9 September 2009--I went to bed reasonably early last night, but still have to drag myself up at 7:30. The plan
for the day is to walk the Fife Coastal Path east to Crail. Eat breakfast and fumble around for a while, leave the house, remember
something I need, go back. Finally, mid-morning, I set off in earnest.
A plaque set in the wall of the Dreel Tavern commemorates an early 16th-century encounter between King James V and "a stout gaberlunzie woman" who carried him across the Dreel Burn. James V had an unusual interest in the concerns of common folk, and often traveled the countryside incognito to measure their mood (but apparently did not deign to get his feet wet). A gaberlunzie is a beggar, but one wonders about the character of this particular mendicant. The original accounts describe her as "buxom" rather than stout, which conjures in the modern mind a rather different body image. Having received an unexpectedly handsome reward for her efforts, she reportedly told the king, "May your purse ne'er be toom and your horn aye in bloom." A rough translation of this might be "May you never want for cash or Cialis." Two centuries later, a somewhat more explicit version of this blessing was adopted as the motto of a peculiar gentlemen's social club called the Beggar's Benison [Wikipedia] (a benison being a blessing). These fellows--described in one source as "leading local onanists"-- met and conducted their outré rituals at the Smugglers Inn, which I pass on my way down to Anstruther's harbor. There, local lasses served as "posture molls", posing for the gents' viewing pleasure as they, um, onanized. There were, apparently, limits to their iconoclasm. Other rituals--some well documented, others a matter of speculation and myth--of the Benison and its offshoots, particularly a renegade branch called the Wig Club, have served as fodder for parody in popular culture ever since. Think Animal House: "Please, sir, may I have another?" [A correspondent for Slate described his visit to the Smugglers Inn and other East Neuk and UK locations in search of Beggar's Benison artefacts...the more squeamish reader might wish to pass over these last two links.]
I pass the Smugglers without pausing...through the town center and east-end Cellardyke, once a separate town, and out onto the Fife Coastal Path to Crail, about four miles from the B&B. It's a brilliant sunny day--I've been told that it's been raining for two weeks prior, if not all summer long; I'm reminded of our luck with the weather on the coastal ferry in Norway. It's a nice walk, with views across the Firth of Forth to Berwick Law [US], Bass Rock, and the Isle of May. There are boat trips to the latter from Anstruther, which I'm guessing would be more worthwhile earlier in the season, when more birds would be about.
Crail is perhaps the prettiest of the East Neuk ports. Just look at the pictures... awfully hard to take a bad one on a sunny day. After hanging around town a while, I consider taking the bus back, but walk back along the shore again. I pass a pub in Cellardyke, the Haven, that advertises wi-fi, the only one I've seen around. After resting a while at the B&B, I take the laptop the mile back to the Haven for pints and email. A little later, I have dinner at the Anstruther Fish Bar, an award-winning chippy by the harbor. It has, in fact, been named the best fish & chip shop in the UK for 2008/2009; I dare say it's better than the Magpie in Whitby. The Dreel beckons for a good-night pint or two on the way back to the B&B.
I figure I've walked ten or twelve miles altogether today. Should sleep pretty well.