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Fife Pilgrim Way in two halves: Culross to Glenrothes

Written by Fiona

July 15 2019

Culross Palace.

This article gives an overview of the route from Culross to Glenrothes, which is a total distance of 28.5 miles (45.8km). This can be walked over two or three days, depending on your fitness and how many attractions you want to visit en route.

Also read Fife Pilgrim Way in two halves: Glenrothes to St Andrews.

For details of the background to the FPW and an outline of the sections of the walk see:

Fife Pilgrim Way: A new long-distance walk for Scotland.

Culross to Dunfermline

Mercat Cross.
Historic Culross.
Culross Palace.
Culross Palace.

8.5 miles (13.7km) with 190m of ascent

Terrain: Mostly tarmac with a few short sections of track and rougher unmade paths.

You can start the route at North Queensferry, but I chose to begin at the alternative western start point at historic Culross. There is ample free parking and plenty to look at before you set off.

Culross gets its name from the Gaelic words “Cuileann” (meaning holy) and “Ross” (meaning point or promontory). It is pronounced “Coo-rus”. BY the end of my walk, I think I had just about mastered this way of saying where I had come from!

The village of Culross is home to a network of historic cobbled streets and a number of attractions that could easily divert you for half a day, or more.

The striking NTS owned ochre-coloured Culross Palace is well worth a visit. There is also a medieval abbey, St Mungo’s Chapel and a 16th century Mercat Cross. You could spend a day, or half, a day pottering around Culross before heading off to walk.

The Fife Pilgrim Way (FPW) path starts on the same route as the Fife Coastal Path, edging the northern shore of the Firth of Forth. It is a tarmac path and easy to find.

Once you have taken your eyes off Culross itself, you can enjoy a lovely vista over the sea. This stretch of coast is home to Torry Bay Local Nature Reserve.

Take care to watch out for signposts that lead you away from the coast at Torryburn and inland to pass through two villages, Cairneyhill and Crossford en route for Dunfermline. I was too busy eyeing the coastline that I missed a sign to start with.

Fife Pilgrim Way signposting.
Fife Pilgrim Way signposting.

The route follows a mix of roads and villages, with a few short pavement sections, interspersed with farmland and woodland.

Top tip: Keep your eyes peeled for signposts telling you to turn off on to paths and tracks, especially at Cairneyhill close to a bridge over a railway.

One of the highlights along the way includes a visit to Commonwealth War Graves at Cairneyhill. The Commonwealth War Graves honour the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died in World Wars I and II.

Keep your eyes peeled for these wee signs.

After Cairneyhill, the FPW heads on to a farm track, with a vista of beautiful rolling fields of crops and taller hills in the distance. his is an area of Fife ha I was not familiar with and I was delighted to see the countryside unfolding before me as I travelled the signposted route.

After the village of Crossford, the FPW turns to cross farmland and passes through a farm and on to a rougher track between more cropped fields. In the gentle breeze the yellow crops waved at me and caused me to stop to enjoy the wonderfully bucolic views.

Here, too, you have the first glimpse of Dunfermline Abbey ahead and also the three iconic bridges over the Forth in the further distance. The FPW leads you into Pittencrieff Park, or The Glen as it is known locally, in Dunfermline.

I bumped into Tom Adams, who runs a mobile museum, Mac, which is roaming Fife telling the story of the Pilgrims for the next two years.

Tom Adams, who works for Fife Cultural Trust drives a mobile museum around Fife telling the story of the pilgrims.

Tom features in a mini film I made while he chatted about the history of the pilgrims. The video features in this post:Fife Pilgrim Way: A new long-distance walk for Scotland.

A stone archway in Dunfermline (and another wee sign for the FPW).
Dunfermline Abbey.

Dunfermline has a long history woven by monks, monarchs and manufacturers. King Malcolm III established Dunfermline as Scotland’s capital, holding court here in 1065. He married Margaret, a Saxon princess, and a 13th century chapel dedicated to her can be seen in the town.

Other remarkable history notes include:

  • The Norman Abbey founded by King David 1 in 1128.
  • The body of King Robert the Bruce buried before the altar and beneath the tower that proclaims his name. (His heart was taken on a crusade and now lies in Melrose Abbey.)
  • Handloom weaving founded in the town in the late 1400s.
  • Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and philanthropist (1835 to 1919), was born in Dunfermline.
  • Carnegie Hall.
  • Pitttencrieff House and Park.

Top tip 1: You could easily spend a day in Dunfermline alone.

