Kingsbarns to Forth Bridge / Dunfermline to Edinburgh



We returned to the beautiful Fife coast within 2 months of our last visit As there are were several places we hadn’t been able to get to in the van, we decided to make the trip in a car this time.

We spent three nights at a hotel in Lundin Links overlooking the sea and a golf course and set off from there on Sunday morning in beautiful sunshine with the roof of the car off. Kestrels soared overhead, diving into the ripened cornfields.



The Secret Bunker


Secret BunkerMarked on detailed maps simply as a communications mast, this astonishing place was revealed after its declassification in 1992 as a top-secret command centre, where Britain's government and military commanders would have been based in the event of a nuclear war. Although it is not on the coast, we felt we couldn’t miss the chance of a visit as we were so close.

MissileThe area is enclosed by a barbed wire fence with security cameras, but all that can be seen from the outside is a grassy bank, a few vehicles, including a large missile and an innocent looking farmhouse that hides the entrance to a 250yd-approach tunnel.

Part of the complex is still operational, although we found this rather questionable.

Ops RoomWe donned coats as the temperature 100 feet below is only 60 degrees. We descended a staircase and 150 metre tunnel and found ourselves in a surreal labyrinthine complex, protected by 15-ft thick concrete. Now set out as a museum, the spartan rooms resembled 50’s wartime film sets with dummies pushing ships and aircraft across huge map tables. In one room we watched an old newsreel giving totally inadequate advice on how to construct a nuclear fallout shelter under the stairs!



Kingsbarns


Cambo SandsThe village is named because the King’s grain used to be stored here - obviously in barns. A narrow road led us down to the seaside award beach of Cambo Sands, with its busy parking area. The usual scattering of people were picnicking beside their exhaust pipes in spite of the fact that a few yards away there was a grassy area. Down below, a small sandy area gave way to rock pools and an old breakwater.

Combo GardensJust along the road, we found Combo Gardens, which were created in Victorian times beside a tumbling burn. The house is now holiday flats but the walled garden is beautiful - full of perennials in full bloom with hordes of vegetables. The Victorian format still prevails but there are modern touches in the colour scheming.



Fife Ness


Balcomie golf courseAt the far end of the Fife Ness road we arrived at Balcomie golf course and paid our dutiful 30p for the privilege of parking on their grass. A small way marker indicated the path along Danes Dyke to the coastguard station; we found ourselves in the middle of the golf course, stopping to avoid flying balls.

Fife NessWhen we finally reached the cliff, we were on the Fife Coast Path in a nature reserve, but the lighthouse and views were unimpressive. A World War ll Royal Naval air station lies derelict beside the road to the rocky headland.

Apart from the unsightly buildings that house a few small businesses, the area is well maintained and a side road leads to a shoreline picnic area where we stopped for a coffee. A go-kart racing circuit has been built there and the whine of the engines pervaded the silence of the golf course.



Crail


CrailTolboothCrawling with tourists on this hot Sunday, this little burgh has been carefully preserved by owners and the National Trust.

We followed the parapet walk along the remains of a castle wall and on a cliff path overlooking the picturesque harbour.

parapet walkThe tide was out but that did not spoil the pretty view too much and we bought crab and lobster rolls, which we ate sitting on the harbour wall.

Many of the houses around the narrow hilly lanes are interesting and in the centre is a market cross and a 16th century Tolbooth.

The local museum tells the story of Crail's involvement with royalty, fishing, golf and the air station.



Anstruther


Fisheries MuseumAlthough its fishing fleet is now based at Pittenweem, Anstruther harbour is the location of the Scottish Fisheries Museum, in buildings that were once used as a chandlery and net loft.

AnstrutherWe stopped near the Pilgrim’s steps at Cellardyke and watched children taking abseiling lessons before driving through the extremely narrow shore roads to the centre of town. It is quite a large place and all of the carparks were crowded, but eventually we found a space in a side road.

