Fife Coastal Path: Anstruther to Elie with an angel

9-14-15:   I believe there are angels among us…  ~Alabama

Yes, so many times when we may be tempted to take a wrong turn down a difficult path, someone appears to help us find our way. Today was no different.

The cold rain is drizzling down on us as we shuffle our way along the muddy path. We approach a coastal church with high tide up to the gated cemetery in front with no easy path around. The sign points to the high tide path which goes away from the coast and is quite long, but we decide that is our best option. Out of nowhere and in the rain, an older woman appears and stops us from taking our chosen path. No, that path is a muddy mess with all this rain and very long. Take these steps up and go around the front of the church, inside the cemetery and go over the stone fence. That will connect to the path directly on the other side of the church.

Anst-1110590We also find the church open for viewing and take refuge from the rain for a while. Coincidence?  I think not. Thank you, Angel lady!

Anst-1110609I believe this structure may be the remains of Lady’s Tower built for Lady Jane Anstruther in the latter part of the 18th century and was used as a bathing house for her. She was a naturist and from this point she was able to enter the bay below without being seen by the local residents of Elie. ~ longdistancewalks.org

Anst-1110663After arriving back at Anstruther, we walk uptown for a rewarding pint and supper. According to this sign there is no need for a babysitter if parents need a night out!!

Anst-1110680rThe evening views in Anstruther are spectacular as we consume our hot, crispy fish & chips. We try NOT to feed the birds as instructed!

Anst-1110688rThe evening walk after fish & chips includes a visit with this gregarious Scottish fisherman. Mackerel are the fruits of his labors today which will be sold to area restaurants.

Anst-1110707rOur B & B includes a nip of sherry for a nightcap and a decadent chocolate treat. Ah-h-h-h…  Sweet dreams as we rest our weary bones for the bus trip to Edinburgh tomorrow.

Below is a YouTube link to a short video of our adventures today.

 

 

 

Fife Coastal Path: Crail to Anstruther, Scotland

9-13-2015: We hop on a bus in St. Andrews…

Crail-1110352… and get off in the quaint village of Crail, Scotland along the East Neuk of Fife.
Crail-1110349It’s a cloudy morning and the world is slowly waking up to ready itself for the day.

Crail-1110413The path follows the East Neuk of Fife with Neuk being the old Scots word for corner. The path is well marked and follows the coast along the former Kingdom of Fife. Our views are spectacular with the sea to our left and farm country with livestock on our right.

Crail-1110473Memorial flowers lead one to speculate… what happened?

Crail-1110512Interesting plaque in Anstruther. The Dreel burn divides east and west Anstruther and the song tells how in ancient times Maggie Lauder carried King James IV over it to keep his feet dry.

Crail-1110506We enjoy a beverage with the locals at the old Dreel Tavern. Sadly, it appears as though the Dreel Tavern has become a victim of the times and is now closed for business. Click on the Fife Today link for a little info on the current status of this historic pub filled with a unique ambience and character along with an interesting clientele. Visiting with the locals always seems to make travel experiences more memorable.

Below is a short video featuring our views along the Fife Coastal Path:

 

 

 

Harbour Hostel in Cullen, Scotland

September 8, 2015:

We follow the directions from the Cullen, Scotland bus stop to our hostel for tonight:  Harbour HostelCullen-1100733ecrNice and roomy and we are delighted to find ourselves the lone occupants of this 16 bed hostel.

Cullen-1110031The kitchen is supplied with a stove, dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator and more…

A-h-h-h… Let’s stay two nights.

Cullen-1110186Day two finds us gaining a roommate.  Meet Bill Nickson Sr., an ex-international professional cyclist with many notable victories in his career, including the overall in the Milk Race (Britain’s most prestigious stage race) and the British National Road Race championships. He also rode and completed the Tour de France. In 1981 he started Bill Nickson Cycles in Leyland, England and his son runs the business now.  He biked into Cullen from the train station (I think, 30 miles away) and is touring the area on bicycle. What a wonderful gentleman!

Cullen-1100736ecrView of the sea from our hostel.

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Elvis’ roots are also in this region and, fate would have it, the hostel has an “old school” record player and at the top of the pile of records is Elvis’ Greatest HitsO.K., let’s stay here a third night.

 

West Highland Way: Glencoe Mountain to Kinlochleven

September 4, 2015: We pack up and leave our cozy hobbit house at Glencoe Mountain Resort to diligently start down the trail finding the air chilly, but the weather generally pleasant.WHW_Day7-1100155eSeems as though we are in the middle of nowhere and here appears The Kings House, which is thought to be one of Scotland’s oldest licensed inns, originally built in the 17th century. It is called the King’s House because British troops were lodged here following the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Coffee, please!WHW_Day7-1100195eThe challenge today will be the Devil’s Staircase which was named by General Wade’s road building soldiers who were lugging materials up and down it all day. ~ Wikipedia

WHW_Day7-1100218eIt’s a long hike with several switchbacks, but really not a terribly strenuous hike so far.

WHW_Day7-1100224We finally reach the top and the views are spectacular today with clear skies all around.

