June 21

Day 36 Melrose to Lauder

We started the day with a spot of map hunting in Melrose. Our maps go only as far as Lauder so that is where we strolled to today. Melrose is a pleasant town with a nice coffee shop but no maps north of Lauder. Fortified by a nice cup of coffee we set out. My trusty camera gave out the day before yesterday. Its bottom fell off and it no longer knows how bright things are. I have swapped to my mobile phone, it doesn’t seem to know much either.
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There is a very useful, for us, path called the Borders Abbeys Way which has brought us to Melrose and then onwards to Lauder, but that comes later
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The first steps out of Melrose head towards the mighty Tweed. The powers that be have realised that strollers like ourselves are in need of a bridge to cross.
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There is a notice on the bridge which says that it is forbidden to have more than 8 passengers on the bridge at any one time. Would the two of us plus our copious baggage way the same as 8 passengers?

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The last three days have each been quite different to the others. Today was a gentle stroll along a river bank and through fields of cattle and sheep. There have been no steep climbs, boggy morasses, downpours, navigational disasters or shortages

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To be honest today has been like a stroll in Shropshire although we don’t usually carry all our possessions in a bag on our backs when we stroll around Shropshire
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A lovely uneventful day ended in Lauder. Tomorrow we might make it to Fala. Tomorrow is an unknown as it depends on a sectoin of disused railway track shown clearly on the map. If this track is impassable then we will have to rethink our day.
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June 22

Day 37 Lauder to Fala

With a new map the way from Lauder became clearer. To be honest the stroll looked a bit dull on paper. Our hope was that the disused railway line behind the garage in Lauder might be strollable. Imagine our delight when a sign popped from behind a hedge as we passed saying something like “Railway Walk, Oxton 4M”. The first obstacle to today’s stroll had been overcome just by reading this notice.

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The path was beautifully surfaced and freshly mowed. Without a care we strolled, enjoying the views.
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We passed evidence of other strollers on the way. This led us to believe that the way through was clear.
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The siren sign which led us onto the railway walk also led us into a field which had a fence at the end of it. This field also had, by its fence, a pond hidden in the grass.
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As I am writing this there are four people sitting around the table speaking in English. These people are a French person, a Spanish person, a Polish person and an American. Anyway, moving swiftly on, after struggling through fences etc we burst out once again on the beautifully manicured railway track.
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Having burst out we broke out the supplies pf cheese.
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At Oxton things changed. We met a chap who spied our map as we stood indecisively at a road junction. He pointed out some interesting features which we might like to explore and some hints as to the easiest route onwards. The map didn’t make the route look very interesting so we expected to just plod out the last 8 miles. Our old friend Dere Street lay ahead but we expected little of it.

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In fact we were completely wrong. The second section of the stroll from Oxton to Fala was perfect. Admittedly the ground was a bit boggy but the views were well worth getting wet feet for.

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On top of the hill our helpful Oxton friend told that we would see a ruined church. He told us that many bodies were buried around the site as it had been an isolation hospice. But the thing which thrilled us was that we saw the Firth of Forth for the first time. The Firth of Forth is in the photo but only dimly.
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So finally the last mile of strolling was along the busy A68. A lorry passed and blew off our hats so we didn’t hang about.
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tomorrow there will be no strolling, nor the day after nor the day after that. We return to Shropshire for a dental visit. If the all clear is given then we shall stroll on on Monday. By coincidence this weekend, when we cannot stroll, is the Midsummer Rejoicing in Bishop’s Castle. Lucky old us we can take part because of Janet’s teeth.

