THE PILGRIM’S WAY
KELTY TO NOWHERE
The decision to take on the next section of the Pilgrim’s way was made somewhat hastily, and with an over reliance on the weather forecast. 20% risk of rain it said. We got the lot as the day progressed. One of those very, very wet days by the time the walk was finished……
In fairness, I have to admit we’d gone wrong before we’d started. On the previous leg, we saw none of the Pilgrim’s Way badges when we exited from the St Ninians open cast site, and turned right to head towards Kelty. Wrong. The Way turns left and leads (we think) through forestry and recreational areas to north of the road leading up to the Perth and Kinross border, which explains the lack of Pilgrim badges on the main road into Kelty.
However, we refuse to believe the rumours of P and K Border police defending the borders from rampaging Fifers sweeping down on Loch Leven. As a result of the walk on the day, I tried that map again. Look hard enough, and it suggests the route, but not at all precisely. We suspect it goes through Kelty and comes in from the north. We saw the signs when we got to the entry for Lochore meadows.
So we left the car in the Main Street and wandered through to Lochore Meadows Country Park. We in this instance was Neil and I plus other halves: Neil’s Mo and my Carol were looking for exercise. Foolish people.
So we walked up from Kelty and posed for photos. We also caught sight of the first Pilgrim’s Way markers, on the Kinross road from the north. Not the way we had come. The implication was that the route had come through or round Kelty itself.
And walked into the country park. The drizzle was getting heavier…..
The way into the park is along a cinder path through scrub, the tell-tale signs of nature taking over lost industry. As if that wasn’t obvious. The area is as usual a mining area although the reality of the place is that it is a good recreational area, plenty of open spaces and considerable opportunities for cycling and water sports. And walking through. So we were getting wet, the canoeist flotilla was sheltering under trees and there was a degree of hurry up going on with the cyclists.
Whist at times the sun was trying, it was good to see on the horizon that area of Lochore Meadows which is the boating area and the Visitor Centre and Cafe. Which is pretty damn good especially on wet Sunday afternoons.
The view across the loch to surf paddling etc was at least some entertainment, and above our heads the timeline was, well, interesting.l
The timeline is probably fairly both typical and typical of the history of mines across the Central Belt of Scotland, The one in the cafe which is duplicated on the website summarises the story of the people of the area.
The route from the cafe is well marked and follows the road east to the main road outwith the park itself. It passes the ruins of Lochore Castle, once a castle in the middle of a loch and now stranded.
On the day we had the unusual experience of a bloke picking up orienteering kites with physical punches: “Haven’t seen those for a while,” quoth I.
“Well, we do it still sometimes,” was the terse response.
We walked on, and came up to the west entrance/exit to the country park. Winding wheels are always a strong image for me: something about the link between the safety of the surface against the darkness and danger of shafts below the surface. The area now is being reclaimed by nature (with and without) the assistance of humans, a fitting reminder of the possibilities of redesigning, a revision of how things can be or could be.
And so we move on…
The route is marked after the park and is visible: we crossed the road, and Hawkeye Mo spotted the sign indicating the direction of travel. There was at that point no path to the marker post although it was visible at the break through the treeline. We passed through, and followed a winding walking space somewhere between a farm track and a border between fenced fields. The map told us we were approaching a disused railway, which we may or may not have identified, but the route is not clearly identifiable rather it is discovered by implication, and rewarded by the odd Pilgrim Way logo, just to re-assure. The PW route is not as yet posted on the OS 25000 map, but we were reasonably confident that we were walking the right way even if matching terrain to map was a bit tricky. Fortunately, it being 2019, we were able to use mobile phones and the GPS systems on them. On the map, the route is visible by fence markings; on the ground the route twists and turns and confuses. So the phone map saying “you’re in Torres Loan” was reassuring.
By this time, we were walking in drizzle coming on light rain. We were beginning to realise that the plan had been “we’ll walk the next bit of the Pilgrim Way” and that that was somewhat, well, naff. We were loosely aimed at Kinglassie, but the details i.e. bus stops, times, directions had not been sussed out. We realised we were in the middle of nowhere, needing to get back to Falkirk but having no exit strategy. Like Brexit, a mess.
It was now late on a Sunday afternoon, the rain was getting wetter, and the sky darker. We looked at the map which was worrying: Kinglassie (notional target for the day) was a good bit away and may or may not have a bus service. If we went that way we were walking away from where we wanted to be i.e. Kelty. We could see a road to the north and we’d seen a bus go by, so we were close to a bus route but the issue was where and when would that be running? The decision was to abandon the route and hit the road to try to find a bus stop. So we headed for civilization, or “Ballingry” as it is known. We spread ourselves over the coutryside and took the road which was wet but offered the possibility of a bus stop. Or two. And two different routes, but no knowing which route….. To cut a long story short: taxis are wonderful things, especially when it is raining.
So, we had finished the day nowhere and the question was, where to now?
During our walks on the Pilgrim Way, we had talked about a sense of artificiality to the Pilgrim Way; Neil’s drive to complete it was about wanting to be (one of the) first to complete the way, and getting exercise during the late winter days. The experience of actually walking the route lacked integrity. The John Muir had some sense to it as a varied coast-to-coast walk; the Fife Coastal links a succession of small towns and fishing villages each with a different character, and has the geographical sense of walking the water border of Fife. By contrast, the Pilgrims’ Way appeared random, and had become more about walking a route rather than having any notion of purpose let alone “Pilgrimage”, whatever that actually means. And on a dreich day in the middle of Fife, soaked through and weary, the quality of the walk and the lack of a sense of it being a real thing rather than somebody’s bright notion of cobbling another route together brought everything into question.
By now Neil had two digits rather than three digits in the numbers of Munros to be completed. The possibility of him completing the Munros, something that had become less and less attractive as the years passed faster than the Munros were being ticked off, had suddenly become a reality, moreover one that Neil was up for.
I’d been to Barrisdale with Iona and Neil, walking in from Kinloch Huorn and fetching up at the “pay for” bothy there.
The walk was quite arduous, but I got there, and not too far behind the speedy Neil and Iona. But I didn’t attempt Ladhar Bheinn and instead walked up Glen Barrisdale. Ladhar Bheinn and Luinne Bheinn were the targets for Neil and Iona for the weekend and the two intrepid hill-walkers took to the heights starting first thing in the morning and returning in darkness, wind and rain late evening having been faced with disgusting weather and significant navigational challenges. Me? I thought I’d like to take a walk up the glen, Glen Barrisdale.
In fairness, even before the start there had been maybe a 10% of me hitting the top of Ladhar Bheinn even before we had started
hill-walkers took to the heights starting first thing in the morning and returning in darkness, wind and rain late evening having been faced with disgusting weather and significant navigational challenges. Me? I thought I’d like to take a walk up the glen, Glen Barrisdale.