Welcome to the East Neuk of Fife. Fancy a lobster roll, spotting some puffins and a stroll along a beautiful beach? Here is why you should visit the East Neuk of Fife, one of my favourite parts of Scotland.
How to visit the East Neuk of Fife
The ‘East Neuk’ or eastern corner of the ‘Kingdom of Fife’ is one of Scotland’s hidden gems. Stretching from the villages of Elie & Earlsferry to Crail and Kingsbarns, the East Neuk was once the heart of the east coast of Scotland’s fishing trade.
The tiny harbours along the East Neuk may now be home to more pleasure boats than those landing lobster and crab, but the area’s fishing history now gives it its charm. Here’s how to visit the East Neuk of Fife…
East Neuk and St Andrews Tours
Don’t want to drive yourself?
- Take a tour to St Andrews and the East Neuk Villages
- Plan your own day out with this private tour to St Andrews from Edinburgh
Visit the gorgeous harbour at CRAIL
The furthest north of all the East Neuk villages might be a challenge to get to, but it’s worth the effort. From the beautiful high street (with some of the quirkiest and beautifully restored cottages you’ll see) pop into the Crail Pottery and then follow the winding coastal path down to the pretty harbour.
Crail has something of a foodie reputation, with the Crail Food Festival taking place every June. Outside of the festival, a seafood shack ‘The Lobster Hut’ on the harbour side serves up crab rolls and plates of lobster. Bring the champagne, the salads, and grab a bench for a complete feast.
After lunch, climb up the harbour wall, and while away the afternoon in the sunshine. If you fancy a drink after lunch, the Golf Hotel on the high street is friendly and quaint.
Have fish & chips at ANSTRUTHER
The East Neuk’s capital, Anstruther is a bustling harbour town, whose population of 3600 is swelled by hungry day- trippers heading for the Anstruther Fish Bar. Sitting on a bench, with a fresh portion of crispy fish and hot chips is one of life’s little pleasures, and Anstruther is one of the best places to grab a bench and watch the boats go by.
Prefer a proper meal? Try the Dreel Tavern (their haggis scotch eggs are amazing) or The Cellar for a michelin starred meal.
From the harbour, you can take a trip on the May Princess to the Isle of May, a National Nature Reserve and home to the UK’s largest puffin colony and lots of grey seals. The boat trip will take you around 4-5 hours and includes 2-3 hours to explore the island.
Adrenaline junkies can also take a RIB to the Isle of May for an exhilarating boat trip around the island. Anstruther also boasts Scotland’s Fishery Museum, with 18 boats on display, one of which, Reaper, was used in the hit TV series Outlander.
From Anstruther you can walk the Fife Coastal Path to Crail, passing through Cellerdyke with its tiny 16th century harbour – which is also known as Skinfast Haven once home to more than 50 herring boats. The path passes the- The Coves, or the caves of Caiplie – used as an early site of christian worship and a doocot! The return walk from Anstruther to Crail is around 10 miles.
Watch the fishing boats at PITTENWEEM
Pittenweem’s picturesque harbour is stuffed full of working fishing boats and is lined with pantiled cottages – influenced by trade with the Netherlands. Visit the fishmarket to see what the boats have caught that day – there might be herring or langoustines on offer.
Named place of the caves, Pittenweem is home to the tiny St Fillan’s Cave – home to the Irish missionary in the 7th century.
In August, the Pittenweem Arts Festival takes over the small town, with over 100 artists displaying their works in galleries and in their own homes, sheds and garages. If you visting Pittenweem you must visit the Pittenweem Chocolate Company and coffee shop – heaven for chocolate fans!
Explore East Neuk History at LOWER LARGO
If Lower Largo were in Cornwall there would be traffic jams everyday winding their ways through the tiny streets. Thankfully, Lower Largo is one of Scotland’s hidden gems. Probably the least well known of the East Neuk villages, it is synonymous with Robinson Crusoe, being the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk in 1676 who went on to provide the inspiration for the Daniel Defoe character. There is a statue of the famous castaway in the village. Lower Largo once had a thriving railway and the Railway Inn serves real ale.
Head to the beach at ELIE & EARLSFERRY
The seaside villages of the East Neuk of Fife must be some of Scotland’s prettiest and Elie & Earlsferry, is a quintessential Scottish seaside village and is a popular holiday destination for Scots; how about renting an idyllic cottage with that sea view?
Beyond beach games and rock pool hunting, the village is served by the Ship Inn, which serves gorgeous seafood on beach side benches, from which you can watch Elie’s beach cricket matches. Fancy staying in a hotel in the East Neuk? The Ship Inn* also has six rooms if you want to stay a little longer.
