A week or so ago saw for me the end of a journey that had been in progress for more than twelve years.
I first walked a stretch of the Fife Coastal Path (St Andrews to Crail) on the free afternoon of the Groups St Andrews meeting in 2005. The weekend before last, I did the last remaining stretch, Kincardine to Ferry Toll via North Queensferry.
The path goes most of the way around the Kingdom of Fife. (Incidentally, I am not quite sure why it is called this. It is true that Dunfermline was the royal capital of Scotland from the eleventh century until the Union of the Crowns in 1603 when it moved to Edinburgh; but they were kings of Scots, not of Fife. Much earlier, when the Romans came to Britain, they recorded the names of the tribes inhabiting Scotland; Fife was the home of the Venicones, one of the peoples who later made up the Pictish nation, but I don’t think it was in any sense a kingdom.) But the Kingdom of Fife lies between the wide firths of the rivers Forth and Tay, and the path goes along the edge of both of them as well as the coastline between, right around the Kingdom except for the relatively short land border with Perth and Kinross.
The stretch along the Forth estuary from Kincardine to Inverkeithing is a real mixture, ranging from the ugly (the road to the Rosyth ferry probably the worst, and three stretches on the A985 were not inspiring) to fascinating. The old town of Culross (the l is silent) with palace, town hall, abbey, and more. I mentioned here the talk by Alex Craik about the St Andrews mathematician William Welwood, whose plan to siphon water out of coal mines would clearly not have worked for the mine in Culross, which extended under the sea!
We walked this stretch west-to-east. First up was Longannet: the name may mean something like “field of the church with relics”, but all has been covered by a large coal-fired power station, now closed and awaiting demolition. Then lovely Culross and the Torry Bay nature reserve. On the busy road (with a small detour through Crombie, a village with little to recommend it but the view and the brief relief from the road), then into the attractive villages of Charlestown and Limekilns. This is the home of the Scottish Lime Centre Trust, an organisation providing information and training about building with limestone. Round the back of the Rosyth naval base, and under the new Queensferry Crossing, the road took us down to North Queensferry, and around the headland and up the hill to Ferry Toll, a bus interchange from which we were able to get the bus home.