Thursday, 23 January 2014

Aberdour to Kinghorn, with Burntisland in the middle: 18th January 2014

Normally like most people I tend to head to the seaside in the summertime, but since I'd previously walked both across the Forth Road Bridge to Aberdour and from Kirkcaldy to Kinghorn, today I decided on the relatively short length of the Fife Coastal Path in-between that I hadn't walked before. Hopefully this would prove a good choice for the reduced daylight hours & murky weather of this winter weekend.

View Aberdour in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Haymarket (every 15 minutes)
  Train: Haymarket to Aberdour (12, 42 on the hour)

I arrived in Aberdour just before noon and so decided I would try to find my way to the Aberdour Obelisk at the top of Cuttlehill, just to the south of the Aberdour House apartments and the train station. This wasn't going to be as easy as I had initially thought from looking at Google Maps with the very specific 'Private Footpath' sign planted in front of the apartments. Instead I had to clamber over a gate at the end of Livingstone Lane and then squelch my way through the mud (and 'other' stuff) at the gate entrance to reach the bottom of the hill (I did find an 'easier' gate to Shore Road on the way back).

There are no inscriptions or markings on the 40 foot high 18th Century obelisk, but it seems it was built by the then landowner so that he could see it through a telescope from his estate in Edinburgh (and show it off to his wealthy friends, of course), with the obelisk visible across the 6 miles or so of the Firth of Forth as the crow flies. When I walked towards the beach at Aberdour I could about just make out the obelisk (on the very right hand side, on top of the hill) giving an indication of its height and its proximity to the water.

As I headed back towards the centre of town I came to the Foresters Arms (note no 'double-r'), situated at the corner of Shore Road and the High Street (with entrances on both).

I'd planned to meet Fife CAMRA member Paul McAllister there and he was already supping away at a pint of Rooster's Wild Mule, so it was a pretty easy decision to join him; it's a lovely light, lemon-citrusy golden ale with a very dry finish.

There's a good choice of beers for such a small town, and they certainly seem to go through a fair amount of guests with beers from Adnams & the Warwickshire Brewing Co. next to go on. The bar also has a lovely fire, books available on a number of shelves, TVs showing the early football game and a well used pool table and juke-box. In addition there's also a large function room further into the rear of the building.

Lunches available at the Foresters are a good range of traditional mains (with 2 course & 3 course specials) and snacks, but I was happy just to go with a cheese & ham toastie - which I almost forgot to pay for (I was heading out of the door before the barman *subtly* reminded me, with the dogs about to be let loose to drag me back).

I chatted to Paul for a while about a number of beery subjects, in particular the increasing number of breweries in Fife, and it seems there will be a Champion Beer of Fife again at the Glenrothese Beer Festival in the first weekend of May (twitter @FifeAleFestival). I left him to survey the rest of the pubs in Aberdour but decided I could pop into another licensed establishment just down Shore Road from the Foresters Arms, the whitewashed premises of The Cedar Inn.

There are a lot of rooms in here - a lounge bar, a conservatory, a large public bar and this small, cosy snug/whisky bar, but they only had Deuchars IPA & Doom Bar available today so I took a swift 1/2 of the Doom Bar and was on my way fairly quickly.

I decided that the easiest way to head back to the Fife Coastal Path was to return to the High Street, skirt the train station and then cross the railway line just past Aberdour Castle and Garden. This looks an impressive, well-maintained structure and probably a great place to have a wander about in the summertime but not really in the depths of a dreich winter.

The signs took me back down towards the Firth of Forth and Silversands Bay where some of the Forth Islands could easily be seen, both Inchcolm (nearer with the Augustinian Abbey visible) and Inchmickery (further away with its battleship-like profile).

I then followed the rocky shoreline for some distance before heading under the railway and reaching the Starley Burn waterfall which cascades down for 15 feet or so above the path and 6 feet below and was certainly in full flow today.

On the outskirts of Burntisland the path then took me alongside a number of new housing estates where the water & mud had washed down from the higher up developments and completely flooded the path. This sodden track eventually took me down past the huge Burntisland Fabrications yard to the shops of the High Street. At the end of the High Street I'd hoped to find a deli called Delicate Essence (ouch!) as per Google Streetview, but instead the shop seems to have recently been redeveloped and renamed as Potter About, an interesting ceramics gift shop and café.

