Armchair travelling – St Monans, Fife

One hot afternoon last week we went for a drive along to the East Neuk of Fife, starting at the village of St Monans. Below is a photo of St Monans kirk with some beach explorers in the foreground. If you look closely you should be able to see the ancient sea worn steps that lead up to the church. Presumably in years past some people did sail there to the church service. For many it would have been a lot easier than tackling roads which would have amounted to little more than tracks.

St Monans Kirk, Fife, Scotland

The teazles and geraniums right above the beach were looking great. It’s surprising how much salty atmosphere some plants can put up with.

St Monans flowers , Fife, East Neuk

St Monans flowers , East Neuk, Fife

It was a sparkling day, too hot for us at around 70F, but I still didn’t fancy my chances in the Firth of Forth/North Sea, far too cold without a wet suit on.

St Monans, coast, Firth of Forth, Fife

Further along the coastal path you reach a windmill which was used in the salt making industry which went on by the edge of the water, there are only indentations left in the grass now, all the buildings having been washed away by the sea years ago I suppose.

St Monans Windmill, Fife, East Neuk

There is a rather primitive outdoor swimming pool in the photo below. It has been cleared out recently by some local people as the council had stopped maintaining it, so I was pleased to see that it was actually being used by a brave soul. The straight edge is the swimming pool edge, it’s much longer than the usual length of a swimming pool. I would drown before I reached the far end of it as I’m not a great swimmer!

St Monans rocks and pool , Fife

The rocks above the beach are interesting looking, to me anyway. I need a geologist.

St Monans rocks, Firth of Forth, Fife

St Monans rocks, Fife

As the school holidays have already begun in Scotland there were lots of people about so I didn’t take any photos of the old fishing village of St Monans but if you want to see some images look here.

The only photo I took at the nearby village of Elie was of the ancient doorway below. It’s a pity that the stonework is so worn as I think the carving would have been interesting.

Doorway Elie, Fife

Firth of Forth at Aberdour, Fife

Earlier in the week we drove to the very historic wee coastal village of Aberdour, just for a change of scenery. If you look carefully at the photo below you’ll see there are stone steps which have been cut into the rock years ago, but they have almost been worn away by the daily batterings from the Firth of Forth on its way to the North Sea.

Aberdour Rocks, Fife

I was standing on the beach at Aberdour when I took these photos and if you click to enlarge you will be able to see Arthur’s Seat, the Salisbury Crags and the smaller lump of rock to the right is Edinburgh Castle. In reality you can see it fairly clearly from the Fife side of the Forth.

Firth of Forth, Edinburgh

The large building at the far end of the photo below is a hotel, well it used to be but it may not be now. There were actually a couple of women swimming in the sea, I think they must have had wet suits on though as it’s absolutely freezing and it wouldn’t take long for hypothermia to set in. There weren’t many people around though so it all felt very safe.

Firth of Forth, Aberdour beach, Fife

I should have taken a photo of the houses at the edge of the beach but I didn’t, however you can see them in the background of the photo below of Jack and our friend who had never been to Aberdour before. There are some lovely houses there but they would be very expensive as Aberdour is an easy train journey from Edinburgh.

Maureen & Jack

But Maureen thought that this quaint wee house below on the town’s High Street would just do her fine! Do you ever pick out a favourite house when you visit a new place?

Quaint house, Aberdour, Fife

There are lots of images of Aberdour here.

Seals at Seafield, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Fife

One lovely afternoon last week we drove to the beach at Seafield, part of the Fife Coastal Walk. This cormorant was drying its wings in the sun. The concrete blocks are the remains of some of the World War 2 defences which thankfully were never tested, but you can understand that people would be worried about a Nazi invasion back then.

cormorant , Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth, Fife

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife, Firth of Forth

red rocks, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Firth of Forth

If you click on the photo below you should be able to see the seals that were basking on the rocks. They blend in very well and I didn’t even realise they were there until I heard them mooing.

seals, Firth of Forth, Kirkcaldy, Seafield

There are lots of them on the rocks in the photo below. When we walked past them about ten minutes later some of them were still sticking to their little patch of rock, despite it almost being covered by the rising tide.

seals , Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

I don’t know how people walking on the coastal path could disturb seals, anyway obviously it isn’t a good thing to do as it uses up a lot of their energy if they are frightened off their rocks before they’re ready to swim again.

