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Cliff Walks


West Bay with the village in the background.


The Croupie Rock with the 13th. green below.


For many years my feet helped to make this pathway

The 200 foot high cliffs at Kincraig begin at the west end of Earlsferry's West Bay.  The cliffs provide two spectacular walks.  One, quite close to the edge, goes along the top of the cliffs.  The other goes around the base of the cliffs.

The upper walk starts by a pathway that leads upwards from the 14th tee on the golf course.  On the way up the path goes by the Croupie Rock and ends at Shell Bay.  On top of the Croupie Rock was one of my favourite vantage points to lay and watch the movement of all the many ships that plied the waters of the Firth of Forth, including the might and power of the British Navy.  Along the way wild flowers of many, many kinds grow in profusion including bluebells and cowslips.

During WW2 in anticipation of whatever invasion plans that Hitler might have had our military fortified the cliffs at Earlsferry by installing three large caliber naval guns at the highest vantage point. Lookout observation posts were built into the side of the cliffs and were manned 24 hours a day by the 258th Battery, 505 Coastal Regiment.  At several locations on the cliffs and the golf course, high powered searchlights and anti aircraft guns were installed.

Atop the cliffs stood Kincraig Mansion House, the seat of the Gourlays.  Gourlays have been in possession of and lived at Kincraig for well over 600 years.  The first of the family came to Kincraig during the reign of King William the Lion. It was a sad day when wreckers arrived, demolished the house then cleared the site.

From the top of the cliffs and on a clear day the 360 degree views are breathtaking.  Over the villages of Earlsferry and Elie one sees Elie Harbour, Elie Lighthouse, the Lady's Tower, and the coastline villages of the East Neuk of Fife and the May Island.  To the south and across the Firth of Forth is Dunbar, North Berwick, the Bass Rock and Fidra Island, thence further west along the south coastline is Leith, Edinburgh with its castle and Arthur's Seat.  Continuing on the eye sees the Lomond Hills, Largo Law, Largo, Largo Bay, Ruddons Point, and Shell Bay.  Largo is the home of Alexander Selkirk.  Daniel Defoe using the experiences ofAlexander Selkirk as his inspiration wrote his famous book of fiction,Robinson Crusoe.  It's also accepted that Robert Louis Stevenson used the experiences of Alexander Selkirk to write his well known book, Treasure Island. 

When the tide is out an exciting walk for the intrepid is to go around the base of the cliffs by way of the chain walk.  Foot steps are cut into the rock and a series of chains help one to hang on in order to traverse the ups and downs of the route.  It's an exciting and interesting scramble.  Along the way seagulls and a great variety of seabird species can be seen close up as they glide on the thermals to land on the inaccessible ledges where they have their nests.  For the geologist the variety of rock types and formations are a gourmet feast. 

The path goes between the rock in the grass at the right center and the larger rock to it's left.

 Up on the west facing side of the larger rock is Chairlie's Chair.

Starting the walk from the Earlsferry end and at the west end of West Bay the first point of interest is the Stickleback Dub, a pool of brackish water that's home to a colony of sticklebacks. The dub is about half rain water and half sea water. The dub is above the high tide mark but at the full of the moon a few waves from the highest of the tides manage to spill over the rocks to keep the dub filled with salty water. Sticklebacks are interesting little fish in that they can live in either fresh or salt water. Males build and attach nests to the seaweed in the pool then change color to blue and red to attract the females who deposit eggs into the nests. 

Immediately next is an outcropping of rock that on its upper level is "Chairlie's Chair", a natural weather carved throne.  Those who scramble up to sit on the throne acquire lifelong membership into "The Ancient Order of the Ferry." 

Further along is Macduff's Cave, where tradition has it that Macduff, the Thane of Fife, when fleeing from Macbeth hid in the cave while at Earlsferry, a boat was being readied for him to make his escape across to the south side of the Firth of Forth.  Supposedly this is how and when Earlsferry acquired its name.

Next is an interesting small bay named, the Stottin Stanes.  Here the shoreline at the base of the cliffs is covered with sea rounded and polished stanes that rumble as each wavelet washes them to and fro.  This shifting of the stanes writes the sea's symphony as each wavelet creates an ever changing  melodious rumbling. 

The Stottin Stanes

Next comes some interesting columnar vertically upthrust rock . If you're a geologist this formation will give you much to conjecture. Next is a relatively level place of volcanic trap that's composed of black basalt called the Flairs that ends abruptly at the seas edge. If you're a fisherman the Flairs is a great place to sit on the edge of the rocks as you cast a baited hook into the sea. In my days of fishing there I've caught many fine codlings and good sized flounders. While thus engaged I've seen big salmon swim by within a few feet of me. 

Next are two more caves, the Doos Cave and the Deil's Cave.  The Doos, so named for the great number of cushie doos (pigeons) that claim this cave as their home.  Did the devil live in the Deils?   At high tide the sea washes into these caves. 

The Deil's Cave

It takes several minutes for the eyes to adjust as one explores the inner depths of the caves. There are stories of old that these caves were used by smugglers. There was also the story that at one time the caves were connected by tunnels that led up to Kincraig House that sat on top of the cliffs.

Near the west end of the cliff walk is a very interesting large chunk of red granite, a one of a kind red object that is sitting in an area that is composed entirely of black rock. Maybe more than a million years ago this boulder was dropped from an ice-age glacier that melted and deposited it there at the time when ice covered and flowed over the land. Now by being continuously chipped  away by people to get pieces as curiosities the boulder's size today is less than half what it was than when I was a boy. In a few years at the present rate that it's being diminished it will no longer exist.

The walk ends at a series of ancient tiered (raised) beaches.

One day my friend Jems, Jimmy Linton, and I climbed the cliffs from the bottom to the top.  Jems was ahead of me and made it to the top without incident. As I neared the top I got stuck on a sloping,  narrow and crumbling ledge. With both hands I was hanging on to the rocks above me and I couldn't move my one foot past the other. For the longest time I could move neither forward nor backward, nor down nor up.  One false move and it was down, straight down. Had I slipped it would have been curtains.  Such are the lives of boys.

Kincraig Cliffs & Macduffs Cave  West Bay

Vertical Climb  Horizontal Climb
My Nephew, Tom in Chairlie's Chair Climbing the Chain

Photos courtesy of Albert Lawrie, "Alberto"