The Ports of Tay Recreational Route

A scenic tour of the Fife Alps

 
   
GRADE Medium - Some steep hills
   
UPDATED March 2002

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This 47 km / 29 mile route is the “grand-daddy” of `em all, taking you through some very diverse countryside. From the flatness of Tentsmuir Forest to the lung-busting climbs around Logie.

I would seriously advise anyone to start this route somewhere flat like Tayport, giving you a gentle run into and out of the route and definitely advise doing this run in the clockwise direction avoiding the hard climb out of Balmerino.

Starting off from Tayport there is a Cycle Information Point between the quay and the café. A plaque mounted on the wall of the white harled house to your right, commemorates the visit on 1st September 1877 by the former American President Ulysses S Grant, when he sailed from the harbour to view the construction of the first Tay rail bridge.

The route continues alongside the harbour, at the end of the quay, turn left onto the shared use footpath and continue alongside the harbour. At the end of the shared use footpath turn right, going onto the road past the houses, when the road bends to the right, turn left here and follow the road along the esplanade, then continue through the caravan park, keeping the boundary to your right.

At the houses, you come up to a T-junction, turn left at the end of the road is a small car park and visitor information point, detailing the natural history of the sands. Beyond that is an access gate with a useless cycle access point, go around the barrier and continue along the tarred road for a short distance before turning to the left, continuing along the rough, stony and ill drained road alongside the compound, follow the road on the right towards the trees.

You are now presented with a choice of routes to the Kinshaldy Beach Road, to the left is the longer (7 miles) Kingdom Cycle Route / North Sea Cycle Route and to the right is the shorter (4 miles) direct route.

The longer route can be hard to cycle upon, though it has some interesting things to see: On the left hand side, not long after rounding the coast, is the March or Boundary Stone. The stone denotes the boundary limits of the salmon fishers, from here to Normans Law was one fishing beat while south of the marker was another. The use of Normans Law is a bit academic now as you can no longer see the hill for the trees. The inscription is clearly written in old Scots and dates to 1794. Farther down the coast is the disused Icehouse, here ice was stored and used to preserve the fish caught on the beach nets before transport to market

I took the shorter direct route to the right, for the first part of the direct route it is easier to ride in the wheel ruts, however the surface improves significantly just after the track is joined by another from the left. The forest road then appears to split – continue on the left hand track, finally ending at a barrier, go around the barrier to a T-junction with the Kinshaldy Beach road, this road can be busy in the summer.

Turn right, as you leave the line of trees to the left is a small square stone which has a War Department mark on the southern face, dating to around the time of the 1914- 18 war. Turn left at the T-junction and follow this narrow road all the way into Leuchars. The road comes out at the church, with a Byzantine style steeple, follow the road around to the left and down to a T-junction and turn left.

As the road nears the Leuchars bypass, the route mounts the footpath to cross the road, then approaches the bypass on the footpath to cross directly over the bypass onto a shared use footpath on the far side. Turn left and continue along the footpath for a short distance, turning left at the houses, leaving the North Sea Cycle Route and heading for Balmullo. Grown-ups may prefer to turn left onto the bypass and turn right at the houses. Cross the railway bridge and continue to Balmullo.

At Balmullo, turn left and go up to the junction with the A92, the route goes straight on at the slightly staggered cross roads. At the top of the street turn right and continue uphill through the village. At the top of the hill, turn left and continue climbing on the road up to the quarry. Both sides of this narrow road is coated in a fine red gravel, which presents a skid danger if you or another road user have to break suddenly.

After the quarry the road surface really deteriorates and presents more than a few deep pot holes on the way to the top of the hill, it is worthwhile stopping to take in the sights on the way up.

After the climb you come to a T-junction near Logie, turn left and continue to the next T-junction, turn left then descend the sweeping hill past the hotel to a T-junction, turn right and another short sharp “granny ring” climb. Turn left shortly after the crest of the hill, following the road through Kedlock to a T-junction and turn right.

Descend to another junction and turn left on the final short sharp descent to the A914. Cross this busy road and take the next right. About half way up the next climb you will pass a doocot (dove cot) harking back to times when pigeons were valued as a source of fresh meat. At the end of this long climb you come to a T-junction, turn left and then immediate right signposted for Balmerino

At the bottom of the steep hill follow the road around to the right, this road eventually comes to a T-junction, turn left, no KCR signs here. The road ends at a T-junction outside Wormit, turn left and follow the road through Wormit and Newport, keeping the Tay to your left. The road gets busier around the Tay Road Bridge – pays to keep your wits about you here. Shortly after passing the junction there is a dropped kerb on the left which leads onto the gravel paved cycle way alongside the road.

The path comes to a lay-by, exercise caution entering the lay-bay – look right for fast traffic entering the lay bay. The path resumes at the far end of the lay by, the path ends shortly afterwards at a no expense spared gate with a pin type lock and non self-closing gate, go through the gate and down to another gate of similar design, go through the gate onto the bed of the old railway.

The old railway ballast has become hard packed, bumpy and unpleasant to cycle upon as you descend towards Tayport, you may have to pass through a large farm gate. The surface then becomes earthy and rough as the track passes behind the cemetery. An unsigned detour is made off the railway and down the embankment and then a confusing choice of routes presents itself. Straight ahead or left under the railway or back up the embankment or left and down to the road.

Having had enough of the railway I opted to go left and down to the road, turning right outside the western lighthouse. Shortly afterwards you pass the eastern light, the cottage bears the inscription “1823 Erected by the corporation of Trinity House Dundee, William Nichol Esq. Harbourmaster.” Both lights were built by Robert Stevenson, the eastern most light is disused and is closer to the original design.

The road from the lighthouse comes up and over what would have been a railway bridge to a T-junction. Turn left, go down the hill. Turn left at a junction, going down to the harbour back to the starting point.

Wallace Shackleton

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