but seeing them in the flesh was much better. I used to be a keen golf player up to 1998, I even got my handicap down to 12, but for a number of personal reasons I packed the game in. I slowly moved on past the Castle and Cathedral. By the time I reached the outskirts of St. Andrews I had taken up a great deal of time and I still had a long way to go.

Looking across The Eden Estuary towards RAF Leuchars
Looking up the 18th Hole on the Old Course at St. Andrews
Crossing over The Swilken Burn at St. Andrews
Looking northwards along St. Andrews beach
The Martyrs Monument St. Andrews
St. Andrews Castle
The letters “G” “W” embedded in the street mark the spot where George Wishart was burned alive.
The foundations of the Church of St Mary on the Rock

I followed the Fife Coastal Path, for most of the way, but opted to walk across sandy beaches where the path allowed access down to the beach. With the tide well out I could this easily do this. I had fantastic views to the north with the Angus and Aberdeenshire coastline visible almost to Stonehaven. I came across Buddo Rock , an amazing old sea stack situated on a raised beach and displaying fantasic weathered shapes in its Old Red Sandstone. At Boarhills, for some reason, The Fife Coast Path cut inland. This was  due to Kenly Water, which I later discovered could could be crossed quite easily on the beach at low tide. The inland detour was still amazing though because I got to do the riverside walk alongside Kenly Water as it made its way through the gorge that it created down to the sea.

The walking got easier once I was back on the coastline. The appearance of a refreshment shack at the car park near Kingsbarns was a welcome relief. I bought 2 cold drinks and a hot dog at rip-off prices, the hot dog was appalling, but I ate it because I nothing else to eat. About 2 miles down the coast I a bit of a breather and carried on for about 15 minutes only to realise I’d left camera on a rock almost half a mile away. I really didn’t need the running back to retrieve it, as my legs were already beginning to tire.

With my camera now safely back in hand I reached the most easterly point on Fife – Fife Ness. The panoramic view that greeted me to the south was simply amazing and brought home to me how close I getting to completing the Scottish section of my walk around Great Britain’s’ coastline. To the immediate south I could see the Isle of May and could also see the Berwickshire coastline stretching all the way down to St. Abbs Head. To the South West I could also make out across the Firth of Forth the Bass Rock and to the right of that I could see North Berwick Law.

I limped in to the small fishing village of Crail, similar to some of the Cornish fishing villages that I had passed through some years ago. Crail was very busy, but for me it was now tough going. I knew I only had about 3 more miles to go before I reached Anstruther. The sting in the tail was two-fold, the first sting was the sun had disappeared behind the clouds about an hour ago and a small sharp shower arrived which drenched me. The second sting was that on reaching the outskirts of Cellardyke, Anstruther was still a  kilometre away.

Overall, this was a fantastic days walk, but it had taken a lot out of me again, as I been on the go for another 8 hours. I hope tomorrows walk  is not that long again!

Looking back at St. Andrews
Heading along the Fife shoreline
Hidden steps into Buddo Rock
The old sea stack of Buddo Rock
Constantine’s Cave at Fife Ness
Looking down on Crail Harbour
The Isle of May
Caiplie Caves
The Bass Rock

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25111

Distance today = 23 miles
Total distance =6,158 miles

 

334. Monifieth to Guardbridge

With almost an end in sight to my walk around Scotland, I wanted to get at least another 3 days walking in before the month end. I was also slightly concerned with the possibility of a local lockdown in the Borough of Telford & Wrekin due to a sharp spike in covid-19 cases within the last two weeks. Fortunately, the Health Trust was only warning of a possible lockdown, so I managed to get away, although it could still happen over the next few weeks. I wanted to get a full days walking in on the first day of this trip which meant I would have to do all of the travelling through the early hours, so it was very early to bed the night before.

I found a parking spot in Guardbridge, where my walk would end on the first day. I caught the 08:32 #99 bus to Dundee and then the #73 bus onto Monifieth. The forecast for today was not good with light rain and showers all day. In fact the day started off very bright with not a cloud in the sky that was until I stepped off the bus in Monifieth when the rain started! Today I would be starting in Angus and then walking through Dundee City and then crossing the Tay Bridge into Fife.

