Balbirnie Stone Circle, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Stones board

After visiting so many Neolithic standing stones and cairns when we were in Orkney I thought it was about time I did another short blogpost about the local ones near me in Fife, the Balbirnie Stone Circle.

Balbirnie Stones

I did blog about them donkey’s years ago and of course they don’t change although they now have a new and legible information board. There was evidence of 16 cremation burials as well as a flint knife, a jet button and beads and a complete food container when the area was excavated.

Balbirnie Stones

The powers that be decided to move this stone circle when a nearby road was being upgraded – which is truly sacrilegious, but at least they re-arranged them as they had been originally. They are now 125 metres to the south-east of their original location.

Balbirnie Standing Stones 3

There’s a burn nearby and I presume that that is why people settled in this area over 2,000 years BC. I must admit that I like to think of families living and working here all those years ago.

St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago some friends invited us to spend an afternoon along the coast at Cellardyke, their house is very handy for the beach, in fact it backs onto it, the tide was almost as high as it gets. I just took some photos of a small part of the beach, the North Sea looked lovely and clear, but I suspect that like most other stretches of sea nowadays – it’s full of teeny wee plastic particles.

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

It looks like I must have taken this photograph from a boat but it’s just the angle that the beach takes. I’ve always wondered why the village was called Cellardyke and I’ve just discovered that it’s a corruption of Sil’erdykes as the harbour walls were covered with the drying fishing nets which were covered in silvery fish scales.

You can see more images of Cellardyke here.

We’ll be going back to that area soonish as we plan to take the boat over to the Isle of May (weather permitting) as we’ve never been there before and I dying to get some photos of puffins and whatever other seabirds might be around the place.

Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

An Autumn Walk in Fife

Whether it’s referendum or election results that get you down, you can always rely on nature to brighten your mood, so get out into the great outdoors if you can, and if you can’t then come on a short walk with me.

aTrees 1

Annoyingly you can see my shadow in the one below.

aTrees 2

aTrees 3

aTrees 4

It was when we were coming back from our usual morning walk for the newspaper on a beautiful day last week I wished I had brought the camera with me. But the good tree colour that I wanted to capture before it disappeared was just a short hop from our place, so it was easy to go home and pick up the camera.

The photo below is looking down to the Balbirnie burn, it doesn’t look it but it’s quite far down a steep embankment.

aTrees 9

aTrees 10

In fact these are some of the trees that I often photograph from a spare back bedroom.

aTrees 14 and 15 stitch

There are some old farm buildings nearby.

aTrees 5

aTrees 12

It’s shame you can’t catch the lovely scent of autumn, but I hope the photos blew some of your cobwebs away – if you have any!

aTrees 13

Falkland Palace Gardens

Nowadays we visit the historical village of Falkland almost every week, we like visiting the wee library there and having a chat with the very friendly Sandra who works there – if she’s not too busy. The modern wrought iron gate below is at the entrance to Falkland Palace orchard. Of course it was too early for there to have been any fruit trees blossoming.

Falkland Palace gate

That’s the orchard wall you can see in the background and the trees and daffodils in the photo are in the main part of the palace gardens, it’s a cute wee summerhouse/shelter, obviously modern.

It’s funny to think that Mary Queen of Scots (amongst many others) walked around these gardens getting on for 500 years ago. This is just a wee bit of the gardens, there was nothing much blooming elsewhere, it was that funny time of spring when the crocuses are over and the other flowers are still waiting in the wings.

Falkland 5

The photo below was taken from the orchard and you can see some of the village with one of the Lomond hills beyond. It was quite a cold and slightly misty day, but it’s worthwhile taking a hike up those hills on a clear day, as long as it’s not too windy!
Falkland 8

Largo Beach

Rocks at Largo

One of my favourite local beaches is at Largo Bay in Fife, the photo above is of a rock pool there. I took the photo today, we swithered about going there or going to Falkland Palace for a walk around the gardens there to see what was blooming, but when I had a look at the National Trust ‘ What’s on at Easter’ section I realised that they were having an Easter egg hunt there today. So that was definitely to be avoided as it sounded too much like mayhem to me.

So Largo Bay it was then, it’s a good beach for a walk and has a nice mixture of sand and interesting stones to look at, I find sandy beaches quite boring. They don’t actually drill for oil in the Firth of Forth, these oil rigs are just being floated off to their final destination in the North Sea after having been built fairly close by.

oil rigs

We must have walked further along the beach than usual because neither of us had ever spotted that there was a path above the beach, I just caught a glimpse of this ruined house and climbed up the bank to investigate.

ruins 1

The path was obviously a railway line before Beeching closed down a huge amount of the UK’s railway network in the 1960s. The photo below is of the village of Lower Largo in the distance.

Largo from bay

The fields above the beach have horses and bulls in them, although Jack calls all cattle cows. He is so unobservant! Sadly they are just black bulls, nothing at all exciting like Highland cattle or Belted Galloways.

cattle

The bull below was not in the least impressed by being called a cow though, just as well there was a fence between us!

cattle

My Garden

We’ve been having some decent weather for a change here in Fife. It seemed like we had non stop rain for three months or more, and I really did think that a lot of my plants would have been drowned over the winter, especially as my new garden is mainly heavy clay.

my garden

But by the looks of things just about everything has come through the winter fairly well. I think that within the next few weeks there’ll be quite a difference in the place when all the deciduous shrubs should be in leaf.

my garden

The main thing I want to do this year is finally cut away the last of the turf that I want to get rid of. Then I can concentrate on getting good edges on the flower/shrub beds and then plant some ground cover plants to try to help keep the weeds down. That’s the plan and hope anyway.