Down on the quay there is a marina full of pleasure boats neatly parked, and a short walk to the lighthouse took us past a fairground. People were out in canoes and powerboats and there was a preponderance of wet suits.

tripsPleasure trips were advertised to the Isle of May. This is the largest island in the Firth of Forth and is an outstanding national nature reserve - a must for twitchers as there is a large puffin population.

Isle of MayThe island was an important religious site and the ruins of a 12th century monastery survive, as well as old military fortifications and domestic ruins. Scotland's first manned lighthouse was built here in 1636, which burned coals as a beacon.

Make a note to spend a whole day here sometime.



Pittenweem


St Fillan's caveThe 'weem' or cave, reputedly inhabited by the 7th-century missionary St Fillan, is carefully preserved in ‘Cove Wynd’, which descends from the High Street to Pittenweem's harbour.

PittenweemThe arts festival was on and there were small exhibitions in many of the shops and public places. A couple were sitting outside their front door, trying to look Bohemian with their red wine and French cigarettes.

There is a proper fishing fleet here and a fish market – we bought chips from a mobile chippy.

Kellie CastleThe Kellie Lodging was the town mansion of the Earls of Kellie, but 2 miles northwest, Kellie Castle was built in the 16th century and now belongs to the National Trust.

The house did not open until the afternoon, so we went through the little gate to look in the walled garden. We were confronted with a mass of colour which was totally unexpected but well worth the visit.



St Monans


St. Monans NeckSeveral years ago I went to St Monans on an OU summer school geology field trip, to see the remains of a volcano on the shore (St. Monans Neck). I was looking forward to seeing it again and wasn’t disappointed as we clambered over the rocks into the centre of the volcanic plug.

St Monans churchIt was late afternoon, the sun shone and the bay looked magical – I could have sat and watched the sea for hours. We climbed up the cliff to take the coast path back as the tide was coming in rather fast. On the way we passed a family taking their cat for a walk!

windmillThe town was once a busy boat-building centre overlooked by the square-built 11th century church that stands on one of the oldest religious sites in Fife.

There is also a windmill that was built to pump seawater into coal-fired salt pans. Partly restored, it includes displays relating to the salt-panning industry that was once big on this part of the coast.



Elie and Earlsferry


ElieThe former fishing port of Elie and the old market town and ferry port of Earlsferry have long been united as one burgh, separated by a sandy bay. The harbour is now a watersports centre.

Lady’s TowerAt Elie Ness a white 1908 lighthouse stands on one low headland but more interesting are the remains of the Lady’s Tower, built on a rocky crag. It was the summerhouse of Lady Jane Anstruther, an 18th century beauty, who sent a bellman through the streets to warn the lower orders not to ‘steal a look’ while she was bathing.

High basalt cliffs at Kincraig Head support ledge and grassland wild flowers, which attract many species of butterfly. Fulmars and house martins nest on the rock, while kestrels soar overhead.



Largo and Lundin Links


Largo LawOverlooking Upper Largo, is the 952ft mound of Largo Law, which was also once a volcano. The summit is a splendid point for views across the Firth of Forth.

Alexander SelkirkLower Largo is an old rivermouth port whose hero is Alexander Selkirk, born in the town in 1676. His adventures as a castaway on the deserted island of Juan Fernandez, off the coast of Chile, were the inspiration for Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe. We drove around for ages looking for the statue that commemorates him and eventually found it, built into the front wall of his birthplace. There wasn’t much else here - the railway had long closed and the village had shrunk.

Now, the area is good for sailing and windsurfing from the shingle beach. Lower Largo merges with the resort of Lundin Links, where we were staying. The Victorians built seaside villas here and laid out gardens and several golf courses. (Just for a change!).

Lundin LinksThe hotel overlooked the links and each morning when we opened the curtains people were already playing. One evening we had a stroll down to the beach across the course.

Along the road, Silverburn Park looked interesting and advertised several activities. We failed to find the mini farm, the craft centre was closed and the manor house was boarded up. The golf course looked good though!!



