Aiming at Arbroath
The weather could not have been better as I continued along the Fife coastal path, heading towards Dundee. Having cleared Fife’s former industrial areas I’d been promised that beautiful scenery would follow along the northern side of the Forth. I wasn’t disappointed. I was also able to enjoy some good ‘look back’ views of the opposite shore seeing where I’d previously tramped.
My coastal route led me through some charming old towns and villages, each with their distinct character. They included, Lower Largo, Elie, Earlsferry, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail. When I got to Lower Largo Robinson Crusoe was the last thing on my mind. However, I discovered that this was the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk whose experiences as a shipwrecked sailor inspired the fictional story of Robinson Crusoe.
At Anstruther Easter I saw the unusual sight of someone’s weekly wash hung on poles down by the harbourside. Knowing that Crail once had a large naval air station, HMS Jackdaw, I decided to visit the local church. Here I found a beautifully maintained churchyard within which was a small Commonwealth War Graves section where some of the headstones appear to have been renewed, including one for a 21 year old Wren killed in July 1942.
Walking towards St Andrews I was struck by the amazing rock structures that line the beaches or sit near cliff edges. The cliffs remain ablaze with golden gorse, while bluebells paved the wooded areas I walked through. Named after Scotland’s patron saint, St Andrews itself was busy with tourists being shown the ruins of the ancient cathedral and castle. Internationally recognised as the home of golf, I watched a group of Americans being given a guided tour, and at the same time observed a nearby disclaimer notice about being hit by stray golf balls!
I’ve continued to walk past numerous golf courses, occasionally finding a golf ball mis-hit by its owner. Further north at Carnoustie’s historic championship golf course, preparations are seemingly well advanced for the 147th Open which will take place in July where golfers will compete for the iconic Claret Jug.
I advanced towards Dundee via Leuchars (now an Army base) where I made a pit-stop for a mug of coffee from a roadside trailer café, amusingly entitled the ‘Wurst Stop’! Shortly after Leuchars the coastal path enters the vast Tentsmuir Forest, where the nearby dunes offered expansive views of the Firth of Tay and its river mouth. While in the forest I came across an Ice House built in the mid- 1850s and a forerunner of today’s deep freezers. The Ice House was used to preserve locally caught salmon before it was shipped south. To provide additional insulation around the ice, layers of heather and straw helped to keep the ice frozen.
Today, Scotland is famed for its salmon industry, just as the herring industry thrived in the 1900s and is remembered in the Anstruther Wester Fisheries Museum. The Arbroath ‘smokie’ (haddock) industry continues, though it has declined over recent years. Farming is another large industry in Scotland and during the week I’ve walked by vast potato farms and seen acres of new poly tunnels being erected. On looking inside one set of tunnels I realised I was looking at thousands of young strawberry plants – I couldn’t help wondering if their fruits will be seen at Wimbledon in early July!
Leaving the coastal path and county of Fife behind me, I crossed the Firth of Tay into Dundee and entered the county of Angus. Dundee, once famed for its jute, jam and journalism is now probably best known for Captain Scott’s Antartic expedition ship, the Royal Research Ship Discovery which resides in a dock near the Tay bridge. Meanwhile, the 1824 frigate HMS Unicorn can be seen in neighbouring docks and both ships are key visitor attractions in this busy city.
From Dundee, I made my way along the Tay’s shores through Broughty Ferry, Carnoustie and into Arbroath where 45 Commando Royal Marines at Condor Base kindly agreed to host us for an overnight stay. While there we made time to visit the unit’s Remembrance Garden. The Garden is a wonderfully imaginative creation based on the Royal Marines Globe and Laurel badge, with a huge steel globe as the central feature of the design. It also incorporates huge boulders brought home from countries where 45 Commando has served in more recent years: Northern Ireland, Iraq, the Falklands, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Norway.
It’s a peaceful place for quiet contemplation.
See Photo Album No 32 - Aiming at Arbroath