Wednesday 4 December 2019

Fife Pilgrim Way Part 5 - Ceres to St Andrews

Fife Pilgrim Way - Part 5

Ceres to St Andrews

The Fife Pilgrim Way is a new long distance walking path, following in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims coming from Culross or North Queensferry to see the relics of St Andrew. Over several weekends I am trying to run the route, and find out a bit about the local history on the way. Last week I ran from Markinch to Ceres. The final leg brings me from Ceres to St Andrews.

Bishop's Bridge, Ceres

Ceres to Craigtoun

A week is a long time in the Scottish weather calendar, and whereas last week I was running through mud, a hard frost had frozen the path and given everything an icy edge a few days later. The Bishop's Bridge in Ceres was looking festive in the frost, the last stop for Archbishop Sharp in 1679 before he was murdered on his way to St Andrews. Even The Provost of Ceres was looking Christmassy with the town's tree blinking away beside him.

The Provost, Ceres
The path heads east out of town, across farmland with inquisitive cows watching you pass by. A slight rise takes you to Kinninmonth Hill, with views stretching back over miles of lush farmland on a crisp clear morning like I had today.

"On yonder hill there stood a coo..."
Fife farmland on the way from Ceres to St Andrews
The Fife Pilgrim Way comes onto the tarmac road for a while as it makes its way to St Andrews. To the north above the road stands Drumcarrow Craig, a rocky lump with the remains of an Iron Age broch at its summit, overshadowed by a TV mast. I was going to run up to it to see what remains, and to see if I could spy Magus Muir and Bishop's Wood to the north, where Archbishop Sharp was murdered in 1679. However a motorcycling event was on the go at the Craig, so I left them to it and continued on my way.

Drumcarrow Craig
Bikes going up Drumcarrow Craig

In 1679 the now impassable Bishop's Road led into the woods here at Magus Muir. Later that year five Covenanters unconnected with the Archbishop's murder were captured at the Battle of Bothwell Bridge, and for refusing to give up those that attacked the bishop, they were taken to the woods here and hanged. Their graves stand there beside a memorial to Bishop Sharp. Scottish religion eh, its a bloody history? 

As we come into St Andrews that, unfortunately, is going to be the theme of the day.

The path to Craigtoun Park, around the Duke's Course
Before reaching Craigtoun Park on the outskirts of St Andrews we come across the current source of pilgrimage to St Andrews. Golf. Whatever way you approach St Andrews it is golf courses that you will see before you reach the town. Hotels, museums, gift shops and cafes in town are all supported by the visitors who come to town wearing their uniform of one glove, polo shirt and cream coloured slacks. 

In medieval times St Andrews existed as a town to provide accommodation, sustenance and locals selling trinkets to the many pilgrims that visited here to see the relics of St Andrew. Over a 500 year period from 963AD, visitors came to pray to the relics of this fisherman from Galilee. From the 1400s golf has been played on the St Andrews Links. King James II banned it in 1457 as he felt it was distracting young men from archery practice, and the ban was not lifted until about 50 years later. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews was formed in 1754, eventually becoming golf's ruling authority and codifying the rules. To this day it still has this role for golfers around the globe.

On The Fife Pilgrim Way the first golf course that you walk past is the Duke's Course, named after another Andrew, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, who opened the course in 1995. I am sure that those in the Old Course Hotel (that owns the course) may be having some second thoughts now about the wisdom of seeking his patronage. The path winds around the Duke's Course, through the trees at the edge of the fairways and comes around into Craigtoun Country Park. St Andrews first appears in the distance here, our final destination.

