Wednesday and a long, loquacious breakfast began a leisurely day. The sun was shining and my hostess, knowing me all too well, pointed me in the direction of the bluebells, beach and a ruined chapel, ushering me out for a morning walk. Nothing loath, I shouldered the camera and wandered off towards the bay. The streets of the little town are lined with beautifully kept gardens, bursting with azaleas and rhododendrons at this season… it was difficult not to keep stopping, but after all, Sheila’s own garden has more than enough beauty to photograph.
A short walk took me to the bluebell wood. The perfume hit me first, long before I reached the green haven, dotted with the yellow of gorse and misted blue. There is a profusion of wildflowers here and my eyes simply drank in the contrast of woodland and bay. Birds were many… from crows on the beach to magpies on the pathways, to gulls crying overhead… everywhere I looked was an invitation to stop and simply enjoy the moment.
I followed the little path along the bay; on one side lovely gardens slope down to the path, on the other a narrow band of wildflowers, grasses and trees leads directly onto the rocky beach. Every so often the woodland widens and you are walking through a green tunnel of dappled light, sunlight on the Forth estuary glittering through the trees.
It wasn’t far, though for obvious reasons I kept getting sidetracked. Especially by dogs, black ones, carrying sticks and balls and optimistically dropping them at my feet. Ani, of course, would have loved it. Missing her daft, enthusiastic presence, I played with the assorted hopefuls for a while, glad of their fleeting company. One even looked very like her…
The wood deepened for a while, shadowed green, and I caught my first glimpse of St Bridget’s Kirk, the ruined chapel by the sea. The first thing you see is the little keep built into the wall where the church beadle could keep watch for body snatchers once upon a time. The kirk is the last remaining trace of the old village of Dalgety, though a subsequent walk revealed three ancient burial cysts preserved in Tesco’s car park that are older by far. This place, however, is simply beautiful.
Mellow gold set in emerald… a reversal of the jewellers art, but this is no ordinary gem. The original kirk dates back to the 1100’s and was altered in the medieval period, though the piscina and credence still remain. It is unusual, at least to English eyes, with the loft for the Earl of Dunfermline and his family overlooking the main body of the church, above the sealed family vault lit only by narrow slit windows. A spiral staircase leads up to the loft and a little side room with a fireplace where the nobles could rest and refresh themselves and empty windows look out across the bay to Incholm Island and Edinburgh.
In the churchyard the gravestones carry dates and designs four centuries old, skull and crossbones predominate, though there are other, odder designs, some grand and evidently expensive tombs, some cruder, starker, less ornate. Yet it is a place of peace and beauty.
The evolving religious face of a nation had changed the fabric of the building and the manner of worship, yet it has been sanctified by centuries of faith and that lingers in the very stones. Once more I am reminded that the details of religious politics have nothing to do with faith. That is something that comes in every shape, colour and flavour… yet always from the heart and soul of the individual. Here you seem to feel the echo of their silent prayers whispering on the sea breeze in the leaves and radiating from the sun warmed stone.