Kinghorn Coastal Rowing Club have been active on the water since launching in June 2016. Our boat was built by an enthusiastic community group in a member’s garage which had to be temporarily extended for the purpose of the build. After many months of pondering and discussion, we named her Yolande (number 118) after the Queen of Alexander III who fell to his death near Kinghorn on the way to Kinghorn Castle.
We are fortunate in that we can row from sandy Kinghorn Bay in the summer and on Kinghorn Loch in the winter. We have a growing enthusiastic membership and, as well as taking part in many regattas and outings with other clubs, have also hosted the Inchcolm Row and Frostbite Regattas held on the loch.
Unfortunately we couldn’t row the baton the five miles along the coast from Dysart to Kinghorn, but enjoyed the scenic coast and sea air by walking it between Dysart and Burntisland.
Our Virtual Voyage
The haar was swirling round Dysart harbour, one of these little coastal ports that used to be very busy, but have now fallen an hard times. It is carved out of a cliff and was Fife’s main coal and salt exporting port for hundreds of years. From a rowers’ point of view, it is inaccessible at low tide but at high water has a wide slipway and even a little bit of sand where boats can be hauled up.
Yolande’s course runs due south and with the mist lifting we could see the distant Arthur’s Seat and the blue headland of Seafield. The shore line of Ravenscraig Park is heavily wooded, hiding the urban sprawl of Kirkcaldy, until Ravenscraig Castle, now overlooked by massive tower blocks. The sand is now returning to the beach at Pathhead, which was ruined by the tipping of pit waste onto the shoreline. Pathhead was once dominated by enormous industrial buildings, locally called Nairn’s Folly, used for hanging rolls of linoleum.
Just passed an area of dunes is a large green building which is Kirkcaldy’s sewage works. The outfall used to be marked by a yellow buoy so it is advisable not to linger here too long as you may have to give the hull of the boat an extra good clean. The shiny, new silos behind the harbour wall are Carr’s grain storage. This harbour once boasted a ferry to Leith, whaling vessels, and up till the 1960’s imported cork from Spain and exported linoleum. The warehouse area has now been developed into flats and the harbour became virtually inaccessible due to silting up. The good news is that this has now changed, with grain being brought in by ships directly to the granary. There are now moorings, a boat club and a slipway tucked away in the south corner.
Passing the harbour you can see why Kirkcaldy is called the ‘Lang Toon.’ When the tide is out, it has a beautiful beach but the land is protected by a high sea wall and promenade, built during the great depression of the 1930’s. When the tide is in, there’s nowhere to land until you come to the south end of the prom where the Teil burn flows to the sea. The people of Kirkcaldy are completely disorientated, as the High Street runs south to north but still has a west end, (south) end a east end (north).
South of us lie some navigational hazards, the skerries of Long Craigs and East and West Vows (locally pronounced Voos). At high tide, it is possible to pass them inshore but it’s much safer to pass on the east side and watch the large number of grey seals that roost here. The coast at Seafield is now built up but was once the site of Seafield Colliery, a super pit opened in the 1950’s which closed not long after the miners strike of 1984.
From here to Kinghorn the coast is rocky, with no place to land but is of much geological interest for those who walk the coastal path. This area of water is sheltered from the west and is heavily creel fished for lobsters. The first indication of approaching Kinghorn is a caravan park on the site of the old Abden shipyard. This built sailing vessels and steam boats but finally closed in 1920. Parts of the old slipways still remain but are slowly being lost to the sea. Kinghorn Bay comes as a surprise, but at low tide you have to row past the Hummel Rocks to gain entrance. This ancient Royal Burgh was once the most important of the ‘broad ferries’ crossing to Leith. The Bishops of St. Andrews had a residence here which was also used by Scottish Kings.