St Andrews in the distance, beyond the golf course


The Craigtoun Estate was the property of the Melville family from the 1600's. It was sold in the 20th century to the brewer James Younger. At this time it is estimated that Younger's, based in Edinburgh, was producing a quarter of all Scottish beer. James Younger commissioned the building of a grand, Baronial style house, in pink sandstone. When Fife council bought the house and 45 acres of land at the foundation of the NHS in 1947, they converted it into a maternity hospital. But not just any old maternity hospital. It was designed to have the atmosphere of a guest house with a sun parlour, and two nurseries to take the babies away from the mothers to allow them to rest. It was here that my wife was born, giving her a birth certificate the envy of golfers around the world. Since the 1960s the country park in the grounds has been a popular attraction for visitors to St Andrews.

Craigtoun Hospital

Craigtoun Hospital
Craigtoun Hospital continued as a maternity hospital until 1992 when the house and 330 acres of its grounds were sold to the Old Course Hotel. They laid out the Duke's Golf Course in the western grounds, but have left the house to deteriorate and it is now on the Buildings At Risk register.

The route of the Fife Pilgrim Way winds through Craigtoun Park. I resisted the temptation of a trip on the tractor that was taking a be-tinselled trailer around the park, and as the pedallos were frozen into the middle of the pond, I continued on my way to St Andrews.

Craigtoun Country Park
Craigtoun Country Park

Craigtoun to St Andrews

The Den, St Andrews
Bogward Doocot
The path leaves Craigtoun via a wooded den, called "The Den" before going through another den, called "Lumbo Den". By now the path has reached the outskirts of St Andrews, but tries to follow a green route, passing dog-walkers and joggers towards the town centre. Amongst a modern housing development sits the 16th century Bogward Doocot, an incongruous sight. Finally the path emerges at the West Port, the gate built in 1547 to welcome visitors onto the ceremonial South Street that would take them the last half mile to the cathedral.

West Port, St Andrews

St Andrews

St Andrews is not a place I have visited very often. The first time I came was on my first holiday to a static caravan, with my brother, my mum and dad and a couple of their friends. I remember it being windy, I remember clambering about some old ruins and being told absolutely not to use the chemical toilet in the caravan, but to go to the campsite toilet instead.

Late 1970s summer holidays in St Andrews (don't worry, I'm sure it was fake fur)
Since then I have come to St Andrews to fly kites on the beach, to visit the aquarium, to hear poetry at the StAnza poetry festival and to finish a 10K race on the beach that was used in the Chariots of Fire film. Although we come through to Glenrothes often to visit family, St Andrews always seems just a wee bit too far away for a day out, and perhaps I have a degree of inverted snobbery against this pseudo-Oxbridge university town.

The distinctive old town centre of St Andrews today
What my flying visits haven't taught me was how big a part religion played in the creation of the town. Again and again on this Pilgrim Way, any story of religious history soon becomes a story of conflict and control. As a Glaswegian I wrongly felt that we had a monopoly on religious strife Scotland, but I was mistaken. We are mere amateurs. 

The town of St Andrews as it is laid out now was created to accommodate the large number of pilgrims coming from all over Europe between the 11th and 16th centuries. Various myths have grown up about how relics of St Andrew arrived in this remote part of East Fife. In Scottish religious practice we have moved away from the adulation of fragments of bone and other relics of martyrs, but the tangible items that connect you with ancient characters still has a strange pull on me. When I was on holiday in Amalfi the fact that the local cathedral had a toe of Scotland's patron saint was enough to make me visit. St Andrew, as the First Apostle, is revered in Greek and Russian Orthodox religion too. As well as Scotland, he is the patron saint of Greece, Romania and Russia. Patras in Southern Greece has a church with a large quantity of his relics, but some are also to be found in St Mary's Catholic Cathedral in Edinburgh

Relics of St Andrew in Amalfi Cathedral
Around the time that Christianity arrived in this part of Scotland, from Ireland, there was much transporting of the bones, hair and clothing of saints all over Europe, arriving in churches as a focus of veneration and miracles. One legend has St Rule (also known as St Regulus) from Patras in Greece being shipwrecked in east Fife in 347AD. Another theory is that the relics were brought from England by St Acca, the Bishop of Hexham in 732AD. Building up a long back story and miracles for these relics helped St Andrew to eventually rise above St Colomba to become the patron saint of Scotland, and move the centre of gravity of religious life in Scotland from the west, to Fife.

