Walking The Fife Pilgrim Way

The Fife Pilgrim Way runs between North Queensferry or Culross on a 64 mile route all the way to St Andrews. The route opened in July 2019 and is designed as a varied route for residents and visitors alike. It follows in the footsteps of the medieval pilgrims and takes in many sites of historical interest uncovering some hidden gems along the way.

The Fife Pilgrim Way – Preparation for this Walk

If you plan to walk all 64 miles of the Fife Pilgrim Way or any of the sections highlighted in this blog you will need to be well prepared.

  1. A lot of this route is over rough farm tracks and can be fairly remote so a good pair of walking boots, stout shoes or walking trainers is essential.
  2. Some of this route is not suitable for young children as parts are along busy roads on narrow pathways.
  3. Take a backpack or rucksack with a waterproof (remember it is Scotland).
  4. Take food with you including plenty of water as there are some sections of the walk where there are no shops to buy food.
  5. I would recommend you bought a map before starting out. You can buy this from https://www.fifecoastalpath.co.uk/home/online-shop/fife-pilgrim-way-map.aspx

Section 1 North Queensferry to Dunfermline

This section of the Fife Pilgrim Way starts for us at the old ferry crossing at North Queensferry. North Queensferry lies on a tip of rock approximately 10 miles from the centre of Edinburgh. You can reach North Queensferry by train click link to get a timetable or bus click link to get a bus timetable

Forth Rail Bridge

In 1070 Queen Margaret who later became St Margaret founded a church in Dunfermline and the narrow stretch of water on the Forth from south to north was an ideal crossing point for travellers from Edinburgh to Dunfermline. The ferry became known as the queens ferry and its landing points North Ferry and South Ferry. The rights to the ferry were owned by Dunfermline Abbey and doubtless a fee would be paid to the church. After the Reformation in 1560 the rights passed to Scotland’s first public limited company and 16 shares were issued.

The coming of the railways lead to a decline in ferry traffic as a roll on roll off ferry operated between Granton and Burntisland. This was replaced by the Forth Railway Bridge built by Sir John Fowler and Benjamin Baker which opened in 1890. The bridge was an engineering marvel and still is today.

North Queensferry remained a ferry crossing point until the opening of the Forth Road Bridge by the Queen on the 4th of September 1964. More recently this bridge has been superceded by the new Queensferry Crossing opened by the Queen on the 30th of August 2017. You can see all three bridges from vantage points along the route.

The Lantern Light on the quayside at North Queensferry at the start of the walk

The small lighthouse at the start of the walk on the quayside was built in 1812 by the engineer John Rennie. It was designed to guide passenger ferry’s across the Forth to safety. The octagonal tower was built using local sandstone and a winding staircase leads to the lantern room. Robert Stevenson grandfather of the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson and famous lighthouse builder advised that an Argand oil lamp backed by a parabolic reflector be installed. The light gave a fixed white light which was later replaced by paraffin around 1850. The lighthouse operated until 1920 and afterwards fell into disuse. It was restored to its former glory in 2010 and as part of the restoration a replica of the original lighting apparatus was made.

The light was relit by Princess Anne who is a patron of the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The Fife Pilgrim Way – Start of the Walk

Head up Main Street until you find the first way marker. You will find an old water fountain. Follow the cobbled path up the hill and under the railway bridge. The path takes you to Carlingnose Point where you will get your first view up the Forth or across to St Davids Harbour. This was where the fleet anchored before setting out for the Battle of Jutland. Stop for a few minutes and imagine the great Dreadnought Battleships anchored out in the bay. Today you will see large tankers loading up at Hound Point.

Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
Look out for the signs in the pavement
Look for the Waymarker at the top of Main Street.
Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
Walk up the cobbled path towards Carlingnose Point
Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
View across to St David’s Harbour from Carlingnose Point

Follow the path down towards Port Laing beach and onwards to Inverkeithing.

The Fife Pilgrim Way – Inverkeithing

As you head in to Inverkeithing the first place you come to is the Cruiks Quarry where stone found its way to the streets of London. On the left is Robertson Metal Recycling. As we passed the site was hard at work processing a range of scrap metal. This site was once the graveyard of some famous ships. The battleship Dreadnought and the liners Olympic and the Mauritania (second ship to carry this name for Cunard) were broken up here at Inverkeithing. One of the last was HMS Maidstone in May 1978.

