September 3 – North Queensferry, Fife

I decided that my next challenge was the Fife Coastal Path.  That would give me the interior and the coastal experience on the trip.  The two sisters I had met coming into Fort WIlliam said that North Queenferry is a good place to start.  The trail goes over 125 miles from there to the famous St Andrews, famous for the Saint and also for the invention of golf.  I only had three full days before meeting Danny in Glasgow but I figured I could hike at least part of the trail. 

I gathered my belongings and checked out of the B & B.  I had to carry my full backpack for the first time in several days, walking down to the bus station for a 7:00 am ride to Glasgow.  It is a 3 hour bus ride which gave me time to catch up on the blog.  I got a bus from the Buchanan Station to Princes Street in Edinburgh which I was familiar with from my stay with Tom.  I didn’t know where to go from there to get to North Queensferry.  A woman told me it was up the street so I walked and walked and walked some more but could not find bus 43.  I finally went to Waverly station, the train terminal and found that there was a train that stops there.  After a 45 minute wait I boarded.  I met a woman on the train who told me what I was seeing on the short journey to North Queensferry.  The train goes over a famous bridge (although I never heard of it) called the Forth Bridge.  It goes over a body of water called the Firth of Forth, an area that has a long history.  I always wanted to see that because of the name.  I have read a fair share  of English and Scottish history and it comes up a lot.  The story goes that Queen Margaret wanted a bridge built from one side to the other and so it was built … in the 1100’s.  The train uses a bridge that is in the same general spot as the original.  Then a bridge was built 53 years ago that is the main highway from Edinburgh to North Queensferry.   The queen dedicated it.  That bridge is closing soon for renovation and will be used mainly by public transportation.

This is how all this affects me.  It so happens that the queen is dedicating the new bridge tomorrow, September 4, the same day she dedicated the old bridge 53 years ago.The new bride is called Queensferry Crossing.  This is a big deal.  Some people who witnessed her dedicating the old bridge will be there to witness the new dedication.  Thousands of people have gotten tickets to be on the bridge to watch.  It has high security so only people with tickets will be there.   As a result, I suppose, all the commotion means there were no vacancies.  There aren’t that many places to stay other than a few hotels and B & B’s.  There was one B & B that looked promising but no one was home.  I had a chance to book at the Albert Hotel, but they were asking 100 pounds.  A guy I bumped into on the way down into town said make them give you a deal.  They will try to get a higher price.  The hotel clerk wasn’t into deals but apparently had a room.   I decided to look around since I thought there were a lot of other places to stay.  There weren’t and by the time I got back it was booked.

So after stopping at a little restaurant and having a pleasant lunch at street side I started up the Fife Coastal path to find a place to pitch the tent.  I wanted to find a place that was close to town so I could have some services in the morning.  I wasn’t interested in tenting on a rocky beach.  Fortunately, I got about 200 yards up the trail and found a promising piece of fairly level ground back quite a ways from the trail and not too obvious.  After some trial and tribulation I was able to get the tent up and my things inside.  It hadn’t rain for a bit so things were pretty dry.  I went back into town to have a beer at the Albert Hotel.  It was busy with mostly locals.  I sat away from everyone just watching.  There was a candy dispenser next to me and a little kid asked his mom if he could get one of the little plastic containers of candy.  After he got his treat I thought I wanted one too.  It was a contraption I hadn’t seen before.  I put a pound in and turned the lever and nothing happened.  I could see the columns of containers.  I thought maybe I didn’t put a pound in (I still have a little trouble with change).  So I did it again; nothing.  Then one more time.  Finally someone who knows a thing or two had mercy on me and said “It is a tumbler, isn’t it?”.  He turned the columns so that one was directly over the money slot.  I didn’t realize you could turn the contraption to get the kind of candy you want.  Stranger in a strange land.

The music was great (Rolling Stones, Elton John and the like) so I just sat back enjoying it and watching the scene.  Old guys and a few women drinking heartily at the bar, telling loud stories and having a time of it.  After a while , Linda (her name as it turns out) asked me to join her, her small son and husband.  She must be the connector in the pub because she introduced me to Eric, Billie, the manager Marta from Poland and some other locals.  Eric has a ticket to the bridge dedication because he has lived in the area all his life.  Billie is a retired sheet worker but is on retainer for, he says, doing nothing.  It provides some good pay and medical benefits over and above the universal coverage.  We talked for a long time.  We also got to joking with the rowdies in the group.  I got pictures of myself with the gang.  Billie has a house here and somewhere not too far away.  He offered to let me stay at his house for the night but I had already set up my tent so I decided to rough it. 

It was dark by the time I headed back to the campsite, about 10:00.  Luckily I had a flashlight and some idea of where the tent was.  After fighting my way through the trees, I unzipped my tent, flopped onto the pad that provides just enough padding to keep me from being too uncomfortable and fell immediately to sleep.

I thought this was just going to be a routine travel day.  I’m glad it wasn’t.

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