Leuchars to Dundee
Thursday 16 June 2022
27.16km • 7h 20min (including breaks)
lowest: -2m • highest: 52m • total ascent 255m
We have some catching up to do.
I went on my longest walk yet in June. When I came home, I roasted another half an animal with Team Pig (a sheep this time), and then the virus finally got me, so I did a whole lot of nothing. Since then I’ve pretty much been in a Covid hangover state, but I can’t put this off any longer or my detailed memory will go out the window.
The plan was to go from Leuchars to Aberdeen over 7 days – although I ended up coming home after 5 days, which we’ll get to eventually. This time, I did a LighterPack to help with the inevitable gear shakedown I’d want to do after days of carrying it all. You can also see it here.
It’s nearly comprehensive, but there are a few little bits I didn’t manage to get on there. More analysis of what’s to be improved in a later post, but for now, I will say that at around 11.5kg (25lb), my base weight was lower than I expected. But it’s still not light enough for 25+k days.
I got quite a late start, A: because I didn’t want to make myself get up super early and miss a decent sleep, and B: because I discovered if I waited for the LNER train that comes from London and goes to Aberdeen, it costs less to get a first class ticket to Leuchars than it does to get standard class on Scotrail. First class means free breakfast and a bigger seat. I’m in. Free bacon roll and coffee and some cookies for later. I had double coffee this morning because I felt the occasion warranted it.
On the way up to the station, the guy who made my coffee at Artisan Roast asked if I was camping when I told him what I was doing, and I said yes, but staying with friends the first night, because it’s hard to camp in Dundee. He said that’s the first and probably last time he’ll ever hear that sentence.
I have actually done most of this walk before about 8 years ago when I walked Leuchars to Tayport with a friend, so I mostly knew what to expect. The first bit out of Leuchars is getting around Leuchars Station, which used to be RAF Leuchars, providing terrifying, low-flying wakeup calls for people standing on the platform at the station when jets were taking off and landing. It was handed over to the Army in 2015 though so, no more planes.
After that, you walk through a bunch of fields until you get to the forest track that goes through Tentsmuir. It’s about 8k from the railway station to the beach. It’s kind of a road walk, but a really quiet one, so it’s not too bad. It was cloudy and a bit sticky, but at least I didn’t have to worry about glare. I did douse myself in sunscreen before I left the station.
One of the many things I learned on this 5-day walk was, if you’re wondering if you should put more sunscreen on, you should definitely put more sunscreen on. In fact, even if you’re not wondering. Just put more on. I am generally pretty good at keeping myself protected but it’s really, really hard to do when you’re outside literally all day, often with very little cover. Such a weak, pale human I am.
I ate my lunch in the Tentsmuir parking area and headed to the beach where I took off my shoes and walked in the water most of the way up. A few seals popped up pretty early on to keep an eye on me and followed me all the way up the beach. About 20 minutes into this bit, I spotted the rain coming in from the west like a wall, so I did my first quick shift to rain mode. I kept my feet in the sea for most of it though. It was still warm.
I was maybe halfway up the beach when it stopped again and I hadn’t seen anyone for a while, so I stopped to have a chat with the seals. I noticed someone walking up from the south who, when I spotted, my initial thought was, ‘why are they wearing tan overalls?’ I went up the beach to sit and de-raingear because it was getting too hot. The next time I looked up the guy was much closer and I intended to wave and say hello but then I realised he was naked, which makes the casual hello a bit odd. Tan overalls indeed. He didn’t say anything so I just got on with packing my stuff away and let him pass.
Once he’d disappeared up the beach, I walked the rest of the way up towards the point and stopped to have another chat with the seals, who had called all their friends over to join the party. I’ve never seen so many so close all at once! It was great.
After I finished conversing with the locals, I headed back over the dunes to the forest path where there were a bunch of trees down, so there was a bit of picking over trunks and things. I was nearing the next parking area at this point so was very surprised when our pal the naked walker passed me again. Wordlessly, once more. I had already seen there were dog walkers headed out from the opposite direction. When they got to me about 5 minutes later they said hello and the woman was like, ‘did you see that guy?!’ almost as if she was worried she was imagining things. I confirmed her vision, but I’d have certainly expected him to be dressed again by now.
Soon after that I came out of the woods and the sun had come back out, which made the water lovely to look at, but it was hot and the sun was low enough that a hat didn’t help to keep it out of my eyes much. Sometime after Tayport, the path went under the trees for a while, but other than that it started to become a bit of a hot road slog.
The Tay Road Bridge was in sight, and I kept thinking once I got to the bridge it was nothing. But the walkway on the Tay is in the middle of the traffic lanes, so it’s very loud, and it feels like it goes on FOREVER. We looked it up later to see if it was longer than the Forth Road Bridge, but it’s actually shorter (Forth – 2.51km, Tay – 2.25km). I think the Forth bridge is so much more pleasant to walk over that it doesn’t feel nearly as long, but on the Tay, I started singing ‘this is the bridge that never ends’, which no one could have heard me doing anyway because of the immense traffic noise, so at least I didn’t look too mad. It’s too bad really because the views are very nice, there’s just a bunch of traffic in the way.
Anyway, at the other side, I was like, ‘hooray, I’m finally in Dundee!’ Except now I had to walk up the hill to Mo and Erin’s house. Of course I knew there was a hill, but I think I had blocked out the memory of just how intense it is. If you look at the route profile for this walk in OS maps, I go from sea level to 52m in a little over 1k. At the end of a 27k day. But I did know there were pals at the top, with dogs and cats and food and a shower and a bed. This is very good motivation.
When I arrived, I had a glass of juice and a delightful shower, then we ordered pizza and I gave the dogs some scratches and Morag used me as a willing guinea pig for a new mezcal pineapple cocktail she was trying for the dinner party they were having the next day. It’s very nice to be taken care of and then allowed to disappear to bed at 10pm due to total exhaustion. I fell asleep before I could finish writing notes about the day.