At Monifieth, I made my down to the banks of the Tay. The far shore of the Tay is dominated by the low lying Tentsmuir Forest and the small town of Tayport. I could see the heavy rain squalls coming up from the south, so I put my waterproofs on. The rain was quite heavy and continued unabated for over two hours. I managed to stay on the cycle/footpath all the way into Dundee, after passing through Balmossie and Brougthy Ferry.

The persistent rain meant I kept my camera dry beneath my walking jacket. By the time I reached Dundee City I was soaked to the skin! I was also worried about high winds which the motorway matrix signs had warned about on the drive up. But the Tay Bridge was only closed to pedestrians should the wind strength reach 60mph! Fortunately, we were not expecting those sort of wind speeds.

Because I stayed quite close to the shore I did not see a lot of Dundee itself, the rain saw to that! I did notice as I walked into Dundee that the Tay Bridge had a noticeable gradient on it, being 32.1m above sea level on the Fife side and 9.75m on the Dundee side. I was looking forward to crossing over the Tay Bridge on foot. It’s quite a unique experience for pedestrian as you are sandwiched between the two dual carriageways on an elevated central walkway, just a few feet from both opposing fast lanes. You can also see that you are walking uphill as well!

Heading westwards towards Dundee at Monifieth
Brougthy Ferry Castle
Looking towards the Tay Bridge with its gradient very apparent
Jack-up drilling rigs in Dundee Docks
Underneath piling supporting The Tay Bridge
Heading up the slope towards Fife on the Tay Bridge

By the time I reached the far side I had passed out of Dundee City into The Kingdom of Fife. On the Fife side was a large car park with toilets (closed), Info Point and small take-away cafe which was serving food. I bought a bacon and sausage bap and a latte – they both tasted horrible, but the rain had stopped and the sun was just coming out!

I was now on the Fife Coastal Path and would continue on it until I reached the Forth Road Bridge. I followed the well-marked path into the small town of Tayport or to give it its old name Ferry-Port on Craig, now a commuter settlement for Dundee City.

Soon after Tayport I was heading towards a large forested area called Tentsmuir Forest which is also a large National Nature Reserve. I headed eastwards towards Tentsmuir Point and eventually turned south following the line of the trees. I re-joined the forest road which was quite straight and boring, seeming to go on forever. I passed one of a few ice houses, which were used for preserving the ice for the salmon fishing. Although initially built on the coast in the mid-19th century, the sea had retreated quite a way leaving these ice houses marooned in the forest. I was plagued virtually the whole time walking through the forest by Clegs, Gadflies or Horse-flies. Later that evening I found I had been bitten twice on the face by these little b***ers.

I eventually reached the large public car park, where I managed to buy a can of pop to supplement my water supply. The next 3 miles seemed to drag on forever as I negotiated getting around the large RAF base at Leuchars. I did manage to follow one false trail which lead me deeper into the RAF base, before I realised I was on the wrong path. I was really glad to see Guardbridge arrive as I had been walking for 8 hours and had really under estimated how long this walk would take. I passed the old Eden Mill, which is now partly used as distillery for my favourite Gin tipple of Eden Mills.
A good day’s walk spoiled for the most part by the weather, which did improve in the afternoon. Although the definite highlight was the walk over the Tay Bridge.

Looking back towards The Tay Bridge and the City of Dundee
Tayport East lighthouse
Heading towards Tentsmuir Forest
At Tentsmuir Point
Ice House in Tentsmuir Forest
Eden Mills at Guardbridge
The old railway bridge supports across the River Eden at Guardbridge

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=posting

Distance today = 22 miles
Total distance =6,135 miles

 

 

 

333. Monifieth to Inverkeilor

This was my final days walk on this particular trip and overall it had been a successful 3 days so far.  I decided to reverse my direction of travel for this particular walk as I would be heading south when I finished. It was also Sunday morning and the first bus service did not run before 8:20. With so much daylight available at this time of the year and the advantage of walking in the cool dawn of the morning, I opted for an early start. I was up and away from my hotel by 4 and by 4:45 I had driven to and parked up in Monifieth, on the outskirts of the City of Dundee. Sunrise was still 50 minutes away, but it was light enough to walk. I could now make out Fife to the south and in the distance could see the lights of St. Andrews.

