Nature on the Fife Coastal Path – Section 5

A nature walk from Anstruther to Cambo Estate

Time to get back to nature on the Fife Coastal Path!  Skies were a little greyer than of late when we set out on our walk from Anstruther to Cambo Estate via Crail and Fife Ness.  As we’re usually staying at Sandcastle Cottage when we walk in this area, we haven’t ever walked this section in one go before.  We’d started by parking in Anstruther and having a coffee at the local’s favourite: Coast Coffee, where there was much hilarity going on, and a few spots of rain as we sat outside.  We were assured that the entertainment was free!  Having managed to keep labradoodle Alfie from devouring our bacon rolls, we were all set for a day’s walking and reasoned that if we were soaked by the time we reached Crail we could always catch the bus back. You can see from the photograph that the skies were low at this point and we could just make out Berwick Law in the distance as we looked back towards Cellardyke.

View of Cellardyke

The first clue I had that nature and our feathered friends were going to turn out to the the focus of our walk was when I was lucky enough to spot 4 baby swallows sitting on a gate by the path towards Caiplie.  It’s a delight to see them fluttering around, but you don’t often get the opportunity to see them sitting still.

juvenile swallows

Lots more twittering as we continued along the path and caught sight of a flock of goldfinches, which was indeed a special treat.  I don’t think I’d ever seen so many flying together before.

flock of goldfinches

We were able to identify them as I caught sight of them sitting perched on a barbed wire fence by the path.  You can just see one male here with the characteristic red face, the others are females or young ones.

autumn goldfinches

A little further on we managed to capture some video footage and a few distant shots of them feeding on the thistle seed, which you can find on our Facebook Page if you’d like to take a look (and maybe follow us there too!)

goldfinches feeding on thistles

A little further along there was a wheatear sitting on the rocks by the shore, providing a fine profile. We’d noticed Wild Crail commenting that there were lots about at the moment, and on my return from our walk I also saw that the Isle of May bird observatory were writing about their migration.

wheatear caiplie

The caves at Caiplie were looking very colourful and just a bit spooky as we passed.

caiplie caves colour

Just after we passed Caiplie we met the local owner of The Golf Hotel in Crail, so we stopped a while to chat and hear news of business as, like him, we’re always interested to find out how people are finding accommodation in Crail and which websites are popular for booking. He mentioned that he’d been welcoming lots of walkers passing through the village, and providing facilities every day for their refreshment.  As we were talking I spotted a heron on the rocks.

grey heron fife coastal path

As we neared Crail and spotted the signs for refreshments in the village we also saw another flock of goldfinches (or maybe the earlier ones were following us), again feeding on the wildflowers which had gone over to seed.

binoculars fife coastal path crail

I took some time here to notice bees, insects and butterflies sheltering in this warm spot – including this Painted Lady on a cornflower.  Beautiful.

painted lady crail fife

We reached Crail around 1 pm, having set off from Anstruther about 11, but I had of course been stopping lots en route to take photographs, video and appreciate the sights and sounds surrounding us on our walk.

Crail Harbour on Fife Coastal Path

At the top of the path there were some huge sunflowers looking very welcoming as we arrived in Crail.

welcome 2crail sunflowers

We’d packed a picnic (sorry Golf Hotel, we’ll know the next time!), and found a favourite bench overlooking Roome Bay to stop and enjoy the wide open views as well as spotting another grey heron fishing in the shallows as the tide started to come in over the rocky bay.

heron roome bay crail

Having started from Anstruther unsure whether we were going to get a soaking, we were pleased to find that the weather had cleared enough by the time we reached Crail to allow us to continue with our plan to walk on to Cambo or Kingsbarns.  We paused at the top of the slope down to Sauchope Links to look back over Roome Bay where we could just see the roof of Sandcastle Cottage at the top of the path from the Crail Doo’cot.

Roome Bay Crail

We’d spotted a couple of kestrels along the way hovering above the meadows beside the path, but just before we got to Kilminning Nature Reserve we saw this one perched on a fence post.

kestrel on post

Between Kilminning and Fife Ness, we were surprised to see a very large bird sitting on the rocks.  It was like nothing we’d ever seen before, so I focused in and we debated as we walked what it could possibly be.

young gannet webbed feet

It didn’t move very easily around on the rocks, and we wondered if perhaps it was ill.  It resembled an over-stuffed goose (we thought), or had we discovered some thought-to-be extinct species?

juvenile gannet on rock

On our return home, we did some searching around and still were none the wiser, so consulted the birding oracle that is Will Cresswell, who only took minutes to reply that it was of course a juvenile gannet, which he’d written about this week on the Wild Crail blog.  We’d spotted plenty of gannets flying further out to sea at Fife Ness, and perhaps might be forgiven for not immediately recognising this for the young of such graceful birds.

gannets in flight fife

At Fife Ness we were fortunate to see another wheatear perched on the rocks, with such beautiful colouring.

wheater on rock

Rounding Fife Ness we skirted the edge of Balcomie Links where it was very busy with visiting golf parties, but we managed to avoid the golf balls and saw in the distance a grey seal or two swimming just off the coast.

grey seal fife coastal path

Balcomie beach was also notable for a few wading birds, such as this sanderling at the water’s edge.

Sanderling at Balcomie Bay

As the tide had been coming in as we walked, we were a little anxious that we’d reach the part of the walk at around mile 70 where the Footprint map warns that “At high tide please wait until tide recedes and path is clear.”  Fortunately, we were there probably around 30 minutes before high tide and were just able to sneak along at the base of the cliffs at this point.  We reached Kingsbarns Golf Links and decided that we had probably done enough for the day, particularly as we still had to walk inland to find the A917 and the bus home.  As we’ve an annual pass for Cambo Gardens, we opted to walk through the woods and up the driveway at Cambo Estate, passing my favourite tree on the estate on the way.  The robot lawnmower was working away on the lawn in front of it, which was a new sight for us, as it seemed to be following a zig-zag pattern over the lawn rather than making it stripey.

cedar at cambo

By the end of our nature walk we’d walked around 11 miles: from Anstruther (mile 61) to Cambo (mile 71) and then another mile or more inland to catch the 95 bus outside the gates at Cambo Estate.  We arrived in time to catch the bus just after 5 pm, from an 11 am start, so not fast, but we’d really enjoyed the sights and sounds of the wild life on the way.

If you’d like to stay at Sandcastle Cottage in Crail, just check availability by putting start dates (breaks start on Mondays or Fridays) into the ‘book now’ box to find a quote and proceed to our booking form.  We hope you’ll enjoy walking along the Fife Coastal Path, and let us know what you spot!

Read more about Nature around Crail and the East Neuk of Fife

About Crail has a weekly newsletter which you can subscribe to, which contains Will Cresswell’s column “Wild Crail” (or follow the link to read on-line).

The Isle of May blog is good for finding out more about bird movements over the island as migrants come and go.

The Isle of May Bird Observatory has records of birds visiting the island too.

Fife Bird Club has lists of sightings around Fife and useful photographs to aid identification

Scottish Ornithologists Club – Fife Branch

Caves at Caiplie on Wikipedia

Our other posts about walking the Fife Coastal Path

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nature walk fife coastal path

Anything to add?