The first recorded pilgrim to St Andrews, then known at Kinrymont (the name reflecting the fact that it was the base for a Pictish king), was an Irish prince called Aed, brother of King Tara, in 963AD. Soon the reports of miracles were increasing. In 1260 the Chronica Gentis Scotorum reports tales from 100 years earlier of St Andrews.
"In that place by the touch of the relics, many astounding miracles were worked, and were worked to this day. The blind from their mother's womb received their sight, the dumb were made to speak, the lame to walk and all who piously spoke the favour of the apostle, were immediately, by God's mercy healed from the sickness that possessed them.
Once you put that on the brochure, people flood in. Queen Margaret was a frequent pilgrim, and the demand was sufficient in the 11th century for her to establish the ferry that transported pilgrims across the Forth. 

St Rule's Tower, all that remains of the old church in St Andrews
By 1160 St Rule's Church was not large enough to meet the demand and a cathedral was commissioned. It took 150 years to finally complete. After storm damage in 1270 it had to be partially rebuilt and was eventually consecrated in 1318, with King Robert the Bruce present, four years after his victory at Bannockburn over the English forces. By now St Andrew was established as the patron saint of Scotland and Robert the Bruce no doubt invoked saintly influence in leading him to victory. The Declaration of Arbroath, sent in 1320 by Scottish Barons to Pope John XXII, invokes the high position of St Andrew as the First Apostle to make their case for a distinct Scottish identity, a people protected by a saint of high regard. By an act of the Scottish Parliament his saltire, or diagonal cross, had to be shown on soldiers' outfits when they faced the English in the 1400s, and his image began to appear on coins and seals.

St Andrews Castle, viewed from the Cathedral

St Andrews Castle
As befitted their increased power and position in society, the bishops of St Andrews built a palace, or castle, to live in to the west of their new cathedral. The cathedral rivaled any in Europe, 12 metres longer than the one in Santiago de Compostela that still draws pilgrims to the relics of St James. The town was reconfigured, with the processional routes of North Street and South Street, city gates and walls built.

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral 

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral 

The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral 
By the 16th century the popularity of pilgrimage was falling away. The university, founded in 1413, was now a big draw bringing many students to the town. But it was the Reformation that turned everything upside down. 

A fiery oration from John Knox in the exhibition at St Andrews Castle
After Cardinal David Beaton's strict suppression of Lutheran ideas, burning to death four Protestant martyrs in the streets of St Andrews, he himself was murdered in 1546 by Protestant nobles, stabbed then hung from the window of his castle. The Reformers occupied the castle for a year, inviting a young John Knox in as a teacher to their children, then persuading him to become a preacher. He gave his first ever sermon in 1547 in the Holy Trinity Church in St Andrews. 

Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews, rebuilt since John Knox's time
The castle was besieged for a year before being attacked and destroyed by French canons. For a while Knox was imprisoned on a French galley ship, but eventually he returned to St Andrews in 1559. One of his fiery sermons is supposed to have so inflamed the congregation that they marauded down South Street and destroyed Blackfriars Chapel

Ruins of Blackfriars Church, St Andrews
With the Protestants in the ascendancy the cathedral ceased to be a place of worship in 1560. Sculptures and stained glass were destroyed and the cathedral fell into ruin, the stones becoming a quarry for local builders. It was from here that John Knox fired up the Scottish Reformation. Although he has a statue at the highest point of the Glasgow necropolis, atop a 60 foot Doric column, his body lies in the ground behind St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. John Knox died in Edinburgh in 1572. A simple plaque marks the spot, under car park place number 23. 

Spot where John Knox's grave lies, in the car park behind St Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh
In the late afternoon, after spending a beautiful winter's day in St Andrews, I headed towards the beach. The Martyrs' Monument on the front at St Andrews near to the Old Course Hotel, commemorates Patrick Hamilton and three other Protestant martyrs that died in the town, a suitably unadorned monument. 

