Walk 1 - Kincardine to Inverkeithing
The first walk of the series. The official map shows the route from Kincardine to Newburgh, with the distances increasing to Newburgh, so I decided I would walk in that direction. This also had the benefit of the starting point being not too far from home for the first one. It still required two busses to get to the starting point, so, early one Saturday morning in May 2015, I took the bus from Inverkeithing to Halbeath Park & Ride. My connecting bus arrived on time and I was in Kincardine for shortly before 9am, feeling slightly apprehensive about the walk. Was I really up for a long walk? It had been a while since I walked this sort of distance, and I was never a seasoned explorer.
I found the starting point without any trouble - there is an impressive archway to mark the official start point which did lend a sense of importance to this event. The arch is very close to the Kincardine Bridge, which was opened in 1936 and for several decades was the lowest road crossing on the Forth estuary, until the Forth Road Bridge was opened. When first built it operated as a swing bridge and I have a very vague childhood memory of seeing it open, but I could easily be matching a memory of another swing bridge onto the wrong bridge.
The plan for this first walk was to get as far as Limekilns harbour, a distance of about 11 miles. This seemed like a reasonable distance to aim for the first day, and there was a connecting bus to take me home.
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The first three miles of the walk were not what I was expecting, despite having read the book and looked at the map, as you are never very close to the shore. Longannet power station is on the coast, and forces the path to go inland for the first few miles. Longannet was still producing power when I passed in 2015, but it closed in early 2016. It was a coal-fired power station and the waste from the power generation has shaped some of the surroundings. Even though the power station is closed it will be a long while before the site is decommissioned. Who knows, maybe in years to come the path will follow close to the coast at this point? In the meantime the chimney and electricty pylons are a landmark visible for miles around.
After the power station, the path heads back to the coast, leading towards the historic town of Culross (which, despite the spelling, is pronounced something like coo-russ). Along the way the wild flowers were looking very colourful, and I stopped to take a few photographs; I love taking photos of flowers, although some people do look at my photos and wonder quietly (or indeed out loud), "Where are all the people?".
Culross is a small piece of history - many of the town buildings have not changed for centuries and are fine examples of Scottish architecture, some dating back to the 16th century.
I paused long enough for my first sandwiches of the day and to enjoy the views now that he path was back at the coast.
After leaving Culross I decided to forego the charms of Preston Island and follow the main path to Torryburn. I visited Preston Island (which is not an island) another day and there are fine views towards the bridges, and some interesting industrial ruins - this area was reclaimed land used for coal mining and salt production.
After Torryburn the path turns back in-land towards Crombie before following the main road for a bit before turning in towards Charlestown. Charlestown was founded by Charles Bruce, 5th Earl of Elgin, for the production of lime and as a harbour. Some people name one of their children after themselves, but some people have to go one better and name one of their villages after themselves. From Charlestown the path leads back down to the coast and Limekilns.
Limekilns is a small, attractive town right on the coast with an old harbour. This was meant to be the end of today's walk - it was, however, just twenty past one, and with around 11 miles under by belt I didn't feeling like stopping for the day. I had my second lot of sandwiches and considered my options. If I continued, the next obvious place to stop would be Rosyth, but I had walked from Inverkeithing to Rosyth several times, and didn't want to have to cover that ground again when I did my second of these walks. Decision made - I would press on towards home. I finished the second round of sandwiches from the rucksack. Next, I checked out the all important coffee options. Limekilns has several pubs, a bistro, and a cafe. I opted for the cafe (the Sundial), and a good choice it was too. I had coffee and a scone and was back on the road after twenty minutes, refreshed and raring to go. Homeward bound.
Rosyth and North Queensferry
From Limekilns the path heads inland again, and leads into Rosyth along the main road. In Rosyth the path has to skirt round the (still very active) docks. This is a busy, working port, but just near it is an old (16th century) dovecot. This is just across from a ruined castle which is now within the boundary of the port. When the castle was built it was surrounded by water, but the land was reclaimed early in the 20th century when the dockyard was constructed. I spent a while looking round the attractive woodland in which the dovecot is found, before moving on, The path follows a road alongside an old rail line, until it rejoins the coast. The map is a bit out of date coming out from Rosyth to North Queensferry because the road layout is changing for the new bridge (the Queensferry Crossing, a new cable-stayed bridge being built just to the west of the existing suspension road bridge).
North Queensferry to Inverkeithing
There is lots to see from North Queensferry with amazing views of the three bridges - the iconic rail bridge (officially just The Forth Bridge, since it stood alone for so many years), the Forth Road Bridge, and the Queensferry Crossing. You can also see ships going to and from the Rosyth docks. Occasionally you will see a cruise ship anchored with tenders ferrying passengers to South Queensferry.
Although I did not stop for coffee on this walk, I have visited Rankin's cafe on several occasions and would recommend it. They do take-away food and coffee, and if the weather is fine taking this down to the old ferry slipway is a personal favourite. If you do sit-in, you will be able to appreciate the old pictures and signs decorating the walls, so you win either way.
The path out of North Queensferry leads uphill and under the rail bridge. This takes you past some sites used during the Second World War, including a place just after the bridge where a barrage balloon was kept: the metal rings in the ground are becoming overgrown but can still be found. The balloon was to protect the docks at Rosyth, not the bridge.
I paused near here for a banana and to enjoy the views. From here you get a good view across the Forth to Edinburgh, and can also watch ships going to and from the tanker berths (this is called Hound Point, with oil pumped from Grangemouth to a storage facility at Dalmeny, and then loaded to tankers at these berths).
From here the path carries on round past the beach at Port Laing, and then into Inverkeithing past the scrap metal yard. This is where the ship breaking yard was, but it now deals with cars and the like. The path continues up to the High Street, and for me leads home for a welcome rest. Of course I also had a very welcome coffee when I arrived home. If you don't have the advantage of your own kitchen in Inverkeithing, I can recommend Mel's Sandwich Station (Hill Street) or the Millbrae Cafe (High Street) for a coffee to sustain you.