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Showing posts from April, 2017

The Garden of Cosmic Speculation

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The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is only open for one day each year, but if the sun's shining and you're in the area you should make every effort to visit this unusual, quirky work of landscape art. Graceful landforms, sculptures, bridges and gardens celebrating the universe, nature and the senses are waiting to be explored, only slightly marred by hundreds of others doing the same thing. Some of it gets quite technical (the Quark Walk gets you up to speed with the Standard Model of Elementary Particles, for example), many parts are fun for kids (with curving mounds, bridges and walkways including the Snake and Snail Mounds and the Comet Bridge), while other areas are simply beautiful gardens in the more conventional sense (such as the Linear Paradise Garden). It's all spread over 30 acres of picturesque Dumfriesshire countryside bordering the River Nith, and is the brainchild of American landscape designer Charles Jencks; he also created aspects of Jupiter Artland near E…

Methil Heritage Centre

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Methil Heritage Centre is one of a handful of small museums scattered along Fife's post-industrial south coast. The displays inside are smarter than the slightly unpromising exterior of the building suggests, outlining the growth of Levenmouth (the name given to the conurbation made up of Buckhaven, Methil and Leven) through the centuries and the fortunes and fates of its main industries: primarily fishing and coal mining. The museum also includes a small gallery, displaying coal mining art when we were there.


Name: Methil Heritage Centre★★☆☆☆
Location: High Street, Methil, G.R.: NT 374996 / violin played civil
Open (2017): Tuesday to Thursday & Saturday
Cost: Free

Kirkcaldy

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Kirkcaldy vies with Dunfermline for the title of the largest town in the Kingdom of Fife. Like many of the coastal settlements on Fife's south coast, Kirkcaldy's historical growth came from fishing, coal mining and salt production. These were followed by something more unusual: the manufacture of lino(leum), popular as a floor covering until a few decades ago. These industries have all now declined but the long, winding high street (with plenty of scope for shopping) remains, giving the place its nickname: the "Lang Toun". There's further interest to the north-east. Following the underused esplanade in this direction reaches a cluster of sites to visit, dotted through old villages now swallowed up by Kirkcaldy. In the area known as Pathhead, Ravenscraig Castle is an unexpectedly substantial clifftop ruin; a little further on is the old fishing village of Dysart.


Name: Kirkcaldy ★★★☆☆
Location (High Street): G.R.: NT 280914 / lame photos palm
Anything else? Central …

Buckhaven Museum

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Buckhaven now appears to be an quiet, unremarkable coastal village, consisting of a lot of modern housing and not much tourist appeal. The small museum housed above the village library reveals that this wasn't always the case: by 1831, Scotland's second largest fishing fleet was based here before coal mining took over in the 1860's. Old pictures inside the museum show off a beautiful local beach; sadly, this was ruined by coal waste which also silted up the now non-existent harbour.


Name: Buckhaven Museum★★☆☆☆
Location: College Street, Buckhaven, G.R.: NT 360982 / bills even sudden
Open (2017): Tuesday & Thursday to Saturday
Cost: Free

Macduff's Castle

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Macduff's Castle is one of Scotland's more obscure ruins, named after the family who originally owned the land here. Set on cliffs above the wonderful Wemyss Caves and overlooking the Firth of Forth, it's easily reached by a short walk along the coast path from East Wemyss village. The castle was built by the Wemyss family in the 14th century following the burning of an earlier construction, and had two towers joined by a gatehouse range. Only the south-west tower has survived the wrath of the local council, who (apparently) demolished other parts of the property after somebody fell from it.


Name: Macduff's Castle ★☆☆☆☆
Location: East side of East Wemyss, G.R.: NT 344971 / feasted official cracks
Open: Always
Cost: Free
Anything else? Park on the seafront at G.R.: NT 342969 / audit catch overlooks. From here it's a 10-min walk to the castle on a good path with steps, passing the entrances to some of the Wemyss Caves.

