Fife Coastal Path: Day 3, Leven to Anstruther

This has definitely been the best day on the trail so far. I woke feeling pretty refreshed, had an early breakfast and then headed back to bed to let it digest. The upshot was a bit of a rushed start to the day in order to get my bag ready for collection, then leaving later than planned – again!

Setting off, I followed the promenade along the pavement, not wishing to get sandy feet this early in the day. This quickly moved off the tarmac to run alongside the golf course.

Fife Coastal Path alongside Leven Links Golf Course

Further on there was the option to run along the beach itself. As the tide was well out, the sand was firm and this was an inviting option.

Low tide: running along the beach on the Fife Coastal Path

It was quite enjoyable running along the sand, although the slight camber at times can make it challenging on the legs. I was quite happy to get a return to trail path for a bit of respite.

Fife Coastal Path: heading towards Lundin Links and Lower Largo

The next section of the path was lovely, running along grassy trails. The terrain was easy going and the surfaces kind to the legs. I’m growing very fond of the shore, the flowers on the verge, and the feeling of freedom. Being in such magical surroundings by the sea, as with the mountains, makes you realise what a small part of the universe you really are.

Reaching Lower Largo, one of the first things to be seen is the sculpture of ‘Malagan’ in a garden. I noticed going through these wee villages the care that people take of their gardens. There were so many beautiful flowers, baskets and interesting features – a true joy!

Back onto the sand, I managed well, only getting the toes of one foot very slightly wet on a water jump, and was feeling quite pleased with myself until I realised I’d missed the path off for the bridge over the burn; this was too wide (and deep) for any hopping across, so there was no option but to double back on myself.

I met a young woman from the Netherlands, also doing a good chunk of the coastal path, and enjoyed a blether with her before moving on. More good, grassy trails followed and I met some more people to chat to. The coastal scenery became more interesting again.

Through a caravan park, up and over a small incline, again, taking advantage and walking any lumps or bumps to conserve my energy, before long I was in sight of Elie where I stopped and enjoyed a cup of tea and a chocolate crispie. I’m learning vital lessons should I ever wish to enter the world of ultra running: cups of tea on the run are just fine; small amounts of cake are tolerated well with a very short break between eating and running; and excruciating stomach pain ensues when dehydrated! Fine today, but suffered quite a bit yesterday so have made sure I take on lots of fluid today.

I enjoyed a good rest with my cuppa, leaving around 45 minutes of a break. The rain had started spotting by this point but rather then being an irritant, it was welcome, just light enough to provide a very pleasant cooling sensation.

More lovely beaches and natural sculptures followed along this section of the path between Elie and Pittenweem.

There’s also a windmill that used to be part of the salt pan industry, now used by the Coastguard. Not long after passing this the village of Pittenweem pops into view. Thinking ahead, I wonder if tomorrow will feel harder as there are very few stops. Today, as yesterday, I’ve spent as much time stopping to admire the sights, take photos and chat, as I have moving!

On reaching Pittenweem, I couldn’t resist the ice cream shop. Scottish tablet – delicious! I wonder if ultra runs have ice cream vans? I wonder if there are any that let you run a paltry amount of miles over several days? I also enjoyed wandering around the harbour. Again, these little harbour villages remind me of childhood, especially those with fishing boats, as we often visited Hopeman, Lossiemouth or Burghead, and they were always busy, particularly on Sundays when many of the boats headed out.

The distance between Pittenweem and Anstruther is nothing at all, and I enjoyed this last bit of the journey, heading straight for the pub to have a late lunch before finding my B & B for the night. At the moment it’s shaping up to be my best night so far. Spindrift is lovely! So comfortable with a fantastic guest lounge. I’ve now also been out and had an amazing dinner in the Dreel Tavern. The rain’s on, hopefully clearing the air for tomorrow, and I’m in for the night.

Approaching Anstruther

Last day ahead – all the way to St Andrews! The longest stage yet. Wish me luck!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 2, Burntisland to Leven

Started the day feeling less rested than I’d have liked. My neighbours in the hotel were somewhat noisy in the wee small hours, moving between rooms I think – an important life skill: learn to close a door quietly!

