When I returned from Russia at the end of last year, I resolved to spend 2013 travelling. Whether gallivanting around the globe or exploring my own Scottish doorstep, I wanted to see more, to do more, and to experience more.
Over four months into the new year, however, I have done very little to break from routine. Spending my days working, my evenings writing and my money on the necessities of life, I have managed little more than a handful of day-trips to places I have been innumerable times before.
I decided that the next time a free day coincided with workable weather I would walk from Broughty Ferry to Arbroath. While hardly one of the great journeys of our planet, it would nevertheless satisfy the urge to do something different in an afternoon and on a budget.
As it happens, there is currently no coastal pathway leading into Arbroath from Dundee, leaving me with little choice but to stop at Carnoustie. Having never actually been to Carnoustie before, it seemed as good a destination as any. Digging out my camera and packing a jacket just in case, I set off out the door.
Starting at the Seven Arches Viaduct to save myself the walk I make every other day to work, I followed the Dichty Burn beneath the disused railway bridge and along the Monifieth Path Network to an almost derelict car-wash on the A930. Crossing the road, I made my way down to the beach.
It began raining almost immediately. Deciding to carry on rather than track back and sit out the shower in Monifieth’s Tesco, I amused myself by watching the windsurfers out on the River Tay, who were clearly unfazed by the wet weather. I used to think beaches were wasted on Scotland, but I have been proven consistently wrong by daredevil dog-walkers and New Year dookers refusing to give in to the elements.
I didn’t hear the loudspeaker at first, so immersed was I in both my surroundings and the folds of my hastily unpacked jacket. I hadn’t seen the warning sign either, presuming it to be the business of swimmers and surfers rather than day-trippers with no intention of going anywhere near the water. The distant shouts eventually caught my attention, however, as a uniformed man left his observation box to better instruct me to leave the beach, preferably before I was shot.
Unbeknownst to me, there’s a large firing range situated on the outskirts of Monifieth. The Barry Buddon Training Area sits next to Riverview Caravan Park and adjacent to Carnoustie Golf Links, from which it is separated by the Dundee and Arbroath Railway. Although safe to cross when not in use, the site was today restricted to the public on account of an important (and apparently much publicised) training exercise; a fact apparently denoted by the red flags being flown around the are.
Scurrying up a nearby sand dune to the facility’s car park under the watchful gaze of everyone within earshot, I opted self-consiously for a small path that seemed to follow the train tracks alongside the camp, saving me from a lengthy diversion back around the golf course. Unsure whether or not the warning signs applied to the pathway as well as the nearby road into the training area, I waited for a cyclist to slink past before following in his wake.
Aside from the odd startled jump whenever a golfer struck a ball, it was a pretty uneventful thoroughfare. The view unbroken except for strategically situated signposts promising explosions and death should I touch anything at all, I slipped back into my own little world, only to be awoken sporadically by the politeness of strangers, passing trains and the definitely mistakeable sound of someone teeing off.
After an unbroken hour of walking, I finally came to the end of the path at Barry Links, where it gave way to yet another golf course and a this-time-guarded entrance to the training area. Unable to return to the coast, I crossed the railway line and walked up Station Road towards Barry, a small Angus parish which as since been all but swallowed by the suburbs of Carnoustie, a welcome sign for which stood on the same roundabout which also fed into Barry.
Unsure exactly how large Carnoustie was going to be, I entered along the A930 and kept my eyes peeled for whatever might constitute the town’s centre. Pausing at every Post Office, hotel or clutch of shops in case I had just reached my destination, I kept walking for another mile and a half as Barry Road gave way to Brown Street, Dundee Street and, finally, High Street. Approximately two hours after setting off, I had arrived at Carnoustie.
Thankfully, the town was quite a bit larger than I had expected. The sun had finally come out, driving me into the first (open) newsagents I came across for a drink and something to eat before I took a look around. There is a lovely small-town feel to Carnoustie; the high street is incredibly green, thanks to the blooming war memorial and regular kempt plant-pots which line both sides of the road. Finally, having been separated from it since Monifieth, I decided to revisit the beach.
While it may not have been the most ambitious of excursions, it was still nice to get out of Dundee for the day and to see a town I had only ever bypassed by car on the way to Arbroath. A step (or rather a two-hour trek) in the right direction, it proved that you don’t have to go to the ends of the earth to see something new.