8 September 2009--Clouds cover Scotland...the video map on the plane indicates that I would be getting
marvelous views of Islay, Kintyre, and Arran on the approach to Edinburgh. Instead, my first sight of land is east Lothian as
we drop through the cloud. I collect my luggage, step out of the terminal into a dreary drizzle, and smile. I'm
in Scotland! For the first time in a week, I feel in control of my destiny.
We're an hour early, 7:30, and I'm thinking I'm going to get a good jump on the day. Unfortunately, and inexplicably, I have reserved my car for 10:00, and Hertz will not budge--it's a very busy morning. That's okay; I spend two hours with coffee and pastry and email. There are times, though, when I wish someone a little better organized was in control of my destiny.
Back to Hertz...I'll never understand why it takes so long to pick up a rental car, but it does. It's well after 11:00 before I'm on the road. My first stop is close by-- Queensferry [Undiscovered Scotland, hereinafter "US"], tucked in between the two Forth bridges. This is, of course, where the ferry ran from before the road bridge was built. (There's serious talk of a second road bridge just now.) The pubs and restaurants on the water side of the main street have large windows to take in the view of the bridges. The houses on the upper side are built up high on a terrace; their cellars now form a row of shops. It's a picturesque place, even in the sporadic rain.
Over the road bridge I go, out the Fife Coastal Route, the slow road. I have trouble following the route and lose it two or three times. In Kirkcaldy, a road closure is unaccompanied by a proper detour, and I get thoroughly disoriented. But I finally reach Anstruther [US], in the East Neuk of Fife, at 2:30, a half an hour before I told the B&B I'd arrive. I'd picked out several other possible sights to see on the way, but being late, blew them off.
No one in at the B&B...I snooze in the car for half an hour, and then find the landlady in. She's very nice, but informs me that she's made a mistake and cannot accommodate me on Friday. When I'm planning my trip, I try generally to avoid splitting Friday and Saturday, and I have to think this snafu is a direct result of having done so--undoubtedly the conflict is with another tenant who booked for the weekend. As it happens, it's a big weekend, with the RAF Leuchars Airshow [US] on, not too far up the road. It might even be that the landlady took the other booking intentionally, figuring it would be easier to toss me out than to fill the room for the Saturday alone. I choose to accept that it was an honest error. She's kind enough, in any case, to offer to help me find alternate arrangements in town, but I'll look into going to Stonehaven a day early instead. I have no problem with spending an extra night there.
Decide to walk the Fife Coastal Path to Pittenweem [US], just a mile west. The rain has let up--the sky keeps looking as though it's going to clear, but never quite does. It's very windy along the trail, but I stay dry, anyway. Like Anstruther, Pittenweem is one of a string of charming old fishing ports along the Fife coast; it seems to be the one still busy with commercial fishing, its snug little harbor full of working boats. I spend an hour or so poking around town. In Cove Wynd, I pass by St Fillan's Cave, a little shrine with a long history. St Fillan himself reputedly used it in the 8th century, writing sermons by the glow of his left arm. (Obviously a time-traveling alien.) Somewhere down the centuries, the cave fell into disuse and was filled with rubbish. It was cleared and rededicated in 1935. A key for entry is available in a nearby shop, but I'm satisfied with peering through the gate. Perhaps I should take more interest, given that Fillan was patron saint of the mentally ill. Apparently, sufferers were left bound overnight in the cave; if their binds were loosened by morning, they were considered cured. Maybe my landlady meant to book me in for the Friday.
Back down the path to Anstruther...dinner and pints are in the Dreel Tavern, recommended by CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. It's a lovely old pub, if a bit quiet this evening.