Short Trip to East Neuk of Fife
Jim and I hadn’t had a holiday since our wonderful trip to Tuscany in September, 2019. With Covid numbers falling and the sun out we decided it was time for a short break so headed to the East Neuk of Fife on the Firth of Forth. We managed to fit a lot in – visiting the picturesque villages of Elie, St Monan’s, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail. Of course, we could not be in the area and not spend a day in wonderful St Andrews. Then on our way home we stopped off at Burntisland further down the coast.
Although, only an hour and a half drive from Glasgow, the East Neuk was a part of Scotland that we had seldom visited. Over the years we had spent a few fancy weekends in the wonderful St Andrews, in fact, we stayed at the Old Course Hotel for my 70th birthday in December, 2016, when we visited nearby Crail.
Crail is one of the most charming of the East Neuk villages, it’s situated at the northerly end, just nine miles south of St Andrews. We had visited the village twice before – both times in the winter, when it had been cold, frosty underfoot and deserted. How different to see the village come to life in the summertime with its bustling harbour, families picnicking on the beach and children having fun jumping into the water from the pier. Tourists wandered the quaint streets stopping off for lunch of fresh lobster or crab. It’s a very picturesque village with buildings dating back to the 17th century and a very attractive harbour.
Look out for the Harbour Gallery, situated in a 17th century building in Shoregate overlooking the sea. It’s particularly interesting and unusual with many of the original features retained and the vibrant works of local artist DS Mackie on display. Brodie’s Grannies Cafe at the harbour is a small shop selling coffees and ice cream and at Reilly Shellfish you will find the ‘freshest North Sea crab and lobster cooked while you wait’.
Pittenweem was the only other East Neuk village we had previously visited. We were invited there in the 80s by my friend Irene, to her lovely wee cottage near the harbour. Jim and I had memories of fishing from the pier – we were successful in catching coley fish, although the pleasure turned to alarm when I realised you were supposed to them batter them to death. Pittenweem is more of a fishing port than a seaside resort, with its historic working harbour – first recorded as a port in 1228. We were there in the evening so missed the daily fish market where fishermen sell their fresh catch. Although the village was quiet restaurants on the street running alongside the harbour were busy.
Rather than wait for a table we opted for some of Janetta’s prize winning ice cream and a stroll out on the pier to the spot where we had caught the fish. The beach at Pittenweem is not a main attraction as at some of the other villages, however, the Victorian tidal pool has been restored and since reopening in 2021 is proving popular with wild swimming fans.
The West Braes Project established by community activists has successfully restored the sea pool after attracting funding of £270,000 through fund raising, a contribution from the local council and funding from the European Union.
We visited Elie on the most beautiful sunny day. We parked the car and wandered down to the huge beach. There were a lot of people enjoying themselves in the water and boats of every description – canoes, sailboats and motorised dinghies – despite being busy the large beach was far from crowded. The atmosphere was very relaxing as we strolled along, climbed up onto the pier and had a leisurely walk back through the village.
Elie is a beautiful place with a feeling of being well-to-do and well loved with private gardens leading onto the beach, pristine cottages that looked as they they’d just had a fresh coat of paint and lovely floral displays. The photo opportunities were never ending. It really is a lovely place and no surprise to find that Elie is reckoned to be one of Scotland’s poshest villages
The population almost doubles in the summer due to the large number of residences that are holiday homes. Apart from surfing and sailing, golf is another main attraction in the area.
Anstruther is the largest of the East Neuk fishing villages. It attracts a lot of tourists not least of all because of its award winning fish and chip shops. On the day we visited there were long queues outside the Anstruther Fish and Chip Bar. We strolled along the main street at the harbour and stopped for lunch at The Waterfront Restaurant on Shore Road, where we enjoyed some lovely fish and watching the world go by.
Afterwards we bought some ice cream from the eye-catching Lisa Ice Cream Parlour to enjoy on a walk round the picturesque harbour.
From Anstruther you can take a sail to the Isle of May with boat trips running from May through to September and the promise of seeing puffins and seals. Another attraction is the Scottish Fisheries Museum. We need to return to investigate some more, take that boat trip and also check out Cellardyke the nearby conservation village. We just didn’t have enough time this trip.
Driving through Anstruther we spotted some interesting buildings including the Dreel Tavern, formerly a 16th-century coaching inn. Refurbished and reopened as a restaurant and bar in 2017 by two young sisters – it sounds well worth a visit according to Fodor’s Review.
Another attraction is Troywood – where a farmhouse conceals Scotland’s Secret Underground Nuclear Command Station
St Monans is the smallest of the East Neuk fishing ports and arguably the most charming with its 17th and 18 th century houses that line the harbour. It would be difficult to find a more picturesque place and locals make a huge contribution to maintaining the allure with colourful window boxes vying to impress with their glorious displays of petunias and geraniums.
