The Chain Walk around the base of Kincraig Point is the highlight of the Fife Coastal Path, although the official route does not acknowledge it and passes over the top of the cliffs. This headland is a jumble of volcanic rock, pools and caves, washed by the sea at high tide, and the traverse is a mixture of walking and easy scrambling with the aid of chains bolted into the rock. Depending on how you count them, there are 7 or 8 chains. Approaching from the west, the third manouevre over a sharp ridge has a chain down both sides attached to the same post, we have counted this as 1 chain giving 7 in total.
The walk should not be attempted when the tide is rising, as it is easy to get stranded for a long while. The best time is when the tide is on the ebb as this gives plenty of time to enjoy the area, which is both beautiful and teeming with interest. There are several caves and many rock pools to explore, and a good half day can easily fly by in what seems like minutes. At low tide it is possible to bypass some of the chains, but you wouldn't want to, would you?.
For the chain manoeuvres, some experience of easy Grade 1 scrambling would be an advantage. The pitches are very short and the steep ones also have good footholds cut into the rock. In either direction of traverse, near-vertical descents are encountered and these must be tackled 'backwards', i.e. facing inwards towards the rock. With the chains, this is much easier than it sounds, but some very nervous walkers may have difficulty with the initial step over the edge while searching for the first foothold.
Leaving Shell Bay caravan park, the path contours around the hill and the rugged headland comes into view. Arriving at a cove, the first cave can be seen below with the sea ebbing and flowing into its mouth. This cave and channel never fully clear even at low tide and the rock is slippery, so it is better to continue on the path to the top of the cliff, then leave it to descend on the far side and return to the cave to explore. Moving on, Chain #1 is shortly reached.
This is a short chain on the first very steep part of the descent to another cave. The photo shows the chain from the mouth of that cave.
Chain #2 is a slanting chain to assist in the traverse along a ledge from the cave.
Chain #3 is a vertical wall followed by steps to a notch, then a shorter steep descent on the far side. Note the footholds cut into the wall.
Chain #4 is a near-vertical ascent, slightly overhanging at the base, to a small saddle. In the photo, the spikes of a narrow ridge a short way beyond can be seen and this is where we find Chain #5.
Chain #5 is a short steep descent from a notch in the narrow jagged ridge.
Chain #6 is a slanting chain that descends diagonally down the west wall of a cleft. At the end, using the last couple of feet of the chain for support, you step across to the central raised rib of rock. From here you can walk up to the cave above the cleft.
Chain #7 traverses the opposite wall of the cleft to give support along the ledge. The rock is slightly overhanging here and we found ourselves hanging outwards at a considerable angle while shuffling along, which made it quite hard work on the arms!.