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June 27

Day 38 Fala to Dalkeith

After a break of three days we have once more strolled onwards. Janet’s dental appointment was, in many ways, just at the right time for us as it coincided with the famous Bishop’s Castle MIdsummer Rejoicing. We were able to play and dance both on Saturday and Sunday, although we had to leave the festivities early and unfed in order to catch the train back to Edinburgh. The only benefit of leaving early was that today I was tired but had no after effects of beer and whisky having drunk none of these delights.
We expected to be a little jaded after the weekend so were delighted that today’s stroll was to be short, just under ten miles in fact. NOt only short but not too much up and down to tax recovering legs.
The weather has changed while we were away over the weekend. The wind has moved around to the north so gave us an unusual sort of day. Out of the wind the air was warm and pleasant. In the wind jumpers and shirts were rendered completely ineffective at warding off the icy blasts. Very quickly after setting out from Fala we were glad when a few drops of rain fell as it gave us an excuse to put on our waterproof, and windproof, coats.
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Fala MIll
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We could see from quite a distance a white blob on a mound. As we walked closer the white blob became a tower on a hill and then a tower with slits in it. Finally it became a dovecote, no doves though as far as I could see.
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The Scottish freedom to roam policy is quite disconcerting for us. We started strolling on a lane but could see a path marked on our OS map. The path started in a farm yard and followed a line through the farm building and out into the fields. In England there would have been footpath signs which calm the heart of the stroller who worries that he/she is blundering around on private property. We continually checked our map and GPS device to make sure that we were correct as we struck out along a field of wheat.
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Emerging from the wheat field we crossed a field of spuds.
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For us the highlight of this agricultural assortment was a massive porage kit.
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The footpath ended at a stonewall. The stonewall was about 8 feet high and pierced by a series of locked wooden doors. There was a sort of passage running parallel with the wall but with no indication as to whether following the path in one direction or the other would lead into Pathhead. I had become slightly disorientated as we changed directions in the fields and suggested that we turn left. Being a left handed person my instinct is always turn left. By making this error we emerged into Path Head near to the pub. The pub was due to open in ten minutes, ten minutes isn’t too long to wait. I recommend a visit to the friendly Foresters Arms.
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The onward journey could go either up the A68 or via a more sedate route. By choosing the less busy option we were treated to a view of the A68 viaduct.
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All these towns with the word head included in them seem to be up long steady rises.Under normal circumstances we would laugh in distain at these feeble attempts to dishearten us but today they did become just a little trying. Luckily for us Edgehead had won the “Best Wee Village of 1996” award and, in recognition of this success, had erected a seat some two thirds up the hill. We sat on this memorial to a previous floral success and ate our boiled egg, cheese and apple lunch. As we ate our meagre yet satisfying lunch a couple, perhaps a little more mature in years than ourselves, passed by walking their dogs. After the usual chit chat it emerged that one of their friends had been a mayor of Shrewsbury.

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Dalkeith in the distance
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The wier on the outskirts of Dalkeith
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Tomorrow we shall arrive in Edinburgh on foot. The journey northwards is beginning to take shape and will involve two mighty bridges. I can hardly wait.

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June 28

Day 39 Dalkeith to Edinburgh Cowgate

By bus the trip from Dalkeith to Edinburgh South Bridge is about 7 miles or so. When strollers set out they double it to 14 miles or so just for the fun of it.
There is a hunting scene, I think that is what it is, made of pebbles in Buccleuch Street Dalkeith and it was from there that we set out today.
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The centre of Dalkeith looked a little tired being a 1960s type shopping centre which has worn, more or less, like all of them have. On leaving the centre behind we came to a broad street built in an earlier age where both materials and design were of a better quality. Strolling about does allow time to see the best of places.
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The route began on a disused railway line. This is now a lovely tarred surface which allowed us to speed along at a brisk 3.2mph. As we approached the start of the old railway we passed a small housing estate. As we passed we heard a cry for help from behind the front wheel of a car parked on the driveway. The cry came from a bloke who posed one of life’s unanswerable questions. “Why did car makers get rid of wheel studs and make changing a wheel such a pain? You need three hands, two to hold the wheel the other to insert the studs into the holes on the axle.” I knelt down on my old morris dancer’s knees and became the second pair of hands for a few minutes.

