FROM Orkney and Duncansby Head all the way south, Scotland is blessed with an array of sea stacks. Perhaps one of the best known in less remote areas is the Rock and Spindle, near St Andrews.
This unusual pillar of basalt is mesmerising and almost looks man-made. You will want to linger here. In fact, by starting the walk in the centre of St Andrews, the whole route is one to take your time over and not be shy of taking more than a couple of detours from, whether it be mooching round the ruined castle, relaxing on the beach or indulging in some bird-watching on the coast.
All this suggests that fair weather is needed, but this corner of Scotland is surprisingly proficient at good days. I’m not promising that St Andrews is always sunny, but it does better than many places.
DISTANCE 4½ miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED 230ft.
TIME 2½ to 3 hours. MAP OS Landranger 59. PARKING There are a number of places in the centre of St Andrews, though you may need to drive around a bit to find a roadside space. After parking, head for the castle on a road called the Scores (behind St Salvator’s).
IN SUMMARY Facing the castle from the road, go right. Keep left on a path running along the top of low cliffs and past the cathedral. Keep left again at the ruins of the Church of St Mary on the Rocks and pass a couple of cannons before dropping down towards the harbour.
At the harbour, go right to walk past fishing boats to a small café. Go left here to cross a bridge and follow a path on the other side. This leads to East Sands, where you go right to either follow the beach or a path that runs above it.
At the end of the beach the path above it rises up to pass a caravan park. At the end of the caravan park the main path goes up to the right, but it is better to keep left, close to the top of the cliffs.
After a couple of hundred yards, you can take a detour down to a sea stack known as Maiden’s Rock, on the edge of a stony beach. Otherwise, continue on the path, which goes up stone steps to reach the main path, where you go left.
After a golf course, the path drops down a long flight of stone steps and continues by the shoreline. After a grassy area, the Rock and Spindle comes into view. If the tide is out you can walk all the way round it or you may have to admire it from the path above before retracing your steps.
If you have a full day free, it’s possible to continue along the coastal path all the way to Fife Ness and on to Crail. Having the use of two cars helps with the return, although there is also a bus service.
REFRESHMENTS The choice in St Andrews is extensive. The basic but wonderful little café serving ice-cream and fry-ups next to the harbour may not offer the most sophisticated gastronomic experience, but its location and the smell of chips are hard to ignore.
WHILE IN THE AREA The castle and the cathedral are popular places to visit – both are run by Historic Scotland (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).
The other obvious thing to do is to head for the Old Course, on the other side of town, and gaze over the famous links.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 5 C to 10 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west