Weekend beach walks at Fife’s Pettycur Bay

When the moon is new or full, we chase the low tide to Pettycur Bay.

A long spit of sand that links the south Fife towns of Burntisland and Kinghorn, Pettycur is a favourite for both locals and holidaymakers alike. Park or start from either town, and when the tide is far out, you can walk towards the shrunken River Forth, looking across to Edinburgh.

This Sunday starts brightly, before the cloud rolls in later, bringing grey skies and spots of rain. I wear wellies and sunglasses and the warmest coat I have, as even though it’s April now, the wind bites.

Up on the hill, as if clinging to the crest of a wave, is a sea of light-green static caravans. This is one of the country’s largest holiday parks and the starring protagonist of a new BBC Scotland documentary, Life on the Bay. From the caravan windows, you can look out at the sand and the ships and the faraway streets below Arthur’s Seat.

View to Edinburgh and Arthur's Seat from Pettycur Bay

Compared to my caravan holidays on the west coast, Pettycur is busier, more built-up. And yet there are similarities — families having fun, islands and lighthouses to gaze at and dream about, the promise of a fish supper, and most importantly vitamin sea.

I wonder what other people talk about as they walk along the sand. We see couples like us, usually with a dog. Kids run along the strand line, pointing. A man pushes a muscular horse to a trot through the shallow waves. This morning there is also a large gang of beagles with their humans, the animals spiralling around each other, owners’ voices disappearing in the breeze.

We talk about life now, how it feels, a renewed search for meaning that we’ve lost over the last two years. The headlines that worry us. How we can see Scotland’s biggest city, right there, across the waves. Nothing seems to make sense, still, and so I look to the familiar signs of nature for comfort.

Even on this beach, under the shadow of ships and wartime wrecks and the stories of Fife’s old mining towns, there is nature to notice.

A shell on the sand

A list of things I see: Seagulls. One oystercatcher, its orange legs bright. A patch of rippled sand whose valleys hold a battlefield of brittle starfish. Empty razor shells. One tiny navy-blue mussel.

As gulls pass in front of the silhouette of Arthur’s Seat, the tide turns. The beach is being swallowed again, golden in the sunlight. We hold hands and retrace our steps, still bold on the sand.

To the west, the Forth Bridges shine brilliantly.


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