A week on the Fife Coastal Path – Day 3

On Day 3 we woke up in our startlingly comfortable bed and breakfast in Leven and tucked into what was probably the best full Scottish breakfast I’ve had in years. With Lauren’s feet still causing her some issues we decided to take the day easy, booking another night in the B&B and leaving most of our gear behind in the room. The bus service between Elie and Leven is pretty regular, so we’d be able to do a short recovery walk (only about 9 miles) and then bus back to our accommodation. Then the plan for tomorrow was to get the bus back out to Elie and continue from there.

I had absolutely no ulterior motives for wanting to spend another evening in the B&B with a television in the room. None at all.


The day began with a lovely stroll along sandy beaches around the whole of Largo bay lots of carbonate salt marsh wildlife, sand worms and shells to comb the beach for. The weather was a bit wild and overcast, but it was a nice change from the heat and scorching sunburn of the previous two days.

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The navigation on this part was beyond simple of course, although it wasn’t exactly too difficult for the entire walk (“keep the sea on the right”, tends to be an easy thing to remember). Where we ran into difficulty was usually the towns, finding the alleyway marked by a sticker on a lamp post which leads out of town and back onto the path was about the trickiest part. The hardest part of Largo bay was picking the right line on the beach to walk on comfortable sand without sinking.

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Eventually the endless sands ended and we reached Ruddon’s Point and the bustling metropolis of Shell Bay Caravan Site. This immediately brought back deeply traumatic memories from my undergraduate mapping dissertation, and the geology we were walking through started to look terribly familiar. Depressingly, after about 5 minutes of walking through said geology I started to spot all of the places I’d gone wrong during said dissertation. More than a little depressing. Fortunately, I was much cheered by discovering that the caravan site now boasted a rather excellent café, where we spent a good hour. This was also where we ran into pretty much the only other people who we think were doing the whole walk, a pair of German women who’d also been staying in our B&B. They outpaced us after this and we didn’t see anybody else for the whole trip who we thought was walking the whole path. This isn’t to say it’s quiet, the path is filled with day walkers and dog walkers, but backpackers seem to mostly be elsewhere.

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After the caravan site the day gets a lot more interesting, climbing up Kincraig Point above some truly spectacular columnar basalt cliffs. At the base of the cliffs around the wave cut platform is a truly excellent chain walk scramble (sometimes described as Scotland’s via ferrata) which I did a few times during my mapping project. We skipped it on this trip though, as the tide times didn’t really work for us. I highly recommend it if you ever get the opportunity.

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The basalt cliffs themselves are absolutely fantastic, columnar jointing that’s easily as good as Samson’s Ribs in Holyrood Park and (in my opinion) on par with the Giant’s Causeway. If for some reason geology isn’t your thing (pffft, what’s wrong with you?) there’s also some sites for the historian along here. The whole hill was a WW2 defence battery and you can still poke around in the gunnery emplacements, bunkers and old barracks. Well worth a poke around.

The geology of Fife is actually pretty good for a sightseeing trip. The whole thing is pretty much Carboniferous sedimentary sequences of various sorts, ranging the full range of depths from shallow marine limestones right through to coal swamps. In places full cyclothem sequences of deltaic successions repeat along the coastline. If we’d had the time on the first day I’d have liked to visit some of the oil shales found on the south side of the Firth of Forth, as they’re quite interesting from a historic economic geology perspective.

There’s plenty around for the igneous geologist as well of course. In addition to Ruddon’s Point there are several other outcrops of basaltic vents and plugs, tonnes of bedded tuffs around them, and even pillow lavas in a few places (such as around Kinghorn). There’s also a few dykes and sills of varying composition here and there along the coast. It’s not the most spectacular of regions, but it’s a varied and plentiful collection of everything the Carboniferous of Scotland has to offer.

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We finished the day in the Ship Inn in Elie, where we had a surprisingly disappointing fish and chips, before getting the bus back and watching Eurovision. Rested and refreshed we were ready to tackle the rest of the walk.

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