The Martyrs' Monument

Looking towards West Sands and St Andrews Links

The end

Despite visiting Fife for decades, spending a few weekends running the Fife Pilgrim Way has led me to explore much more of the history of this area. A history of saints, kings, martyrs and monks, but also of farmers, footballers, miners, communists, mill workers and family members. The scenery may not have the drama of the Fife Coastal Path, but the stories that I met along the way were not just a history of Fife, but of Scotland's people. I would heartily encourage you to go and have a look.

So where to next??

Fife Pilgrim Way Links

  • Part 3 - Lochore to Markinch - Lochgelly to Lochore, then through Kinglassie and along the River Leven to Leslie, Glenrothes and Markinch

Thursday 28 November 2019

Fife Pilgrim Way - Part 4 Markinch to Ceres

Fife Pilgrim Way - Part 4

Markinch to Ceres

The Fife Pilgrim Way is a new long distance walking path, following in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims coming from Culross or North Queensferry to see the relics of St Andrew. Over several weekends I am trying to run the route, and find out a bit about the local history on the way. The last leg brought me from Lochore to Markinch. Today it was onward to Ceres.

Markinch Church

Markinch to Kennoway

It was a grey and foggy morning when I left Markinch, and although the rain stayed off all day, it had been raining heavily for several days beforehand making much of the path muddy or awash with water. Much of the path in this section is along the grassy verge of fields meaning there wasn't much solid ground between the towns. It is November and that is what you would expect so I was ready for it, but I did enjoy a hot bath and a scrub at the end of the day.

Former Haig Distillery, Markinch
Leaving Markinch the path heads east out of town through open countryside, staying north of the road that goes into Milton of Balgonie. You can't see it from the Fife Pilgrim Way, but the striking red brick building of the former Haig bottling plant and whisky bond is the first thing you see when you drive out of this side of Markinch. It was once a big employer for Markinch people. The Haig distillery started prodution of its whisky in nearby Cameron Bridge in 1824. The grassy path continues through farmland here until it reaches Windygates in about 3 miles, with flocks of geese coming and going to eat in the fields nearby as I came along this way.

The path out of Markinch
Diageo still has a large bottling facility a few miles further east from here, in Leven. Much of the wheat grown in this part of Fife ends up being turned into spirit, vodkas and Gordon's Gin in Cameron Bridge Distillery just south of Windygates. Apparently this is Europe's largest grain distillery and it was briefly visible to the south through the fog as I approached the outskirts of Windygates. Just beyond it lies Cameron Bridge Hospital (or Cameron Brig Hospital if you are a local). Although this is no longer its role, it opened as an infectious disease hospital in 1912. When the first four wards were built, the old Haig House was used as the administrative block. This building still stands, and was built by the Haig family in 1849. It became the home of Field Marshal Earl Haig, who was born in 1861. The hospital was expanded in the 1930s, and then again in 1955 when a TB treatment unit was added. 

Two coos and Cameron Bridge Distillery
The path comes to Windygates, where it turns north to head through the town of Kennoway. On the southern outskirts of Kennoway, to the right hand side of the road sits an odd hill. This is not a pit bing. This is Kennoway Motte, usually called Maiden Castle, an artificially created medieval mote-hill for a motte-and-bailey style castle. This has traditionally been associated with Macduff, Thane of Fife, who hailed from hereabouts. One tower of the more substantial Macduff Castle still sits at East Weymss four miles to the south. In Shakespeare's Macbeth play it is Macduff, who "from his mother's womb untimely ripped" kills the tyrannical king in the final act.

