Years ago I did the Fife Coastal Path, and it was a revelation just how enjoyable it was, walking along beaches and low cliffs between picturesque villages. Just once (if you ignore the unavoidable stretch through Methil) does the route take a disappointing turn, when it becomes a road tramp between Kinghorn and Burntisland. This is because the beach disappears at high tide, but at low tide, the beach is the obvious route between these towns.
We started lazily at Kinghorn, sheltered from a strong westerly by a steep bank, eating icecream on a bench overlooking the beach, watching the RNLI cleaning the inshore lifeboat and litter-picking volunteers cleaning the beach.
Inchmickery and Kinghorn beach:
Although low tide was not long passed, Kinghorn beach soon petered out into rocks, and after scrambling over these, we ended up at a condemned pier-like structure that looked as if it was about to crumble into the sea at the slightest push. I was not going to walk round the foot of such a tottery structure! A path led us back onto the road - but not before we had been forced to walk through someone's garden. The other side of Kinghorn is called Pettycur, no doubt (like Cellardyke/Anstruther further up the coast) a completely separate entity to Kinghorn whose residents would take umbrage at being confused with Kinghorners. Its picturesque harbour was lined with fishing bothies, boats stranded on the beach waiting for the tide. This beach stretched all the way to Burntisland.
From the beach the roadside monument to Alexander III can be seen. It was at this spot on a stormy night on 19 March 1286, whilst riding from a Parliament in Edinburgh to the more enjoyable state business of creating an heir with his new wife at Kinghorn, that Alexander's horse slipped and he fell down the cliff to his death, just a mile from his destination. From the beach it is easy to see how this could have happened, the crumbling cliffs today now the improbable site of a caravan park.
Alexander III monument below caravan cliffs:
If only the tide had been out on that particular night so Alexander could ride along the beach! For it was a night that changed history. Alexander and Edward I of England were relatives and friends. But Alexander's death left Scotland without an heir, the nobles quarrelled and threatened civil war, Edward intervened and ended up invading, trying to annexe Scotland for himself. This led directly to 300 years of warfare and bad feeling between Scotland and England. The Scottish economy had been relatively vibrant in the 13th century, but did not recover until the 18th century. And all because a horse slipped.
Monument from the road:
The walk from Pettycur to Burntisland was not as easy as I expected. Sand streamed across the beach like spindrift, getting in the eyes and shoes, and walking forwards was an effort. Offshore, kite surfers enjoyed this wind, and the Black Rock (that we would have aimed for if we had been an hour or so earlier) was already inundated by the tide. With the tide now rapidly rising we did not hang about, and made straight for the sanctuary of Burntisland and its miniature esplanade.
Inchmickery across the screaming sands:
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