Walking the Fife Coastal Path – Section 1
If you’re going to walk the whole of the 117-mile long Fife Coastal Path, you may cover the route from start to finish, or do sections in different orders depending on where you are based. The Footprint map which we use for all our walks shows the first section as 11 miles from Kincardine to Limekilns. I’ve walked this section several times in different combinations of routes, and in the spring of 2016, when Sandy had unexpectedly had “early retirement” thrust upon him, one of the first things we planned was to walk this section together. New beginnings if you will.
We’ve learnt over the years that there are certain hubs of transportation which you need to get to know for different parts of the route, unless of course you plan to walk with a group and use two cars. Dunfermline Bus Station is the place you need to know about for this first part of the route, as the buses which reach the coastal villages along the route travel out from Dunfermline. To reach Kincardine, you can catch the Stagecoach Glasgow bus from Dunfermline. We used the Traveline Scotland app to plan and found that the X27 or X24 met our needs to arrive at Kincardine in the morning between 9:30 and 10:00. We found free on-street parking near to the bus station where we could park all day.
The bus sets you down near the market cross in Kincardine and you head from there to the shores of the river Forth to find the start of the path, which is just beside the Kincardine Bridge. Stop for a moment or two and take a photograph of the archway.
Kincardine to Limekilns
The early part of the walk is along flat surfaces, sharing the way with cycle paths, and (rather disappointingly) you’re not right on the coast, but a few hundred yards inland. At the point where you pass the Longannet Power Station, you’ll be further inland as you circle round it to the landward side. Longannet ceased production on 24 March 2016, so you’ll be spared the clanking and whirring of machinery as you skirt the fields beyond it. The first four miles or so until you reach Culross are about settling in to your stride, slowing down and taking in the nature around you.
This selection from an autumn start at Kincardine demonstrates a little of the difference in moods which the seasons bring to a walk. Just take time to appreciate the little things you see by the path, you’ll have plenty of time for the wider views further along the route.
The Royal Burgh of Culross
On arrival at Culross you have a couple of options for refreshments. You can opt for a quick snack or coffee at the Biscuit Café which opens from 10 am to 5 pm daily, or if it’s a little later when you arrive it’s also an excellent option for lunch. Nearby there’s the Red Lion Inn, which opens at 12 noon and serves food from then until 9 pm. There is a full menu there as well as snacks, and you should take time to admire the amazing painted ceiling in the bar too.
Bear in mind that at this point you have only walked the first 4 miles, but there are few further stops for refreshment until you reach Limekilns, so you may want to pack lunch to carry with you.
There is a temptation to linger in Culross to explore the cobbled streets and the well-preserved houses. We’re recommend a separate trip if you’re going to do this as there is plenty to see around the village: it is the best preserved example of 17th and 18h century housing in Scotland. You can return to visit Culross Palace and Abbey and explore the streets and scenes used for filming Outlander, Diana Gabaldon’s series of books featuring the adventures of 17th Century Jamie Fraser and time-travelling Claire Randall. The village doubled as the fictional Cranesmuir in filming of the first two series of the Outlander-Starz TV adaptation of the books.
However, if you want to complete the whole 11 miles of Section 1 you really need to press on towards Limekilns.
Culross to Limekilns via Preston Island
Just after Culross, you reach a fork in the path where you have the option to walk round Preston Island by taking the right fork, or head straight on through the wooded pathway. On our spring walk we opted to take the right fork for the views over the Forth. Looking back towards Culross we could see the tower at Blair Castle.
Over the river, we caught sight of the steam trains on the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway and saw seals basking on the rocks in the centre of the river.
With the backdrop of Grangemouth refineries, the wildlife was still visible.
We also started to see views towards the Forth Bridges as the third of the Bridges at Queensferry began to near completion. The Queensferry Crossing opens in 2017.
We also had the chance to see the remains of the Salt Production factory on Preston Island and read the boards about the history of the area.
On leaving Preston Island, you rejoin the path and walk by the road through Newmills and on to Torryburn, then walk for a while on the shoreline again before turning inland and uphill to climb towards the road between Cairneyhill and Crombie. The path there has good views over the Forth and you also start to see Dunfermline and in particular Dunfermline Abbey as you look inland over the fields.
However, beyond Crombie is a section which we did not enjoy, walking by the A985 which is a busy road, and very noisy with traffic. We were tiring then too, and very glad when our route took us past the Scottish Lime Centre buildings and on towards Charlestown.
Again we had to walk by the roadside, but it’s a much quieter road at this point and we passed the derelict lime works and onto the Ship Inn at Limekilns where we were able to have a late-afternoon refreshment and wait for the bus back to Dunfermline.
The History of the Lime Industry
Charlestown and Limekilns was where the lime industry developed from medieval times into a commercial enterprise playing a significant role in the industrial revolution in Scotland. At the height of production 14 lime kilns supplied around one third of all lime being used in Scotland. The industry fell into decline by the middle of the last century and eventually ceased production in the 1950’s.
The Scottish Lime Centre Trust
The Scottish Lime Centre Trust based in Charlestown was established in 1994 as a not for profit organisation in response to the shortage of skills available to preserve older historic buildings. the trust run practical skills training aimed at all levels covering a wide range of traditional materials. The old lime kilns (picture below) are located at the west end of the village of Limekilns.
We liked the occasional quiet sections of this walk, and the abundant bird life and wild flowers to spot, but there were a couple of areas we didn’t enjoy much as the path was either too far inland or too close to a busy road. But as we’ve walked this section on several occasions and varying lengths, it’s got enough to interest you and keep you coming back, with Culross being the main attraction.
Kincardine to Limekilns – Update
I walked the route from Culross to Limekilns again in June 2023. Below are some of the shots I took on the walk. There is still a lack of toilet facilities. I didn’t find any on route apart from within the cafes that were open. The route from Culross to Charlestown and Limekilns is very nice walk. Making a detour round by Preston island is recommended. There is a short stretch where you have to walk along the busy A985.
Kincardine to Limekilns – Cafes serving food in Limekilns
I was pleased to discover in additional to the Ship Inn that there were a couple of food outlets serving lunch on a Monday. The Bruce Hotel was shut.
Accommodation for Walking the Fife Coastal Path
Stay at Sandcastle Cottage Crail
We hope you will enjoy walking the Fife Coastal Path. If you’re planning to walk the whole path and wish a base somewhere around the mid point of the walk.
At Sandcastle Cottage we offer weekly or fortnightly breaks April to October. Why not take a look inside by clicking this link
Alternatively if you would like details of our availability and prices then click the Book Now button below. we look forward to. welcoming you to Sandcastle Cottage.