As the St Andrews’ skiffs depart East Sands, we pause to admire the majestic skyline of St Andrews from the sea. The ruins of the castle, cathedral and the harbour wall where tourists stroll, together with students of the university in their red gowns.
Departing via the harbour, the skiffs take a wide berth around the ‘Burn Stools’, an outcrop of rocks, locally renamed by the club, ‘Gabrielli’s Reef’ – after a brief encounter by a club skiff.
East Sands is a popular beach for families and a sheltered bay for watersports. Along the East Sands, we see the old lifeboat shed, now the St Andrews Sailing Club, the newly built Scottish Oceans Institute (a marine research establishment) and the East Sands Leisure Centre.
Rowing out, we see numerous lobster pots and fishing boats retrieving their catch for return to East Sands harbour. Much of the catch was exported to Spain, although in the current climate is sold to the local population.
Occasionally we have seen dolphins in the bay of East Sands. Today we have the company of sea birds and the occasional, curious seal.
The entire coastline of this row is rocky, and so we keep a cautious distance from the cliffs. Our cox keeps the crew on task and in good form, all are thrilled to be part of the RowAround Scotland. In the event that weather and conditions were unfavourable, then the baton would be taken by cycle to Kingsbarns or walked on the Fife Coastal Footpath.
Passing the Kinkell Braes and the caravan park above, we then see the first of several rock formations; the Maiden Rock a, sea stack with beach below, then the Rock and Spindle, the remains of a much eroded volcanic plug – a tall stack with a spinning wheel like structure at its base made from basalt columns. The landmark of The Fairmont St Andrews Bay Resort sits high above the cliffs as we continue passed Buddo Ness and see the sea stack of Buddo Rock.
We then pass a farm building. Many sailing ships foundered in St Andrews Bay in easterly winds when they were ’embayed’. The lifeboat stationed on the East Sands had difficulty launching in these conditions and so it was hauled overland east for several miles with a team of horses. This resulted in the lifeboat house being established just east of Buddo Ness and the boat was stored there.
Passing the mouth of the Kenly Water, near Boarhills, we come across Salt Lake, a small lagoon in the rocks. The now ruined cottage alongside was reputedly occupied in times past by an adventurer.
The crew push on in good spirits, passing the stunning Kingsbarns Golf Links, towards Kingsbarns and Cambo Sands. Almost hidden among the rocks and buried in the sand are the remains of a 16th century harbour established as a store for the cereals used to supply Falkland Palace and extended by Robert Stevenson in 1813 to serve as a shore station during the construction of the Isle of May lighthouse. The sands are well known for fossils.
We are met by two kayakers who guide us safely through some tricky rocks to the beach.
With no road access to recover our skiff from the beach, we have another crew waiting to row our skiff back to East Sands but not before rowers from Crail meet us on the beach for a celebration and the baton is handed over to Crail Rowing Club.