In its previous incarnation as a deli it had sold bottles from the Burntisland Brewery (which stated brewing in 1995 and closed in ~2000), and the Brewery itself was *meant* to have been behind the deli (for at least some/most of the time). When I asked for some Burntisland Brewery beer on the only time I ever went to the deli, the girl behind the counter initially had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I was eventually sent down to a fireworks shop along Burntisland High Street where the brewer, Steve Madley, was supplementing his income by selling pyrotechnics (not quite sure if beer & fireworks quite mix). We then traipsed back to the deli where Steve sold me 4 bottles from his under-the-counter stash. I got 2 bottles of 5.1% Dockland Rivets (a Pils) and 2 of 4.3% Alexander's Downfall (an 80/- I think ?), and I don't believe I even got a discount for having to stick the labels on the bottles of the latter myself.

There's a fantastic green/raised beach at Burntisland called The Links; this separates the sea from the main road and is where the summer fairground is located and the Burntisland Highland (or lowland) Games takes place in July.

At the town-side of The Links I found an intriguing corner pub called The Crown, situated with great views down the whole length of The Links.

I was able to spy a single hand-pull through the front window and so decided to go in and give it a try. This turned out to be a local Loch Leven Brewery beer, Golden Goose, and although it had some citrus bitterness, there was a bit of astringency to the finish that I don't think I remember it having before - just a slightly off 1/2 pint I hope.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the interior of this single room pub (with some of the locals watching the football results), but since there was a notice on the far wall stating 'No photography using mobile phones' I'll respect their wishes. I then set off up The Links and onto the steadily rising main road heading to Kinghorn. About half-way between Burntisland and Kinghorn I came to the reason why one of the Burntisland Brewery beers had been called Alexander's Downfall. Legend has it that in 1286 King Alexander III of Scotland was returning on horseback from Edinburgh to be with his young second wife at Kinghorn Castle. It was well after dark, in some terrible weather and separated from his companions when Alexander came along the cliff road, his horse then stumbled and pitched him to his death over the high cliffs. The Alexander III Memorial was built in 1886 with donations from (amongst others) Queen Victoria.

The Inscription on the monument was just about readable and states - 'To the illustrious Alexander III, the last of Scotland's Celtic Kings, who was accidentally killed near this spot, March XIX - MCCLXXXVI. Erected on the Sexcentenary of his death'.

Further up the road towards Kinghorn I came to the huge Pettycur Bay Holiday Park which includes an incredible number of static caravans perched on the hillside with what must be stunning views across the Forth of Forth and there's also the modern facilities of The Bay Hotel on-site.

The roadside path eventually stopped its incline and led me into Kinghorn itself. On the main street, just past the turning for the train station, I came to the Crown Tavern (there are certainly a lot of names associated with Royalty around here).

Mr Paul McAllister had beaten me to the place (hey, he'd taken the bus) but thankfully he had not demolished all of the Beeches Brewery seasonal special, Auld Grumpy's Winter Brew (starring a picture of the brewer himself). This was a lovely dark fruit, spicy, red winey winter ale, with a nominal strength of 5.9%, but we both agreed that it had definitely gone up a notch or 2 from that. (Hop Back Golden Best was on the other gleaming tall font).

The pub has 2 distinct areas - we were sitting at the dark wooden bar on the left side, with a number of high-backed double seats & tables available behind the partition on the right and a small games room at the back of the pub complete with pool table. It seems like a great community pub with lots of banter with the owners and they have comedy nights, bands & the occasional craft fair. In particular I really liked all the coloured glass on the door and the windows at the front and the back.

As I bade Paul goodbye I headed down to the small harbour in the sweeping bay below the railway station, complete with active RNLI station (there are a lot of steps here). It's a stunning part of the Scottish coastline, as is the East Nuek of Fife further north past Kirkcaldy, another place definitely on my list to visit this year.

Return travel:-
  Train: Kinghorn to Haymarket (04, 34 on the hour)
  Train: Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street (every 15 minutes)

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