Earlier this week I planted some more Dutch iris bulbs, lily bulbs, dwarf daffodils, Alpine wallflowers and some more aubretia.

It’s still a work in progress, like all gardens. It should look good when it all gets going though, the change in our clocks this weekend will give us lots of lovely daylight. Then we’ll just need a bit more warmth!

my garden

Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace in Dunfermline

You know what it’s like – you never seem to get around to visiting the tourist hotspots on your doorstep, which is why it has taken us 35 years or so to get around to visiting the wee cottage that Andrew Carnegie was born in. He was of course famous for having made lots of money and using a lot of it to build libraries, often in deprived areas. He was a huge believer in people educating themselves out of poverty through books.

Andrew Carnegie's Birthplace

Above is a photo of his birthplace, two families lived in this wee building. It’s a weaver’s cottage and the loom always took up the whole of the ground floor.

Carnegie Loom

Students from the local college have rebuilt an old loom on the ground floor, just as it would have been in Carnegie’s day as his father was a weaver.

Carnegie Bed Recess

There are two bed recesses in the room upstairs which the Carnegie family lived in. The box beds are built into the alcoves in the wall. It’s a teeny space, cute looking but imagine what it would be like having a family in such a small space, not much privacy that’s for sure.

Carnegie Bed Recess

Carnegie Room

The other side of the room has the kitchen table and a desk in it, all the living and sleeping and eating done in one room. There’s an old sink at the bottom of the stairs and it has been painted black as you can see below. I doubt if it would have looked like this when it was in use, I think it would have just been plain stone. There’s a tap at the left hand side. This would have been regarded as a modern convenience by Carnegie’s family, I’m sure it wasn’t there when he lived in the cottage as it was one of Andrew’s jobs to get the water from a well.

Andrew Carnegie Sink

Below is a photo of the plaque attached to the wall of the cottage. It’s a stone’s throw from the very first Carnegie library, he was keen to show the folks back home how well he had done for himself. Carnegie spent a lot of time in Scotland over the years and he bought Skibo Castle which remained in the Carnegie family until 1982.

Andrew Carnegie Birthplace

The Carnegie family had a hard life and when things got even worse they contemplated leaving Scotland and going to America in search of a better life. Encouraged by relatives who were already there they left Dunfermline in 1847, Andrew wasn’t keen to go apparently and life was even harder when they got to America, especially as his father died not long after they settled there. But Carnegie made the best of it and although nowadays it’s fashionable to call people like him ‘robber barons’ it’s not something I would agree with.

He had a brilliant business mind and at least he did something useful with his money. Some people have said it was pure vanity which made him give so much money away, building libraries all over the place. I just wish there had been more like him in the past, and nowadays it seems to have been left to Bill and Melinda Gates to be philanthropic.

I learned a lot whilst at the cottage, a large extension has been added on to the cottage to house a museum which tells his story. He was at the battle of Bull Run the first battle of the American Civil War, as an observer. Later on though he was able to pay an Irishman to take his place when he was called up. I think Carnegie paid him $960 to take his place, a huge amount of money then, I don’t know if that chap survived the war though.

It was an interesting afternoon out and if you’re in Dunfermline it’s definitely worth a visit – and it’s free!

The Pilgrim Way at Ceres in Fife

A new long distance walking route is being publicised by Fife Council, I say new but as The Pilgrim Way was used by Catholic pilgrims on their way to St Andrews, long before the Reformation, it’s a very old route.

The Pilgrim Way is 70 miles long, so we just walked a wee bit of it yesterday, from Ceres up the Waterless Road towards Kennoway. You know you sometimes see signs on roads which say – last petrol for 20 miles – well the naming of Waterless Road is the mediaeval equivalent I suppose, a warning to travellers to stock up on water for themselves and animals as there is no drinking water on the route.

Waterless Road

The aconites are poking up through the leaf litter and the area has plenty of snowdrops too. Snowdrops were associated with the virgin Mary so they have probably always been here since the times when this route was used by pilgrims.

Aconite

Just a bit further up the road it’s all fields as you can see, they’re a bit boggy after all the rain. The landscape isn’t that great at the moment, in the summer it looks lovely when you look over in this direction from Hill of Tarvit House.

landscape  in Fife

And the white house in the photo below is Hill of Tarvit House, which you can see in a previous blogpost here if you’re interested.
landscape and Hill of Tarvit House

Then as we didn’t want to walk the five miles to Kennoway we just walked back down the road which leads back to the car park at Ceres, a wee village which has the claim to fame of having the oldest free Highland Games, they’ve had them every year since 1314 (apart from during wartime) when Robert the Bruce gave them a charter allowing them to have the games, in recognition of the village’s support at the Battle of Bannockburn. The photo below is of the field where the games still take place.

Village Green

When the weather is a bit warmer we’ll definitely be walking more of The Pilgrim Way which stretches from Culross to St Andrews, and if you were thinking that going on a pilgrimage was something terribly serious, think again. Pilgrimages were the only time that most ordinary workers could get away from work and home, so they were an exciting time where you were likely to meet strangers, fellow pilgrims and be away from the ever watchful eyes of family, neighbours and friends. Apparently it was common for young women to end up in trouble, having a pilgrimage pregnancy. Poor souls, they didn’t have much fun in life.