So that was and adventure! Firstly, let me give you a few friendly tips. 1) If you’re getting the bus from Dunfermline to Burntisland, just down the coast on the Firth of Forth, make sure that if it’s a double decker you use the top deck. 2)Don’t go on a bank holiday Monday. You knew that already, I forgot.
Why the bus? Well, I made the mistake of sitting on the lower deck of the Stagecoach No 7 service from Dunfermline. It wasn’t an unpleasant journey, but it DID involve lots of houses and roads. Sitting on the top deck would have given me lovely views of the Forth Road and Rail Bridges. Take the top deck.
Burntisland, when I got there, was busy, very busy. It was a Bank holiday andBurntisland was showing off just how popular a holiday spot it can be, with visitors crowding the beach and the popular all-summer fair. The fair, by the way, is situated on the Links, which land was. granted to the townspeople by KIng James V.
Burntisland, much like my hometown, Alloa, has a varied industrial history, from Plummer’s Aerated Water ( a division of which was taken over by Kia Ora)to an aluminium works which closed in 2002.There were even short lived shale oil and vitriol works. The town was a Victorian centre of the herring industry, and as with Alloa, there was shipbuilding. And ferries. Ferries bearing tourists. Including the first roll-on roll-off ferry. Then there was the Forth Rail Bridge at nearby North Queensferry. It cemented Burntisland’s appeal as a tourist town. Today the docks is used for production of offshore gas and oil fabrications, so the town still has some heavy industry. Now an industrial town is not an obvious candidate to have a blue flag award winning beach, but Burntisland does, .and equally impressively, a lifeguard keeping a keen eye on swimmers – a rare sight on Scotland’s beaches. Judging from the day of my visit, its’ tourist industry is also doing well and it deserves congratulations for that. Sadly, I was less impressed that the Museum of Communications was closed (with no opening times displayed, ironically) and that in common with Alloa, there is no permanent local history museum. Is the town as booming as it seems or was I led astray by a Bank Holiday phenomenon?I’m not sure. I hope it’s doing well.
Burntisland was a wee bit too crowded for me, though, so I hiked along the coast road to KInghorn. En route, I came across something which I’ve heard off ever since I studied mediaeval history in my first year at University in 1992, but never actually seen. A stone obelisk marking one of the key turning points in Scottish history
Here, on.a stretch of road along the top of Pettycur Bay, this monument marks the site where in 1286, King Alexander III, King of Scots, fell from his horse on a stormy night and was found dead on the shore next morning. Now by all accounts, the 43 year old King was something of a ladies’ man, and was in a desperate hurry to get home to KInghorn and his young wife, Yolande de Dreux. He had good reason to hurry. He needed an heir. Tragically, Alexander had outlived all of his children. He had only one heir,his grand-daughter, the infant Margaret, daughter of the the King of Norway. On 13th March 1286, Yolande’s birthday, her husband’s body was found on the shore. Local legend has it that her ghost haunts the site, perhaps awaiting his return.
But why was this event so pivotal to Scottish history? Well, the young heir, Margaret the Maid of Norway, was an infant and a girl. Nevertheless the nobles of Scotland accepted her, and waited until she was old enough to travel from Norway to Scotland. In 1290 she embarked on the journey. Sadly, she never made it. She died at the Bishop’s Palace in Kirkwall, Orkney.In doing so, she sparked a constitutional crisis. Scotland had no clear heir to the throne, and many power-hungry claimants.In his role as feudal overlord of the King of Scots, KIng Edward I of England intervened, and chose John Balliol, a man who many see as a puppet King. Only a few years later, Edward deposed Balliol and in doing so, sparked off the Scottish Wars of Independence which included such fam0us victories as the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. All of which might never have happened had a lusty and impatient King not fallen from his horse on a stormy night.
The nearby town of KInghorn is very reminiscent of Fife’s East Neuk fishing villages, at least around the shoreline which you can see in the photo at the top. Like Burntisland, it’s a tourist town, and the large caravan park which stretches along the road between the two communities is testament to this. On the day of my visit however, the beach was quiet, calm, the late afternoon handful of visitors relaxing before the tea time in the caravan or the long drive home. A dog, doggedly, refused to leave the beach. I knew how she felt. Enjoying the warm sand and icy cold water (those swimmers at Burntisland were brave) under my bare feet, I didn[t want to leave either. The beach had cast it’s magic.Looking over the water to Edinburgh, so very near and yet a different world, I thought how lovely it would be to travel home from the bustling capital city to this peaceful haven.
And when I tore myself away, to catch the bus back to Dunfermline and then on to Alloa, I took my own advice and sat on the top deck.