Day 5 started with an adrenaline rush.
I was roused from a deep and refreshing slumber by the barking of a very yappy dog running around off the leash by an owner who presumably wasn’t expecting to run into two walkers sleeping two metres off the path (I fully accept that this wasn’t the best place to camp, but Fife repeatedly left us with no real alternative option). After my heart rate recovered we decided that 7am was as good a time as any to pack up and get started, not least because we were both hungry and could probably do with a few minutes on a porcelain throne somewhere.
Unfortunately for us we were now in one of the remoter parts of the walk and were going to struggle to find anywhere. We munched on a couple of cereal bars and set our sights on a nearby golf course (never a long walk away in Fife) and hoped that the restaurant in their clubhouse would be amenable to serving members of the public rather than just members.
They were not. Turned away at the door we instead continued along the coast. This was particularly dispiriting as at this point the walk started to get a lot less fun. Fife is absolutely infested with golf courses, the whole of lowland Scotland is to be perfectly honest. Up until now this had only affected us occasionally as we were routed around them along decent paths or, as in the case at Elie along nice sandy beaches. Here however the coast is exposed to the full wrath of the North Sea, with longshore drift rapidly stripping away all of the nice sand elsewhere. The beaches (where they exist at all) are rocky, sea weed covered and largely impassable. Meanwhile, almost every inch of the raised beaches along the coast have been exploited by golf course owners. This means that along this stretch of the coast walkers are forced to meander along a narrow strip of rough between the golf course and the beach. Being forced into this narrow strip means that the walk is a lot less pleasant, you have to really focus on where you’re putting your feet because the path is about 6 inches wide and there’s a steep drop off onto the beach on your right. Meanwhile on your left are a bunch of old men scowling at you for moving around in their eye-line whilst they whack a ball around. A ball which feels like it might drop on your head at any moment. The route itself becomes pretty horrible as well, confined to that narrow strip it becomes fractally winding as you go round each individual bay and headland along the coast. After we eventually got past Balcomie Golf Links (and their exclusive clubhouse, not that I’m bitter), we only had a brief respite before hitting Kingsbarns Golf Links. It’s safe to say that we weren’t feeling great about the walk. Views of endless greens, bunkers and clubhouses are not really what the outdoors is all about for me.
After a winding detour through several holes of the latter golf course we dropped down suddenly into a surprisingly beautiful little gorge which was bursting with vibrant forest life and filled with the smell of wild garlic. A babbling burn and some welcome shade made us very tempted to stay a while in the trees before moving on through the golf course but then we saw it. A sign for something called Cambo Country House and Estate, promising a walled garden and, far more importantly, a café. Unable to fight the siren call of a more substantial feed and a brew, we were drawn inexorably upstream into the estate proper.
The restored stables with their charming little cafe and gift shop, beautiful surrounding gardens and woodland, and very friendly staff were an absolute highlight of the day – brightening our mood from our grumpy morning trudge around golf courses.
We lingered here for a very long time, perhaps too long. I’d completely seized up and Lauren’s blisters were continuing to give her serious issues. Between our physical tiredness and the truly uninspiring walking we’d had on this day we weren’t looking forward to an afternoon repeat of our golf course traverses. The guidebook wasn’t massively complimentary of this part of the route either, advising that the upcoming sections were “the roughest of the whole route and should be walked only at low tide.”
Having now listed off a series of self serving justifications to each other we decided to catch the bus into St. Andrews and skip that section of the walk (probably about 6-8 miles) and have a bit of a recovery afternoon off. Completists might quibble with us about skipping sections (and remember we also changed the start), but to be perfectly honest I don’t see the point in slavish devotion to the “official” route anyway – it’s not like we were going for a record attempt or anything. This also gave us the opportunity to poke around Cambo a little more, encountering their pigs (below) and their little sculpture trail of fairy houses and wood carvings.
St. Andrews was a nice break from the walk, affording us the opportunity to get settled in a Premier Inn, have a bath, and enjoy some of the comforts of civilisation. This included such delights as a trip to Pizza Express, a paddle in the ocean (below), and a trip to the (surprsingly rather good) St. Andrews Aquarium. I’ve never spent much time in St. Andrews before as it maddeningly isn’t located on a train line, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. I’d definitely consider using it as a base for a future visit to Fife.