Wemyss Caves

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The clue is in the name of the local village, East Wemyss: "Wemyss" is derived from the Gaelic uamh - or cave. Strung along the coast to the east of the village are a series of sandstone caves. They'd be interesting to explore in their own right, but what sets them apart is their wealth of ancient carvings. The Bronze Age, Pictish and Viking periods are all represented (as well as additions from more recent visitors which act as red herrings), making up a fascinating section of coastline. Macduff's Castle is easy to visit on the same trip, and an unusually low tide made for excellent rock pooling when we were there. The usual precautions should probably be taken if entering the caves, such as wearing a hard hat and telling someone where you're going, but many people probably don't bother. Most of the caves aren't particularly deep so a torch isn't essential, though having one makes finding the carvings more straightforward. Scroll down for a brief gu…

Walk: Boozy Beinn Bhuidhe

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A Munro with a brewery at the bottom? Sounds like a dream come true. Fyne Ales Brewery is perfectly positioned at the head of Loch Fyne for a sneaky tour (check in advance) or pint at the start or end of this circuit taking in Beinn Bhuidhe, a remote Munro just outside the western boundary of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. A long, flat walk along Glen Fyne followed by a well-worn hill path has probably been the most popular route for decades; there are wonderful views alongside Allt na Faing and on the final summit ridge, but it's slow, steep going with rocky ground to negotiate further down. More recently a hydro track has appeared, snaking its way to about the 600 metre mark. It makes an easy alternative route (which we suggest using in descent, when legs are weary) at the expense of scenery: it's a truly hideous scar on the landscape, "designed" with seemingly no regard for the hillside it's been carved out of. Things improve temporarily before …

Fife Folk Museum

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Farming is everywhere in Fife, so perhaps it's not surprising that the county has an excellent museum dedicated to the region's rural history, housed in a former tolbooth and 19th century weaving cottages in the middle of Ceres. Er, where? Ceres is a village not far from Cupar - it's an attractive place but not really on Fife's main road network, which could explain why the Fife Folk Museum isn't better known. A colourful collection of gardening and agricultural equipment strung along Craighall Burn welcomes you to the museum, with a fascinating assortment of objects spread across several (small) levels and buildings. Upon entry we were each given a woven tag emblazoned with the name of one of Ceres' former residents, with displays at regular intervals allowing us to follow the life of our chosen citizen as we moved around the building - a nice, innovative touch.


Name: Fife Folk Museum★★★☆☆
Location: High Street, Ceres, G.R.: NO 400115 / swaps exploring civic
Ope…

Cupar

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Cupar is Fife's former capital, an important crossroads and former market town set on the River Eden. This is no garden of paradise though. The town has a firmly down-to-earth feel - probably a useful hub for local residents, but tourists are probably better off heading to nearby St Andrews or Falkland. Meanwhile, Cupar just about scrapes its way onto this blog by virtue of a pleasantly bustling main street (Crossgate), striking yellow council buildings and a handful of more interesting attractions in the wider area.


Name: Cupar ★☆☆☆☆
Location (Crossgate): G.R.: NO 375146 / defend noisy storybook


Nearby

>> see separate post for Hill of Tarvit★★★☆☆ (2 miles away)
>> see separate post for Fife Folk Museum★★★☆☆ (3 miles away)
>> see separate post for Scotstarvit Tower★★☆☆☆ (3 miles away)

Walk: East Lomond - fun for Fife!

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Sorry if you disagree, but walking among the flatlands of Fife is often a bit boring unless you're on the coast. East Lomond is a notable exception: a bare domed summit looming large above Falkland village from which you can see most of the county. The steep, forested sides are quickly defeated by dozens of steps on the way up, but returning through Maspie Den takes the fun factor to another level. This glen, hidden on approach, has a real Highland feel with rocky sides, a tumbling burn with waterfalls (including one you can walk behind)... even a tunnel cut out of the valley side by wealthy estate owners in bygone decades. The fact that the walk starts and finishes in one of Scotland's prettiest villages is a convenient bonus.