I therefore couldn’t resist banging around a bit on starting my day, not as early as I’d have liked as breakfast wasn’t served until 8:15 am, but definitely ahead of anyone else being up.

I was late in leaving, around 10:30 am, as I wanted to let breakfast go down a bit. One positive in where I was staying was that I stepped out the front door and right onto the Way, initially following the pavement alongside the A921 to Kinghorn. This brought back fond memories of childhood holidays having once stayed at Pettycur Bay Caravan Park.

Pettycur Bay

Kinghorn was my point of getting lost today. Like yesterday, signage isn’t always great through the villages, but it didn’t take me more than a hundred metres to realise the error of my ways and retrace my steps. I’ve come to realise there’s generally a Fife Coastal Path logo on the lamppost if there are no signs.

Moving out of civilisation, I was glad to return to trails rather than pavements, although with humidity feeling high it didn’t take any incline at all to slow me to a walk!

Fife Coastal Path

In fact, I only managed 5 miles before being tempted into Morrison’s Cafe for a cup of tea! Passing right by I couldn’t help myself – the prospect of ditching the warm water in my bottles definitely swung it.

There wasn’t much to see in or around Kirkcaldy, although I did run close to the shore along the prom. As always, I felt happier again when off the tarmac.

Fife Coastal Path: Burntisland to Leven

Dysart was a welcome distraction, aside from the initial cobbles leading into the old village. I took my time here as it was very pretty with lovely old buildings and a pleasant feel to it. I was very taken by the harbour and the evidence of people enjoying their lives at sea today.

Onwards, I found myself in West Wemyss. I liked that these little villages were so close together as it gave me welcome respite in the heat. It was around here that the sun finally broke through, having been enshrouded in fine cloud throughout the morning. West Wemyss is home to the Frances Colliery Memorial, a tribute to those that lost their lives in the mine.

Frances Colliery Memorial

Hugging the sea wall again for a time, I returned to the trail and continued to East Wemyss. This was another attractive section of the route.

Ahead, there were steps up. Any change in height today has usually been up or down steps, and again, I took advantage of the opportunity to have a wee walk break. This particular set had some seats part way up so I enjoyed a brief rest in the sunshine.

From hereon in the Way was uninspiring as it passed through Buckhaven, Methil and finally into Leven. I was very happy to finally reach my B & B for the night! Somehow I don’t think I’ll be seeing too late into the evening tonight.

Another 16 miles today. Hoping for a cooler day tomorrow!

Fife Coastal Path: Day 1, North Queensferry to Burntisland

Having decided I was ‘peopled out’ a couple of months ago, I decided to have a wee solo venture over summer. Having looked at various ‘Ways’, the most appealing was probably the West Highland Way, but as I’ll be doing this again sometime with husband, I had to find an alternative, and having considered all options I ended up with the Fife Coastal Path.

The path originally started in North Queensferry. It’s now been extended, but my plan is to cover part of it, from North Queensferry to St Andrews. My intention when booking was to run it – I envisage a leisurely bimble with regular stops for refreshment – but I’ve also taken my walking kit in case I’m not able to run all the way.

Arriving in North Queensferry, I went out for a wee wander. The start of the path is uphill, hopefully not for too long! It’s decorated with special plaques designed by local schoolchildren way back when the Way originally opened.

I then wandered an extra few metres to the shore where I sat and read my book in the sunshine.

Day 1:
Refreshed after a surprisingly good dinner and excellent night’s sleep at The Ferrybridge Hotel, I retired to my room to let breakfast settle for a couple of hours before heading off.

The path for me began pretty much at the door of the hotel. Always a good thing when no navigation is required! Signage appeared clear. I was happy!

The path began on a cobbled track, quickly changing to trail. I felt very at home on this as I love trails. The only downside was it was a little stony, ordinarily not an issue, but with bright sun my vision was impaired slightly by my sunglasses! Perhaps this was what led to the first ‘issue’ of the day … getting lost in Inverkeithing! Which way now?!?

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Retracing my steps, the route guide printed off by husband proved handy and I made a mental note to check it when passing through villages or towns further along.

