Wullie Davidson: Bus Pass Rambles – Elie to Anstruther
Fife Coastal Path – Elie to Anstruther
(Tuesday 18 April 2023) With a sunny day expected, I decided to get out and do my first bus pass ramble of the year. This one would take me back to the east neuk of Fife to walk a six mile section of the Fife coastal path from Elie to Anstruther, going through the villages of St Monans and Pittenweem.
The X24 bus from Buchanan bus station to St Andrews didn’t go through Elie, but the X60 from Edinburgh to St Andrews did, so I caught the Glasgow to Edinburgh bus at 0830, arriving at Edinburgh at 0954. From there, I got the 1020 bus to St Andrews, arriving in Elie at 1226.
Earlsferry and Elie
Earlsferry and Elie used to be two adjacent villages, but were officially combined into one, Earlsferry and Elie, in 1930. However, the settlement is usually just referred to as Elie. In Victorian times it was a popular destination for day trippers travelling across the Firth of Forth on steamers from Leith and North Berwick. In 1863, it became even more popular with the arrival of the railway, which was a casualty of the Beeching cuts in 1965. It still attracts many visitors to its beaches today, and is a popular yachting and golfing centre.
The day started out very foggy, but the Met Office prediction was for clear skies by noon, which proved to be spot on. However, by the time I got to Pittenweem, the fog rolled in again, which they hadn’t predicted. It lasted about an hour and a half, then cleared to give blue skies again.
Elie to St Monans
At 2.5 miles, this was the longest stretch between the villages, and a very picturesque one. It felt a lot longer than 2.5 miles, but maybe that’s just age catching up. If you didn’t fancy doing the full six miles, you could just do this walk and, if you were driving, get the bus back from St Monans to Elie, either the X60 or local 95 bus which goes between St Andrews and Leven. There’s a lighthouse, a couple of (very) ruined small castles and Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower, which was built in 1760 to serve as a changing room for the lady’s morning bathing routine. There’s also lots of wildlife. I started counting eider ducks, but gave up around 20. Hundreds of eiders, cormorants and the more familiar mallards, as well as a great many corn buntings in the meadow area.
St Monans to Pittenweem
Hard to pick a favourite village. Elie is tops for its beach, but if I had to pick one to live in, I’d probably opt for St Monans. There’s an old 18th century windmill, built to pump sea water into salt pans. It’s usually open to the public, but is currently closed. It has a spiral staircase to a viewing area at the top. It took six tons of coal to produce a ton of salt. Add in labour costs, and that gives you an idea how valuable a commodity salt was back then.
In the past, it was the fishing industry that was the backbone of the east neuk economy, with many itinerant workers coming into the area to help process the fish. There’s now only a small vestige of this remaining, due to overfishing, EU quotas and cheaper imports. However, much of the fishing activity that does take place is centred on Pittenweem.
Pittenweem to Anstruther
The walk had taken longer than I had anticipated, and I thought about finishing at Pittenweem, and getting the bus from there. However, it was the shortest section, at just under a mile, so I decided to soldier on. I had two options – getting the X60 back to Edinburgh from Anstruther, then getting the bus to Glasgow, or taking the X60 to St Andrews and then the X24 to Glasgow. There wasn’t much in it, but the St Andrews option would get me into Glasgow about 15 minutes quicker, and I’d have 40 minutes to walk around St Andrews. Not that I felt like doing more walking.
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