Walk­ing the path along the over­looked coast­line of south Fife

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS -

DAT­ING back to 1450, this is one of the most charm­ing har­bours in Scot­land, of­fer­ing a unique in­sight into our past as an am­bi­tious and pros­per­ous sea­far­ing na­tion. You can cer­tainly un­der­stand why the mak­ers of the hit TV show Out­lander jumped at the chance to use this evoca­tive Fife beauty spot as the ideal back­drop for Ja­co­bite-era time travel ca­pers.

Jump for­ward to 2017 on an over­cast sum­mer’s day, and fish­ing and plea­sure boats bob gen­tly in the har­bour. Above, seag­ulls swoop over the beau­ti­ful stone cot­tages that have a Dutch feel about them, hark­ing back to a time when Scot­land did vast amounts of trade with the Low Coun­tries. The mag­nif­i­cent Har­bour­mas­ter’s House, which has sur­veyed the scene for nearly 300 years, looks on sto­ically.

Fol­low­ing this de­scrip­tion, non-Fifers will prob­a­bly as­sume I am in one of the pretty East Neuk fish­ing vil­lages – Crail, Cel­lardyke, An­struther or St Mo­nans – that adorn much of the king­dom’s tourist ma­te­rial and draw vis­i­tors from around the world. Fifers, how­ever, will know I’m ac­tu­ally in Dysart, on the far less pros­per­ous, far less well-known south Fife coast. Just along the seafront sits Kirk­caldy, and if I look north past the We­myss vil­lages I can see Buck­haven and Methil.

These names once held a proud place in Scot­land’s in­dus­trial story, but since the coal mines and as­so­ci­ated trades that de­fined them were closed in the 1980s they have strug­gled to find a role in the postin­dus­trial world, and are largely for­got­ten in the na­tional con­scious­ness. More of which later. For now, I’m dis­cov­er­ing – redis­cov­er­ing – a part of Scot­land that seems to have all but dropped off the radar for many peo­ple, walk­ing the Fife Coastal Path from Kirk­caldy to Buck­haven.

I know this part of Fife pretty well.

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