The Culross Recreational Route

GRADE Easy Recreational
UPDATED January 2002




This 22 km / 13 mile route is one of three “green” recreational routes off the West Fife Cycle Way. Visiting Culross is certainly worth the effort, the village is so steeped in history that you have to use a shovel to move around, and you can only use one that has been approved by Historic Scotland!
The route starts off the cycle way, and heads down to Cairneyhill, crossing the A985, to Crombie Point then along the shore of the Forth to Culross, passing the historic Preston Island, before turning northwards to rejoin the cycle way.

This route starts from the West Fife Cycle Way at the Cycle Information Point (CIP) near Cairneyhill. Turn left off the cycle way and descend passing the golf course into Cairneyhill.

Turn right onto the A994, at times the road traffic can be heavy. Follow the road nearly all they way through the village, watch out for a turning on the left, the Green route signpost is to the right and has been turned so that it is in line with the A994. Turn left into Muirside Road and follow the road over the railway to its junction with the A985. Cross straight over, which can be difficult then follow the shared use footpath to the left.

Continue along the shared use footpath, then onto a short stretch of the old road to the Bullions, Crombie Point Road junction. Caution, one tends to approach this junction quite fast, which could bring you into conflict with any road traffic turning left out of this junction.

Turn right and continue along this quiet country road as it descends to the shore. Views of the far side of the Forth can be had from here. The hamlet at Crombie Point looks to be trapped in a time warp, there are many fine examples of Scottish architecture. At the bottom turn right and follow the tarred road for a short distance. I had thought the road would have been tarred all the way to Torry Bay, unfortunately it is not and degenerates into a foreshore hugging pot-holed track. It is not too rough, just a bit wet and lumpy.

Over to the left is the Longannet ash lagoons and Preston Island. The lagoons were created by dumping coal ash from the nearby Longannet Power Station. The ash is mixed with water then pumped into the lagoons for the water to drain off and the ash to harden. The creation of the lagoons has allowed visitors access to Preston Island which is a site of industrial interest.

Preston Island, was used in the 17th century by the Prestons of Valleyfield, who mined coal under the island to fire saltpans. However after repeal of salt duties in 1823 the trade declined and the works were abandoned in 1850s

The track leaves the shore just as it enters Torry Burn at a small park (interpretive boards are in the park depicting the history of the area) to come to a T-junction. Turn left and follow this road all the way through the village.

The road forks on the outskirts of the village, turn left following the signs for Culross and an industrial estate. On the left, just after the fork, is a small memorial to the men that worked and died in the Low Valleyfield Colliery which closed in 1978. The total number of fatalities at Valleyfield Colliery during its working life was 83; one woman and 82 men; this latter figure includes the 35 miners killed in the 1939 disaster. Pithead girls "at least a dozen" were employed on the picking belts 'tables' and tiplers and it was on one of these devices that Annie Kelly, the only female
fatality, was killed in 1919. Her father had lost his life at the pit in 1914.

Continuing on, look out for a building on the right with a huge coat of arms on the wall, this is the Valleyfield Endowment built in 1830 by Sir Robert Preston of Valleyfield to feed and house 12 pensioners. It is now a private house. Sir Robert's coat-of-arms is prominently display on the wide pediment over the main entrance.

After passing through Low Valleyfield and before Culross is the remains of St. Mungo's Chapel in Culross was built around 1500 by Robert Blackadder, Archbishop of Glasgow. Parts of the church have been recently reconstructed. It was uncovered by an archaeological excavation in 1926. The south wall is a 20th century reconstruction. The altar at the east end stood in the chancel. This part of the church was separated from the nave by the stone rood-screen, the remains of which can be seen projecting from the wall on the left.

Just before entering Culross there is a small car park, access to the Lagoons and Preston Island can be made from here. A cycle Information Point is also in the car park.

Continue through the village, it is worth stopping and having a look around, Culross is steeped in history, though the garish and I assume authentic, yellow harling of the Town House does take some getting used to.

As you go through the village, look out for the road narrowing, the route turns right just past this point and goes up what turns out to be a long and hard climb. Unfortunately the road for the first part up to the Mercat Cross is cobbled in large round stones, which makes cycling impossible. The cross was set up in 1902 on a base from about 1600. The coats-of-arms on the top belong to: James VI, the burgh's founder; Sir James Sivewright, who paid for the cross; and Provost Cunningham. The unicorn is based on one at Stirling.

Continue all the way up the hill passing the abbey on the right hand side, it is also worth a visit if you have time, if for no other reason than to catch ones breath. The house with the evil eye is just beyond the abbey to the right as you go up the hill, the two windows set high in the gables give the house an unusual look. The gables are said to have been inspired by Dutch architecture with a bit of the East Neuk of Fife thrown in for good measure.

The road splits shortly after the abbey, the main road goes around to the right while our road goes straight on towards a large water tank. The good thing about this tank is that it marks the top of the climb, after the tank the road descends gently to the main A985 and cross straight over. The road is more or less flat for a short distance before going steeply down hill.

The road goes around to the right then crosses over the West Fife Cycle Way, look out for an entrance on the right leading back along the foot of the bridge onto the cycle way. Turn left and follow the cycle way all the way back to the CIP near Cairneyhill. I have to hold my hand up and admit that I did not cycle the last section of the cycle way to the CIP, when I surveyed this route it was after a period of prolonged frost and following the thaw the path surface was just too soft to cycle upon. The viaduct over the Comrie Burn is worth seeing.

Further reading: Valleyfield Pit and the disaster