Post #8: The Fife Coastal Path

Here I am, over a month into my stay in Scotland, finally getting around to talking about Scotland. To give you an idea about where we are in this lovely country, I’ll say very generally that we’re a bit South and very East. To my North we have the picturesque Scottish Highlands and to the South we have the great city of Edinburgh. To the East, and, by that I mean two blocks East, we have the ocean. Farther South is where Scotland turns into England, and just beyond the Western coast is where you’ll find Ireland. Outside of Scotland’s borders is where even my most general geographical awareness ends. Hopefully traveling about throughout the season will broaden my scope of the entire UK. For now, you’ll have to refer to our friend Google for more specifics.

Like Italy, Scotland is divided into regions. Here, the region’s names sound like they are straight out of  a Tolkien novel…Ayrshire and Arran, Loch Lomond, Trossachs and the Forth Valley, Aberdeen City and Shire (to name a few). We happen to be located in… wait for it… the Kingdom of Fife. Yes, it’s really called a Kingdom. I don’t know why, probably the geek in me, but that makes me smile.  We are in a town called Kirkcaldy directly situated on the water. Which is, for any New Englander, a happy place to be. A short walk from our apartment flat in almost any direction brings with it views of ocean. And, even on a rainy day, the ocean is beautiful. What’s better is that they’ve made it really easy to appreciate its beauty by maintaining a 117 mile-long coastal walking path. It’s an ocean-loving outdoorsmen’s paradise. The path winds you along the waterfront, bringing you from one quaint Scottish town to another. Green sloping pastureland, tree-lined parks, ancient stone sea walls, tiny fishing communities, all emerging from the sea.

I’d hoped to explore more of the path before reporting on it, but, by Doctors orders, my hiking days are over until baby comes along. Fortunately, I think the few miles of the path that we have traversed are enough proof of its impressiveness.

Ravenscraig Castle to Dysart Harbor

As promised, I didn’t browse the internet for details on where we’d be living prior to our arrival. Which is why Brayden and I were splendidly surprised when our short morning walk led us to a castle overlooking the ocean.

Ravenscraig Castle was built in the 1400’s.  It sits perched on a grassy cliff above the water with views along the coastline of Kirkcaldy. On a nice day, you can see out to Arthur’s seat, a walkable peak in Edinburgh from which you can view the city and it’s castle. (On our to-do list this Spring!)
Kirkcaldy’s little castle happens to be situated on part of the coastal path running through the town. From there, an upper set of trails extends through a beautiful wooded park and a lower set passes directly beside the water. Low tide uncovers a vast rocky beach and high tide brings waves up to the stone-bricked seawall. 

After reaching a grassy opening via the lowermost trail, you come to a tunnel passageway that leads to little Dysart Harbor. There, old fishing boats bob gently beside their moorings. Cute little old men, likely the proud owners of the boats, tinker with their engines and wash their decks. Faithful canine companions sit patiently by, watching from above.

Crail to Anstruther

While we would have been perfectly content to walk from Ravenscraig Castle to Dysart Harbor every day, Kevin and I decided we shouldn’t forget about the other 99.5% of the Fife Coastal Path. One particularly sunny day, we packed up a picnic lunch and drove the windy country roads north to Crail. We’d been told that the roughly 3-mile stretch from there to Anstruther Harbor was a notable walk.
We learned the hard way that, while the coastal path in Kirkcaldy is stroller friendly, the same can’t be said about this particular route. We’d forgotten our hiking backpack, and couldn’t expect Brayden to walk 3 miles, so we opted against doing the entire stretch on foot. Instead, we walked a bit out and back from Crail, and drove to Anstruther to do the same. These segments, we figured would give us a good idea of what the route was all about. We weren’t disappointed in the least...

Starting from Crail, the path took us along the water through grassy pastures. Looking forward put Ocean, rocky beach, and lush sloping hills within the same peripheral. Behind us, the little village of Crail sat atop the water, it’s harbor and old buildings providing a unique companion to the sight of ocean below. Ocean feeding into grassy hill, then sloping up to little town. I’m no stranger to the ocean, but the fluidity between these three elements is different than the ocean views I’m familiar with. While beautiful in their own right, the beaches from home have less dramatic changes of elevation and the greenery is, well, less green.  

After having our lunch in town, stopping in a small family-run pottery shop, and a nearly buying more vases and teacups than we could ever manage to transport home, we jumped back in the car and drove down the road to Anstruther.

While only a couple of miles south of Crail, the drive took about 10 minutes. Pastureland is prioritized over roadway as evidenced by the barely two-lane road winding along the shore. We’ve traversed similarly narrow roads in Italy, but never from the left side. At least from a passenger’s perspective, it feels like every curve is going to bring you crashing into an embankment. To distract myself from worrying about this possibility, I focused on the pleasant views of the drive. As we pulled into the harbor, we realized a significant change in the beautiful weather we’d experienced only minutes before. Blue skies were now gray, and a damp cool replaced the warm dry air coming off of the water. Scotland weather has proven quite unpredictable. You can’t ever leave the house without an umbrella AND a pair of sunglasses. You might run into a shop using one and leave a few minutes later using the other.

Despite being overcast, there was an intrinsic charm to the little town. CafĂ© bars and restaurants lined the waterfront and streetside benches were filled with an assortment of locals and coastal path visitors. We happened to be there during school dismissal and so Brayden was happy to watch/admire herds of “big kids” walking through. In their school uniforms, one would think that they were enrolled at Hogwarts. (I keep trying to inconspicuously grab a photo of the little witches and warlocks, but, as it turns out, being inconspicuous is not in my nature.)

At this point, we were quickly approaching afternoon nap time, and this momma doesn’t like to miss her nap, so we piled back into our little Passat to get home. Not before devouring a plate of fish n’ chips, of course. Afterall, who are we not to try arguably the best fish n’ chips in all the Kingdom of Fife? And coming from ice-cream loving families, what kind of example would we be setting for our son if we denied him a lick of gelato after that? 

Good, old-fashioned family fun. In Scotland. :-)

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