Virtually all of today’s walk would be along flat roads, lanes and footpaths and in a straight line. Almost immediately after setting out I joined the huge military firing range to my right, which occupies most of the Barry Links promontory. I had awoken early this morning to find that the temperature had dropped by quite a bit and as I followed the tarmac path I could see low lying mist just a few metres above the ground. As the footpath rose and fell by just a few metres I could feel still feel the cold temperature change as I descended into the dips of the path.

I emerged on the far side of the firing range at the outskirts of the large and famous golf links at Carnoustie. I continued alongside the railway line and out of Carnoustie. I had not seen a soul all morning, but eventually a few other walkers appeared out of the mist. By the time I reached the old fishing village of East Haven I was immersed in a large fog bank which reduced visibility to less than 100m. East Haven seemed to be filled with all sorts of statues and information boards. One board in particular caught my eye. It featured an old photograph of, presumably, the whole village lined up near the shoreline, to have their picture taken in 1870.

Very early morning joining the Firing Range
The large hotel at Carnoustie Golf links
Looking back south at Carnoustie
Info board at East Haven
Heading northwards into fog bank
Looking back southwards near Arbroath

The fog had lifted when I entered the outskirts of Arbroath giving a bright sunny day. I stayed close to the promenade along the West Links. I passed behind the football ground, Gayfield Park, of Arbroath FC and continued onto the large white building of the Signal Station. The Signal Tower was the shore station and family accommodation for the Bell Rock Lighthouse, built in 1813, 11 miles off-shore, but is now a free entry museum. As I walked around the harbour I kept an eye open for a place to buy a pair of Arbroath Smokies. Unfortunately, on a Sunday morning and still being quite early, I found none of the shops open. I decided that I would order them online, as I particularly like smoked fish.

I began to leave Arbroath behind and carried along the long sweeping Kings Drive through Springfield Park. Where the drive finished I continued on along a tarmac footpath. The appearance of Devonian Old Red Sandstone cliffs was quite dramatic with bedding lines, weathered joins, caves and sea arches giving interesting shapes and forms to the rocks.  At Carlingheugh Bay, I followed a signpost to the village of Auchmithie, which took me down to the shoreline and then back up the steep cliff, an unnecessary route from what I could see. I followed the path around a huge set of fields containing polytunnels. Near Tanglehall cottages and in a field of Brussels sprouts I found Gaylet Pot a large blow hole, which could be climbed down with care. This is a video I found on You Tube, although there are others.

I continued on in to the small village of Auchmithie. This former fishing village was where the Arbroath Smokie (Haddock hot smoked) originated.

I left Auchmithie and followed an old coast road north, before beginning to make my inland towards Inverkeilor to pick up a bus back to Monifieth.

The Signal Station and Museum in Arbroath
Looking back at Arbroath
Old Red Sandstone at Needle E’e
Nesting Kittiwakes
Looking towards Carlingheugh Bay
Gaylet Pot near Auchmithie
Auchmithie

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25094

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =6,113 miles

 

332. St. Cyrus to Inverkeilor

Today was going to be a bit of a pain,mainly because three rivers, a couple of gorges and the railway blocked my coastal route, this meant diverting inland along a selection of roads. I drove to the small car park above the cliffs at St. Cyrus, just after the sun had risen and parked in the same spot as yesterday. This meant I would be walking towards a point where I needed to catch a bus back to my car.There were already 3 cars in the tiny car park, which appeared to have been there overnight; three tents on the beach far below me confirmed this.

I set off just after 6, dropping steeply down to the shoreline and extensive dune system. I followed a well-worn path over springy grass through the St. Cyrus National Nature Reserve. The cliff line above was the Heughs of St. Cyrus and was quite impressive. I soon came to an old graveyard not shown on the map, I had a quick look around for old headstones, but these were mainly mid-19th century. I arrived at the Visitor centre and car park for the Reserve which then led onto the public road. I followed the public road heading inland because of the North Esk River. Although it is possible to cross the river at low tide on the shoreline, it was high tide with no chance of wading across. The viaduct that I crossed over the river on was the old railway route which I walked along yesterday from Inverbervie.

I followed the route of the old railway through woodlands and playing fields until I reached the outskirts of Montrose. I avoided the town centre keeping towards the Links of Montrose, before turning when I hit the docks area of the town. Near the bridge over the South Esk River I read the story and admired the statue of Bamse, a Norwegian Naval dog, a much loved and well known animal that has his own burial plot in Montrose.