Name: Walk: East Lomond - fun for Fife! ★★★★☆
Length: 7 km / 4 miles
Ascent: 380 metres
Main summits: East Lomond (434 metres, sub-2000')
Points of interest: Falkland & village sights; Maspie Den & waterfall
Start / finish: Street parking on Cros…

Falkland Palace

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Falkland Palace is the crowning glory of the attractive village of Falkland. Backing onto extensive gardens containing Britain's oldest Real Tennis court, it's well worth adding to the history shortlist. The palace was built in the early 1500's by King James IV and V as a "pleasure palace" and soon became a favourite country retreat for the Stuart kings. The Marquess of Bute restored parts of the buildings in the late 1800's following decades of disrepair, resulting in an interesting mix of grandeur and ruin.


Name: Falkland Palace★★★★☆
Location: East Port, Falkland village centre, G.R.: NO 254075 / focal ballroom spectacle
Open (2017): Daily, March to October
Cost (2017): £12.50 (adults), £9 (children), free for National Trust for Scotland members

Falkland

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Falkland is one of the most picturesque inland villages in Scotland, designated the first conservation village in the country and even featuring as a rural WWII settlement in TV drama Outlander. Narrow cobbled streets wind away from the main street, with a number of independent shops clustered around the central fountain and village square. The historic highlight is Falkland Palace, a former country home to the Stuart monarchs with interesting gardens. The village sits beneath the shady northern slopes of the Lomond Hills in central Fife, with excellent walks starting right from the centre.


Name: Falkland ★★★☆☆
Location: G.R.: NO 253074 / thinker oath adventure


Within walking distance

>> see separate post for Falkland Palace★★★★☆
>> see separate post for Walk: East Lomond - fun for Fife!★★★★☆

Innerleithen

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Tucked into the folds of surrounding hills at the confluence of two rivers, Innerleithen has a pleasant setting but doesn't look particularly interesting from the main road. The settlement was once an important textile town as well as a health spa destination, but nearby Peebles has more recently taken the lion's share of shops and services. Fortunately for Innerleithen, its former importance and the local landscape have bestowed it with a decent range of visitor attractions. Top of the list now has to be the fabulous mountain biking (with a local trailhead as well as 7stanes Glentress a few miles up the road)... ah, so that explains the number of cyclists hanging around. Opportunities for walks in the the surrounding hills and glens are excellent, with wonderful views from the tops. Rainy day? There's the old spa-turned-museum, a Victorian printworks and even Scotland's oldest inhabited house to explore. And we couldn't omit to mention Caldwell's - the fabulo…

Walk: In-ner Leithen Water

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This short circuit explores both sides of the Leithen Water, the burn after which the village of Innerleithen is named. The outward path leads through leafy natural woodland with the river close by on the right hand side... in fact so close that the path could be impassable if the burn's in spate. On the left there are plenty of well-kept gardens to peer into. Returning to the start is by way of a higher-level route, with excellent views of Lee Pen before the path plunges into thick forestry. An excellent and largely non-taxing walk - just watch your step for that riverside start. You wouldn't want to fall In-ner-Leithen...


Name: Walk: In-ner Leithen Water ★★★☆☆
Length: 4 km / 2 miles
Ascent: 70 metres
Points of interest: Innerleithen; Leithen Water
Start / finish: Street parking on Leithen Road, north side of Innerleithen, G.R.: NT 333372 / bookings keep heat

Route: Start & Innerleithen - follow road north to Kirklands - path along west bank of Leithen Water - weir & B709 …

Walk: Beeline for Lee Pen

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A number of small summits jostle for space in the immediate vicinity of Innerleithen. Perfect for mountain biking - for which the village is well known - but it's a great destination for walking too. To the north-west is Lee Pen: a shapely peak by Borders standards, just breaching the 500-metre contour line. With a direct path to the top, set off mid-morning and you should be safely back at Innerleithen in time for lunch.


Name: Walk:Beeline for Lee Pen ★★★☆☆
Length: 5 km / 3 miles
Ascent: 340 metres
Main summits: Lee Pen (502 metres)
Points of interest: Innerleithen & town sights
Start / finish: Car park on St Ronan's Terrace, Innerleithen, G.R.: NT 329367 / bikes junction parading

Route: Start - Chapman's Well - Kirklands Hill - Lee Pen - return by outward route
Terrain: Residential streets to start, then tarmac track (with path alternative) onto ridge. Fairly clear, grassy paths through fields beyond with steep final ascent to summit.
Wildlife today: A bat fluttering around …