An Autumn Walk

Just over a week ago we were in Aberdeenshire, visiting Fyvie Castle and remarking on how hot it was for the time of year. It turned out that it was 18 celsius at Fyvie and I know that because that night the weather man on the BBC said that Fyvie Castle had been the hottest part of Britain that day – amazing for late October. Just a week later and back home in Fife we had our first frost of the season. There was a time when we used to have a proper autumn which lasted for weeks but those days seem to have gone.

Anyway on one of my recent autumn walks I took some photos of the surroundings on the edges of the Balbirnie estate, get your flat shoes on and come with me!
path south

I’d like to know who put this hill here, it’s just a wee bit too steep to be enjoyable, until you get used to it!
hill near Balbirnie, Fife

Phew – we’ve reached the top and it’s downhill for a while now.
looking south from hill
So called civilisation with a road in the background, but the cars don’t seem to bother the horses in the field which you should be able to see – just.
horses

If you look carefully below you should be able to see an orange and black beetle, near the centre of the photo below, it’s a Burying beetle, that’s only the second one that I’ve seen and I saw my first one just a month previously as it was in the act of burying a shrew’s carcass – life must go on I suppose, for the beetle anyway.

Burying beetle

path west
Through some trees.
woodland path
In the winter the ground here is usually really boggy, it doesn’t help that mountain bikers use it too.
woodland path

woodland path

Back on to the gravel path, there’s a busy road to the left of this path but trees and a stone wall hides the traffic. You might think that it looks like the photos were taken on different days as the sky goes from bright blue to whitish grey – but that’s our constantly changing weather!

gravel path south
The berries below are on Viburnums or Guelder rose.
Viburnum berries

They’re so bright and shiny they almost look like plastic.

Viburnum berries

I love the roots of the tree below, look closely and you’ll be able to see a short blue nylon rope hanging from the left of the tree. Local kids are obviously using it as a rope swing and you can also see that they’ve been making stepping stones over the burn. I’ve never seen anyone playing there but I’m so happy that kids are still doing things like that and aren’t always glued to some electronic gadget.
tree roots

I also love the fact that people have been working and living around this area for thousands of years, well about 5,000 years anyway, and below is the evidence they left behind in the shape of standing stones and burial areas.

standing stones 2

Well, that should have burned off a few calories, so it’s a good excuse to put the kettle on, put your feet up and have some tea/coffee and biscuits. That’s what I did next anyway.

St Monans Windmill and coast in Fife, Scotland

Pittenweem from St Monans Windmill 1

One lovely Sunday in August we went to a local craft/food fair along the coast at St Monans and then took a walk along part of the Fife coastal walk. I took the photo of the village of Pittenweem above from the old windmill at St Monans, which is below. It has been fairly recently refurbished but you don’t seem to be able to get into it.
Windmill
The tide was just about as high as it gets, but there weren’t many boats around, just one yacht and a small fishing boat laying creels/lobster pots.
Rocks  + Yacht

We sat for a while on these beautifully sea worn rocks, watching the patterns of the ripples and waves.
Rocks and Sea
From the windmill you can look down on the remains of the salt pans below. It was quite a complicated and time consuming business. No wonder people were described as being ‘worth their salt’.
Salt Pans

Salt Pans at St Monans

Salt Pan Information Board

Salt Pan Information Board

Below is a photo of the windmill with the old fishing village of St Monans in the background. It’s famous for having a ‘squinty’ harbour wall. You can see images of the village here.
Windmill and St Monans

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!

Cellardyke

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Bowhouse craft and food/drink fair near St Monans in the east neuk of Fife. They are a fairly regular occurrence, no-doubt a product of farmers having to diversify nowadays as the venue is a group of barns. Anyway, we had a nice time there and bought a few things. It’s a fair trek from where we live though so as it was a lovely afternoon we decided to drive on a couple of miles along to through the coastal fishing villages and ended up at Cellardyke. Below is a photo of the Firth of Forth with the Isle of May in the distance. It’s a haven for birdlife of course.

Isle of May

There are some really old houses, some of them are quite pretty I think and they seem to stand up to the icy blast of the North Sea well, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

Old House

I’ve been told that the ground floor of these houses used to be used just to store the fishing gear, which would make sense as I suspect the sea comes in to visit them now and again, so I would much rather have my living quarters upstairs.

Old House

If you walk along to the end of the village and go up to the war memorial you are high enough to get a good view of the rooftops and sea.

Houses and Sea, Cellardyke

The houses on the left hand of this street back onto the sea, this photo was taken on an earlier visit, when we went there to see the local art exhibition. The red balloons in the distance mean that that house has artworks on view and for sale.

Cellardyke

And below is the view from behind those houses. The big pole is one of only a couple that are left now, they were for hanging the fishing nets on in the olden days, so they are historic really. I find them quite obtrusive but people seem to like them.
Cellardyke
But the place to hang your washing/laundry is at the harbour as you can see from the photo below. These washing lines are well used by the locals although if it blows too hard your washing is likely to end up in Norway!
washing

Lastly a close up of Isle of May. We had intended taking a boat trip to this island, mainly to see the puffins, but so far we haven’t made it. It takes a couple of hours to get there. Last year we really didn’t fancy being stuck out on a boat in what seemed to be endless rain last so-called summer. This year we didn’t fancy getting roasted by the sun on the trip, not that I’m complaining.