The town of Inverkeithing was once a walled town however the wall was taken down around 1500. The town has some interesting medieval buildings which are well worth taking some time to look at. At the north end of the High Street is the Market Cross which dates from 1400. The Friary or GreyFriars Convent was once the guest house for the Franciscan Convent which was established around 1350. After the Reformation of 1560 the convent was sold to a local merchant who converted it into a house. The building was again converted into a museum in the 1930’s. Today it serves as a meeting place for locals.

Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
The Friary or Greyfriars Convent Inverkeithing
Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
Mercat Cross Inverkeithing

Other building of interest are the Tolbooth dating from 1770, Thomson’s House 1617 and Fordells Lodging 1670.

The Fife Pilgrim Way – Places to Eat

We found an excellent cafe in Inverkeithing High Street called The Millbrae Cafe. If you are looking for a pitstop look no further. Staff were very friendly and all food on the menu is sourced from local suppliers.

There is also an excellent cafe in North Queensferry at the start of the walk called Rankins in Main Street serving snacks, coffee’s and lite lunches.

Dunfermline Grill 48 click this link for more information and reservations

The Fife Pilgrim Way, Inverkeithing to Dunfermline

From the middle of the High Street at the Mini Roundabout turn left into Hill Street and proceed up the hill. There is only a very small sign on the pedestrian crossing and is easily missed.

Proceed up Hill Street from the Mini Roundabout on the High Street. Look out for the small disc’s on the lamp posts or in this case the traffic light crossing.

Follow the road out of Inverkeithing and cross the bridge over the M90. Take a right into Castland Road then a sharp left at the marker post. From this country road you are treated to some splendid views over the three bridges. Follow the road past a small hamlet and down the hill towards Rosyth. At this point you get one of the best views over the dockyard and the Royal Navy’s latest aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales.

Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
From the path you can get some good views of the bridges.
Walking the fife Pilgrim Way
From the path into Rosyth you get a good view of the dockyard and HMS Prince of Wales

On reaching Rosyth follow the markers along Ferry Toll Road. This part of the walk takes you past the dockyard and through a housing estate. There is an R. S McColls convenience store on the route if you need to stop for drinks or snacks.

Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
Three quarters of a mile on a narrow path along the busy A985 is not fun.

The path then joins the busy A985 for approximately three quarters of a mile. This is by far the worst part of the walk for me. The route follows a narrow path along the side of a very busy road with a constant flow of traffic which includes large delivery trucks.

Keep walking along the path at the side of the road until you come to another waymarker. At this point The Fife Pilgrim Way crosses the road. You then have to walk down a small tarmac road leading to Douglasbank Cemetery. This is much quieter than the last stretch. After the cemetery follow the waymarkers along a path joining a farm road, past the farm and down the road to join the B9156 into Dunfermline. Again the path at the side of this road is narrow however there is less traffic.

Follow the narrow path along the road in to Dunfermline

Follow the waymarkers into Dunfermline passing Andrew Carnegie’s Birthplace Museum (well worth a visit) and on towards the Abbey and the end of this section of the walk.

Andrew Carnegie’s Birthplace Museum which is worth a visit
Walking the Fife Pilgrim Way
Dunfermline Abbey

Verdict on this section of The Fife Pilgrim Way

If I had a limited amount of time and found I could not walk all the sections of this walk would I:

  1. Walk it?
  2. Consider Walking it?
  3. Leave it?

North Queensferry is well worth a visit and the walk around Carlingnose Point along the Fife Coastal Path to Inverkeithing is a lovely walk. There are some great views to be had across the Forth. However the walk from Inverkeithing to Dunfermline takes you through an industrial estate, past Rosyth Dockyard, through a housing estate and along a very busy road. To find out more about this section of the walk and pictures see our blog on the Fife Coastal Path, Limekilns to Inverkeithing which follows the same route in parts. Inverkeithing is worth a visit and the walk into Dunfermline is pleasant with the views of the Abbey. Dunfermline itself is also worth visiting. However this is not the best part of the Pilgrim Way so I would Leave it.

I appreciate that this would not be every walker’s opinion so at the end of the day you have to make your own decision on which parts of the Fife Pilgrim Way you want to walk.

Sandcastle Cottage Crail

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