Top tip 2: In villages and towns, keep a careful eye out for the Fife Pilgrim Way signs attached to lampposts and other structures. Occasionally, I missed one of these and ended up having to back track to find the route again. It is easier to follow the sign posts on rural tracks because there are fewer options compared to the multiple streets in more urban places.

Dunfermline to Kelty

8.5 miles (13.7km) with 190m of ascent

Terrain: More paths in this section. Mostly they are tracks or fairly flat “made-up” paths.

It can be tricky following the FPW signs out of Dunfermline. These are so many roads and route choices, but once you leave the town behind the trail is a rough tarmac heading east, amid trees. It feels like an old railway line, although I am not sure if it is.

Look out for a left turn towards Townhill and the first significant climb of the FPW so far. Saying this, it’s not a long or arduous climb.

Colourful wild foxgloves are scattered across Fife.

At Townhill, there is a section of lovely tarmac that runs parallel with a road but is hidden behind high hedgerows. The views of he Fife countryside are gorgeous – and seemingly endless.

Then, it’s on to Kingseat. Originally a coal mining village with the first pits sunk in the area in 1800, the name of Kingseat is thought to have come from when the king would visit the area to look out on to the River Forth and to Arthur’s Seat.

Loch Fitty.
Loch Fitty.
The post-industrial landscape of the open mine site, St Ninian’s.

Take care to spot a FPW sign on the left just after the village. You’ll also see a metal gate with a sign Loch Fitty House.

The route now heads on a rough track downhill towards pretty Loch Fitty. If you did not know the local area you would have no idea that this loch existed, nor how a track takes you through countryside towards the village of Kelty.

Between Loch Fitty and Kelty is the remarkable post-industrial landscape on the site of what was once a busy open-cast mine, St Ninian’s.

The landscape here has been transformed through raw material extraction, technology and human labour and now awaits to be re-consumed by nature. In the meantime, it looks strikingly strange; not unattractive but not pretty either.

There were plans for landscape artist Charles Jencks to regenerate the area into a visitor attraction but it seems that funding was not forthcoming. It is a shame because Jencks has created some amazing land artworks, such as Crawick Multiverse in southern Scotland.

The route skirts around the former coal-mining village of Kelty village, after leaving St Ninian’s land, and crosses a road to go into Kelty Heritage Trails. There is a thought-provoking monument at the start of the trails dedicated to all who worked in the Kelty colleries. The trails are part of larger Blairadam Forest.

The FPW heads down a narrow trail into the forest and suddenly you’re surrounded by huge trees and amid amazing peace and quiet.  

Kelty to Glenrothes

Blythe’s Tower in the distance, near Kinglassie.
A sign points the way through a gate and along a grassy path.

11.5 miles (18.5km) with 150m of ascent

Terrain: A mix of paths, tarmac, unmade path, and a couple of sections of rougher paths, including walking along the edge of fields of crops and a steep hill climb.

Leaving Kelty behind the FPW quickly takes walkers to Lochore Meadows Country Park. The loch views are lovely and there is a a wildlife reserve and viewing hides.

As you leave the park you’ll pass the remains of Lochore castle, one of Fife’s former strongholds.

Heading into the country there is plenty to enjoy with wildflowers and more views of lovely undulating landscape.

A wooden seat on Hare Law.

After the village of Crosshill, the FPW heads on to a rougher path to climb up to Hare Law Cairn. This is one of the shorter, hillier parts of the Fife Pilgrim Way.

The rewards for the climb are superb views and then a long descent on a wide, gravel road.

A section of pavement along a busy road is one of the least pleasant sections of the entire route but it is quickly walked towards the village of Kinglassie (pronounced Kin-glassie).

Kinglassie is where pilgrims once visited the church and nearby Finglassin’s Well, which was claimed to have healing powers.

Look out for a hill climb, signposted from the main road and beside a bowling club. This is another steeper section on a rough path by the side of a field.

The views over fields and hills include Blythe’s Tower. Built in 1812, the square, four-storey tower on Redwells Hill is a category B listed building. The tower was once used by a linen merchant to view ships as they entered the Forth and later as a look-out tower by the Home Guard during World War II.

A typical path behind houses in Fife villages.

From here, there is an obvious grassy path alongside fields of cows and then the route edges a field of crops. Make sure you stick to the side of the field, to avoid trampling the crops, and keep your eyes peeled for signs to send you on a narrow path alongside the River Leven and into Leslie.

There is a well-made riverside path to walk to gain on the town of Glenrothes. The town has won multiple horticultural awards in “Beautiful Scotland” and “Britain in Bloom” contests for the quality of its parks and landscaping.

Find out more at Fife Pilgrim Way on Facebook and via this on-line shop. Also see Fife Pilgrim Way overview.

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