Elie to Kilminning Coast Nature Reserve
Friday 6 May 2022
21.42km • 6h (including breaks)
lowest: -2m • highest: 31m • total ascent 656m
There was such a frustratingly long gap between when I walked into Elie with Hannah and when I got back off a bus there to continue this. The original plan had been to go from Elie to Arbroath over 5 days the week before Easter. But two days before I was due to leave, I woke up with the worst cold I’ve had in years. Negative covid tests aside, I was basically isolating for 5 days anyway because I had barely enough energy to walk to the shop, let alone kilometres along the coast with a ton of weight on my back.
So, I had been missing the sea. I also finally had my new tent and was super excited to go use it. But high winds and dogsitting plans and various other things meant I had to wait a few weeks to try again.
Happily, I woke up without the plague this time, and I did some extra walking up to Waverley because I didn’t want to start the day stuck in tram works traffic on Leith Walk. This also meant a bonus coffee on my way to the station. I got on a train to Kirkcaldy around 10, and then because I’d timed my trains badly, I had to wait an hour for the bus to Elie, which took another hour again. I probably should have eaten more than nut butter and energy bars during all this, but I wanted plenty of space for my fish and chips in Anstruther.
I got off the bus on the high street in Elie, bypassed the rather enticing Elie Deli, and walked straight down to the water to pick up the path again. I didn’t even go out to explore the lighthouse because I just wanted to do some actual walking after being on, and waiting for, public transport for the past 3 hours.
What a great bit of path to get back to. There are towns every few miles and interesting rocky shorelines and little beaches. There are tidal swimming pools at St Monans and Pittenweem, both of which were looking very enticing. But I was getting hungrier and hungrier, and the thought of stopping, and pulling out all the swimming bits and faffing around for an hour made me feel a bit meh. So I skipped them for now and added them to the mental list of day road trips to take in the future.
When I got to Anstruther I went straight for The Wee Chippy as I’d been told to by two independent sources, and not the famous fish bar (which I’ve been to before anyway). I was not disappointed. Well. I was disappointed at the amount of vinegar on my fish. They literally used a spray bottle. This should not be allowed! I really should have asked for more. I also should have got the homemade tartare sauce. No matter. It was a damn good piece of fried fish. An incredibly determined seagull stared me down the entire time I was eating, demanding a Sam Cotton voiceover. I tried to take a picture of it when I was done, but it scampered off. Publicity denied.
Then I was immensely full. Like so full I couldn’t even contemplate getting ice cream, which is a bit sad. I sat and recharged my phone a bit longer before moving on. Thank god I’m not a YouTuber – I’d have to carry much bigger batteries.
Cellardyke, towards the east end of Anstruther, was mainly walking along the narrow little street, as the seafront access was in people’s private gardens behind. Then I reunited with the grassy coastline again. There are some cool rock formations at this bit between Anstruther and Crail. There was also a lot of rubbish. Much of which was in very neat piles, which makes me think someone has been collecting it to come pick up later.
I’d love to tell you that while doing all this walking I’ve been thinking about a lot of profound and important things, but the truth is, most of the time I’m singing the same songs over and over to myself in my head. It goes like this: I have a random thought. Phrase in thought reminds me of song lyrics. Song starts playing on a loop in my brain. It, or another random thought, reminds me of another song. And on it goes.
I don’t mind this at all. Sometimes it’s kind of amusing what I come up with. This time, the dominant force was Matthew Wilder’s ‘Break My Stride’ – a song I haven’t heard or even thought of in years. I guess that’s what happens when I tell myself to just keep moving.
Now you can think about this gem of a song too. You’re welcome.
Another big repeat play on this day was ‘I’m Looking Through You’, bouncing back and forth between the Beatles original and The Wallflowers cover. I wish I could remember all the songs that pop up so I could do a big playlist of The Inside of My Head on the Scottish Coast, but it’s not going to happen. I’m just not going to take some kind of note every time a new song appears. That would, quite literally, break my stride. The whole thing is a bit of a meditation. I haven’t had enough extended walking time to settle into Big Thoughts yet, so I think my brain is just trying to find rhythms. I’ll tell you about the ones I remember at the end of the day when I can, but I figured I should at least reveal that most of what’s going on in my head on these walks is music.
Anyway. Coming into Crail there was a path diversion up to the top of the cliff and along a farm field, which was too bad because it meant I didn’t go down to the beach and the harbour. There was also a massive oscillating sprinkler on the field, so I had to stand and wait for it to come round over the path towards me then chase it back down and get out of the way before it turned back. I am not afraid of water, but there is every possibility there are all kinds of chemicals mixed with that water, and I am afraid of that.
Speaking of water, when I got to the high street, my plan was to get my bottles filled somewhere and then buy wine for camp later. I went into the chip shop and asked about the water, which they very kindly provided. Hooray for businesses that refill water! I wish I’d had the appetite to buy some food from them but I was already (still) full of fish and chips, and they had no tiny bottles of wine. So on to the Co-Op for that and an Oreo ice cream sandwich, which I had made a bit of room for by now.
I then walked to the edge of town and through what felt like the longest caravan park on the planet to get to the gate of the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve, which was due to be home for the night.
I was super anxious about this camp spot. Judging from my research, there were very few suitable places to pitch, and it was also so close to town and people. I find it much scarier wild camping so close to civilisation than in the middle of nowhere. Humans can be a lot more terrifying than nature. Most people are lovely and helpful, but I’m just saying that the biggest thing I worry about when camping by myself somewhere like this is not the weather. Obviously I don’t let it stop me, but it can occasionally make for a bad night of sleep.
As expected, there was not a ton of room where the path runs through between the sea and the little cliff, so I had to scope out a few very tiny spaces. I managed to find a spot pretty much the exact size of the footprint of my tent, to the point where my porches were pegged out up and down some rocks on either side. But the middle bit was completely level and soft, which is some kind of miracle! It was also high tide at that point, so luckily I could see I was safely above the waterline.
I was feeling pretty lucky. It was a cracking spot, despite still being in view of a building and in hearing range of whatever motorbike or quad bike stuff going on at the disused airfield nearby. I went to stick my feet in the sea for a bit of relief but didn’t sit there long because, at that level, the midges decided to come hang out too. I really wanted to avoid sitting in a head net all night if at all possible, so I went back up to the tent, which was only about a meter higher off the water. Happily, that was enough to catch the breeze.
I was still pretty full from lunch so the prospect of 600 calories of dehydrated camp meal didn’t really appeal. I decided to save it for breakfast and to eat my breakfast for dinner – a now squashed croissant and some rhubarb compote I’d just made, along with some bacon jerky I’d randomly bought months ago. (I would not recommend the bacon jerky.) I also had that wine! And a packet of olives. Replenishing the salt while enjoying the view. I sat outside the tent and ate stuff and wrote stuff and made myself a cup of tea and stared at the sea. When it started getting dark around 10:30, the motorbikes thankfully decided to quit for the night, and I went into the tent to read before attempting to go to sleep. I was just short of Fife Ness, which I could see from where I was camping. The next day I’d be looking at a new coastline and a new bit of sea.