So there it was stretching ahead of us, the old railway, or cycle track 1.
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I know that some people find electricity pylons ugly but to me they are like alien beings striding across the landscape. A working party was camped under these mighty monsters getting ready to climb aloft and ensure electricity for Edinburgh.
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On and on we sped along our tarmacadamed twisting trail
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We passed a grove of giant hogweed. The photo is hopeless and does not do justice to these menacing giants.
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I had no idea that one of the bloodiest battles on Scottish soil, Pinkie Cleugh 1547, took place at Musselburgh. Janet also told me that she had attended a wedding in Musselburgh in the 1950s So we had two historic events to talk about.
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The bridge over which the battle took place is very narrow and it is hard to believe that it was once the main road into Edinburgh. The battle was known as the rough wooing at the time as Henry V111 was doing a bit of matchmaking for his son but not going for the subtle approach.
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Having arrived in Musselburgh we had strolled, in quick time, for about two hours. Two hours is about the time it takes to empty my fuel tank so we were on the lookout for a teashop. We rejected a Costa and a Greggs and then spotted the magical “Scones” sign. This sign was a cruel deception. We ordered our scones and jam only to be told that the last one had been sold and that all 30 that they had had had been scoffed. Janet told the bloke that he should take the fresh scone sign in as it had led us astray. We ordered tea, coffee and some other baked products. As I waited for my coffee the girl making it poured it over her arm. The stuff was scalding. She rushed to the wash basin to get cold water over the scald, smiling bravely all the time as though it was a common and unimportant occurance. When we left the shop, after about 30 minutes of cake and coffee, the siren sign was still beckoning strollers into the arms of despair.
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Again we enjoyed the wide streets of this old Scottish town as we strolled onwards to the coast.
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Musselburgh seems to be devoted only to education. Everywhere we looked we could see banners advertising the Loretto School and signs indicating school houses or sports fields or facilities of one type or another. We passed Musselburgh race course and Janet remarked that if she were to go to a race she would not have any idea what to do. We mused upon the little sub groups in society, each ignorant of the others, drummers, folkies, goths, politicians etc.

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So to the Firth of Forth
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Onwards along the John Muir Way. The signs for this depict an elderly, white bearded, man. Both of us thought that, for some unfathomable reason, the sign represented a hearing loop. Neither of us are good at deciphering abstract images.
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It is our practice to stop every two hours or so to replenish my tank. The John Muir Way seemed to be the sort of way which should be provided with seats in order for the elderly stroller to take his or her ease. We had a nicely ripened camembert in my rucksack which we wanted to tuck into. There are no seats on the John Muir Way it is very nice but there are no seats so no camembert for us.
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No camembert but a sign telling us about the Innocent Railway. An innocent railway had no steam engines but used horses to pull the carriages. A stationary steam engine was used to pull the carriages up a hill using a rope pulley.
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The earliest bridge of some sort is also here.
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Onwards past Arthur’s Seat.
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What a lovely surprise a tunnel. This tunnel must be about half a mile long. We had no idea that it existed. It ends in a housing development so there is no sudden, wonderful, view at its exit.
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By now we were in Edinburgh proper, not the outskirts but the city itself. The rain, which had threatened for most of the afternoon, now began. It was the sort of rain which doesn’t really make one wet. In fact wearing a raincoat often seems to make thngs worse in these conditions.

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A street in Edinburgh
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We are staying in EH EuroHostels which is student accommodation let out in the summer vacation. It is simple and inexpensive and very very convenient for the city centre. If, like us, you like simplicity and modest prices then this is the place for you. Tomorrow’s stroll will take us to the majestic Forth Road Bridge. We won’t cross tomorrow as we intend to take our time on the bridge. So the thrill of the crossing will take place the day after. There is nothing like keeping the suspense building to a crescendo.