WHW_Day7-1100230ecrThe Love Rock comes out of my pocket for a little fresh air and is perched on a cairn at the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

WHW_Day7-1100288eBlackwater Hostel is named after the Blackwater Reservoir and is our home for the night after a little more than ten mile hike.  Nice drying room and kitchen with dorm type rooms containing cozy bunk beds. From a camping perspective, the name does not sound desirable to me since waste water is called black water. It’s not the case here, though.

WHW_Day7-1100293eSign on the side of the hostel warns dog owners to keep their poop in a group or the Paw Patrol will take action.

WHW_Day7-1100284eWe find ourselves at the Tail Race Inn at the end of the day to take advantage of their advertised special prices on meals. All eyes are NOT on us as Scotland is playing Georgia for the Euro 2016 soccer qualifier and local patrons are glued to the TV screen. FYI ~ Scotland lost.

Video below shows highlights from day seven. I was able to video the Grand Canyon Girls as they skipped across a stepping stone bridge. We have observed that they are like mountain goats when it comes to rock scrambling. One has hiked down and up the Grand Canyon nine times and the other has hiked the Grand Canyon five times. They are a couple of tough hikers with strong legs and determination.

West Highland Way: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy

September 2, 2015:

We make our way to The Green Welly Stop  in Tyndrum, Scotland to pick up snacks for the short 7 mile hike from Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy.  I am quite sure that the hikers doing the long twenty-mile walk today are long gone and quite a distance down the trail.

WHW_5-1090816eSurprise! We are delighted to see Scottish friends, Thomas and Allan, just outside the shop. We get in some last-minute chatting and bid them farewell again with best wishes for the remainder of the hike. Sure going to miss those guys…

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According to Google, Tioraidh is a greeting similar to Cheerio in Gaelic. Not sure why it appears on this stone monument.

WHW_5-1090821eRandy is striking up a lively conversation with young Leon towering over him at nearly seven feet. Not surprising that he is a basketball player from Holland.
WHW_5-1090896eScottish mother/son hiking together and going for a long twenty-mile hike today.  We have quite a bit in common since they are also farmers and the mother does daycare for her grandchildren.

WHW_5-1090912eIt’s about time I bring out the Love Rock.  This rock was given to me by a woman camping in the Black Hills of South Dakota and I’ve been carrying it with me on this journey. Click on the Love Rock link for more background information on this heart touching story.
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We enjoy the company of Laura, from Germany, who has just finished her master’s degree and is celebrating by hiking the West Highland Way. I feel as though we are celebrating along with her through this experience.

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The path isn’t too bad today as this is the only rocky, hilly section with uneven footing.

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Sheep creep under the railroad.

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Someone did not watch their step and found a monster sized cow pie. (Wasn’t anyone in our group).

Much of the route today follows a military road. In the years after the 1715 Jacobite uprising the government put a huge amount of effort into building roads and bridges over the length and breadth of the Highlands. Previously, drove routes had existed to move cattle to the lowland markets. This bout of road building was intended to provide a means of moving troops quickly around the interior to suppress rebellion. Those rowdy, high-spirited clans, right? They built some 1200 miles of road and 700 bridges in the years from 1725 and 1767.  ~Undiscovered Scotland.co.ukWHW_5-1090936e

We are tickled to see our Northern Ireland/Ukrainian friends, Michael and Stacy  catching up with us as we near Bridge of Orchy.

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Bridge of Orchy Hotel looks  a little like the background of a Harry Potter movie. We eat our dinner about 2:30 p.m. in the hotel bar while we wait for our room. Since we didn’t sleep that well in the hobbit house last night, we are weary and feel like napping.

It’s time to check in and they inform us that we have been upgraded to a cottage (Our own bathroom/shower, no less!) at no extra charge. Yippee!!  It seems as though two people were in need of a room and they figured the three of us would fare better in the cottage while the couple took the smaller hotel room. Little did we know it was Michael and Stacy who decided to try to get a room instead of waiting the rest of the afternoon for the hostel to open up. (I think they felt in need of a nap, as well.) Thank you!

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From the back door of our cottage, we can easily see the Bridge of Orchy which spans over the River Orchy and dates back to 1751 .

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Our lodging is very posh, it’s cold and rainy outside, so we really want to stay inside where it’s nice and warm.

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I mix some dehydrated peanut butter powder with water, slather it on a prepackaged (doughy?) baguette and we have supper.  Yum?

Laundry is drying, we’ve had hot showers and we are sipping hot tea which means a cozy night in luxury. Z-Z-Z-Z…

Below is today’s video:

 

West Highland Way: Drovers Inn to Tyndrum

September 1, 2015

WHW_4-1090643eThe air is still, so the midges (small gnat like flies common along the West Highland Way) are out in full force this morning and we see Joan sporting her stylish midge netting. Many years ago we would wrap netting around our heads similar to this as protection from mosquitoes, gnats and deer flies when hoeing weeds out of the soybean fields.

WHW_4-1090743eThe plan is to hike 13 miles today through the area of Crianlarich Hills, which are a large group of mountains in Scotland.

