Tag Archives: Firth of Forth

Islands of Inspiration (4) The Isle of May in the Firth of Forth, Fife

I confess that this was my first and only visit to the Isle of May, taking the ferry from Anstruther with friends, including author Hamish Brown. We did not realise how fortunate we were, because the following day was the last day trip to the island in 2022. The warden David Steel @Steelybird, who I follow on Twitter for his amazing photos, needed to shut the whole island down due to bird flu. Tragically, this has decimated the population of sea birds up and down the east coast of the British Isles, especially on nearby Bass Rock, famous for its gannet population.

I say that this is a confession. When walking the coastal path and writing The Healing Paths of Fife we walked most of the way between the Forth Rail Bridge and St Andrews, but there were a few wee sections which were purely in my imagination, alongside some timely research, and one of these was a trip to the Isle of May.

How the island helped me in Mind, Body and Spirit

The boat trip over was a matter of mind over body as the boat rolled in the stormy waters. Hamish, however, was bobbing up and down, eating his sandwiches and pointing out various sightings of puffins, other sea birds and even seals. I was sooo relieved to be on terra firma and so was my husband!

We had brought a stick with us because we had to walk through a colony of nesting terns. The stick was not to thrash about, as it was explained to us; the birds go for the highest point and so an umbrella would do just as well. I was mighty glad not to have my head dive bombed, I can tell you.

Once we had safely navigated both of those assaults to our bodies, we set off at a pace following Hamish to a favourite spot he knew where the puffins hung out, called Bishop Cove. It was magical. They are such heart warming creatures. We sat among them watching them waddle to their burrows, peer out to sea or dive down to the water, skimming the surface in search of a place to fish. It was as if a calm had descended. We sat on the rocky ground eating out picnic, absorbing their world all around us, almost at eye level with them. They made us smile. They made us laugh. We hardly spoke as a silence crept over us. We certainly lived in the moment.

How I was inspired by the island

The Isle of May as a place of pilgrimage has always inspired me; its location at the mouth of the Firth of Forth en-route between Lindisfarne and St Andrews. One day, I believe, my writing will take on the direction of a pilgrimage in days gone by, just as it did in The Healing Paths of Fife; a personal fantasy memoir and pilgrimage describing when we first relocated from Bedfordshire to Fife including ‘meeting and talking with famous folks along the way. The lives of saints, whose unusual names have also intrigued me since moving to Scotland; St Mungo for example sounds like a perfect subject for fact/fiction. His name crops up in so many places we have visited and his birth is a legend in these parts.

Meanwhile, I am still searching for the direction my writing journey should take in the here and now; but I do believe I’m edging closer to feeling at peace in knowing the way I should take next.

On our journey home it was as still as a pond and I fell fast asleep. Unusual for me.

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Filed under Fife, Fife Fantasy, Inspiration, The Healing Paths of Fife, Writing

A Trip on The Forth Belle ~ Diana’s Virtual Tour of Fife

DSCN3010.JPGDidn’t we choose a perfect day for our Three Bridges and Inchcolm Island trip along the Forth yesterday? It was magic.

Friends from down south were staying in Edinburgh and so we suggested meeting at Dalmeny Station. We have been known to walk down the cliff steps from the station to the pier on a couple occasions but, since the day before we had endured a snowy blizzard, we decided to drive and park near the quay. ~ It is the old car park, in fact, for the original car ferry crossing between South and North Queensferry before the first road bridge was opened in 1964, linking road users to the northern parts of Scotland. DSCN4541.JPG

Seals, whales, dolphins,  porpoises and even puffins can be seen at different times of the year but yesterday we were content to spot the occasional seal camouflaged on the rocks.

 

 

DSCN4538.JPGOne day we will alight at Inchcolm and explore the island and Abbey and maybe have a picnic but we’ll leave that pleasure for another time. Inchcolm Abbey is affectionately nicknamed The Iona of the East, aptly so if you compare photos of the two Abbeys. Adjacent to the quay there is Inchgnome Island! I’ll leave you to use your imagination as to how the little people got there.

As well as the beauty of a trip along the Firth of Forth you are made well aware of the oil industry and the heritage of shale mining, which dates back to the nineteenth century when Burntisland and The Binn became prosperous for its paraffin; thus saving the whale from annihilation.

We floated over a few famous protected shipwrecks including Blessing, Charles 1st’s ferry which is allegedly still full of many of his possessions; and the Cunard HMS Campania. 

DSCN4543.JPGThe view of the three bridges including the new Queensferry Crossing is awesome from below. Last time we did this trip the 21st century bridge was still under construction but yesterday the light of the sun caught its sails in all its glory.

Back on shore you have many places to chose to eat including Hawes Inn of Robert Louis Stevenson Fame, Harry Ramsden Fish and Chips, the biker’s cafe or The Railbridge Bistro, complete with model railway.

Yesterday our friends were too replete on breakfast and so we didn’t stop, but we have enjoyed all of the above places in the past and The Hawes Inn does a delicious Sunday Roast.

As we floated along we listened to the interesting commentary but we were able to add a personal touch as we shared our thoughts of the different places along the Fife Coast with our friends, all familiar scenes to us now.

 

 

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Queensferry Crossing Experience in Photos

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The Queensferry Crossing, Scotland

We were fortunate to be allocated passes to walk over the Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh last Sunday. Catching the train from Kinghorn and alighting at Inverkeithing, we had a short walk to Ferry Toll, where we were security checked andDSCN4190 bused to the bridge. The organisation was slick, cheerful and efficient and reminiscent of The Olympics (or The Commonwealth Games)

We were given only an hour to walk the 1.7 miles. This was perfect to include regular pauses to take photos and enjoy The Queensferry Crossing, the old Forth Road Bridge and The Forth Bridge, the iconic rail bridge admired by thousands over two centuries.

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Here’s the rail bridge appearing Nessie – like through the gaps in the wind shielding glass; a photo which will never again be taken except from a moving vehicle.

 

At intervals information boards gave us fascinating facts and figures about the bridgeDSCN4227 and its construction and also historical background. On this one we were told that, whilst clearing the site, signs of the oldest dwellings in Scotland were discovered.

The views of the other bridges wowed us by their grace and symmetry.

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The glimmers of sunlight through the clouds enhanced the beauty of The Queensferry Crossing itself. I couldn’t help but wonder, half way across, what Queen Margaret (or St Margaret (1045-1093) would have thought of it all, since she instigated the first ferry route for pilgrims over the Firth of Forth, which existed until the first road bridge was opened in 1964.

(Diana Jackson is the author of ‘The Healing Paths of Fife’ a fantasy memoir of her walk along the Fife Coastal Path)

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