The Fife Coastal Path (remembering why walking is great)
Two weekends ago I spent the weekend in Pittenweem with my sister & the dog. The plan was to spend two full days walking sections of the Fife Coastal Path but it rained a month’s worth of rain on the Saturday. I discovered very quickly that my new bee-print raincoat isn’t waterproof in the slightest so we retreated indoors until the evening and then braved the rain clouds to walk from Pittenweem over to Anstruther to get fish & chips. We ate our chips in the rain and trotted back again. But the Sunday dawned clear and bright so we managed one good day of walking.
We took the no 95 bus down to Lower Largo then walked back to Pittenweem. It’s a lovely varied walk: through pampas grass along sand dunes, on cliff tops, across sandy and stony beaches, through pretty seaside villages, along wildflower lined paths and across golf courses. You walk past ruined castles, a windmill, salt pans and oil rigs. You can even do the Elie Chain Walk on your way – we had the poodle with us so we walked up onto the cliffs rather than doing it (also, I am a wimp). The sky was filled with fast-moving dramatic clouds tripping across the Firth of Forth, bringing the threat of raindrops but never producing them. By lunchtime the skies were blue and the waves were sparkling.
Sometimes when life is busy and to-do lists are long I forget how much I like long walks. I like the physicality of a day walking – the tired limbs in the evening, the way the wind leaves your hair tangled, the chance to remember that our bodies are designed to transport us. I like being able to look back at where you’ve walked from. I like stopping to look around me. If you are walking with someone, it’s a great opportunity to talk and put the world to rights. And I love seeing the dog in his element, exploring and chasing sniff-trails and collecting sticks and rolling in disgusting things (ok I like that less). Buddy dog went too hard at the beginning of our walk and is getting too old for that nonsense so was exhausted by the end. In his mature years he’s learning to be patient when I stop to take photos or have a look through the binoculars.
So here are my sketchbook pages from the weekend. They include some of my favourite spots from the weekend. We saw a lot of the classic seabird regulars – cormorants, eider duck, black-headed gulls, herring gulls, oystercatchers, a curlew. I also learnt to identify rock pipits for the first time – one of those little hopping flitting sightings that you have to take the time to recognise. In a similar vein, I got a great sighting of a female reed bunting, hanging onto the top of a reed and shouting away.
By far the stand-out sighting of the weekend, though, was a minke whale in the Firth of Forth. We were just approaching Pittenweem and there were several people looking out to sea through binoculars and telescopes. They were kind enough to point out two minke whales feeding on the silvery tide line between Fife and the North Berwick Law. It was a first for me to see a whale from land in Scotland. You could clearly see the dorsal fin breaking the water. A beautiful thing to think of those graceful mammals out there under the water so close to land.
PS Here’s a link to the amazing self-catering cottage we stayed in. It’s a converted stable at an old manse in Pittenweem. Dreamy.