Walking Solo: The Fife Coastal Path


Posted by in October's Magazine

Carolyn McKerracher

Now that most of the tourists have gone and local kids are back at school, I feel able to venture back out on the coastline. Good summer weather plays havoc with solo walking.   

The Fife coastal path is a great combination of isolation, villages, shops and cake. It stretches 117miles from the Kincardine Bridge in the south, to Newburgh in the North. Check out the Official Guide, available from www.fifecoastalpath.co.uk, or in good bookshops. Alternatively, the Pocket Mountain Guide to the Kingdom of Fife gives a good overview and each section is available online at Walkhighlands.co.uk. 

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Stormy Anstruther 

And so it was that on one bright spring day, I set out to walk 11.5miles from Elie to Crail. 

An hour or so in (and one coffee at the marvellous Smokehouse in St Monans), I stopped for a random chat with an elderly lady about her calendula. Having recently acquired an allotment (10yrs or so wait), I consider myself somewhat of an expert on gardening. Or weeds at least. An hour later, I left with a very generous supply of plants, all carefully wrapped in a Lidl bag.  

Now, I still had a long walk to Crail ahead of me, so to minimise potential damage to the plants (as I said, I am somewhat of an expert); I carefully threaded the handle of the Lidl bag through the belt of my rucksack. Perfect! 

Sometime later, I arrived at my destination – the beautiful Crail Harbour Gallery and Tearoom. There, I had a latte and delicious piece of tablet, whilst sitting in the tiny back yard, overlooking the chickens, the sea and the Island of May. Perfect. Until…

As I rose to head for the bus, I discovered (to my horror) that the Lidl bag had gone! 

A search of the pottery and yard (and chickens) ensued, but no luck. I must have dropped it.

However, ever the optimist (OK, rarely), I started to retrace my steps back along the coastal path, safe in the knowledge that I had met virtually no one earlier (hooray!) and that a Lidl bag is pretty unmissable.

There, I had a latte and delicious piece of tablet, whilst sitting in the tiny back yard, overlooking the chickens, the sea and the Island of May

On and on I walked, until, at last, there in the distance, I saw three young people heading towards me. As they approached, I noticed that one young man was casually sporting a Lidl bag from the belt on his jeans. Surely it was too much of a coincidence?

“Excuse me”, I said, with anticipated relief, “is that your Lidl bag?”

The young man looked at me with some surprise, then, in a strong French accent (swoon) said,

“Yes, it is.” (The French accent has to be imagined)

“But did you bring it with you, or did you find it?” I pressed.

A pause.

“I found it. It was just lying on the path. Why?”

“What’s in it?” I shrieked with joy.

By this time, the young Frenchman was looking somewhat perturbed. However, in a clear attempt to appease this mad Scotswoman, he began unbuckling his belt. (Pause for sharp intake of breath).

“Just our rubbish. We found the bag lying on the path and we picked it up to put our rubbish in it. Is it yours?”

By this time, the young Frenchman and his companions were looking concerned, perhaps unable to decide whether I was indeed mad, or whether all Scots are particularly attached to their carrier bags. They are quite pricey now after all.

“If there are plants in it, then yes it’s mine!” I shrieked again, as I stuck my head in the Lidl bag and began to rummage around amongst the coke cans, crisp packets and chocolate wrappers. Pretty unhealthy hiking food if you ask me. Not like cake.

“Well… there was earth and plants in the bag when I picked it up, but I tipped them out”, said the young Frenchman cautiously. I pulled my head out of the bag.

“Tipped. Them. Out.” I questioned, without a question mark. 

The young Frenchman looked at me with a cross between pity and fear.

“But it was right on the path. You should be able to find them!”

“So I should!” I shrieked, “in fact, it was probably near where I had a fresh air pee!” (That part probably shouldn’t have been said aloud).

The young Frenchman held out the Lidl bag,

“Would you like it back?” He offered generously.

“No. It’s OK. You keep it”, I offered, even more generously.

And so, our ways parted, me to find my plants and the Tidy Frenchman and his friends off to tell their mates the tale of the mad Scotswoman and the Lidl bag.

I never did find the plants. But I walked 23miles that day, in the hope of doing so. I buggered my knees in the process, but three physio appointments later and they’re better. I also received a parcel of calendula seeds from the lady in Fife, when I later confessed.

So, if you are ever walking the Fife Coastal Path, somewhere west of Crail, look out for a patch of bright orange calendula, out of place amongst the wildflowers and not very John Muir. But accidents happen and sometimes we can only do our best.

Info: More photos from Walkingsolo.Scot on Instagram

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