Do not disturb seals, Seafield, Kirkcaldy

Seals, Seafield, Firth of Forth, Fife

Seals, Firth of Forth, Seafield, Kirkcaldy, Fife

It seems that you’re never very far from a ruin of some sort in Scotland and the one in the photo below is what is left of Seafield Tower which has been ravaged by the North Sea over the years. It’s in a very poor state now, it was built around 1542.

Seafield Tower, Kirkcaldy, Fife

After our wee walk we were too hot to do anything else, such as go to the shops or around the park, but it was nice to have a change of scenery.

Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham, England

It’s a couple of weeks since we were down in County Durham for a few days, one of the places we visited was the town Barnard Castle but we didn’t manage to get into the actual castle because strangely English Heritage had a strict booking policy so despite the fact that we are members of Historic Scotland and would have got free entry – we didn’t manage to get in at all. It’s particularly weird as there were hardly any other visitors and as the castle itself is a ruin it’s all in the open air – hopefully we’ll get in there one day. At least we got some photos and had a walk by the river and around the town.

Barnard Castle,County Durham, castle ruin

The castle looms high above the town as you would expect. Of course it has been in the news recently as the place that Dominic Cummings visited to ‘test his eyesight’ when the rest of us were adhering to a strict lockdown and staying very local!
Barnard Castle,Teesdale, Counry Durham, castle ruin

Barnard Castle stitch, County Durham, castle ruin

The castle was founded in the 12th century and is in a lovely position high above the River Tees as you can see below. I think this is the first time I’ve ever seen the Tees, I love rivers and this one is very scenic in this area anyway and looks unpolluted as far as the naked eye is concerned.

Barnard Castle + Bridge, County Durham, River Tees

You get a good view of the river when standing on the old stone bridge – as you can see.

River Tees, Barnard Castle, County Durham

The town itself is a nice place to visit with interesting looking independent shops – if you’re that way inclined. I only bought a book (surprise surprise) which I got from the Oxfam charity shop.

Balbirnie walk, Fife

Our Saturday afternoon walk took us through the Balbirnie Estate woodland in Fife, which in these pandemic times is much busier than it used to be. There are lots of snowdrops looking their best at the moment and I thought they would be visible in the photos but obviously I need to do a close up of them as even I can hardly see them, and I know where they are!

Balbirnie Park , Fife, Scotland

The path leads to a wooden bridge which is perfect for playing Poohsticks, if you’re that way inclined.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland, woodland

A bit further on there’s a good view of the surrounding park and farmland which was once part of the estate which was owned by the Balfour family. A train dashed across the middle of the scene but I didn’t manage to get it in my photo, it’s behind the trees to the left.
Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

You can see lots more photos of the parkland here. The landscaping of the estate began in 1779, you can read a bit about it here.

Back home in my garden the most colourful spot at the moment is the pot of dwarf Iris reticulata (Joyce). There are some planted directly into the ground but they haven’t appeared yet.
Iris reticulata Joyce

A snowy walk in Fife

garden snow 2

Yesterday we woke up to about five inches of snow which had fallen overnight. The first real snow of the winter, prior to that we had only had sprinklings overnight which only lingered on the grass. I had been able to smell snow for a few nights running earlier in the week, but that must have been on its way to England as unusually they got it before we did. Above is a photo of my back garden.

Balbirnie Snow, Scotland

Balbirnie Snow, Fife, Scotland, trees

The walk for the paper was actually easier than it had been as for weeks on end we had had to walk gingerly on grass that was so icy it resembled an ice floe. I can’t honestly say it was cold either.

Balbirnie Snow, Fife

If you look at the right hand side of the photo below you’ll see some kids having a fine time sledging. There’s not much home schooling going on – and who can blame them, it’ll be the first real snow that these kids have seen in their lives probably.

