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 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
|Farm buildings near Kennoway|
|Clatto Reservoir, looking very atmospheric in the fog|
|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|
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|
|The Provost, Ceres|
|The road to Cupar.|
Next time it is the last leg of the Fife Pilgrim Way, Ceres to St Andrews.
Fife Pilgrim Way Links
- Part1A - Culross to Dunfermline - from Culross to Torryburn, Cairneyhill and onto Dunfermline
- Part 1B - North Queensferry to Dunfermline - North Queensferry to Inverkeithing, Rosyth and then Dunfermline
- Part 2 - Dunfermline to Lochore - from Dunfermline to Kingseat, passing Hill of Beith, past the lost village of Lassodie to Kelty and Lochore
- Part 3 - Lochore to Markinch - Lochgelly to Lochore, then through Kinglassie and along the River Leven to Leslie, Glenrothes and Markinch
- Part 4 Markinch to Ceres - Markinch via Widygates and Kennoway and then on past Clatto Reservoir to Ceres
- Part 5 Ceres to St Andrews - Ceres, Craigtoun and then to St Andrews on the coast
- Fife Coast and Countryside Trust
- Walk Fife
- Fife Pilgrim Way Facebook page
- Welcome to Fife
- Long Distance Walkers Association
- British Pilgrimage Trust