So, as has become my wont, I shall commence with the tale of the tape, for all you budding statisticians. Sadly, at the moment, I won't be able to add in the now traditional screengrab of the app I use to record time and distance, but I will add that in at a later juncture (Edit - 15 June - as you can see, it's been added now!). But, to the numbers...
Time: 3h 7m 17s
Distance: 9.09 miles *
Blisters: 1. It was, however an absolute swine of one, right on the area of my heel popularly known as the Achilles. I have no idea why a blister has suddenly decided to present itself there, but it did, so I now have to be aware of that too!
State of me at the end: The closest I've ever been to just giving up the ghost and falling down into a ditch.
* - This doesn't include the distance between my house and the street where Ian picked me up and dropped me off, nor does it include the distance from the bus station in Leven to the car, so combined I think those would be worth about another mile.
This leg of the journey was the hardest one yet. Partly because we decided to eschew the actual path in favour of the sandy beach, the traversing of which took more out of me than I initially realised, and partly because the last part of the walk included the now obligatory mountainous ascent of Olympian proportion.
I have come to the conclusion that the Kingdom of Fife truly is magical. It must have some kind of morpheous geology which seems to know when I am out on a walk, and reconfigures itself to ensure that the last part of the walk is a climb of ever increasing severity, the more tired I am, the more severe it makes the gradient.
Leven seems to trace it's origins back to Pictish times. In the old Pictish language 'leven' meant flood, and the local Loch Leven is a flood lake. The modern settlement of Leven is of 16th century vintage, but it wasn't until the arrival of the train in 1854 that Leven started to make a name for itself, quickly becoming a tourist resort, most of it's travelling trade coming from the west coast during the Glasgow fair.
Leven built on this fortune by developing the aforementioned shorefront and including a links style golf course, the Leven Links (I wonder how much marketeers would charge for creating that name today!) which is used as one of the qualifying courses for The Open Golf Championship.
Now that we are winding our way out along the East Neuk of Fife, the coastal path truly lives up to it's name. There are some absolutely captivating views to be had along the way, so much so that we decided to forgo the actual path itself for a few miles, and walk long the beach pretty much from just past Largo until we neared Earlsferry. Unfortunately, a lot of the beach was fairly soft, and after a couple of miles, it was starting to take a bit of a toll. Sadly, being a gentleman of rotund stature, I have a fair amount of mass with which to impress the sands, making the beachfront going, at least for me, somewhat heavy. However, if nothing else, it made sure that I had to work hard for my money, to paraphrase the late Donna Summer. As an aside, am I the only person who sees a certain irony in Robin Gibb shedding his mortal coil not too long after an advert started playing on the TV promoting the Bee Gees' 'Staying Alive' as the ideal tempo to employ when administering hands only CPR...
The end point of the jaunt was Elie and Earlsferry. Once two separate villages, Elie and Earlsferry were formally merged in 1930. Earlsferry it is said, is where MacDuff, Earl of Fife crossed the Forth whilst fleeing from King MacBeth, who I think someone once wrote a play about... Elie and Earlsferry are both staggeringly pretty. Rows of painted houses, some amazing shoreline scenery, I would say it's probably my favourite part of the East Neuk. It also has an automated lighthouse and the ruins of a tower, both of which are cracking locations for photoshoots, and both have been utilised by me in the past. I can thoroughly recommend them!
The worst over, or so I thought, we boarded the bus to take us back to Leven, where we had left Ian's car. It wasn't a long trip, but it transpired it was long enough to ensure that when I tried to move again to egress from the charabanc, I'd already started to seize up, adding weight (if you pardon the pun) to my desire that exertion of this magnitude is never repeated! That said, despite the abject misery if found myself in, and despite the pain I felt, the next day, when I reflected back upon the trek, I actually felt a little bit proud, mostly because I made the trip, hills and all, without stopping for a breather, the first time I have managed that. I guess I am slowly getting a little fitter!
I was encouraged to send a link to my blog to the people who are responsible for the Coastal Path, and I got a very nice email back from them, telling me they enjoyed the reading thereof, and giving me a bit of information about why the path takes the rout it does in some areas, which was very interesting reading. I want to take the chance to say to these guys, thank you. Thank you for all the work you do in promoting, maintaining and developing the Coastal Path. I think this is a real jewel in Fife's crown, and I don't for a second doubt the amount of hard work it's taken to get the path to the consistent quality it is. If I am critical of the path, it's generally very minor in nature, and is, really, a testament to the fact that 99% of the path is exemplary, to the point where anything less than that is noticeable, but only when compared to the high standard that the path generally maintains.
The next leg of the journey will see us hit Anstruther, a part of the journey I've really been looking forward to. Not just because of the world famous Anstruther Fish Bar, but because it will give me a chance to relate one of my favourite snippets of historical information pertaining to the Kingdom. The tale of The Beggar's Benison. Stay tuned, you really won't want to miss this one!