profile profile

Walk to Dundee

It's the time of year again for a long hike. This time, through the middle of Fife to the north coast, then along the coastal path to the Tay bridge, and over to Dundee. I had thought if we were at the bridge with enough time and energy, we might continue round to St Andrew's from the other direction instead, but that was not to be. We had way points, but not a route plan, and figured it out as we went along. The result was less direct than it could have been. The weather was primarily great, and although my walking boots rebelled and were causing pain by the end of the first day, it was still a fab trek.

The quality of the photos is atrocious; my camera is now completely out of focus on the right hand side.

Day 1: Dysart to Falkland Hill

I was absolutely convinced we could get to Pillars of Hercules by tea time, but after 12 and a half miles of walking we had barely even made it to the Lomond Hills. We followed Queen Mary's Road from Wemyss to Balgonie, went through Markinch and skirted around the east and north of Glenrothes via a little detour through Balbirnie Park, and stopped to fill up our water bottles at the Pitcairn Center, before heading towards the Lomond Hills and pitching camp at the corner of some woods, away from the main trail at the foot of East Lomond. This was all familiar territory, and we were perhaps overconfident in terms of ground we could cover, and did lots of unfocussed zigzagging.

At some point Max picked up an empty plastic bottle and decided this is much better than a ball for fetch.

A track runs besides a stream, surrounded by leafy trees, with a large bridge arch in the distance A dog with a backpack trots along a dirt track, with bushy colourful flowers on all sides A fir forest runs along a ridge with a grassy field and a tent in the foreground

See all photos from day 1.

Day 2: Falkland Hill to Pitmedden Forest

We walked between East and West Lomond, along the lime kiln trail, and into the back of the Falkland Estate. We finally got to Pillars of Hercules, in time for a spectacularly disappointing not-sausage sandwich. But a nice coffee, and some communing with a friendly robin.

A dog with a packpack walks along a grassy track, with hills in the distance A dog with a backpack sits on the side of a hill, looking out over rolling grassy fields and woodlands A small robin looks for crumbs on a wooden table

The accessible footpaths were not giving us a lot of options north of Falkland, and we took an indirect route to Auchtermuchty via Strathmiglio. We almost had to detour all the way to Dunshalt, but cut through a field instead. On the way into Auchtermuchty we passed through the grounds of a big fancy house, which were very nice. In Auchtermuchty itself, we looked around the high street and old buildings, said hello to friendly locals, and then I stuck my head into the one cafe in town thinking - after the Pillars disappointment - that maybe they'd have one vegan cake, for a treat. A treat! Almost all of the cakes were vegan, and there was a range of about twenty options. They had vegan cream and marshmallows for a hot chocolate, and vegan dog treats (handmade in East Wemyss!). They took a picture of Max doing 'nose' for their facebook page. Even though he was wet and muddy, and slobbered the treat all over the floor, they made him welcome. We stayed for a while, enjoying the fab treats and lovely atmosphere. The cafe - the Old Barn - is also (was originally) a furniture upcycling shop. Definitely recommend if you're in the area.. or even worth going out of the way for.

Floral plates with cake on, besides a cup and saucer and teapot A wooden counter (made from old doors) supports an array of glass domes filled with cakes

Out of Auchtermuchty and into Pitmedden Forest we went. We've been here before, but took a route through the woods which was new; one that skirts around several hills. The woods were full of downed trees from recent storms. Ancient things with huge roots which had hoisted enormous clumps of soil up into the air, and sometimes nearby fences to boot. We camped under the conifers, out of sight of the well-used track. Our longest day, at 17.9 miles.

A dog with a backpack looks up expectantly; he has a pink flower attached to his sleeping roll The base of a fallen tree, taller than two tall people, exposes rocks and mud An evening view across flowering gorse and distant hills

See all photos from day 2.

Day 3: Pitmedden Forest to Balmerino

The next stop was Newburgh, which would signify us finally reaching the banks of the Tay, and the Fife Coastal Path at last. In fact, Newburgh is the very start of the Fife Coastal Path, and I was determined to find the beginning of it. I backed up along the coast until I ran out of signs, but saw nothing of any significance. But later discovered I should have gone inland a bit, for the true start. Maybe next time. Or, close enough.