When looking back, the horizon was always dominated by the Forth Rail Bridge, such an impressive structure!

Continuing on, I reached Dalgety Bay, skirting around the village and passing by some houses with beautiful views, at least on a fine day. Carrying on there was one of the few rises of the day and my legs felt it. The track changed – sometimes tarmac, sometimes trail – and was often in woodland with views over the bay seen through the trees. I was very grateful of this as it was a hot day and they provided a little shade and slightly cooler temperatures.

Fife Coastal Path between Dalgety Bay & Aberdour

Reaching Aberdour, I was charmed by the stunning views of the wee harbour and stopped to enjoy a snack.

I was very tempted to take my shoes off and paddle along this stretch of path too, all the more so with the crowds enjoying the beach at Silversands. The ice cream van was also calling loudly but I wasn’t convinced I’d get running again if I indulged in either of these options! Onwards I went, and before long I heard the PA system from the Burntisland Highland Games.

Arriving at my hotel (Sands Hotel) before check-in, I enjoyed a refreshing drink before making my way along to the Highland Games. A thoroughly enjoyable afternoon was had there, watching the track and field events.

I think the most impressive thing was the cycle races! That must have been tough going on grass!

I can’t believe how quickly today has passed. It’s been a good day. The first 13 miles of my run are complete. Hopefully the legs will benefit from a good night’s sleep as they’re going a good bit further tomorrow. Looks set to be another hot day!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 3): The Final Instalment

Day 5:
The day got off to a mixed start. Frustratingly, having bolted down breakfast to get the early (8 am) train, it was approximately half an hour late. On the upside, we hadn’t realised we needed to book seats (it was the Caledonian Sleeper) but were advised we were in luck – seats were available – and we enjoyed a very comfortable start to the day!

Awaiting the train to Corrour from Tyndrum Upper Station

Getting off the train, we got chatting to a couple of ladies who’d come all the way up on the sleeper. They were staying for a couple of days, minus their friend / navigator. More on that later …

Having parted ways with the others from the train, we began our walk on an excellent path towards Loch Ossian and the Youth Hostel. What a stunning location for a hostel! I would love to go back and stay there sometime.

Loch Ossian (Corrour)

As we proceeded, the track it split and we took the higher path. Having already started around 400 m, this allowed us to make good progress.

Further up, we passed Peter’s stone, a memorial to Peter Trowell who died in 1979 at 29 years old. He was working at the youth hostel alone over winter and his body was sadly found frozen in the loch after several weeks missing, the thinking being that he tragically fell in whilst working.

Turning uphill here we followed the hill with little visible path at times. At other points there was a clearer path which made for steady walking. Despite yesterday’s heavy rain, although boggy, it could have been worse underfoot. As we gained height, we’d climbed into the mist and low cloud, so waterproofs were donned.

Heading up towards Carn Dearg

We reached Meall na Letire Duibhe with relative ease, then following the broad ridge around to Carn Dearg, marked with an impressively large cairn. Despite it’s size we were very close before seeing it as visibility was variable, thick mist with cloud coming and going. We didn’t stop for any time as we were getting slightly damp.

Summit of Carn Dearg, Corrour

Continuing on we found the path that led us down to the Mam Ban, and as we progressed the path became very clear and easy to follow. As the descent to the bealach was not significant we concluded we should head back this way as the alternative was said to be very boggy, and given conditions we had no prospect of views. The summit cairn of Sgor Ghaibre was far smaller and again was enshrouded in mist, so we only paused briefly before, in theory, retracing our steps.

Summit cairn on Sgor Gaibhre

Initially it appeared that we were on the right path heading back towards Carn Dearg. However, somewhere along the way we lost the good path that we’d been on; the path split so we must have gone in the wrong direction. We’re none the wiser on reflection. Thankfully Bruce realised and with a combination of coordinates from the Garmin and basic map and compass skills, we established the direction we required to proceed in order to achieve the summit again.

Further down we had similar issues, again veering off course and requiring the map and compass to point us in the right direction. In the end we headed directly for Peter’s stone, the mist having cleared in order to see the loch below and give confirmation of our route. We were two very happy walkers on reaching the good track again!

