FORTH OF NATURE
Walking the path along the overlooked coastline of south Fife
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.