September 4 – North Queensferry to Burntisland

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I slept pretty well for a homeless person, despite the fact that I was almost under the Forth bridge and a train would rumble by every 20 minutes or so.  I got up about 7:30 and somehow managed to get out of the tent.  I scrambled back through the brush and trees to the trail and walked the short distance back into town.  I knew there was a restroom downstairs at the Albert Hotel and the door was not locked so I was able to get in.  When I came back upstairs I bumped into Marta, the manager I met the night before.  It was 7:45 and the restaurant didn’t open until 8:00 but she was gracious enough to let me sit in the pub and in a bit she had poured me some coffee.  I had scrambled eggs and salmon.  At about 8:05, I recognized a patron from last night that came in and promptly ordered a beer.  I was wondering what kind of a life that would be.  There was another guy there blaspheming the Queen, the television and every topic that came up between the two. 

I went back to camp to stuff everything back in my backpack.  It took about a half hour to get somewhat organized.  It seemed that I might be carrying half of the forest floor with me.  I was particularly looking out for ticks.  I headed down the path along the coast towards Burtisisland, 11 miles away.  I had to carry all of my belongings because I could not find a baggage transfer service. 

 After a short distance, I bumped into Pete the Joiner.  He was walking his two dogs.  He said he is called Pete the Joiner because he is a carpenter and that is what a carpenter is called here.  He manages a group of carpenters at the Edinburgh Castle.  We had a good conversation.  I asked him about the bridges.  He said that all rail bridges in Scotland have a number except for the Forth Bridge which is just called The Bridge.  The Queensferry Bridge is the one closing to normal traffic and Queensferry Crossing is the one being dedicated today.  He said watch for the jets flying over in salute and that I would see it even going down the coast.  It was due to start in an hour.

Pete the Joiner has lived near here all his life and walks the trail a lot.  His mother-in-law is terminally ill and is expected to pass away any day so he decided to take the day off.  He gave me some shortcuts to get around the next town Inverkeithing which I didn’t take because it was too confusing.  Before we parted he told me that when my son and I are at the castle and, if it a weekday, to go to the gate and hail a guard (the ones with the colorful uniform) and ask for Pete the Joiner.  He says they all know him.  He will get us into the Castle free and show us around.  We will see if that works next Monday.  I walked further down the trail and pretty soon I heard trumpets and fanfare.  Then I heard jets and I looked over towards the bridge and there was a multi-colored line of smoke smeared across the sky just over the bridge.  The trumpets sounded for the better part of a half hour.  Then the first day of traffic on the new bridge.  The Forth bridge was built in the 1800’s, the Queensferry bridge in the 1900’s and not the Queensferry Crossing bridge in the 2000’s.

I continued on my journey.  I could see Inverkeithing on the hill around the bend from where I was but it was still two miles away.  I think I missed a sign because I ended up walking up the road into, and through, town a ways away from the path.  There were a lot of houses and buildings, old and brand new.  It seemed to be a lively little community.  I inquired with a local whether or not I was on the path.  He said to just follow the road down and it would join the path.  He saw I was taking pictures and he pointed out a big pink building connected to other buildings on the left and right.  That was redundant since all the buildings are connected together in towns everywhere.  He said “That building just had a birthday yesterday, 400 years old.  There was a big celebration.  The biographer of Sean Connery as a Scot lives in the building now”.  He is the caretaker for the building.  He was very proud of that.  He also had me take a picture of the building across the street.  Up until a year ago that was the court house where the magistrates did their business and it had been that for uncountable years.  I hiked back down the road losing my way once and then finding it again. 

Although I was getting further away from the bridges, they still seemed close from various vantage points.  The coast in this area does not like to meet the North Sea in a  straight line. Right after the town with the 400 year old building, which I suppose could have been almost any town around here, it started raining and it continued to for the next 9 miles and nearly 4 hours.  I put on a poncho to protect myself and the backpack which helped some.  With the heavy pack it was slow going.  I am sure that good-meaning people thought that asphalt was a good idea so covered dirt wherever it was feasible, but when you are walking a long distance with 32 pounds on your back it is no favor.

