Discovering Albion – day 5/6: The Kirk on the Bay

We took the road across the hills, drinking in the green and white beauty agains the backdrop of blue. It was a perfect day. The trip could have taken all day, with me slowing the car every few minutes to gabze in wonder or stopping for a photograph, even if we had not been led down lost roads.

We even had raptors landing for us, almost demanding to be photogrphed, much to our delight. But we had places to be… a friend waiting with dinner and a warm Scottish welcome… so we headed for Edinburgh and the Forth Bridge.

scotland trip jan 15 005We were right royally fed and watered that night… though the water tasted more like Edinburgh spiced orange gin to begin with before turning to good red wine… which might explain why I proceeded to fall asleep as soon as we sat down on the sofa after dinner. I always do at Sheila’s, it seems…I only vaguely remember being sent to bed.

scotland trip jan 15 035Our friend is an excellent cook, it has to be said. Next morning brought a magical dawn in the ancient kingdom of Fife; the sky all luminous pastel shades and petal soft… so the obvious thing to do was to go for a walk by the shore. First things first though… we needed to speak to a mechanic. Messages were left and, after breakfast, while our hostess drove into town we wandered down to the estuary.

scotland trip jan 15 078I had been here before, of course, in spring when the bluebells were in flower. Now I walked with my companion… attended by the inevitable plethora of black dogs that seem to appear from nowhere… and a robin, as well as oystercatchers and gulls. Living as I do about as far inland as you can get, you don’t realise until you hear their cry just how much you miss the gulls.

scotland trip jan 15 056We walked along the shore of Dalgety Bay, looking across the Firth of Forth to Inchcolm Island and beyond to the crouching lion of Arthur’s Seat. Inchcolm was only about a quarter of a mile away, but in winter it might as well have been a hundred miles. We weren’t going to get there. This was a great shame as we would have liked to visit the ancient priory… and later research mentions 9th century hermit’s cells and yet another hogback stone.

scotland trip jan 15 132The morning light made silk of the waves and the ruined kirk of St Bridget, sheltered by the trees held a magic all of its own. The little church dates back to the 12th century and remained in service till it became unsafe. In 1830 it was unroofed. The population had shifted, the building had become unsafe. All that remains is the quiet ruin and the graves of those who went before.

scotland trip jan 15 082A spiral staircase still leads to the loft where the nobility took part in the service from above. A small withdrawing room with a fireplace and windows looking out over the bay completed their comfort. Beneath the loft is the locked crypt where the Earls of Dunfermline are buried.

scotland trip jan 15 112The grave markers show a consistent theme of skulls and life-timers, gruesome, perhaps to modern eyes, but a fair reminder of the impermanence of life. More gruesome is the tale associated with the little keep set into the wall where the Beadles could watch for bodysnatchers. At a time when the supply of legal cadavers for dissection in the medical schools was failing to meet the demand, bodysnatchers, or ‘ressurectionists’, found a lucrative niche, so to speak. Legend has it that far from watching for bodysnatchers the Beadles of St Bridget’s would signal across the water to Edinburgh with lights when a new burial occurred.

scotland trip jan 15 135Now, however, the place is a haven of peace. We sat on a grave slab and watched the pale sun on the water before my companion wandered off to explore. I stayed there a while, camera in hand… and so caught a fleeting image of our first hawk of the day as it flew over the water towards the wood.

scotland trip jan 15 052By now it was almost lunchtime, so we returned to base. The mechanic had phoned back… they couldn’t look at the car but a description of the fault elicited reassurance… it was probably just age. We would just have to see how it went. That afternoon, though, the car was having a well-earned rest and we were going to Dunfermline with our friend.

scotland trip jan 15 069

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