From Elie walk the Fife Coastal Path to St Monans, passing Ruby Bay, named after the garnets that were once mined there (keep an eye out, you might find a fortune!) the Elie Lighthouse and the quirky Ladies Tower at Sauchar Point, a changing room built for Lady Anstruther in the 1700s so she could bathe in the Forth. The tower has fab views over the Forth.
Feeling a little more adventurous? Nearby is the Elie Chain Walk – a series of chains fixed along the coast between Shell Bay and West Bay near Elie which you use to climb, scramble and coasteer along the Fife cliffs – kind of like a Scottish Via Ferrata!
Read More: Elie & Earlsferry
Visit the welly garden at ST MONANS
Next along the coast is St Monans, probably the quirkiest of all the East Neuk villages and named after Saint Monan – who was martyred on the Isle of May out in the Forth and set up a chapel in the East Neuk.
St Monans has an unusual wiggly harbour – the star of many an instagram shot – see if you can find it – and a welly boot garden on St Monans slipway. Started by local teacher, Win Brown, the welly boot garden now contains lots colourful boots – winning St Monans a few awards.
Walking the Fife Coastal Path towards Pittenweem you will pass the St Monans windmill – a relic 1770s of the salt panning industry which once dotted the coast. Further along, the coastal path passes the ruined and slightly spooky Newark Castle. For lunch try the East Pier Smokehouse or coffee and cake at the Diving Gannet.
Explore KINGSBARNS & THE CAMBO ESTATE
Owned by the Erskine family, the lovely Cambo Estate has a stunning walled garden, filled with instagrammable cherry blossoms, snowdrop filled woodland walks, its own wild and remote beach and views out to sea over the famous Kingsbarns Golf Links, home to the European Tour.
Explore the Estate’s extensive gardens (£5 per adult), stop by the new estate visitor centre and then stay for lunch in the quirky and dog-friendly Nosebag Cafe (it’s in the old stable block!) for a Scottish comfort food inspired menu made with ingredients harvested on the Cambo Estate – make sure you try their soup (their wild garlic and mushroom soup is delicious!) and incredibly moreish cakes. You can even stay on the Estate – check out the Camboat!
More things to do in the East Neuk of Fife
- Foodies will love Bowhouse Market which holds monthly food and craft markets, with live music.
- If you are an animal fan then visit the Fife Alpaca Farm – why not take one of these super cute creatures out for a walk.
- Catch the train to busy Kirkcaldy and follow the coastal path to Dysart with its hidden gem of a harbour. Stop for a coffee at the Fife Coastal Path centre at the Harbourmaster House before wandering on to West Wemyss, and then returning back to Kirkcaldy. Book your train tickets with trainline.com*.
- Like Gin & Whisky? Kingsbarns Distillery has tours.
How to get to the East Neuk of Fife
It might be a bit of a challenge to get here – the closest train stations are Cupar or St Andrews or it’s a long and winding road from the Forth Bridges – but it is well worth the effort. Don’t just zoom up to St Andrews or you will miss out on arguably the best fish & chips, boat trips and beaches that Scotland has to offer.
- By Public Transport
- From Edinburgh catch bus no. X60 in the direction from St Andrews. The bus will drop you at Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, and Anstruther.
- From St Andrews catch the no 95 bus which will take you to Crail, Cellardyke, Anstruther, Pittenweem, St Monans and on to Leven.
- Driving – Anstruther is around 1.5 hours drive from Edinburgh.
Where to stay in the East Neuk of Fife
- Dreel Cottage, Anstruther – fancy staying in your own East Neuk cottage? Dreel Cottage is in Anstruther and has two double bedrooms, a garden and its own parking space. The cottage is right next door to the lovely Dreel Tavern – try their Scotch Eggs! Book Dreel Cottage*
- Catchpenny safari lodges – Sleeping up to six in three bedrooms (a double, a twin and a rather cute cabin bed) and decorated in a ‘safari meets luxury Scotland ‘style, these safari tents14 have everything you would wish for. Sit out on your deck, light your fire pit and watch the sun go down over Elie Lighthouse and the Lady’s Tower… it’s glamping perfection! Read more: Catchpenny Safari Lodges.
The East Neuk is so beautiful, I’m moving in, are you?
Love from Scotland x
I’m Kate – a travel writer and photographer living in Scotland. Love, From Scotland is the Scotland travel guide that shows you where to stay and how to get outside in Scotland.