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June 29

Day 40 Edinburgh to Queensferry

So there it is. Edinburgh,Auld Reekie, my favourite city, apparently so far away from Shrewsbury for the strolling ancients yet Edinburgh is now behind us.
We ate a hearty breakfast in the Aroma Cafe at South Bridge then strode out towards the Royal Mile and Princes Street. The route today was not intended to be direct as both of us wanted to leave with views of the city fresh in our minds.
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Past St Giles Cathedral we strode only to turn back when we remembered that there are convenient facilities there.
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The Heart of MIdlothian is just a heart shaped ring of pebbles in the pavement outside St Giles. It is at the spot of the old tolbooth, which was built around the 14th century. Initially it was a place where the people of Edinburgh would pay their taxes, however later on it turned into a prison, and held many inmates who were condemned to the gallows.
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A view from Princes Street. If you have a good camera this looks very nice. On a phone the effect is lost.
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By strolling onwards past Haymarket Station and on and on the sign of the hearing loop or John Muir’s Way leads one up Costorphine HIll and away from the increasingly irritating traffic noise.
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What an oasis is Costorphine Hill. Costorphine Hill is one of the seven hills on which Edinburgh is built although it depends what you call a hill and how you count them.
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Being led onwards by the sign of John we relaxed into amiable chatter about this and that. Our path took us through housing estates but, foolishly, we allowed this aimless chatter to divert us from the important task of observation.
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This might have been a disaster but only cost us about half a mile of extra strolling. We tried to cross a very busy road afterwards and made a hash of that too.
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John Muir’s Way is very pretty but has no seats. Having made loads of errors we knew that we needed a seat and some cheese. Finding a seat we sat and ate cheese. We sat for too long really. The wind blew cooler and we were chilled as we set off once more. We held hands and this warmed us up a bit.
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As we strolled, chilled to the bone, my nostrils detected the unmistakeable odour of cooking. There in front of us appeared a joyful apparition, The Miller and Carter. We asked do you do tea and cake? No, but you can have a drink and a pud if you like. A hot chocolate and some heavy carbs did the trick.
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At last the Firth appeared amongst the trees. We had hoped that the view would be better but, who cares, we could see Fife in the distance.
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People of a certain age may remember a film made by Alfred Hitchcock in 1935 starring Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll called the Thirty Nine Steps. This is one of my favourite films. The film has a thrilling scene on the Forth Railway Bridge so as the bridge swam into view I became very excited indeed and took loads of photos of it.
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In order to calm down after this emotional experience we went into the Hawes Inn to recover.
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Tomorrow we will stroll, all being well, to the road bridge and stroll into Fife. Edinburgh will be behind properly and Dundee and the Tay Bridge will lie ahead, unless we change our minds again.

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June 30

Day 41 South Queensferry to Aberdour

After today’s wonderful stroll we have arrived in the Kingdom of Fife. Our straight line distance was about 4 miles but it took us 12.2 miles to do it as the coast doesn’t play ball. It could have been a shorter more direct stroll but that would have been noisy and smelly from car/lorry/motorcycle engines.

South Queensferry is dominated by the three, or two and a bit, bridges. I couldn’t begin to remember how many times we have driven over the road bridge and thought nothing of South Queensferry.
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The Rail Bridge of Richard Hannay fame.
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The “Queen” in Queensferry was Queen Margaret, wife of Malcolm III. She set up a church in Dunfermline, where she had married Malcolm in 1070. This rapidly became a place of pilgrimage leading to increasing demand for transport across the Forth Estuary. The Queen’s Ferry, paid for by Margaret and operated by monks from Dunfermline, was the result. All this changed in 1964 when the road bridge opened. 900 years isn’t bad for a transport business.

The town is really pretty with cobbled streets and loads of tea shops. We had only just had our breakfasts so none of these delightful providers of baked fancies took our fancy.
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We had no idea only a few days ago that strollers were welcome on the Forth Road Bridge this monumental structure to the motor vehicle. Having learned that we could stroll over the thing we expected the odd sign to that effect but we looked about us for signs as to how to get onto the walking area in vain. Janet went into a newsagent and asked for directons but the assistant gave discouraging news that it was a long way and she didn’t know how. Discouraged a little we pressed on and asked another woman of a more robust character who told us that she crossed the bridge every day to walk her dog. The weather forecast wasn’t really very encouraging so we prepared by wearing fleeces and, in my case, long socks. Janet tells me that I look like a scoutmaster in them, I take this as a compliment. So off we went towards the bridge following our robust lady’s advice through the traffic.

