St Margaret’s Way – 61 miles – 6 days – Edinburgh to St Andrew’s. This route is inspired by Margaret of Scotland, Saint and Queen, and starts in the shadow of St Mary’s Cathedral. Then it is down along hidden waterways and former railway lines to the open country and the famous Cramond Brig, scene of so many violent clashes through the ages. More gentle walking until you arrive at the Firth of Forth. Here, a thousand years ago you would wait with other pilgrims for St Margaret’s Ferry to carry you across to Fife; now you simply walk across the 1½ mile span of the Forth Road Bridge with views of the other two famous bridges on either side.
Then you follow the coast. Everywhere you see evidence of Scotland’s fiery past, the cones of volcanoes and the tongues of giant lava flows. Don’t worry, those volcanoes have not erupted for 340 million years! You will see holy islands rise out of the sea, once bustling monastic communities but since ravaged by pirates. Inchcolm, AKA ‘The Iona of the East’ still has the ruins of a 12C abbey. More golden sands, salt flats and working fishing villages before Earlsferry, where medieval pilgrims disembarked having arrived from the continent.
Striking north you arrive at Craigton, and suddenly St Andrews is spread out before you in the near distance, all spires and towers and golden beaches with a steel blue ocean stretching to the horizon. A short streamside walk and you are at the ancient gates of St Andrews and the Whey Pat Inn. Here early pilgrims were greeted with a hot soup, but the fare is better now and the beer is good (as it is at many welcoming pubs and guesthouses along the way). Then you finally arrive at the ruins of the great Abbey towering above you.
NB- You have the additional St Margaret’s Loop taking in North Queensferry and Dunfermline, and the alternative St Margaret’s Elbow along the coast from Earlsferry to St Andrews. A separate pilgrimage route, the St Andrew’s Way, also links these cities on an inland route.
Golden sands and salt flats
A great pilgrimage destination of St Andrews
St Margaret’s Elbow – Instead of the inland path of the St Margaret’s Way, this alternative route continues from Earlsferry along Fife Coastal path through ancient fishing villages along beaches and over rocks until the spires of St Andrews come into view over miles of rolling fairways. The path continues up through the harbour into the precincts of the ruined cathedral.
St Margaret’s Loop – 12 miles – 1 Day – North Queensferry to Dunfermline. This varied, easy and attractive, mainly cross-country route, starts on the north bank of the Forth with a great view south of the three great Forth bridges. Going inland along the coast you arrive at the red stone roofless ruin of Rosyth Castle, then strike north passing the Commonwealth War Cemetery at Douglasbank and along narrow country paths with occasional glimpses of Dunfermline and the dominating presence of the abbey. Then, into Pittencrieff Park, past the remnants of Malcolm Canmore’s palace to Dunfermline Abbey — the burial ground of Queen Margaret and seven Scottish kings including Robert the Bruce. Finally you reach the old royal palace, where Charles I was born. Nearby is Queen Margaret’s subterranean cave.