Walking is very popular now. To meet the demand, many new named long-distance paths have been created. I wrote earlier about my proposed X to Y walk, which I fully intended to do when I retired, but I haven’t quite managed to retire yet.
We try to do a substantial walk at least once a week, though when things are busy it doesn’t always happen. But last weekend, with the weather nicer on Saturday than Sunday, we caught a bus to Yetts o’ Muckhart. (The St Andrews to Stirling bus stops there, but doesn’t run on Sundays). We walked up a busy unpleasant road to Glendevon, and then through a beautiful pass in the Ochil Hills to Dollar, where we spent some time in the remarkable Glen Dollar around Castle Campbell.
Consulting the map afterwards, we saw that we had done a section of a path, the Mary Queen of Scots Way (which seems to be fairly recent, though their Web page is undated – Mary is in the public eye at the moment so such a path seems very natural even though it doesn’t go to either her birthplace or the place on Loch Leven where she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate), from Glendevon to Dollar.
Further research using the route descriptions on the website, together with the excellent mapping on the Long Distance Walkers Association website, showed that in fact I had walked several sections of it before. In 1995, after the British Combinatorial Conference in Stirling, Carol Whitehead and I took a bus to Callendar and walked from there to Dunblane; but I really don’t remember which route we took, so not sure if it agreed with the MQoSW. Then in 2002, on holiday in Tarbet on Loch Lomond, we walked from Arrochar to Inveruglas along Glen Loin, and then took the ferry to Inversnaid: this is the first stretch of the MQoSW. Then, in Fife, the Way coincides almost exactly with the Fife Pilgrim Way from St Andrews to Clatto Reservoir; and I have walked from Burnside, along Glen Vale, over Harperleas Reservoir and the Lomond Hills, and down Maspie Den to Falkland.
So this weekend we decided to walk from Falkland to Clatto Reservoir to plug one gap, and then carry on along the Waterless Way to Ceres. The number 64 bus, which does a guided tour of north-east Fife, calls at both these places, and indeed the same driver who took us to Falkland picked us up in Ceres and recognised us.
The path is not waymarked, but with a combination of the route description and the LDWA map I had been able to copy the line onto our OS map, and we were never in any danger of getting lost.
I had expected the stretch across the very flat Howe of Fife to be rather boring, but in fact the path went through some very nice woodland with the trees coming into leaf, and masses of spring flowers blooming uncluding violets, celandines, dandelines, bluebells, primroses and forget-me-nots. We saw a nuthatch walking around up and down the trunks of trees (the RSPB distribution map says they don’t occur this far north, but probably climate change is responsible for this). Then, on the next stretch of farmland, we saw no fewer then eleven hares in the fields.
Butterflies (peacocks and tortoiseshell) had emerged and were basking in the sun on the path or flying their complicated courtship dances. At Clatto reservoir, there were tufted ducks and swans on the lake, and when we stopped for a snack we saw two roe deer running across the field and stopping to feed.
One technical word of warning for anyone trying this path. The website describes it as “easy”, and mostly it is: but between Clatto Farm and the reservoir it goes along a boggy river bottom without a path or a way to cross the two fences encountered. You would do much better to turn off the path at the cottages just before Clatto Farm, where a short link takes you over the burn on a wooden bridge and up the other side to join the Fife Pilgrim Way, which is a good (and waymarked) path.