Heading down from the Corrour munros to Loch Ossian

Along this track we met a few people and stopped to chat, before going to the cafe at Corrour Station. A thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours was spent here, refreshing ourselves after the walk. We got chatting to others, including Alan, the knight in shining armour who’d come to the rescue of two damsels in distress (pretty much fresh from the sleeper train), struggling to navigate in the mist on Beinn na Lap. The ladies appeared shortly after and were delighted to receive a lesson on map and compass skills courtesy of Bruce. We all get a bit rusty if not using these skills regularly so it’s important to practise as we found out today!

As the time for the train approached, the cafe emptied, all bar the two ladies returning in the same direction as us. We were all cheerily waved off as we began the return leg of the journey to Tyndrum. A great day out, and a memorable one to boot.

Day 6:
Sitting in the Glencoe Cafe mid-morning it was hard to conceive that the torrential rain would stop within the next hour or two. However, stop it did, or at least lighten, thus we found ourselves travelling along the road to begin the ascent of our final munro, Sgor na h-Ulaidh.

The most treacherous part of the day was the initial walk from the car park across the bridge and along the road for a few metres. The traffic is pretty fast – it is the main road after all – and it’s not pleasant crossing a bridge with a barely there pavement as the road narrows!

Safe and well, we began our ascent, again from low level, starting out on a very good track. This continued for a couple of miles, climbing very gradually, before we branched off and headed straight up the hill. Views back across the road were great, cloud clearing nicely.

Looking back towards Aonach Eagach

This was tough! With over 500 m of ascent, my calves felt like they may explode! Lungs were fine, but definitely a leg buster. Although dry, sadly this also meant heading up into the mist.

On reaching the bealach, the terrain eased momentarily before climbing again, over the top of Stob an Fhuarain. The path here was clear, fortunate as the ground was wet, and there was too much potentially slippery rock for my liking. Crossing this, we dropped again before gaining height once more, this time to the summit of Sgor na h-Ulaidh. There were scary looking crags here so care was needed to ensure we did not stray off the path from the summit. Another walker, on approaching, did stumble, thankfully managing to right himself! It would have ruined my lunch had he disappeared!!

Summit cairn: Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Retracing our steps, we took our time on the descent, careful of the potential for slipping on wet rock.

Coming down from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

Knowing the route made light work and before we knew it we were back on the scree ahead of the main descent down by the stream. At this point we met a hill runner – walking, as it wasn’t quite what he’d hoped for in terms of ground – and we enjoyed a good chat with him before parting ways when the ground became more gradual in descent.

Main path descending from Sgor na h-Ulaidh

All that was left then was the trek back to the main trail. The lower section was a bit wet and stony which made it slow going; it was a relief to finally reach the main track, the home straight. Typically, the mist cleared at this point giving a view of what we might have seen has we held out for another couple of hours.

The route up to Sgor na h-Ulaidh as the cloud began to clear

Holidays done, all the munros planned for the week achieved, two very happy walkers!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 2): a munro and a wee jaunt along the Way

Day 3: Beinn Sgulaird

Having woken feeling somewhat reminiscent of being run over by a bus, I indulged in some gentle yoga practise to stretch out my weary limbs before breakfast – the joys of holidays!

Much refreshed, we then headed for Beinn Sgulaird. Going down the Oban road in the car however, I did feel my eyes heavy (thankfully I wasn’t the driver!) and this reminded me that I was still tired after yesterday’s epic day out.

The munro of the day was to be Beinn Sgulaird, chosen because of the clear forecast and potentially stunning views. We were not to be disappointed!

The walk got off to a good start, heading up a wide, clear track; the downside was beginning at sea level again. This gentle ascent gave our legs the opportunity to warm up before we turned off the main path onto a smaller track that would lead up the hill. This was the beginning of a pretty relentless slog up to the first of the summits. The path was dry, clear and quite soft underfoot, so aside from slightly tired legs there was nothing to complain about.