Early morning light looking down to the Sands of St. Cyrus
Heading SW below The Heughs of St. Cyrus
The old railway viaduct over The North Esk
The North Esk
The Norwegioan naval sea dog “Bamse” at the South Esk Bridge in Montrose

I crossed over the South Esk Bridge and could see that the tide was racing out from immense Montrose Basin, which fills with high tide and empties at low tide. I headed along the south bank of the South Esk through the old fishing village of Ferryden. At the end of the public road I continued on a good track on  to the lighthouse at Scurdie Ness, another of the Stevenson’s lighthouses. I rounded the lighthouse and followed the shoreline towards Mains of Usan, here I passed by the ruins of the old farmhouse. I followed the shoreline towards Usan itself. The village sits at the end of a quiet road and comprises a set of cottages and houses. The main feature of the village is George Keith’s Fisherton of Usan, a set of 28 ruined cottages and a three story tower used for shipping navigation, and now used by the Scottish Wild Salmon Company. Basically the site looked more like a scrapyard than any form of fishery. I headed south around fields of barley, until I reached Elephant Rock. This double arched rock feature certainly looks like an elephant from certain angles, although my photograph does not show it so well. Perched high above the rock lies a small graveyard from the early to mid-19th century. Its claim to fame is the inscription on one of the headstones for a Mr George Ramsey who according to the wording was born 19 years after he died. [I did not locate the stone at the time as I was not aware of this mistake].

I followed an excellent wide path along the cliff-top towards the hamlet of Boddin, where I was able to look down on the large  limekiln ruins dating from the 1700’s as well as an old ruined fishing station. At this point the railway made an appearance and would hug the coastline over two precipitous ravines and pinching out any land to walk along.

I headed inland following the road around Dunnidald castle and then onto Lunan. The view down and over Lunan beach was amazing and I knew the roads would be very busy with people getting onto the beach. In fact, although busy the road was not too bad. At Lunan I made a small detour to climb up to the ruins of Lunan Castle.  Not a lot remains of the castle apart from parts of the Keep and a wall. Constructed from Old Red Sandstone the Castle does command an impressive view down to Lunan Bay. From Redcastle I followed the road into Inverkeilor where I would catch the bus back to St. Cyrus.

Crossing over the South Esk at Montrose
The Tower is that remains of the old Ferryden Infant school
Looking back to the South Esk bridge in Montrose
Scurdie Ness lighthouse
Heading towards Mains of Usan
Heading towards Boddin
Headstone at Elephant Rock telling a tragic story
Elephant Rock
Limekilns at Boddim, with old fishing station below
The keep at Lunan Castle
Lunan Castle

All in all quite an interesting day even with the road walking.

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25091

Distance today = 18 miles
Total distance =6,093 miles

 

331. Stonehaven to St. Cyrus

Today was going to be a very hot day, fortunately the temperatures did not rise as high as predicted, but it was still very warm. I decided to make a very early start, so I drove south to St. Cyrus where I parked in a tiny car park on the cliff top. From there I walked back into St. Cyrus to catch the first available bus to Stonehaven. I caught the #X7 5:42 bus heading north, it was strange passing through Inverbervie and past my hotel window where I had departed from an hour earlier.

I set off walking from Stonehaven at 06:15 and immediately set off up the steep path towards the War Memorial. The view back over Stonehaven was superb on this sunny summer morning. The first port of call was the War Memorial and from there I could easily make out the beautiful and dramatic Dunnottar Castle. There was an excellent path that came up from Stonehaven to the Castle itself. The castle with its dramatic position and situation it is a  well visited castle and one of the iconic images of Scotlands East Coast..

A short distance past the castle the cliff top path disappeared, which I suspected would happen. I struggled on between the fields and the cliff top through deep vegetation. It was extremely tough going and I knew I could not keep this up for the duration of the walk. Relief came when I entered the Fowlsheugh RSPB reserve, as I soon as I passed a bird hide the path improved dramatically. The smell of stinking rotten fish and the cacaphony of bird sound  soon came with thousands of nesting Kittiwakes, Fulmars and Herring Gulls on the cliffs below me. I arrived at the hamlet of Crawton and decided I needed a break from the cliff-top waking. I headed up a field to join a minor lane, which was virtually devoid of any traffic.