WHW_4-1090672eIt’s tricky ducking down through the sheep creep while wearing a full backpack.

WHW_4-1090753eWe pass by the ruins of St Fillan’s Priory, which is a small monastery or nunnery that is governed by a prior or prioress. It is from the 13th century and associated with Robert the Bruce.WHW_4-1090761eAcross the path is a graveyard dating back to the 8th century.

WHW_4-1090783eThis is a bench commemorating the battle of Dal Righ, or ‘King’s Field’ where Robert the Bruce was defeated by English troops in 1306.WHW_4-1090807eHome sweet home tonight is this cute little hobbit house at Tyndrum By the Way Campground.

WHW_4-1090812eQuite cozy and we have a microwave and coffee pot. What more could one need?
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We end our day at the Tyndrum Inn and meet up with several of our hiking friends with fun conversation peppering the air. Now we must bid a sad farewell to our current path mates since we are opting for a shorter hike tomorrow, while they are planning on hiking about 20 miles. Hugs all around and I feel a little tear in my eye as if saying a goodbye that is probably forever. We do hope they take advantage of our invitation to visit and stay with us at our farm on the Minnesota/South Dakota border. Randy and I may even whip up a batch of Rocky Mountain Oysters to go up against their haggis!

Following is a video of our adventures today:

West Highland Way: Rowardennan to Drovers Inn

August 31, 2015WHW_Day3-1090515e

A nice, bright morning to start our day as we leave Rowardennan Youth Hostel. Great breakfast, friendly hikers and slept like a rock, so all is right with the world.

westhighlandway3-mapToday we plan on hiking 14 miles from Rowardennan to Drovers Inn located at Inverarnan.

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The arrow reminds us of the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain.WHW_Day3-1090544e

Quick snapshot of the WHW Gang.  We always look forward to seeing Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan due to their friendly smiles and fun trail banter covering a wide range of topics. The two on the left carrying heavy camping gear started at the West Highland Way trail beginning sign in Milngavie at the same time as us, so we often see them as they pass us, they stop for breaks so we catch up and pass them and so on…

WHW_Day3-1090557eLove locks bridge meets Scotland… One of the tent campers we frequently greet is on the other side doing deep knee bends with her heavy pack on.  Now that’s impressive!

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We find a picnic table in front of the Inversnaid Hotel and pull our lunch out. I mix powdered peanut butter with water, spread on bread and we have sandwiches and top the meal off with energy bars for dessert. Easy peasy…

Public bathrooms were torn down the year before, but the hotel is very gracious to hikers and allow us to use their facilities and fill our water bottles.

We see two hikers with backpacks going up the hill from the Inversnaid Hotel parking lot and assume this is our path, too.  After hiking up the hill and around the bend, Randy comments that there haven’t been any trail markers and something just doesn’t seem right. Back down we go and, sure enough, the missed trail marker is on the other side of the parking lot. Extra credit of about one mile.WHW_Day3-1090585e

This section of the trail is described in the book, Walking in Scotland:  “The path twists and turns around large boulders and tree roots, a good test of balance and agility.”  They weren’t kidding…WHW_Day3-1090549e

We cross stream after stream when we aren’t scrambling rocks and it seems to take forever to leave Loch Lomond. There are wild ferrel goats in this section that elude us today, but we do hear the loudspeaker from a boat cruise as it comes in close to view Rob Roy’s cave since this is where the famous outlaw allegedly held his captives.

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We are still hiking well into the evening and darkness is inevitable.  We didn’t plan to be hiking this late, but the path has been extremely slow going. This would be particularly challenging in the dark and we didn’t bring any flashlights/torches. (Just a cell phone flashlight). Note to self: Always bring a head torch when hiking even if you think you won’t need it.

We finally get to the Beinglas Farm campground and the little bit of daylight left immediately vanishes and we are enveloped in darkness with our lodging located just over the bridge.  We cross the bridge only to find a massive gate has locked us out. The gate automatically closes off the bridge at night, but has malfunctioned and closed earlier at 9:00 p.m. Great… guess we’ll just sleep on the bridge. The video below has a short clip of a man opening the bridge gate and you can see how dark it really is. The campground authorities are notified and the gate is opened. Yay! It’s 9:30 and we are tired, hungry and ready to have this day completed.

We stroll up to Drovers Inn and notice familiar faces peering out of the bar window. Mandy, Karen, Thomas and Allan come rushing out with excited relief that we are not lost in the woods. The ghost of Drovers’ Inn must have played tricks with my camera as I thought I was turning the video on and was actually turning it off.  Thus, the clip is short, but you can hear Mandy exclaiming about how worried they were. To say we were touched by their concern is an understatement. Thank you for the legendary welcome to Drovers Inn!

Song credit:  The Henry Girls digital download purchased from Amazon. The Henry Girls are three immensely talented sisters from Donegal, Ireland. Check them out at thehenrygirls.com and discover their soothing harmonies and instrumental talents. Thank you to Charlie Roth for bringing their talents to my attention.

Now, what’s all this fuss about ghosts?