Heading up the good path of Beinn Sgulaird

Somehow having followed the route to a small bealach at approximately half way up (in terms of height), we then managed to make our own route by veering off the main path. We realised our error when the Garmin suggested we go straight up the hillside and rerouted to come back onto the main path. (Had Bruce been the keeper of the Garmin this probably wouldn’t have happened!) Coming towards the first summit – there are two smaller summits ahead of the munro – Beinn Sgulaird itself could be clearly seen peeking out along what looked like an impressive ridge. We met a friendly chap around this point who advised that there was nothing challenging ahead, other than the deceptive nature of the distance to go.

Having reached the first summit, we made our way up and over, taking time on the descent as it was a combination of boulders and a little scree leading down to the bealach. It wasn’t difficult and that was a relief, all the more so knowing this was also our return route. The next summit, Meall Garbh, had a clear cairn and again provided some fun terrain with more steep descent and rocks to cross.

Approaching the summit of Beinn Sgulaird

Finally, the ascent of Beinn Sgulaird itself was upon us. It looked clear, aside from the top where the route guide suggested some very easy scrambling may be required. In the event there was nothing challenging at all, only fun, and we were happy to reach the large summit cairn with stunning views all around.

The most bizarre and unexpected sight of the day was a herd of goats! Not what you expect at the top of a hill!

Herd of mountain goats on Beinn Sgulaird

A leisurely stop later, we descended back the way we’d come. Far more pleasant than yesterday and blessedly shorter, before long we’d returned to our start point. This also heralded the halfway point for me: 141 munros in the bag. Not sure where this journey will end, but as I’ve stated all along, I’ve no intention of doing them all!

Day 4: The Green Welly Stop, Real Food Cafe & West Highland Way

Woke up to mist, light drizzle, and a forecast of heavy rain, so opted to hang around Tyndrum. We’ve both got a low boredom threshold so it didn’t take long to peruse the Green Welly Stop. Coffee was calling so we headed for the Real Food Cafe and contented ourselves for a while by watching the birds at the feeders while enjoying our cakes. We got chatting to a couple from London who were on route back home having completed the munros. A great effort – they estimated each munro had cost them £100!! That’s dedication for you!

Later in the day we decided to have a walk and took the train to Bridge of Orchy, walking back after a brief refreshment in the hotel. It was a bit drizzly and I was less than happy as it was way too hot for waterproofs making for uncomfortable walking. Tomorrow I may just get wet!

Tyndrum Hols (Part 1): there’s more to Tyndrum than the Green Welly Stop!

Day 1: Stuchd an Lochain

The drive out Glen Lyon seemed to take forever, all the more so being caught behind a bus! Parking up just ahead of the dam, we donned our boots and began a gentle walk to the cairn that indicates the turn off for Stuchd an Lochain. This took us gently across the hillside before beginning to climb.

The climb was comfortable. Despite not having been on the hills much the legs felt okay. Husband meanwhile has done lots of hills over the last few weeks and climbed in the style of a mountain goat, effortlessly!

Heading up Stuchd an Lochain

The path was fairly steep but good, and before too long we reached the broad ridge that would take us along to the summit of the first munro of the holiday, Stuchd an Lochain. This was indicated by a couple of cairns along the way and we made good time despite the small drop to the bealach on the way. We got chatting to another walker and this also passed the time. Lots of friendly people on the hill today.

The thrill of the day came while chatting: an eagle soared overhead! It was one of those wonderful moments that you’re glad to be in the company of others to have confirmation of what you’re seeing. It was shortly pursued by some other, much smaller birds, and the walker we were chatting to suggested they must be nesting nearby and trying to see it off.

Reaching the summit we were rewarded with great views of the surrounding hills. Even Ben Nevis looked to be considering peeking it’s head out of the clouds.

Having enjoyed lunch at the summit cairn there was nothing further to do aside from retrace our route back down.

As always, this was quicker than the up and before long we were back at the car. Holidays begun, next stop, Tyndrum.

Day 2: Ben Starav, Beinn nan Aighenan & Glas Bheinn Mhor

There’s always one long day on the holiday and the fantastic forecast deemed it to be today! We decided to do a ‘two’ and add on an extra munro that essentially followed the same route up, adding extra time today but saving a long day somewhere down the line should anyone wish to complete the munros.