Leven, Buckhaven And Methil


LevenThere is a sandy beach and promenade at Leven, but the blackened sand, view of Methil’s North Sea oil construction base and power station complete the industrial seafront. Leven is rather depressing but Methil is awful; the area looked sooty and woeful - dying if not dead.

MethilTo the south-west is the former sea-angling and lobster-fishing centre of Buckhaven. We didn’t stop, but drove up the broad street to a place overlooking the bay to take a photograph towards Wemyss. The gloomy skies did nothing to enhance the scene.

In all of the books I have read by people who have travelled the coast, no one says much about this area, except that it is ramshackle and abandoned, and they seem to rush from St Andrews to Edinburgh. It seems a forgotten strip of coast with its disused mines and dying harbours but the Fife Council is making huge efforts to restore it on the tourist route. I would very much like to see it in 10 years time.



Wemyss


weem We came to the northern end of the village of East Wemyss and found the ruins of the 11th century Macduff's Castle.

Macduff's CastleBelow are several caves or ‘weems’ in the cliffs along the rocky shore, but rock falls make them and the path that leads to them hazardous. It is a shame because when we explored further, several of them contain ancient Pictish carvings.

memorialCreated as a model village in the mid 19th century to house local miners, Coaltown of Wemyss has many houses with typical crow-stepped gables.

TolboothThe disused Michael Colliery lies derelict above the sea and nearby stands a memorial to the men who died in a fire at the colliery in 1967.

Colour-washed houses overlook a small disused harbour at West Wemyss, where fulmars nest on ledges in a cliff.

The delicate Tolbooth has a gilded swan as its weather vane and the surrounding houses are undergoing massive restoration.



Dysart


Hot Pot WyndFrom the northern end of the village, a lane called Hot Pot Wynd leads to the little harbour with its collection of pleasure craft and lobster boats. We took a walk up the steps on the far side to the cliff path to see panoramic views of the village and the firth.

DysartThe 17th century fishermen's houses in Pan Ha, another quaintly named street, have already been restored by the National Trust for Scotland, and houses surround the large Tolbooth and the battlemented tower of the Church of St Serf.

DysartThe John McDouall Stuart Museum commemorates the 19th century explorer of the Australian interior, who was born in Dysart. This sounded interesting but unfortunately it was closed.



Kirkcaldy


KirkcaldyKirkcaldy is modern and best known for its four mile long esplanade, a promenade built on top of the sea defences.

Good parking!The town is mainly a tourist resort for summer visitors, rather bleak in winter and dull in summer. They even allow camper vans to use the car-parks!

Robert and John Adams, the architects who designed many of Scotland's great stately homes were born here, and so was the economist Adam Smith who wrote The Wealth of Nations.

View to Bass RockOne of the biggest street fairs in Britain, the Links Market, is held each April. Kirkcaldy has a generous supply of beautifully maintained parks, including Ravenscraig Park on a clifftop site with sea views right down to the Bass Rock.

Ravenscraig CastleWe found the ruined Ravenscraig Castle here and it is said that John Buchan used it as his inspiration for ‘The 39 Steps’ - although I certainly didn’t count that many. The harbour is being developed for housing, so there were plenty of roadworks and new sewers going in.



Kinghorn


KinghornSouth of Kinghorn's harbour conservation area are a sailing club and a small sandy beach, from which footpaths zigzag up a grassy hill towards the village.

The trouble we had was finding the road leading to it, and after several failed attempts at crossing the railway we reached the shore and found there was no parking anyway.

caravan parkFishermen use the old ferry port of Pettycur as a base for sea angling. The sands of Pettycur Bay stretch away to the west below a vast (and I mean VAST) static caravan park, all stacked up on cliff terraces. The lighthouse island of Inchkeith lies 2½ miles from the shore.

On the road to Burntisland is a monument to Alexander III, Scotland's last Celtic king, who fell to his death from the cliffs in 1286.



