Tuesday 27 January 2015

Scotland by Rail - Burntisland to Dalmeny on Fife Coastal Path

At the weekend we walked the Fife Coastal Path from Burntisland to North Queensferry, walking the Forth (Road) Bridge and train home from Dalmeny.

It's a great section of the path because every town you pass through has a station - Burntisland, Aberdour, Dalgety Bay, Inverkeithing, North Queensferry. If you get tired/hurt your knee/spend too much time looking through binoculars you can cut short at any of these stations. There are also stations in Kinghorn and Kirkcaldy, the first two towns north of Burntisland, so take your pick.

We didn't meet anyone we knew but received and exchanged many friendly hello's. At Dalgety Bay we spoke with a Swarovski-laden man, me asking if anything especially interesting was around, him telling of a little auk that's been out on the water, and of how good the bay is for waders. They had their first little egret this year. We saw oystercatchers, curlew, redshank, heron, mallard, shelduck, wigeon, assorted gulls. The whole way there's wildlife; a mixed mistle thrush - redwing flock on wires west of Aberdour; red-breasted mergansers displaying, head and necks up, on the water at various points; tinkling teal, a mute swan, redshank and goldeneyem all at Inverkeithing where a small river flows into Inner Bay, and tens of oystercatchers and curlew and gulls on the playing fields there; a green woodpecker, unexpectedly, that landed in a tree below the railway line just south of Inverkeithing.

I did no sketching and I took very few photos.

The graves of St Bridget's Kirk (built originally in the 1100's, Historic Scotland, free) were the main thing I did photograph. Stones from the 17th and 18th centuries, skulls aplenty. A good Scotland-by-Rail trip by itself, train to Dalgety Bay and walk east, or Aberdour and walk west, and a perfect spot to have your picnic whilst looking for birds on the near shore and to Dalmeny Estate on the far shore. As a child I came here at least several times with mum, dad and Roan, and with our big group of family friends.



St Bridget's Kirk

creature in the woods

We finished with chips walking along South Queensferry High Street and shore, the Forth (Rail) Bridge illuminations spreading an orange glow through light drizzle.

When we got off the train in Burntisland I found I'd badly hurt my left knee.

moss garden

This section of Fife Coastal path is really well served by ScotRail services. Timetables here, click on Edinburgh-Fife.

which might be Stinking hellibore (Helleborus foetidus) ?

Tuesday 13 January 2015

New Year 2014/15 - Spittal of Glenshee, a golden eagle

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee, watercolour, 25x29.5cm

This New Year we were in Spittal of Glenshee for four nights, staying in Gulabin Lodge - cosy, spacious, well equipped, great position, very friendly owner/managers. Really excellent. As every year there were lots of us, friends, friends of friends. Around thirty-five on the busiest night, including a few children. Around thirty-five plus one, including the dog.

(see our New Year 2013/14 in Inversnaid here, 2012/13 in Kingussie here)

Each day we splinter, some going up the mountains, some walking lower level, some hardly leaving the lodge. I hurt my knee on day one, so two and three were spent no more than a kilometre from the building, sketching and painting and joining in with some of the social.

Day one was a big walk, about 20km. Starting in a large group walking west along Glen Shee then north up Gleann Taitneach, fording two river streams without (very) wet feet. When we stopped to snack by the main river Allt Ghlinn Thaitneich a herd of a hundred or more red deer were on the western slope above us and another fifty the eastern, grazing the transition line between vegetation and snow.

red deer, western slope

red deer, eastern slope

spot the summit

river Allt Ghlinn Thaitneich

We separated part way along the second valley and four of us continued, fording a third stream and finding ourselves watched by mountain hares in their white winter fur. They crouched here and there, dotted among boulders like cannonballs of snow. All day we saw red grouse and heard them bubbling in the heather, or flying fast -not far- away from us, clucking and whirring. Once when Jennifer stopped to sort her boots a golden eagle was soaring to a cliff high-above, Jennifer's first ever and I think only my second. (My first was on a walk from Loch Ossian, written about here - www.landscapeartnaturebirds.blogspot.co.uk).

spot the hare (s). I spot two.

spot the hare

mountain hare, winter fur

mountain hare, winter fur

mountain hare, afterwards, from photo, 29.5x20.5cm

spot the grouse

red grouse, spotted me

Gleann Taitneach

spot the golden eagle. (you can't, but it's on those cliffs)

pencil sketches, 15x20.5cm

The last kilometre was a steep 330 metres up into the start of the hills proper, our turnaround destination Loch nan Eun. A mountain hare lay dead on the path, not looking injured but nastily thin. At the loch it was fiercely cold, the water iced and snowed solid, beautifully otherworldy. It was already after three so we could only stop for five-minutes, for thermos coffee and frozen hand photos. Plastic bags-for-life made the first part of our descent very much more fun. And faster.

those legs!

Loch nan Eun

Loch nan Eun

re-united at last

It was dusk when we re-forded the first stream and full dark by the time we reached the third one. Our last hour was by moonlight, cloud curtain often obscuring the glow but always enough residual light to see by. Our track was O.S. double-dotted no problem to follow.

The other main group had driven to the car park at Glenshee and walked the high tops from there. They saw ptarmigan close up. I've never seen them. Ptarmigan tend only to run a short distance from humans, not fly away like grouse do. As with the fur of mountain hares, ptarmigan feathers turn white in winter. Thank you Andy for the photos.

spot the ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

three ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

ptarmigan, photo by Andy Seaton, Glenshee

Days 2 and 3 I stayed close to home. Day 3 we had snow.

spot the Grave of Diarmid. from my under-umbrella, under-beech-hedge sketch spot

the Grave of Diarmid, from our bedroom window, through binoculars

Grave of Diarmid, four spirits

Grave of Diarmid, pencil, pen, coloured pencil, 20.5x29.5cm

Grave of Diarmid. under-umbrella, under-beech-hedge watercolour, 25x29.5cm

Grave of Diarmid, ink and ink wash 25x29.5cm

from the churchyard, picturesque

Not so picturesque. Legal bird trap, to control "pest species of birds".

On the last day snow came.

Glenshee Bridge, work recorded as starting in 1749 and not completed until 1763...

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee

kirk of Spittal of Glenshee

Driving home:

and Jennifer drove us home

Unfortunately Spittal of Glenshee isn't reachable by rail. By car it's about an hour from Perth, two hours from Edinburgh. Details here.