Maiden Castle, Kennoway
The real Macduff, like the real Macbeth, is difficult to unpick from the mythical character immortalised by Shakespeare. Macbeth was the King of Scots from 1040 (after killing King Duncan I in battle near Elgin) until his own death in 1057. He had made frequent raids into Northumbria, and it was the nephew of Siward, Earl of Northumbria, Duncan's son Malcolm Canmore, that replaced Macbeth as King of the Scots and became Malcolm III. This is the same Malcolm that moved the royal residence to Dunfermline upon taking the throne in 1058. Macbeth was defeated by Malcolm's forces at the Battle of Lumphanan in 1057. This Lumphanan is in Aberdeenshire, not the Lumphinnans in Fife near to Lochgelly, famed for having a street named Gagarin Way in honour of the Soviet Cosmonaut. 

The Clan MacDuff website has Macduff, Thane of Fife as the slayer of Macbeth, bringing his severed head to Malcolm. Thane as a title is an early version of Earl. Whatever MacDuff's actual involvement in the defeat of Macbeth was, he was rewarded by the newly crowned king by being raised to Senior Earl of Scotland, elevating the MacDuffs to become the second most important family in Scotland, and granting them lands in Fife. It was a MacDuff that placed the crown on King Malcolm III's head.


Old weavers' cottages in Kennoway

A former mill sluice in Kennoway Den
Kennoway was a former staging post on the stage horse road between St Andrews and the coast at Kinghorn. It later became a mill town, with several mills along the Kennoway Burn. As the town was largely rebuilt in the 1940s to house miners for pits in the surrounding area, little evidence of the old town survives but the Fife Pilgrim Way deviates from the main road to pass some former weavers cottages on The Causeway. There was a proposal for Kennoway to become Fife's New Town in the 1940s, before Glenrothes was chosen in preference. Like other towns in this part of Fife that housed many miners in the twentieth century, the closure of the Fife coalfield brought unemployment and hardship to the town. 

I took a detour off of the Fife Pilgrim Way to follow the path through Kennoway Den, alongside Kennoway Burn. The word den describes a ravine, a hollow with sloping sides and this Den was busy with dog walkers when I visited. Several footbridges cross the Kennoway Burn, the oldest dating from 1704. Some old wells and caves can be found here too and the Den Green, that was used to bleach linen in the sunshine in the weaving times. 
The burn was pretty full in Kennoway Den after a few days of heavy rain

A colourful totem pole in Kennoway with mining motifs among other carvings
Henry McLeish, former First Minister of Scotland, grew up in Kennoway, born to a mining family. He started playing football here, progressing to play at East Fife FC.

Kennoway to Ceres

After leaving Kennoway the path again skirts the edge of fields, forests and farm buildings as it heads towards Ceres, 9 miles away. There may be lovely views on clear days here, there may not, but I couldn't tell you. By this point the fog was closing in and the path was very heavy underfoot. The last time I got into such deep fog in Fife was in 2013. Cowdenbeath were beating Partick Thistle 2-1 by the time fog descended and the match had to be abandoned. Partick Thistle won the re-arranged fixture, which probably saved our season that year, so Fife fog is filled with happy memories for me.

Farm buildings near Kennoway 
Clatto Reservoir, looking very atmospheric in the fog
Clatto Reservoir once provided the water supply for Cupar, but no longer and is now used for recreational brown trout fishing.There were plenty of fungi around too, enjoying the damp conditions. I would love to know which mushrooms are safe and which are deadly, but as a risk-averse individual I think I'll just stick to buying them in shops. On holiday in Sweden a few years ago the farmer who was renting us a cottage told us to help ourselves to any mushrooms we gathered with the re-assuring phrase "most of them aren't poisonous." To me this phrase rings alarm bells in the same way as a light bulb that's not working in a horror movie basement scene does.

The path mostly runs along the field edges...
...but can become muddy after heavy rain
For the last mile heading into Ceres The Waterless Way was not living up to its name, but once you are covered in mud a wee bit more doesn't really make much difference. This is just a reminder that you are following a path in Scotland, where the weather can contribute to the challenges of any route.