Burntisland


parish church At the little town's parish church, James VI of Scotland, later James I of England, announced his plan to publish a new version of the Bible which became known as the Authorised Version. Some 30 years later, his son Charles I was highly indignant when many of his courtiers and part of the royal treasury, were lost from a boat which foundered off Burntisland.

aluminium worksThe town is a pretty miserable concrete place and most of the shops are closed down. There is a vast fair in residence and the tourist office had disappeared into oblivion (or was badly signposted). The dock area is busy with bulk containers from Alcan’s massive aluminium works on the east of the town where everything is completely covered in red dust from the plant.



Aberdour


AberdourAberdour is very pretty - how two places so close can be so different is amazing.

Silversands BayGolf, yachting, windsurfing and walking are favourite activities in this neat resort.

There is a little beach at Silversands Bay and we found footpaths on the Hawk Craig headland end to the top of a vertical cliff with views over the Firth to Edinburgh Castle and the Forth Bridges.

Aberdour Castle14th century Aberdour Castle was once a stronghold of the Douglases and was extended 200 years later.

Doocot It is interesting and there are impressive garden terraces and a beehive shaped Doocot.

Beyond the walled garden is the 12th century church of St.Fillan.

crossing the Forth BridgeWe took a return train ride from the pretty station to Dalmeny, just because we wanted the experience of crossing the Forth Rail Bridge. It was as impressive as expected.

see below.



Dalgety Bay


St David’sBack on the road, we drove to Dalgety Bay where the first modern houses were built in 1965 on the old Donibristle estate of the Earls of Moray. This coincided with the opening of the Forth Road Bridge and the town soon became a dormitory for Edinburgh. St David’s Harbour has been recently developed as 'yuppie land' with fab views over the Forth.

The coast path skirts Ross Plantation, a half-flooded alder woodland where bulrushes thrive, competing with the Braefoot Bay Oil Marine Terminal and various other eyesores. Farther along the rocky bay is 13th century St Bridget's Church, the burial place of the Seton Earls of Dunfermline. To the west, the Fife Coast Path runs past World War I gun emplacements at Downing Point, and a side path leads to the ruined 18th century Donibristle Chapel.

royal unicornRising steeply from its industrialised waterfront, Inverkeithing is one of Scotland's oldest royal burghs, receiving its charter in the early 12th century. A royal unicorn carved in 1688 as a test for entry to the local company of masons crowns the market cross.

Part of the medieval friary houses the local history museum and the friary gardens look across a paper works and the old shipbreakers' yard where the German Grand Fleet, scuttled at Scapa Flow, was broken up for scrap after World War I.



North Queensferry


North QueensferryWe drove towards the Forth Bridges and at the Queensferry Lodge Hotel there are superb views and a visitor centre explaining how the bridges were built. The hotel is a useful stopping place for information or a cuppa – I asked for scones and after a long wait the cream was squirted directly onto my plate – bizarre service!

Under the Forth BridgeClustered below the Forth Bridge, the town was a busy ferry terminal until the road bridge opened in 1964. The piers are now used only by pleasure craft and by a summer ferry service to Inchcolm Island. There is a hexagonal Signal House and a remarkable number of wells but the place isn't very exciting.

We drove beneath both bridges to get to an old quarry lagoon that is now a Deep Sea World aquarium but we'd already been to one of these at Scarborough so didn't bother with another.



Forth Bridges


Forth Rail BridgeThe magnificent Forth Bridge has three huge red cantilevered structures of steel. It was completed in 1890 and was once a wonder of the modern world. It is 1 mile & 972 yards long, covers 145 acres and has 6½ million rivets; it takes 17 tons of paint and takes 4 years to do the job!

Forth Road BridgeTrains speeding between the girders look like toys. During 1999, a countdown in days to 2000 could be seen on the central arch of the cantilever bridge.

Forth BridgesThe metal structure overshadows the suspension road bridge that was completed around 80 years later and looks rather delicate in comparison. It is still awesome though, just over 1½ miles long with a central span of 3300ft.

I am really impessed by the engineering of huge bridges and these are the best of all.


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