View to Ben Starav & Glas Bheinn Mhor from Glen Etive

The first munro of the day was Ben Starav. It was also the highest at 1078 metres and there was the added joy of starting pretty much at sea level. On the upside, the boggy ground described in the walk guide was fortuitously dry for the most part. The ascent was long and steady, taking quite some time to complete.

The summit looked somewhat intimidating on the approach. As we neared it, the terrain became a little stonier and there were some more exposed areas. For the most part though there was a clear path. I kept my focus on the ground immediately in front of me, avoiding looking down. I was quite delighted when we reached the cairn!

Leaving the summit to head down to the bealach, the ridge narrowed and made for an interesting traverse. For the most part it was manageable; there was only one scrambly section where Bruce required to talk me through the steps required to ensure I didn’t have too much of a wobble! Before long we were heading down towards the intersection of paths that would lead us to Beinn nan Aighenan, later retracing our steps for Glas Bheinn Mhor.

On route to Glas Bheinn Mhor from Ben Starav

Beinn nan Aighenan looked like an easy walk, aside from the additional distance and time, and this proved to be the case. It was great fun on the descent with just enough interest and choice of route without any real danger involved.

Beinn nan Aighenan

Despite adding an extra two and a half hours to our day, we were both glad we’d made the detour for this one.

From the bealach, we began the long pull up Glas Bheinn Mhor. This was a fairly easy ascent and our legs felt remarkably good. The ridge was wide and the path was good.

Heading up Glas Bheinn Mhor

Reaching the final summit of the day, we were quite elated; little did we know what a hard slog lay ahead!

From here we had to descend all the way back to just above sea level. The initial couple of hundred metres was fun, with good path and dry underfoot conditions. Sadly conditions deteriorated, ground became boggier as we descended, and stones and boulders on the path made for pretty slow going. We were both pretty scunnered!

Finally we reached a point to cross the stream which allowed us to join the better path we’d followed on the way up. Arriving at the car we were as delighted to see it as the midges were to see us!!! So much so that they even joined us in the car!

A tough day, but a great day: 10 hours, 14 miles, 3 munros & 5700 feet of ascent, and a milestone … 232 munros for Bruce, leaving only 50 to go!

Loving the trails!

Having set the bar at parkrun at the end of May, I fell off the pace in June. Half marathon training should have started (and in theory has), but the tall task of getting back to speed leaves me a little lacking in enthusiasm. June has also seen me away for work related things a few of times and overall it’s just been a very busy month.

I felt like I’d lost my mojo a little, but have been pleased to rediscover it on the trails. Thursday saw me dropped off on the back road as husband headed north. This allowed me to enjoy a loop of my favourite forest before making my way home, barely touching tar until the final mile.

Then today saw the social Sunday group hit our usual loop of Hazlehead and Countesswells. After yesterday’s hot parkrun at the beach, the damp, cool air among the trees was a true blessing!

The run started with a warm up loop with Alan before meeting the others. We then headed up the trail at Hazlehead, through the gates and over to Countesswells Forest.

Gate to Gate between Hazlehead and Countesswells

Stopped at our usual spot for the group photo, minus Ali, our usual photographer, so a couple of people are missing from shot!

Group photo in Countesswells minus a couple due to lack of photographic skill

Onwards along the beautiful trails, great in all weathers but especially pleasurable on such a lovely summer’s day!

Kingshill, the big hill of the run, is tough on the legs, but definitely helps with overall strength. First time around …

Bottom of Kingshill - waiting for everyone to regroup

And around again …

Finishing loop 2 of Kingshill

I have no idea how I ever managed to do this 5 times! That was probably around this time last year when peaking for the Fort William Marathon.

Crossing over to the other side of the Forest we run up what I consider to be the last hill – in actual fact there are two more but I find them comparatively easy.

Top of the hill at the opposite side to Kingshill, Countesswells Forest

No sprint back through Hazlehead this week as my legs were more than happy (or fatigued) by what we’d done. Finished with a run up and down the reps lane to round the day off with 14 miles.

Goal for the week ahead is to try to get some regular running in, whatever the weather.

This is where I’m at. What keeps you motivated? Feel free to share any tips by commenting.