Balbirnie Snow , Fife

Balbirnie Snow, Fife

It’s a strange sort of snow, I’m sure that if we got lots of snow we would have a special word to describe it but I can only say that it’s soft powdery stuff which is very pretty as it looks like individual snow particles are glistening in the sun instead of it all being lumped together and smooth.

Balbirnie, snow, trees

The Balbirnie estate gates are enhanced by snow, it settles on the stonework of the gateposts. It’s a pity there’s a car parked there otherwise it would look white Christmas card-ish.
Balbirnie Gates, snow, Fife

This morning there was even more snow, we now have about nine inches of the stuff!

Scots Language explained, a little

If you’re interested in Scottish words the video below explains five Scots words in an amusing way, with some nice illustrative scenery.

Courtesy of Visit Scotland

Scotland’s Mountains from the Air and The Finest Mountain Between Heaven and Hell

I feel that things are getting very samey around here, normally I would be able to blog about my travels and visits to what I regard as interesting places but lockdown has scuppered that. While You Tube wandering – not something that I do a lot of – I came across the scenic films below. I hope you enjoy them. You’ll have to click over to You Tube to view the first film. Meanwhile I’m going to trawl through my old photographs to remind myself of where I’ve been before lockdown and haven’t got around to blogging about.

Scotland’s Mountains from the Air

The Finest Mountain Between Heaven and Hell

The film below has some great scenery on it with a couple of kayakers travelling to Knoydart, then climbing a mountain. Armchair travelling is the perfect way to do it – no midges involved.

A Winter Walk

Our usual morning walk for The Guardian has been somewhat fraught this week as each day the ice underfoot just got thicker, smoother and more dangerous. Crampons would have been the best choice of footwear, but not having those we just had to hang onto each other and hope that we didn’t both skid at the same time. Thankfully neither of us fell as obviously a visit to hospital with broken bones would be even more dangerous in these Covid times.

The path across the nearby golf course resembled a bobsleigh run, and we stuck to the safer option of walking on the iced up grass.

Icy Golf Path, Balbirnie

The recently flooded area due to all the heavy rain that we had had was very popular with ice skaters and ice hockey players though, and the sparkling landscape was pretty too, but I’m glad that a thaw is predicted for next week. Apparently the temperature here is set to be around -7 overnight tonight, which is 19.4 Fahrenheit – according to the internet.

Ice Skaters

Ice Skaters, Balbirnie Park

On a similar topic, I’ve really been enjoying a BBC 4 TV programme called Winter Walks. It doesn’t seem to be on You Tube though. In each walk a well known person takes a winter walk in the countryside while holding a small 360 degree camera, this week one of the walks was through the North Yorkshire Moors, there was also a coastal walk in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria in the north of England. They’re all such restful viewing.

Perhaps Winter Walks is also on a channel near you.

Armchair Travelling around Scotland

I must admit that I’ve watched a lot more TV this year than usual due to the various lockdowns, and it has been a good way to see some lovely scenery and note down places to visit in the future when we’re eventually able to get out and about. Or even to re-visit favourite places that we haven’t been allowed to travel to.

I always enjoy Paul Murton’s Scottish tours, the episode below is from Grand Tours of Scottish Islands. I hope you can see it and it isn’t blocked where you are.

Or you might prefer Tales from the Coast with Robson Green in the Outer Hebrides.

Or what about the classic Weir’s Way with Tom in the Orkneys? These films are really old now but still entertaining.

Tom Weir in Edinburgh.

And Tom Weir again at Dumbarton Rock, which is where I used to play when I was wee. This is now quite a historic wee film as the town of Dumbarton has changed so much. The Ballantine’s distillery which can be sen steaming away in the background at times is now long gone. It was the largest brick built building in Europe at one time.

I hope that wherever you are you can see these You Tube films and find them interesting. There are loads of them on You Tube and it’s good to be able to do some research this way before setting out on your own journeys.