Ceres (pronounced as you would 'series') is a dwarf planet that orbits in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It is also an ancient village in Fife. The road from Kennoway to Ceres was called The Waterless Way, which I presume was medieval shorthand for "no service station for 9 miles". It did not follow the course of any streams or rivers, as paths usually did. The medieval pilgrims that came along this route on their way to St Andrews would stop for one last night in Ceres, weary and in need of refreshment. The current parish church stands on the site of an older one and marks the spot where Christianity has been worshiped for over 1000 years. Pilgrims would stop to pray and receive a blessing here before embarking on the last leg of their trip. In the 1500s Scotstarvit Tower just west of the village was built by the Inglis family, and is looked after by Historic Scotland.

Ceres struck me as a very handsome and well-to-do village, with many old buildings still being used and in a good state of repair. Those in need of refreshment can find it in the couple of hotels in town, or in the tearooms at the Fife Folk Museum, which sits in some former weavers cottages and the old tolbooth building by the Ceres Burn. The museum itself closes over the winter months. After the Hopes of Craighall made Ceres a Barony in 1620 it became a busy market town, and the tolbooth was built in 1673, a prison cell in the basement and a weigh house above. Standard weights were kept here for use on market days to prevent fraud, and the carving of some goods being weighed above the door carries the motto (or warning) "God Bless The Just".

The Weigh House, Ceres
Ceres is home to the oldest Highland Games in Scotland, which started in 1315, the year after the Battle of Bannockburn. It was organised to celebrate the men of the village that had fought there, and a memorial to the Ceres men that fought in Bannockburn sits in the centre of the village.

Playing fields in the centre of the village

Memorial erected in 1914 on the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn
An old bridge crosses the burn near to the Folk Museum, Bishop's Brig. The bridge gets its name from Archbishop Sharpe who was murdered shortly after crossing this bridge, in 1679. In the 17th century The Covenanters organised opposition to Episcopalian changes brought by the Stuart kings to their Presbyterian Scottish church. The national Covenant was signed by a large gathering in Greyfriars graveyard in Edinburgh in 1638 and their uprising was at times bloody and brutally suppressed, largely coming to an end with the rule of King William of Orange in the late 17th century.

In the face of Presbyterian resistance, James Sharpe was appointed Archbishop of St Andrews and Primate of Scotland in 1661. At attempt on his life was made in Edinburgh in 1668. His would-be assassin was imprisoned on Bass Rock and became a martyr to some when executed in 1678. In 1679 Archbishop Sharpe was making his way back to St Andrews. When his coach left Ceres, the group of Covenanters who had been informed of his presence, caught up with his coach at Magus Muir, between Ceres and St Andrews. His coachman was shot and Sharpe was dragged from the carriage by a group of nine Covenanters and stabbed multiple times by them. 

Bishop's Brig, Ceres
Another curio in the town is the statue known as The Provost, though it looks more like a Toby Jug. He was hidden behind a lorry whilst some builders put up scaffolding when I passed. The work of local stonemason John Howie, born in 1820, it is meant to be a likeness of "the Provost of Ceres", the Reverend Thomas Buchanan, minister of Ceres from 1578-1599. 

The Provost, Ceres
I will definitely make an effort to come back in the summertime to see Ceres and visit the museum, it looks a perfect place for a lazy stroll and a pub lunch. I would also like to come back to visit the shop of potter Griselda Hill, who works here producing Weymss Ware. Another time. For now it was a case of getting back to Glasgow. I haven't quite got my head around all the intricacies of the Fife public transport system, but I decided that for me the speediest way to get home was to grab a roll and a can of ginger from the Spar on the Main Street and walk the three miles to Cupar to catch the hourly train service south. A pavement and less fog on the road would have made it a more relaxing walk.
The road to Cupar.
Next time it is the last leg of the Fife Pilgrim Way, Ceres to St Andrews.

Fife Pilgrim Way Links

  • Part 3 - Lochore to Markinch - Lochgelly to Lochore, then through Kinglassie and along the River Leven to Leslie, Glenrothes and Markinch