The path did not have too many hills, except for one which is not really supposed to be on the path. The markers for the trail showed arrows going forward and to the right which should indicate that you can take either one, so naturally I took “the one less travelled by” and that did make the difference.  Well, actually, I eventually took both.  I turned right where it also showed a sign for public path to beach.  That seemed more exciting than the one going straight ahead a ways from the coast. I walked down a narrow path with a wood fence on either side.  There were cows on one side and sheep on the other. When I got to the end, there was a large industrial plant of some kind on the left and a partially open fence straight ahead.  The facility must have been important because there was a tall fence on my left along the trail and about 20 yards of grass and then another tall fence before getting to the plant.  This stretched all around the plant.  I think I was on cctv camera which is everywhere anyway.  I got to the end of that fence and the trail narrowed into the woods and down a steep embankment.  I was really beginning to have my doubts.  I followed the fence line, slipping and sliding, until I got to the bottom.  It seemed promising until the trail ended with a wall of tall fernlike plants and I noticed I had about 20 feet of them and even if I could get through the beach looked like all big, unmanageable rocks.

My only other option was to haul myself up the slippery hill, walk past the big plant, walk down the long narrow path with the wooden fences and the cows and sheep separated for their own protection, and take the less exciting path.  It would have been embarrassing if anyone was noticing.

3 miles later I entered Burntisland, supposedly named because eons ago it was occupied by a volcano.  I’m not sure when it stopped  being an island or when they took the space out of the name.  All my parts that weren’t covered were soaked.  My pants, shoes and socks bore the brunt of it.  I wandered around town for an hour trying to locate a hotel, a B & B, just about anything at that point.  I was in the center of town but there wasn’t anything obvious.  I finally asked a woman and she said the Sands hotel on the water just a short distance out of town.  I remember seeing it when I was unsuccessfully searching for a place on the web and I remembered that it was way expensive and, being the only hotel, booked much of the time.  Fortunately, as I was walking towards it, there was a B & B sign at a house and I inquired and the hostess of the house, Cal, said she had a room.  It was a fine room.  I strung all my wet stuff around the room.  It had 2 beds, tv, sink in the room, my own bathroom in an adjacent room.  It was heaven after my most miserable day on the trip (for quite a while on the path today I sang  nonsense stuff out loud to myself and smiled because I’m pretty sure you can’t be miserable and sing joyfully at the same time – at least, not if you are normal).  I took a long hot shower which I hadn’t had in a few days. 

I asked the patrons if there was a good restaurant around.  They were excited about a new Italian restaurant that just opened but they hadn’t eaten there yet.  I went searching for it.  It was on the other side of town down High Street (I think every town has High Street).  It had a padlock on the door, no menu, no hours, no life currently or suspected in the near future.  I wandered around a bunch more and there were a lot of small restaurants but they were all what we would call To Go.  They call it Takeaway.  Not one sit down restaurant.  I ended up getting a Greekish takeway meal and took it back to the B & B.  I brought a spoon on my trip which was good because I forgot utensils.  It was delicious.  I had a bottle of still water (as opposed to sparkling water).

The wifi existed but of course wasn’t fast enough for pictures.

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Eggs and salmon

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Pete the Joiner (manages carpenters at Edinburgh castle)

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The Forth railroad bridge that I slept under.  Just called the Bridge in Scotland

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A pleasant looking path … until the rains came

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Looking ahead towards Inverkeithing

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The 400 year old building as of yesterday (with a car in front).  A biographer of Sean Connery lives there now

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The old courthouse that just closed a few years ago

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The road to nowhere, but I mistakenly took it anyway.  A mile and rough terrain later, I was back at this spot taking the real trail.

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I had coffee at the little red cafe