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Arriving at the bridge the weather forecast appeared to be correct. We were assailed by a strong wind and scuds of chilly rain and decided to put on our bad weather gear. The only bit of me showing to the wind and rain were my knees and nose.
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I took loads of photos from the bridge but they really do not do the stroll justice. If you get the chance to wander over the bridge on foot you won’t regret it. The weather, having tried to frighten us off, relented very soon and we probably didn’t really need the excessive clothing we had on.
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Halfway across the bridge there is a fence on which people have attached tokens of undying love. I’m not sure why they do this but it is quite a touching sight even for an old stroller like me.
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The lady of robust character who had given us the instructions to find the bridge also advised us to take the first stair after the bridge and go into North Queensferry. She told us that there was a very good tea room and would give us strength to carry on. We found the tea room and the scones and were thankful for them.
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Our original intention had been to follow a small road towards Aberdour but, although we enjoyed the views from the bridge, the traffic noise was something of a trial so we took the Fife Coastal Path instead. The path was longer but quieter.
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The views from the path .on this side of the firth were heaps better than those on the other side. The north side has fewer trees so the panorama is much wider. We could see people on the shore doing something or other and I speculated as to whether they were after shellfish
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Continuing on we spotted a notice which made it fairly unlikely that the people we had seen were looking for shellfish or anything else for the table. The idyll was not as it first had appeared.
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One of the many joys of strolling through the landscape is to discover unexpected treasures. We found the ruined church of St Bridget the ruins are the only surviving feature of it. It was in existence by at least 11 March 1178 when Pope Alexander III issued a papal bull, calling for the founding of the “Church at Dalgetty with its appurtenances”. The church was later appropriated by the nearby Inchcolm Abbey, and in 1244 it was consecrated by David de Bernham, Bishop of St. Andrews. The interesting bit, for me anyway, is a shed in the boundary walls provided for the relatives of the recently deceased who could watch their corpses by night to make sure that they weren’t stolen for the medical schools in Edinburgh. The kirkyard was vulnerable to theft by boat so needed these precautions to ensure the safe rest of the deceased.

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St Bridget’s
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The last bit of the stroll was pleasant. Loads of people seem to find the flatness of stroll as delightful as did we.
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So there we are, Aberdour.
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It is beginning to look as though the stroll is over halfway to completion. Of course that does depend on us taking a direct route.

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July 1

Day 42 Aberdour to Burntisland

Our intention was to do loads of strolling today. Indolence prevented us from carrying out this intention however. In our defence the indolence was as a result of me waking up at 3:00 am with a raging sore throat. I managed to disturb Janet who kindly searched about for some paracetamol rather than being annoyed at the nocturnal rummaging.
Our alarm went off, as usual, at 7:00 am. I went off back to sleep straight away and didn’t surface for some time.
We finally got going at about noon by rejoining the Fife coastal path at Aberdour.
We headed for Aberdour Castle as it has a tea room

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The tea room is well marked by a sign saying tea room. On entering though we thought that the tea room was the kitchen. The lady of the tea urn told that lots of people came in saying “Is this it then?” We had strolled about 350 yards at this point so progress wasn’t going to be great. A couple from Pasadena came in and asked if we could do a rain swap.
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Having eaten a scone and some vegetable soup we pressed on through the bay where the beach was full of children bathing. I noticed that coaches were forbidden to come down to the beach.
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The path is very well signposted so we followed the signs. Somehow we managed to miss a sign and found ourselves on the road to nowhere. I was all for pressing on through the sea but wise council prevailed and we retraced our steps to the very obvious signpost which we had failed to see earlier.

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After a further inch or so of strolling we came to a beautifully manicured lawn adjacent to the shore. On this lawn was a cafe selling hot drinks, fish and chips and ice cream. We stopped again for ice cream. This was a real stroke of good fortune for us as the storm we had been watching over Edinburgh came to us bearing a massive downpour.
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I can recommend the Fife Coastal Path as a lovely, flat stroll. The remaining photos take us to Burntisland where we stopped strolling for the day. Tomorrow we will carry on to somewhere else in Scotland.
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