Monday, June 25, 2007

Walk 160 -- Aberdour, via Burntisland & Kinghorn, to Kirkcaldy

Ages: Colin was 65 years and 48 days. Rosemary was 62 years and 190 days.
The rain held off — just. Fleeting bright spells, but a really cold wind.
Location: Aberdour, via Burntisland and Kinghorn, to Kirkcaldy.
Distance: 11½ miles.
Total distance: 1333 miles.
Terrain: Some pavement-bashing and a little beach-walking, but mostly a gravel path which is the Fife Coastal Trail. Undulating.
Tide: Going out.
Rivers: No.88, Tiel Burn, in Kirkcaldy.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: The ‘Crown Tavern’ in Kinghorn, where Colin’ drank Strathaven’s Claverhouse Red Ale and I supped Aldlestone’s Cider.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage in the village of Craigrothie. We drove to Kirkcaldy where we parked at Ravenscraig Picnic Site, and walked about a mile to the station. We caught a train to Aberdour, where we walked down a path and across a couple of fields to the beach where we finished yesterday’s Walk.
At the end we had a couple of cups of tea, then drove back to our cottage in Craigrothie.

We started today’s Walk at Silversands Beach near Aberdour. As we walked down to the shore from the station, long crocodiles of school children emerged from the car park and were led to the grass at the top of the beach — there must have been two hundred youngsters at least. We felt really sorry for them. Here they were, on their annual Summer treat of a day on the beach and it was as cold as Winter! However, with the resilience of children they mostly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
Surely they weren’t going to make them pay 20p to use that filthy cabin I was forced to use yesterday each time a child wanted to go to the toilet? No! With relief, we discovered the conveniences were open (the block had been locked and barred yesterday) and entry was free. So we were able to pop in there, too, in between the kids. A group of boys had set themselves up outside the ladies’ entrance to harass the girls, but before long a teacher noticed what was going on and put a stop to their little game. I felt very glad that I no longer have charge of large groups of children. Once upon a time I used to enjoy taking them out on days such as these, and even camping weekends, but I no longer have the energy nor the will to take on the responsibility.
We walked away from the crowds and found a shelter which was supposed to protect us from the heat of the sun at this time of year. What it did today was to protect us from the bitterly cold wind. We sat inside to eat our pies and look at Edinburgh which was directly opposite across the Forth. We could clearly see ‘Arthur’s Seat’ rising up behind the city. We looked back and saw the school-children happily paddling in the sea, seemingly oblivious of the cold. Happy days!
A well-established path led us westwards along the bottom of the cliffs. The railway was above us, snaking its way along the cliffs too. It was very pleasant — we passed first a spring and then a waterfall. Then we had to cross the railway, and that was not so pleasant because we could no longer see the sea. But the path eventually rose up high and we could catch glimpses of it again.
We wanted to walk out on a greensward as we approached Burntisland, but we were the wrong side of the railway and there was no way across. So we were forced to carry on through a ‘brown-field’ site which was being cleared, until our way was barred by wall-to-wall floods! It looked deep, but it was opaque and we had no way of testing it. (I have long since stopped using my walking poles — I think I got fed up with people making stupid ‘jokes’ about skiing.) So we picked our way very carefully, and discovered we could get past without getting water in our boots — just!
After about a quarter of a mile, we were at last able to cross back to the sea side of the railway. The official path went straight on into Burntisland, but I wanted to go back to that greensward in order to trace the coast. It was very soggy as we crossed the grass, and our feet kept sinking in. And this is supposed to be Summer! We walked to the corner of this ‘field’, and were treated to the sight of a seal playing in the water — so it had been worthwhile after all!
We followed the edge round behind a housing estate, but we didn’t go down to the docks because they were fenced off. The ‘Council-type’ houses were very plain, and none of the gardens were tended. We came to a viewing platform with a gaudy orange seat in it under a bit of a shelter. The view through the close-wire netting fence was of the River Forth and Edinburgh. Directly beneath us was an industrial area, so we decided to bypass it.
However, a bit further on the path took us down a number of slippery steps to the edge of that industrial area. We walked through the corner of it, then under the railway to the road. There we debated whether to go under another railway bridge to our right or to carry on into the town. We looked at the map, and thought we’d better not go under the railway just there as it looked as if we would get stuck in the docks behind a mish-mash of railway lines and have to retrace our steps. A passerby confirmed this. So we went into the town, turned down an alley that overlooked the dock and found we had both been wrong! For there was an open road, not marked on the map, leading round to the very beach we were making for, and the mishmash of railway lines were rusty and derelict.
Then we had another decision to make. Either continue through the town, crossing the railway again on an over-bridge, or cross the railway at the station to get to the road through the docks. We decided on the latter because it was the “path nearest the sea”. For once we made the right decision — when we got to the other side of the over-bridge we found it was closed due to the fact it had been completely removed so a new one could be put in place. There was no way we could have got through!
The station amazed us. Once it must have been a grand building with big windows, Grecian columns and iron railings so beloved by the Victorians. Now it is completely derelict, the windows boarded up, signs that fires had been lit, weed-strewn surrounds and rubbish everywhere — but behind the façade is still a functioning station! We crossed the railway for the third time, came round the side of this grand but derelict building, and walked along the derelict railway tracks to the Leisure Centre. At least this was a modern building, but somehow it had no ‘soul’. We walked round it and along the top of the beach.
Now it is the end of June, verging on July. Scottish schools are breaking up for their Summer holidays, which they do about three weeks before English schools. It is a nice beach at Burntisland, and you would expect it to be packed with families. There was one family building sandcastles on the beach, and they were wearing Winter coats and woolly hats! What has happened to our weather? This is bad, even for Britain. We were frozen even though we were walking. We turned a bend, and managed to find a bench that was more or less (rather less than more) out of the bitter wind. We sat on it and ate our sandwiches.
We didn’t dally long because it was so cold. Shortly after that the coast path turned on to a busy A road which we had no choice but to walk along for the next mile and a half. At least there was a pavement so we didn’t have to dodge the traffic, but we didn’t enjoy it very much.
Part way along we passed a memorial which I thought was a War Memorial at first. But it proved to be a Victorian memorial to a Celtic King! The plaque at the bottom was difficult to read, but we deciphered it as:
To the Illustrious
The Last of Scotland’s Celtic Kings
Who was Accidentally Killed