Isle of May

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland part 2

Although the address of the Backhouse Rossie Estate is given as Collessie it’s actually on the road to Auchtermuchty. In the past the estate was famous for daffodils, something to remember in the spring as I’m sure they’ll have a good show of them.
Information Board, Backhouse Rossie Estate
I have to say that I was most impressed with the design and planting at Backhouse Rossie. I love walled gardens, they always feel so comfortable and safe and although I adore historical places I was pleased to see that there are some beautiful modern and thoughtful designs incorporated in the gardens.

The display of plants in pots is a similar idea to the Auricula ‘theatres’ that were popular in the past, especially with the French Huguenots who came to Britain in the 16th century to escape persecution from the French Catholics.

Wall and pots

The ‘DNA’ path below leads to a modern sculpture.
DNA Path

DNA Sculpture

DNA Sculpture info board
The DNA Path from the side, as you can see climbing roses have been trained over the path, but we were just too late to catch them in bloom. This year the roses have come and gone very quickly due to the unusual hot weather. I live in hope of another flush of blooms soon though.
DNA path

Below is an old gateway leading out of the walled garden.
gate to walled garden

It was such a sunny, hot day that I really needed a bit of a sit down, but all of the benches were in bright sunshine, so after looking around all of the garden areas we decided to have a walk in the surrounding woodland.
We walked there via the orchard and the apples have a decent crop on them this year.

apple tree

Somewhere in woodland there was an old tomb to visit, and I can rarely resist a ruin. So we followed the path to the tomb.

Covenanter's Tomb

As you can see there’s not much left of it now. You can read about the Covenanters here.

Covenanter's Tomb

Covenanter's Tomb

The estate is surrounded by farmland and these young bullocks were interested to see us emerging from the woodland. Actually they were very placid, which is not my usual experience of bullocks, so perhaps these ones have been ‘done’.
bullocks

There’s a wee putting green which is nicely situated with a good view of the East Lomond hill in the distance.
lawn and East Lomond

That’s more or less the view that the owners must have from their house below, but that isn’t open to the public.
Backhouse Rossie House

If you’re interested in gardening, or just having lovely walks and a change of scenery then this is a lovely place to visit. You can read more about it here.

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland

The day after we inadvertently visited the lovely wee village of Collessie we managed to find Backhouse Rossie Estate. It was a gloriously sunny day, but dare I say it – too hot! The gardens are wonderful, the only downside being that we were there just after the climbing roses had finished, I must remember to go earlier next year. The estate is actually on the road to the small town of Auchtermuchty – yes that IS a real place name.
a Backhouse Rossie Estate,entrance + planters

As you can see, there’s woodland beyond the walled garden. We did go for a walk there, mainly to get into some shade.
flowers , Backhouse Rossie Estate

flowers , Backhouse Rossie, Estate, Fife

flowers,  Backhouse Rossie Estate

flowers , Backhouse Rossie Estate, Fife

This fountain is one of the more traditional water features.
fountain, Backhouse Rossie Estate, Fife
There’s a rill leading to a pond.
rill and pond

You can’t really see it in the photo below but the rill is filled by the water which bubbles up from this stylish sculpture.
rill source

The photo below is of the East Lomond hill, a view over the garden fence, not a bad setting for an estate.
East Lomond and fields from estate

I took lots of photos so there’ll probably be a couple more blogposts about this lovely estate garden.

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.

A country walk in Fife – part 2

I hope you’ve had a nice wee rest after that last walk in Fife. It’s time to get back to the last third of it which will bring us back to the small town of Markinch in Fife.

We’re going gently downhill now and on the right hand side of the path there’s a wooded area with piles of large stones, all moss covered now but it seems that this used to be a mill which has been overtaken by nature since it became disused years and years ago.

mossy stones
The mill stream is still running though, although I would call it a burn as we’re in Scotland. I love running water and can’t resist stopping and having a good look for any wildlife there might be around in it.

a burn in Fife
As we walked around in a big loop I suppose the farmland in the background must be the other side of the fields that we saw earlier, or not that far from them anyway.
a burn in Fife

But it seems that wherever you are in Scotland you’re never very far from a flock of sheep! Apparently years ago there was a large house in this area but it was demolished and only the smaller buildings have been left standing.
sheep

If you look carefully you’ll be able to see the walled garden which belonged to the large house though. In the photo they don’t look that tall but they must be at least ten feet high I think. I’m now wondering if it has also been totally abandoned or if a nearby small house has taken it over. It’s all so Secret Garden-ish and I’d love a look around inside those walls.
Braes Loan, walled garden

As you can see we’re now nearly back at Markinch where we began this walk, you can see the spire of the 12th century church (St Drostan’s) in the distance.
Braes Loan, Markinch
By the time we reached the town I was glad that we had parked the car there as the long walk back on what was for us a hot day would have been too much to contemplate. That was a very gentle walk, just 2.5 miles and no doubt we’ll be taking longer ones this summer – weather permitting.
Markinch, Braes Loan

I hope you enjoyed stretching your legs a wee bit!

