Stage 178, 17th September: Inverbervie to Lunan Bay
The murky haar was hanging in the air again and seemed insistent upon staying with me. It was a frustrating view spoiler and with the frequency of “wow’ moments having decreased since I left the West coast, the lingering fog was becoming more than a little depressing. On the other hand my success at following the Nave Nortrail markers had improved with a lovely short-grass path taking me through the fishing villages of Gourdon and Johnshaven from where a slow climb took me to the cliff tops via a perfectly good closed path – “due to safety reasons”.
Sometimes I’m really not sure what safety reasons make you close an inherently dangerous high cliff edge path, unless a landslip or a rock fall has occurred or is imminent. I wondered whether there might by now be a sign at Everest base camp saying “mountain closed due to safety reasons”. Maybe they should install a handrail.
It wasn’t long before the now reopened path dropped under the cliffs for the rather secretive Sands of St Cyrus and a deserted nature reserve. Undoubtedly everything was underselling itself and even the attraction of a ‘hobbit house’ buried in the turf at the North end of the bay looked like it was hiding from rather than complementing the environ.
I then ducked inland to cross the River Esk and the port town of Montrose. The entrance into the estuary was a notoriously dangerous passage in the past with sand banks to the North and shallow sharp rocks hidden beneath the waves to the South. Another Stephenson designed lighthouse and a series of beacons were constructed in the 19th century for the ships to line up against and guide themselves safely into harbour. Additionally a clever system of launching a life line to any ship stuck on the sand allowed horses to attempt to pull a ship free at high tide. I thought it all rather clever and in a simple way very ingenious.
I was glad to escape Montrose and hear the sound of waves breaking and not the groan of human generated noise in the docks. From the lighthouse at Scurdie Ness it was back to the lanes to take me to Lunan Bay. I suspected that I had once again lost the Nave Nortrail as I discovered Bob had walked a decent bit of coast path all afternoon. Hmm.
Stage 179, 18th September: Lunan Bay to Carnoustie
The heavy sea mist persisted and now it was supplemented by a good mizzle (not quite drizzle). Nothing to wet me, but damp all the same, as I crossed Lunan Bay to pick up the muddy farm tracks constituting a rather better marked Angus Coastal Path. As I could barely see further than the length of a cricket pitch, I could have been anywhere. Indeed, I felt as if I was back at home in Leicestershire surrounded by well-worked farmland with the occasional tractor with a trailer full of potatoes passing me by.
The tracks became long wet grass and I soon discovered that my newer pair of boots were now leaking…. badly. So from Auchmithie onwards it was another uncomfortable feet day. It was also meant to be a gorgeous cliff-top walk. The tall red sandstone cliffs were etched with arches, caves, stacks and even blow-holes all marked on my map, but all hidden in the murk. I could hear the sea below. But could I see it? Just, but then only occasionally. My camera must have been feeling unloved, so I tried to capture the odd image when the cloud briefly cleared – but it was a futile effort really.
The fog lifted for a good hour as I strode into Arbroath and bought a kilogram of Smokies for tea from a woman who didn’t seem overly keen on serving customers or communicating with anything much more than a monosyllabic grunt. Arbroath had clearly seen some tidying up around the harbour and was certainly making an effort to attract visitors, even if the shopkeeper I came across wasn’t.
The path then followed the railway line all the way to a very middle class Carnoustie with its boutiques and smart little shops all selling things most normal people don’t need to buy on a day-to-day basis. By evening Snickers smelt of Smokies and was likely to do so for some time. They were truly great.
Stage 180, 19th September: Carnoustie to Leuchars
What no fog? No Haar? It might well have lifted, but the sky was still very grey as the Angus Coastal Path continued by squeezing itself between the famous Carnoustie golf course and the railway line to Monifieth and Broughty Ferry.
At home Kate had identified that the reduced visibility of the last week had produced a slightly bored tone in my voice and had set me a task of finding a certain bench at the library in Broughty Ferry. It didn’t seem the most thrilling of tasks and it did take me one street inland from the coast, but I duly obliged and it did give me something to think about other than the fallout from the Scottish independence referendum. The bench was worth a quick visit as the sculpture by David Annand depicting a cat disturbing a man reading a book was nicely done with a certain wit to it. I thought that it deserved a better spot than to be hidden at the back of a small library garden.
The last couple of months I had increasingly felt like a voyeur to the process of the referendum. I had watched as more and more ‘Yes’ signs and stickers cropped up in house windows, cars and fields whilst ‘No Thanks’ signs were notably absent. Yet conversations with locals were telling me that ‘No’ was winning. It had all been getting a bit tense and every time a London-based politician turned up in Scotland it only seemed to fan the flames and raise the passions of the ‘Yes’ voters. I sometimes felt intimidated by the Yes campaign but as it all came to a head I actually felt very sympathetic to their passion and to their frustrations with London. It had become clear to me that the Scottish issues were no different to those in any of the English regions, Wales or Northern Ireland. I was optimistic that the outcome might just bring the Londoncentric country to its senses.
Nonetheless some passions weren’t welcome. As I approached an electronically controlled gate around the port of Dundee. I was told that it was not open to xxxxing English xxxxards and that I could xxxx off home. I saluted him with a gesture well understood in all parts of the British Isles adding a few words enlightening him as to his bigotry and walked down the road racing through the outskirts of Dundee and on to the central walkway of the Tay Road Bridge. I knew the port security guard was an anomaly in this more than friendly country, but isolated abuse lingers and I was more than happy to get out of Dundee.
I was now in the Kingdom of Fife and joined the renowned and well-marked Fife Coast Path through Tayport. With a forest track taking me inland of the RAF airfield, I arrived in Leuchars with a heavy 137 mile week behind me. The last three weeks had seen me average over 23 miles per day and I was looking forward to a slightly lighter week next week….and maybe even the odd clear sky.