Near this Spot
Erected on
The Sex–Centenary of his Death

Next to it, set into the wall, was another stone with the following poem:

So now you know, or maybe not. Those Victorians did so love melodrama — I wonder what it means!
As we approached Kinghorn we passed a caravan site on our left. Opposite was a footbridge over the railway, and from there we descended a steep path to the beach. The water had been running down there so much it had exposed a yellow pipe which was supposed to be buried.
Peace at last, away from that awful traffic! We found coal on the sand, we were able to pick up handfuls of it.
It felt good to be on the beach again.
We walked over to the harbour wall at Kinghorn and climbed up on to the quay. There we tripped over the biggest selection of old junk we have seen in a long time. A beaten old shed boasted ‘SIERRA NEVADA’ — do you think they were hoping? A group of eider ducks were resting on a stone ramp. I like the noise they make, it sounds like a group of old women gossiping over the garden fence!
The beach became too rocky after that, so we ascended a residential road which took us around to Kinghorn on the edge of rocky cliffs. Two dwellings we passed were of note. One had wrought iron gates, the pattern twisted into the shape of Viking ships. The other had coloured polythene secondary glazing with pictures of a smiley face and a sun-baked palm-tree island, making it look bright and jolly on this cold grey day.
Colin knew that the pub he wanted to visit was somewhere near the station, but not much else about it’s location. He began to descend the path to the beach where there was the inevitable bunch of flowers in cellophane poked between two rocks, but I pointed out that the station was UP according to the map. So he returned and we took a bridge over the railway, then walked along a main road until we came to a Post Office. We still couldn’t find the pub, and I kept saying to Colin, “Ask someone!” But he wouldn’t, so I sat on a nearby bench and told him to come back for me when he found it. (I fail to understand why men are always so reluctant to ask directions, and prefer to faff around for ages trying to find a location without help. Is it something to do with male pride?) Colin went off, so I asked the first passerby if he knew the location of the ‘Crown Tavern’. “It’s just up there, round the corner!” came the reply as he pointed past the Post Office. Colin came back and said, “I’ve found the pub!” and I replied, “Yes, it’s just up there round the corner! I know because I had the intelligence to ask somebody!” Anyway, it was a relief to get indoors and have a warm, apart from a refreshing drink.
Then it was back to the seafront via a lot of steps down. We walked around the harbour, then tried to get back to the coastal path through a caravan site. But it was a dead end, so we had to turn back. Eventually we crossed under the railway twice more, it was the only way we could get on to the trail.It was a pleasant path all the way to Kirkcaldy, but quite undulating. We passed white paintings on the rocks which looked a bit Celtic but could have just been graffiti. We walked through glades of wild flowers, saw many interesting rocks and the views were magnificent.
We sat on a bench at the highest point to eat our chocolate. We could see the volcano plug behind North Berwick and Bass Rock very clearly. Bass Rock looked very white in the sun which came out fleetingly, but the cold wind never abated for a moment. That was the worst thing about this otherwise enjoyable Walk!
Moving on before we got too cold, we came to a derelict building that looked as if it could have once housed a pit’s winding gear. We then passed ‘disused workings’ as marked on the map, but it turned out to be a brand new housing estate. We supposed it used to be a coal mine, and we hoped the new houses wouldn’t fall down a hole sometime. Has happened!
As we approached Kirkcaldy (pronounced ‘Kirkcuddy’) the official path led inland to a busy road. So we found our way down to the beach instead as the tide was well out by then. Again we found coal on the beach, confirming our theory that the new housing estate we had passed half a mile back was built on the site of a disused pit. It was lovely walking along the beach, but we soon came to a river which was too deep to cross. We had to go up to a bridge and climb over a wall to get on the prom. The toilets there were 30p! Needless to say, we didn’t go.
It was a long prom built in 1922 to 1923. A foundation stone told us:
And it is still doing a good job eighty-five years later.
We came to the harbour, both the South Pier and the East Pier were inaccessible. The dock area has been massively redeveloped, mostly with posh-looking waterfront apartment blocks and town houses. That’s not much good for trade! We heard stories of a hydrofoil service being set up to ‘fly’ commuters across the Firth of Forth from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh, but whether it will ever become a reality is anyone’s guess. Like many of the docks around Britain, it seems to have become one vast housing estate. There were a few fishing boats in the harbour, but not many. A tall building advertised that it was a flour mill — is it still?
On the north side of the harbour we passed a waste water treatment works that displayed a notice saying, ‘WARNING ODOUR SENSITIVE WORKS’. Does that mean it is smelly? We couldn’t detect any aroma as we walked past, but it was within sniffing distance of all those posh new houses on the harbourside!
We cut through a yard, and followed a path which took us down on the north side of the East Pier over a drain. There we walked across a rough green, where there were bright summer flowers doing their stuff despite the cold breeze, to our car which was parked at a picnic site overlooking a beach — for free might I add!