A country walk in Fife, Scotland

Come on, it’s time to get some fresh air and go on our first springtime walk of the year. This place is called Braes Loan and it’s a walk we hadn’t done before. Just 2.5 miles long I think – so easy peasy! It begins in Markinch and loops up and around part of the town ending very close to where the walk began.

Braes Loan, Markinch

The narrow lane above is quite steep as you would expect from a place called ‘brae’ – it’s Scots for hill, and it isn’t long before you get to farmland with views of the much higher Lomond Hills in the background.

Farmland and Lomond Hills in Fife

I took these photos on Saturday the 23rd of April, it was probably the warmest day we’ve had this year, not that it got any warmer than about 60 F, but it was still a very pleasant change from our long cold winter weather. How do you feel about wind turbines? Some people hate them, including a certain POTUS who is miffed that some are going to be visible from one of his Scottish golf courses, but I like them, in the distance anyway. It’s the golf courses that blight the landscape in my opinion, certainly in Fife (the home of golf) where we have just far too many of them!

Fife farmland

The view on the left hand side of the path is of woodland, and I like these old stone steps that lead to another path through the woods, we’ll take that path another day.

Braes loan in Fife

Onwards and upwards, the trees will not be quite so bare now, nearly three weeks since I took these photos.

Braes Loan path

But the celandines were happily showing their cheery wee faces in the sunshine.
celandines

There’s some kind of crop beginning to grow in this field, I’ll have to go back later in the year to find out what it is. In the distance you can see the small and historic town of Markinch.
Markinch in Fife

As you can see we’re still walking uphill, although it does even out from time to time so it’s not a relentless hike up. It seems to me that no matter what the month is in Scotland you’ll be able to find gorse or ‘whins’ as it’s called in Scotland in bloom, it fairly brightens the place.

Braes Loan, Fife, whins

I think the photo below was taken more or less at the highest point of the walk. It’s a bit hazy but in the distance you can see the River Forth which is several miles away. Surprisingly there are a few lonely scattered houses in this area and they obviously want electricity, hence the annoying wires in the photo – how very dare they!

Fife, River Forth, Scotland

Suddenly we reached a road and more or less flat land where there were a few horses looking for some human company. The small village in the distance goes by the poetic name of Star of Markinch and at one point the author Annie S. Swan lived here with her husband.

Star of Markinch

I don’t speak ‘horse’ and when they amble up to me it seems to me they always have something in mind, I find it a bit alarming. I just end up stroking their noses tentatively, while looking out for flashing teeth getting too close for my comfort!
horses

I’ve got a fair idea though that as I backed away from them they were saying – Oi! Come back, what – no apples? What was that all about then! There’s no doubt about it, horses find me disappointing.
horses , Fife

We’re about two thirds of the way through the walk now but we’ll take a break now and finish it off another day. If this is your first country walk for a while you’ll be needing a break. I hope you enjoyed this breath of fresh Fife air as much as I did!

St Rule’s Tower and St Andrews Cathedral, Fife

The photo below is of St Andrews Cathedral ruins and St Rule’s tower, they look quite small in this photo for some reason, they are in fact large and quite imposing – for ruins.

St Andrews Cathedral ruins and St Rule's tower
Going up the spiral stairs is an interesting experience involving metal stairs first before you get to the old stone spiral ones. There are apparently 156 steps and I’m just really glad that we didn’t meet anyone coming down as we were going up, they’re very narrow and trying to get past strangers could be quite embarrassing!

St Rule's  spiral stairs

You can get more of an idea from the photo below of how the underside of the stairs looks.
St Rule's  spiral staircase underside

I think most of us spend time visiting far afield places before getting around to seeing nearby tourist attractions. That’s the reason it has taken us about 40 years to get up St Rule’s tower which is in St Andrews Cathedral’s grounds, and I have to say that half-way up the narrow spiral staircase I wished we had tackled it at least 20 years ago as I thought I was never going to get to the top! But it was worth it to get the view which is great even on a dull day.
From St Rule's  at St Andrews
The famous Old Course is over towards the right in the distance of the above photo and to the left in the photo below.

St Andrews From St Rule's

From the other side of the tower you get a view of the harbour.

From St Rule's

The cathedral was badly damaged during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms as the English Civil War is more correctly described nowadays, but if you have a good imagination you can see that it must have been quite some place in its day. Below is a view of what’s left of the Chapter House and some stone coffins, in those days they chiselled out the shape of a body as you can see, an awful lot of work for the stonemason, it seems they didn’t want the body moving out of position.

Chapter house coffin

The view of the town of St Andrews that you get from the top of the tower is probably clearer than you would have got in medieval times, certainly in winter when all of the chimneys would have been belching out smoke. There were only two chimneys doing that when I took the photo but they were making plenty of pollution.
From St Rule's, St Andrews view

You have to be fairly fit to make the climb up the tower!