I continued past the village of Catterline and came to a small cottage where the owner had sown and decorated a large part of the verges near his cottage with large sunflowers and other beautiful flowers. Here I met Geordie Mair and we  spoke to at length for some time about gardening and all sorts of things. As I bid him goodbye he kindly gave me two ripe tomatoes which I enjoyed over the next mile or so. The minor road I was on headed back towards the sea and I passed a number of small hamlets including Whistleberry and Kinneff. Near to a place called Grange I followed a track up towards some radio transmitter towers. I stayed to the right of the fenced in towers and headed downhill. I emerged close to the bridge which led into Inverbervie itself.

Looking back over Stonehaven Harbour
The War Memorial above Stonehaven
Looking towards Dunnottar Castle
Dunnotar Castle
Cliffs and seabirds near Thorneyhive Bay
Bird hide on Fowlsheugh RSPB
Young Kittiwake chick being fed near Trelung Bay
Geordie Mair’s roadside garden
Descending into Inverbervie

It was quite warm as I walked past the hotel I was staying in, so I headed for the co-op and bought some cool drinks and a warm sausage roll. I dropped down to the sea shore to eat and drink my lunch. I knew from reading the map that nearly all the difficult walking was done for the day. I soon came upon a chap who was busy attaching a honeysuckle to the mast of a small wooden boat on a patch of grass, the boat was decked out with more flowers and plants, obvviously this boat was now just used for decorative purposes. I asked the chap if it was his boat, he said yes and the boat once belonged to a local fisherman. This boat was the fisherman’s second boat, his first boat he burnt after his son was drowned out in the Bay on a fishing trip. The fisherman went into a nursing home where this chap befriended him. He asked about this second boat had been left rotting under a tree nearby and the fisherman gave the chap this boat just before he passed away. The chap who I spoke to had repainted the boat and preserved it as a beautiful wooden flower bed. The chap also pointed out that the boat was sitting in the centre of a circle of stones. This was the turntable for the engine that ran along the railway line to Montrose. Inverbervie was the end of this branch line, which last ran a train back in 1966.

The old railway track was very easy going and I joined a few people who were making their way to a small village 2 miles away called Gourdon. As I passed around Gourdon harbour and its small harbour I could see a large French registered ‘artic’ being loaded with all kinds of shellfish. My eye was almost immediately drawn to the mural on the side of the pub close-by – The Harbour Bar. The mural of a large trawler totally took up the whole of the gable end of the pub – it was a beautiful! I would have popped in for a pint, but  because of the current situation I am very cautious at the moment with any external drinking and eating places.

I continued on along the path towards Johnshaven. Although also an historic fishing village it did not appear to have the charm or pub mural as Gourdon! Not far from Johnshaven the old railway track climbed the cliffs and I had to revert to a patchy sea shore path. As I entered Montrose Bay I had to head inland a short distance before emerging near the Rock All Fishing Station. The start of the cliff-top path warned here that proceeding would at your own risk as the path had seen some subsidence. About half-way along the overgrown path an aged sign informed me that the path was closed for my own safety. I ignored the sign and could not see why it had been placed there in the first place. I have walked along far more exposed National Trails than this path and there was no way I was turning back with my car just 400m away.

A fascinating, interesting and enjoyable days walk, well at least the latter half.

Decorated old fishing boat in Inverbervie
The Harbour Bar mural in Gourdon
Diy signpost alongside the old railway route near Gourdon
Heading through Johnshaven
Limekilns near Seagreens

 

 

Old Red Sandstone near Seagreens
Walking along the cliff top with St. Cyrus Church in the distance
Looking down along the The Sands of St. Cyrus

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25089

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =6,075 miles

 

 

330. Portlethen to Stonehaven

Normally, when I travel to Scotland I take 4 days, one day for travel and three days for walking. As I edge closer to home, I decided that I would leave earlier on my travel day and get at least half a day’s walking in. I counted myself as rather lucky with the news that Nicola Spud-gun had placed the City of Aberdeen into lockdown due to a recent surge of Covid-19 cases. which  emanated from a pub/restaurant in the city. Fortunately for me I had already passed through the City boundary and was now back in Aberdeenshire. I had booked myself into a hotel in Inverbervie for 3 nights and hoped that I could get most of the way towards Dundee after 3.5 days walking.