That ended Walk no.160, we shall pick up Walk no.161 in the seafront picnic site near the centre of Kirkcaldy. It was a twenty five past six, so the Walk had taken us seven hours and ten minutes. We drank some tea, then drove back to our cottage in Craigrothie without delay because it was cold.

The town of Kirkcaldy (pronounced ‘Kirkcuddy’) was built on the manufacture of linoleum. Apparently the production of this popular floor covering emitted a ‘sweet’ smell which hung permanently over the whole town. Kirkcaldy became famous for its distinctive aroma.
When I was a child, all the floors of our house were covered in linoleum because we couldn’t afford carpets. My mother spent many hours hooking rugs so our feet didn’t get cold. Lino went out of fashion in the 1960s when new plastics came on the market and carpets with their man-made fibres got cheaper. But today it is once again in demand worldwide, and Kirkcaldy has the only linoleum plant still in production in Britain.
The day after this Walk, we caught a train from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh so we could go over The Bridge (described in Walk 156). Whilst waiting at Kirkcaldy station for our train, we noticed this poem on the wall of the waiting room:


Whit wey does the engine say Toot-toot?
Is it feart to gang in the tunnel?
Whit wey is the furnace no pit oot?
When the rain gangs down the funnel?
What’ll I hae for my tea the nicht?
A herrin’, or maybe a haddie?
Has Gran’ma gotten electric licht?
Is the next stop Kirkcaddy?

There’s a hoodie-craw on yon turnip raw!
An’ sea gulls! – sax or seeven.
I’ll no fa’oot o’ the windae, Maw,
It’s sneckit, as sure as I’m leevin’.
We’re into the tunnel! we’re a’ in the dark!
But dinna be frichtit, Daddy,
We’ll sune be comin’ to Beveridge Park,
And the next stop’s Kirkcaddy!

Is yon mune I see in the sky?
It’s awfu’ wee an’ curly.
See! there’s a coo and a cauf ootbye,
An’ a lassie pu’in’ a hurly!
He’s chackit the tickets and gien them back,
Sae gie me my ain yin, Daddy.
Lift doon the bag frae the luggage rack,
For the next stop’s Kirkcaddy!

There’s a gey wheen boats at the harbour mou’,
And eh! dae ye see the cruisers?
The cinnamon drop I was sookin’ the noo
Has tummelt an’ stuck tae ma troosers….
I’ll sune be ringin’ ma Gran’ma’s bell,
She’ll cry, “Come ben, my laddie.”
For I ken mysel’ by the queer-like smell
That the next stop’s Kirkcaddy!

No comments: