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The Waterless Road

Start location: carpark, B939, Ceres (NO 399 114)
End location: Little Muirhead (NO 374 083)
Geographical area: Fife
Path Type: Pilgrimage Route, Medieval Road
Path distance: 4.1km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians

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Route Description

This route is perhaps easiest to start at the big car park in Ceres at the Bishop's Bridge. From there the path is signposted as Right of Way to Struthers. The path to Struthers is very straightforward and well surfaced, although likely to be muddy in wet weather.

From Struthers to Muirhead the road has at one time lost one of its boundaries and so simply follows the field boundary. Nevertheless it's an interesting walk and every so often the likely remains of the road boundary crop up as field boundaries abutting the one being followed and so effectively obstruct the way forward. Careful climbing takes the adventurous over these and Muirhead is eventually reached. 

In 2019, the Waterless Road became part of the Fife Pilgrim Way, so should be clear, well-waymarked and easy to follow.

OS Landranger 59 (St Andrews, Kirkcaldy & Glenrothes)

Heritage Information

This fairly small path originally linked Ceres with Kennoway, being part of the old road to St Andrews. At Muirhead, it meets the old road from Cupar to Kennoway. Muirhead thus appears to have been a key junction at one time, but unfortunately the onward route to Kennoway is now no longer accessible much further south - although initially it is still used by farm vehicles, it becomes well overgrown with gorse. 

The Waterless Road, like most very old roads, follows a ridge as that is where the least boggy land was and is so named because there is a clear lack of water for any travellers or livestock.  This points to a critical feature of old roads necessary for travellers and often forgotten these days and that is water sources.  It was very common for roads to run along ridges but usually the roads would pass wells or streams but this section doesn't seem to have, or at least not when it gained the name.

Further pieces of the onward route to St Andrews can be picked up to the east of Ceres. A tiny part called the Bishop's Road is located south of Strathkinness. It is so-called because Archbishop Sharp of St Andrews was murdered there while thundering along in 1679 by a group of Covenanters. This means that Archbishop Sharp travelled along the Waterless Road on that fateful day. Local legend says that he stopped a while in Ceres to share a pipe with the local minister. Depictions of Archbishop Sharp made very shortly after his death show him in a carriage being pulled by eight horses, so the road must have been of a very good quality in its day.

The old packhorse bridge in Ceres was built in the 17th century and so would probably have been quite new when Archbishop Sharp crossed the river, although it is interesting to note that the bridge isn't wide enough for a carriage.  Therefore the new bridge was catering for the vast majority of traffic who would have been pedestrians, possibly with a pack horse carrying goods.  It is thought that there was a ford about 50 metres further north than the bridge.



Copyright: Neil Ramsay



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Copyright: Neil Ramsay Copyright: Neil Ramsay



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