Hoping for drier weather, a few weeks ago Jimbo and I went to Tentsmuir. Notice boards passed on the walk indicate that the area was so named following the shipwrecking of a Danish fleet in the 1780s when some of the sailors settled there, living in tents on the moor. This is also referred to in a booklet…Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve….Tentsmuir Time Line Trail…a landscape through time, published by Scottish Natural Heritage.
However, even in 1791 the parish minister was pooh-poohing stories about shipwrecked Danes, explaining that the tents used by shepherds on the muir could be seen by inhabitants of the inland part of the parish, leading them to coin the name Tentsmuir.
We had several targets….a first-time visit to Morton Lochs, an inspection of an old railway line, then a stroll around the coastline before returning west through the forest.
Morton Lochs, created in the early 1900s, soon became an important habitat for wildlife. In 1953 the area was declared a National Nature Reserve, only the second NNR in the UK. By diverting the Lead Burn, originally known as Ninewells Burn, and flooding the dune slacks (hollows) and surrounding wet lands, three lochs were created, North, South and the smaller West Loch. Signposted off the B945, map ref 464263, the car park, by an attractive stone-built arched bridge, utilises part of the double track-bed of the old railway line from Burntisland to Ferry Port on Craig, later named Tayport. The Leuchars to Tayport section was closed to passengers in January, 1956.
Go west to North Loch, then north (parallel to the hidden railway line) on the signposted footpath to Tayport. Continue past Garpit, then through Scotscraig golf course, giving consideration to golfers. To the right is the grassy railway embankment. Exit the golf course and turn right on Shanwell Road South to reach Lundin Bridge.
Continue east along the Tay foreshore, a pedestrian access to Tentsmuir. Pass by the line of large concrete blocks, constructed in 1941 by Polish troops as defence against enemy tank landings. At this point we experienced a hailstorm, then the heavens opened. Luckily shelter was on hand at one of the old lookout points and by the afternoon we enjoyed blue skies.
Do not enter the Reserve; stay by the shoreline. On our day the tide was well out and the vast expanse of exposed firm sand made for easy, delightful walking. Further on, follow the mapped path by the edge of the trees to a signpost, Tentsmuir Point, a National Nature Reserve. Jutting out are the Abertay Sands where the Tay, disgorging more water than any other river in Britain, meets the sea`s currents and tides. The resultant sediment helps form the Sands` glistening curves and channels, only fully revealed at the lowest of tides, the best time to go. Purely by chance, we had such a day. We were lucky enough to see a sand bank covered at one end by over 100 grey seals.
The seals and the many species of birds that use the area are vulnerable to disturbances. Do not let dogs roam off the lead.
The land around the Point is constantly moving and changing, making it one of the fastest growing parts of Scotland and one of the most dynamic coastlines. The line of concrete blocks, marking the high water line of the 1940s, is by now well inland.
Continue curving round the coastline on a grassy path. Look out for a green corrugated hut on concrete legs, map ref 504267, not readily apparent at first, from where a sandy track leads into the forest to the Icehouse. Built around 1852, this stone building was used to store ice within its thick dark walls; ice to preserve locally caught salmon before shipping the fish south. Nowadays it is home to a colony of Natterer`s bats.
Turn right (north) up the broad track, then left at Junction 5, map ref 499272, signposted Morton Lochs 2¾ miles. Continue south-east, curving left past another sign, 1¼ miles to go, then soon turn right on a smaller track, signposted 1 mile to go. Reach a junction just north of Fetterdale and head west, north, then south-east. Confusingly, these last few junctions have no signs pointing the way back to the car park.
Map Ordnance: Survey map 59, St Andrews
Distance: 7 miles
Terrain: paths, sandy shore and forest tracks
Start point: Morton Loch`s car park, signposted off the B945, map ref 464263
Time: 4 hours
Nearest town: Tayport
Refreshment spot: Harbour Community Café, Broad Street, Tayport