Sunday, 20 January 2013

The Forth Coast - Bo'ness to Abercorn

Years ago, when I lived on the west coast, I would not have given the Forth coast a second thought. This was the area designated by Cllr Billy Buchanan as the Bonnybridge triangle (corners at Stirling, Edinburgh and Glasgow), an area so devoid of interest that UFO sightings had to be invented to reduce its sheer mundanity.

That was, of course, before I moved nearer the Bonnybridge triangle, and my horizons became less distant. Unlike other estuaries such as the Clyde or Wigtown Bay, there is a path or track a good portion of the way along the Forth - and at low tide, the sands can be taken to.

So what about a walk from Bo'ness to Cramond?

This 22km walk starts near Bo'ness Railway Museum, where steam trains still run towards Grangemouth. A medieval church at Carriden provides interest at the edge of Bo'ness industrial estate, before the pleasant track through trees towards Blackness.

Carriden Kirk:


When the tide is out, a large expanse of mud is revealed, corrugated by wave action and littered with worm casts. It is less hopelessly oozing than the tidal muds between Stirling and Grangemouth, but welly boot territory all the same.

Yachts at Blackness:


The most prominent landmark in Blackness is the castle, built in the 15th century, the first purpose-built artillery fortress in the country. In 1592 at Donibristle in Fife, the young Catholic Marquis of Huntly murdered the Earl of Moray, a man known as the 'bonnie earl o Moray' for his good looks. The earl's dying words were "you have spoiled a better face than your own!" James VI put Huntly in Blackness Castle for a short time to protect him, and the Protestant nobles of Scotland were furious at the lenient treatment being doled out to a murderer, claiming that the king was favouring Catholics. However, the king may have had good reasons of his own to protect Huntly, as there had been rumours that Moray was sleeping with the king's wife Anne...

Blackness Castle:


Wooded Forth shore:


Beyond Blackness the wooded south shore of the Forth curves attractively to the next point at Abercorn and Hopetoun. The medieaval church of Abercorn is built on the site of Bishop Trumwine's 681 church, though all that remains from the 7th century is a cross-slab. There may be few traces of the old church, but it marked the historical high water mark of the expansion of the Angles up the east coast, a launch pad from which the Picts were to be evangelised - but was abandoned soon after when the Angles were defeated by the Picts at Dunnichen in 685. Hopetoun, on the other hand, now that Hamilton Palace is no more, is perhaps the grandest private house in the whole of Scotland, and can be visited by tourists.

Midhope, near Abercorn and Hopetoun:


The whole area is thick with the homes of aristocracy, Edinburgh being the centre of power before it vacated to London. A mile inland from Hopetoun is Midhope Castle, and there are more stately homes in the short stretch between here and Edinburgh - but that will have to wait for my next post.

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

I've always loved the east coast for its history, its sunny climate,its beaches, castles and cliffs.
Great photos. I'll need to do this full walk sometime as I've only nibbled at it in the past.