The small harbour is beautiful and the walk past this out to the West End takes you along the coast. We watched children playing in the rocks and climbed down to the St Monan’s Auld Kirk – a beautiful church and graveyard dating back to 875 when a shrine was created in tribute to St Monan, an Irish monk killed by invading Danes.
The church, named after him, was built in 1346 on the most striking location right on the shore. Unfortunately the church was closed so we could not see inside but we wandered around for ages among the graves including those belonging to fishermen who had died at sea.
Not to be missed in St Monan’s is the quaint and fantastically eye-catching Welly Boot Garden. It was initially created by a local teacher and amateur gardener, Win Brown, making use of her grandchildren’s outgrown wellington boots, now more than 200 pairs decorate the old slip way.
Another attraction is St Monans Heritage Collection, a small gallery situated on the harbour with photography displays depicting the history of the fishing industry in the village.
St Andrews is a seaside town famous for its many golf courses including the Old Course with its landmark Swilcan Bridge. The golf course regularly plays host to the Open Championships. On a few occasions we’ve managed to get off season deals to stay at the very posh Old Course Hotel, which overlooks the golf course. A weekend there was a lovely treat for my 70th birthday.
St Andrews really is a fabulous place with no end of attractions including the University of S Andrews, founded in 1413, and reckoned to be the best in Scotland if not the UK. It’s right in the town centre and offers a very pleasant walk around its court yard and cloisters. On the headland you can see the dramatic ruins of St Andrews Castle. The town has a wonderful beach, an aquarium, many interesting independent shops and a marvellous choice of cafes and restaurants. We had intended having dinner at Little Italy but it was fully booked for the entire evening so instead we ate at the nearby Pizza Expres; It was enjoyable sitting outside on South Street beside the imposing Holy Trinity Church. On previous visits we have enjoyed meals at Forgens and the Jigger In. More information about eating out in St Andrews
It’s worth popping into St Andrews Visitor Information Centre, at 70 Market Street, where you can pick up a free street map and book tours including, the Ghost Tour, Cathedral and Castle. There is also a lovely shop with Scottish crafts for sale alongside local arts and crafts. Staff are very helpful and will help you organise excursions further afield.
On our return journey we stopped off at BurntIsland is one of the most population family holiday destinations on the Fife Coast. It’s main attractions are its large sandy beach and massive fun fair.
When we were there it was a very hot day so the beach was mobbed as was the fun fair. For those of you who enjoy a calmer type of holiday you can follow the Fife Coastal Path and climb up to The Binn, an extinct volcano. Another Burntisland attraction is the Highland games. The local heritage trust offers historical walks including to Rossend Castle, once visited by Mary Queen of Scots.
We were impressed by the High Street with its many independent shops – we had some lovely coffee at The Roasting Project Coffee House, a family business where they roast small batches of coffee. I absolutely loved Grain and Sustain and pottered in the shop for ages. There are hundreds of eco friendly products to choose from and the shop is truly dedicated to zero waste with lovely ethical and handmade gifts. I bought mixtures of grain, nuts and fruit to make granola and some fabulous handmade glycerin soaps.
We were particularly pleased to find a pop up exhibition by Stewart Readman an award winning photographer & digital artist. The exhibition included images of the many memorable scenes we had enjoyed on the East Neuk and favourite places from further afield including Glencoe. The many vivid and detailed seascapes, landscapes and urban scenes are available to buy online from Readman Photography
It was lovely in the evenings driving home to our hotel looking out across the fields to the Firth of Forth.
We really enjoyed our short trip and will return – after all it’s less than two hours drive from Glasgow to the East Neuk.
Pat Byrne, August, 2022
This section: Travel
Filed under: Travel
- Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings: Inverary to Dunoon
- Wullie Davidson: Bus Pass Rambles – Tobermory
- Wully Davidson Bus Pass Rambles: Kerrera
- Wully Davidson: Kerrera Misadventure
- Wullie Davidson: Bus Pass Rambles – Elie to Anstruther
- Accommodation: The Annex, Kilbride Farmhouse, Dunoon
- Short Trip to East Neuk of Fife
- Wully Davidson’s Bus Pass Rambles: Warm Day in the West Highlands
- Wully Davidson’s Blog: Isle of Gigha
- Wullie Davidson: Bus Pass Ramblings – Crail to Anstruther
- Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings: Inverary and Tarbert
- Lifting The Lid on Whistler at the Hunterian
- Stories from the Briggait – Glasgow Doors Open Day
- Day Away on Scottish Ferries
- Glasgow Walk: Maryhill, The Venice of the North by Ian R. Mitchell
- Wullie Davidson Bus Pass Ramblings: Glasgow – Inverness – Fort William
- Return to Tuscany 2019
- Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings – West Highland Railway, Mallaig and Ferry to Armadale
- Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Rambles: North Berwick and Dunbar
- Wullie Davidson’s Bus Pass Ramblings: St Andrews