I drove to and parked on the sea front at Stonehaven, the drive up and been quick and without delays. I caught the number X7 bus towards Aberdeen, the bus did not stop in Portlethen but on the A90 bypass. The morning was glorious sunshine, but with a refreshing breeze. It did not take long to walk to the railway station in Portlethen where I walked through the station and across the bridge. My first destination was a small village of Downies. I tried to follow an old track on my 1:25000 OS map and, as usual, the track had disappeared many years ago. I had to back track a short distance and so headed into Portlethen village itself and finding an alternative track

The next 2 to 3 miles was mixture of farm track, green lanes and footpaths where I passed through the village of Downies and then onto Cran Hill. I met a number of other walkers/strollers on the lanes. Below Cran Hill I was able to drop below to a cove and cross a footbridge into the large village of Newtonhill. After passing around a large building site which looked to be new housing I picked up another green lane. I spotted the odd sign post, one that particularly caught my eye for the  Nave Nortrail, apparently part of the European funded North Sea Trail.

As I walked through the village of Muchalls I spoke to a lady who described a convoluted route south past Easter Muchalls, she talked of various routes onward involving high Bison fences. I tried one of these routes which crossed the railway line, I went through an overgrown field but came to a ravine with impenetrable vegetation, boxed in my the cliff and the railway line for the second time that I had to retrace my steps. I decided the heat of day would be my undoing in  trying to find a way through here and so headed for the busy A92, something I always knew was a real possibility. To be fair the A92 was ok, with a pavement for most of the way and the rest on a well-trodden footpath on a wide verge. I was only on the main road for about 40 minutes, which still gave me a brilliant view of the North Sea a few fields away.

Crossing the railway line at Portlethen Station
Heading towards Newtonhill
Dropping down to the beach before ascending into Newtonhill
Reaching a dead end in Muchalls
Looking across to the railway viaduct from the A92

I turned off down the road into Stonehaven and took a small footpath to the ruins of St Mary’s church (or Cowie Chapel) on the boundary of the Golf Course. The chapel dates back to 13th Century and fell into ruin about 1540 and  was fascinating with many old gravestones and mori symbols. It reminded of the Kilmun Church, near Dunoon which I had visited over 3 years ago. I followed the footpath and dropped down onto the beach which I walked along for a short distance before arriving at the end of the sea front at Stonehaven. The town was reasonably busy, with a long queue for the sea front restaurant. I continued onto the far end of the town, heading for the Police station. I was looking for something not seen by many people. A pair of gravestones set into a garden wall, just behind the police station. These gravestones where from 1608 and 1648 and were for victims of the Plague. I thought about the similar circumstance the world was facing today. I returned to my car and headed off to Inverbervie to find my hotel and my bed for the night.

Cowie Chapel
The chapel is situatewd alongside Stonehaven Golf Course
This is the Aumbry a small recess where the sacred vessels for Mass were stored
An inscription on the back of one gravestone
Heading along the shoreline into Stonehaven
Two gravestones from 1608 and 1648 for victims of the Pest (Plague) one for Magnus Tailiour Seyman and the other for two children, located in Stonehaven near the junction of Victoria and New Street

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=25087

Distance today = 11 miles
Total distance =6,055 miles

 

 

 

329. Birchington-on-Sea to Sandwich

At my B&B I gave some thought to how I would tackle today’s walk. The forecast was to be quite a hot day, however, the first public transport of the morning to Sandwich was 6:46. So I decided I would simply drive to yesterday’s finishing point in Birchington-on-Sea and start walking from there. Normally, I always like to get the public transport out of the way first, as the delays of the morning start to stack up as you move through the day. Much better to walk to your own transport i.e. car. This meant I could start my walk whenever I liked, given the constraints around daylight. I knew the sun rose around 5:15, but I also knew that it was light just after 04:00. So I decided to start my walk then, just needed to get about 7 hours sleep. Unfortunately, a newly arrived couple returned to the B&B at 22:00 and started talking and playing music in the adjacent kitchen and living room. I heard her relating her complete life-story through the paper thin bedroom door. At 23:00 I had had enough and went out and told her to keep the noise down. She said sorry and didn’t realise anyone else was in, I drew her attention to the numbers on the bedroom doors and this was a B&B. It did not take long for her to start up again and she continued almost none stop until just after midnight. I got up at 04:00 and remembered to give the front door an extra strong slam as I departed the B&B.