Panorama under cloudy skies, across fields, woodlands and water

Grassland and some trees beside a body of water A handsome dog looks through a wooden gate, out at the estuary

After Newburgh the coastal path goes inland. On OpenStreetMap it looks like there is a trail running right along the coast, but being somewhat time constrained and not sure exactly how accurate that was, we stuck to the signposted route. I expect to return in future to attempt the very coastal trail though. We passed along the edge of fields with lovely views over the Tay, and regular alternating between drizzly grey and warm blue skies. After Glenduckie we veered from the official path and took a shortcut through the woods alongside Norman's Law. Again, lots of downed trees.

A thin pine tree has fallen across a walking track Fallen trees create precarious archways over a path through the woods Fallen trees have knocked over a sign and completely blocked a woodland entrance

We stopped to look around a very old and overgrown churchyard at Creich. I really wanted to camp closer to the coast, so we pressed on despite being pretty much ready to stop. We finally turned into a narrow strip of trees off the main path, and pitched the tent in a quiet spot, after a total of 14.4 miles.

An old, brown, disintegrating giant puffball mushroom looks like a deflated football on top of a fence post Stone church walls stand but trees grow out where the roof should be, with headstones in the foreground A tired dog has collapsed in a cosy pile of leaves by a tree

See all photos from day 3.

Day 4: Balmerino to Dundee

Almost as soon as we got to the wood that runs along the edge of the Tay we found a far more perfect spot for a campsite. Next time! We lingered over an hour there; Max systematically destroying every one in a giant pile of sticks, and R scouring the beach for agates.

A happy dog is wrestling a stick bigger than himself from an enormous pile of tree branches A happy panting dog stands on the beach with very muddy feet A panorama of a rocky beach backed by trees

Our next stop was Balmerino village, which is super lovely! I'd move there. We looked around the grounds of the Abby, which includes a giant and stunningly gnarly 400 year old chestnut tree.

An enormous gnarled tree twists towarsd the sky, held up by metal poles. There are no obvious facial features, but you feel like it's looking at you. A tree has been uprooted, and there is a sign in front of it that you can't read A sign in front of an uprooted tree mentions that the tree, a walnut, replaced an earlier one that had been blown down.

The path leads shortly to Kirton of Balmerino, and then, after longer than it feels like it should, to Wormit and Woodhaven. The weather continued to change between extremes at short notice. We passed under the rail bridge, and along the beach a way before realising we had only sheer cliffs and crashing waves in front of us; but instead of turning back to find the proper path, we dug through the undergrowth to scramble up and alledgedly disused stairway and through some spiky bushes and over a 5 foot high brick wall, to the road. It was still far to walk, mostly through the town streets, to get to the pedestrian bridge at Newport-on-Tay.

A storm cloud passed over us as we crossed the bridge, and soaked us. The bridge is infinitely long when you're on foot. Max was thoroughly unimpressed by the loud traffic on either side, and positively tore my arm off with the lead, forcing me to walk at a hitherto unforeseen pace to make it to the other side.

Smooth water reflects moody clouds, under a railway bridge A brick and metal arched railway bridge passes over a rocky beach and water A curious dog sniffs a large wooden carving of a seal A very good dog sits beside an old fashioned way marker that reads 'To Pettycur 33, NewInn 20, Cupar 11, Newport 0' A metal bridge looms up at both sides and stretches ahead as far as you can see

At last, Dundee! 12 miles on the final day. The sun promptly came back out. I made a beeline for Rad Apples but found it closed. So we summoned just enough energy to head across town to Loco Rita's, where Max was welcomed despite, once again, being wet and muddy, and we ate great vegan tacos on a comfy sofa.

Then we conked out for the hour and a half bus ride home.

Blue skies over a wet city center with an old turreted building A table spread with dishes of tasty Mexican food and a teapot

See all photos from day 4.

🏷 dundee camping max fife coastal path fife walking hiking life

Post created with