I parked up in Birchington and set off along the coast. The sun had almost 50 minutes before it rose, but the glow from the east meant it was quite light. I must admit I like walking very early in the morning, it’s generally cooler, quieter, still and very little traffic around. I dropped down onto the sea wall that ran below the chalk cliffs which had just made a dramatic appearance. After a mile the sea wall stopped and I had to transfer back up onto the cliff top. At 05:26 I got an unobstructed view of the sun rising across the North Sea, it was something had I had not seen for many years.
It was very easy walking as I headed through residential streets and cliff top paths towards Margate. After passing through Westgate-on-Sea I arrived in Margate. The council workers were busy preparing the town for another set of visitors, sweeping the streets, cleaning-up the litter and combing the beach. It was not long before I had passed through all the typical seaside attractions and moved into more residential areas. I passed by the road where my noisy B&B had been the previous night. The dry short-cropped grass was really easy and comfortable to walk along.

Pre-dawn light looking towards Margate
One of the many access points off/onto the sea wall and path
Looking towards ships anchored off the Kent Coast
The sun finally makes an appearance over the North Sea
The beach and Margate seafront
The ‘Spoons’ in Margate – The Mechanical Elephant
The old Parade Cinema in Margate
One of the access cuttings down to the beach

Gradually, I began to slowly turn south which meant I was leaving the east coast behind and making my way onto the south coast of England. I passed by the rather ugly looking Neptune’s tower and the nearby Kingsgate Castle built for Lord Holland back in 1760 out of black flint nodules. Suddenly the landscape and architecture began to change, with private residential estates with security barriers and grand houses. I continued around North Foreland which was basically the ‘heel’ of England. I passed North Foreland lighthouse, of great importance in warning off shipping from the treacherous Goodwin Sands.

I followed the road into Broadstairs. By this time the sun was well up and the day was just beggining for many now out and about. The cliffs were quite dramatic here and fortunately I could continue along the top of them. I did see a couple of references to Charles Dickens who used to frequent Broadstairs regularly and wrote some of his famous books here.

As I emerged onto the grassy cliff top path at Dumpton Point I saw my second fantastic sight of the morning. Way to the south I could easily see a large land mass, “no, it could not be could it?” I asked a passing chap if that was France in the distance? He said yes, it was the Pas-de-Calais area. I was thrilled and amazed, as I thought the French coast was only visible from Dover/Folkestone, but being on the cliff top on such a fine clear morning I could look across the 32 miles towards France. This meant I had seen 6 countries on my coastal walk, England, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland and France.

I arrived in Ramsgate and had great views southwards across Sandwich Bay towards Deal and the Straits of Dover. I did not see much of Ramsgate, other than the large harbour and Port, which still runs ferries across to Ostend. I soon left Ramsgate behind as followed the Viking Trail and England Coast Path into Pegwell Bay. At Cliffsend I came upon the Hugin, a Viking replica ship that arrived from Denmark in 1949 to commemorate the 1500th anniversary of the landing of Saxon chiefs Hengist and Horsa, although the boat actually landed at Viking Bay in Broadstairs.

I entered Pegwell Bay Country Park and soon passed a refreshment cabin where I was able to buy a lovely cold soft drink. Part of my chosen route was blocked off due to some construction work, so I followed the alternative England Coast Path route along the busy A256. I turned off the main road after a mile and walked through the large Bio Mass Power station at North Stonar. I crossed over Sandwich haven and into the small historic market town. I headed towards the rail station for the journey back to Birchington….I finished the walk at 10:30. I wish I could do all my walks this early in the morning.

Neptune’s Tower
Kingsgate Castle – now apartments
Kingsgate Bay
North Foreland lighthouse
Looking down on Viking Bay and the beach at Broadstairs
Looking back at Broadstairs
The coast of France 32 miles distant
Zoomed shot of the Pas-de-Calais
Heading towards Ramsgate with Deal in the far distance
Lift down to Ramsgate beach
Ramsgate’s busy harbour
Viking replica ship The Hugin at Cliffend
Crossing Sandwich Haven into Sandwich

Distance today = 20 miles
Total distance =6,044 miles