Scotland | Exploring St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife

Of all the places in Scotland I've visited over the years, the Kingdom of Fife remains a firm favourite. We spent all our childhood summer holidays in St Andrews and the East Neuk which has so much to offer. Being the place "where Kate met Wills", as well as the home of golf, with over 50 courses in the area, St Andrews is becoming more and more popular with tourists and students alike. Even if golf and Royal romances aren't your thing, there's loads of stuff worth visiting the Eask Neuk of Fife for!

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What to do in St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife?

The East Neuk could be desribed as a coastal trail leading from St Andrews in Scotland through a series of charming and picturesque fishing villages, each with their own unique character. Start at the town and then work your way down the coast.

Picturesque gardens overlooking the sea at Elie

St Andrews

Discover St Andrews castle and cathedral - Learn about the history of the town, and the wars of Scottish Independence! Climb the cathedral's tower for incredible views. As these attractions are mostly ruins, much of the experience is outdoors, so a sunny day would be best. A joint ticket for both the castle and the cathedral will cost you £12 per adult, rather than £15 when bought separately.

St Andrews castle and cathedral are open from 11th September 2020, with online booking essential.

Eat ice cream - Most people will recommend Janetta's Gelateria, but I prefer the hidden gem that is Luvian's. Yes the café could do with a wee update but it has traditional charm, and the best Irn Bru sorbet you will ever taste! I can't visit St Andrews without getting some, no matter the weather, and the taste transports me back to my childhood every time. It's also worth visiting Luvians Bottle Shop just along the road if you like fine wines or craft beer.

Luvians Cafe, 84 Market Street, St Andrews KY16 9PB

Browse the quirky stores - Speaking of shops, the town centre maintains it's old school charm despite the increase in high street chains popping up along the cobbled lanes. Must visits for me include Bonkers gift shop and The Crystal Shop, which have been there as long as I can remember.

Take a brewery tour - Established in 2012, local beer company St Andrews Brewing Co host brewery tours every Friday and Saturday, which include 3 beer samples. If spirits are more your thing, you can make your own gin at Eden Mill's Blendworks gin school at their nearby Guardbridge distillery!

Head to the beach - St Andrew's West Sands beach is famous for it's feature in the Academy Award winning film Chariots of Fire. The 2 mile stretch of sand is just a 15 minute walk from the town centre and popular with walkers and kite surfers. If you fancy recreating the iconic film scene, the annual Chariots of Fire 5km beach race attracts people from across the globe, with all proceeds donated to charity.

The Scottish Deer Centre - The nearby Scottish Deer Centre at Cupar is also worth a visit when in the area. It's home to 12 species of deer as well as a wolf pack, Scottish wildcats and even a European brown bear. Adult tickets are priced at £10 and children's cost £7, although we once visited not too far off closing time and they let us in for free! Great place for an afternoon out with little ones.

Scottish Deer Centre, Bow of Fife, Cupar, KY15 4NQ

Kingsbarns whisky distillery
 
Kingsbarns

Just a 15 minute drive from St Andrews is the tiny village of Kingsbarns. There's not much in the village itself, but the the vintage tearoom is worth a visit, as is the 18th century coaching inn. Kingsbarns beach is popular with swimmers and watersports enthusiasts, and the golf course is well loved too.

Distillery tour - Next to my Grandma's cottage in the East Neuk countryside, there was a derelict old farm building. As kids we used to play in the doocot, climbing on things we probably shouldn't be climbing on, doing my best to avoid spiders and getting spooked by "the witch" (my mother) who made creepy noises from the other end of the steading... These days the farm building is home to Kingsbarns Distillery - the only whisky distillery in the area!

You can take a tour of the renovated building, learning all about their "dream to dram" process and sample the goods. As for Grandma's cottage? It's now Darnley's Gin Distillery! Again, you can take a tour and enjoy gin tasters in what was once the kitchen I enjoyed my tea and toast in. If you don't fancy a tour, you can still visit the distillery cafe and shop.

Kingsbarns Distillery, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, KY16 8QE

Cambo Gardens - Not far from the distillery, is the well known Cambo Estate and Gardens. Famed for their snowdrop season, the gardens are worth a visit at any time of year. Here you'll find the Stables visitor centre with a café and gift shop, as well as the elegant Georgian walled gardens, and in the spring time, you might even meet some piglets! Woodland walks from the estate will lead you to Kingsbarns beach, or up to the distillery. 

Cambo House, Kingsbarns, St Andrews, KY16 8QD

The courtyard at Crail Pottery

Crail

Crail Food Festival - Every June, this cobbled village with picturesque harbour comes alive as it hosts the annual festival, with street food, market stalls and cooking demonstrations attracting foodies from near and far! Showcasing the best food and drink of the region, the Crail Food Fest will be back in June 2021.

Crail Pottery - For beautifully decorated stoneware, ceramics and terracotta planters, head to Crail pottery. I could spend hours admiring the hand crafted pieces in the courtyard here!

Crail Pottery, 75 Nethergate, Crail, KY10 3TX

Anstruther fish bar facade with striped awning, hanging baskets & fisherman sign

Anstruther

I have fond memories of family days out in Anstruther, sharing fresh, warm donuts from a van by the pier. If you only have time to visit one village in the East Neuk of Fife, I'd choose Anstruther.

Anstruther Harbour - The harbour is the main attraction of the town, with Anstruther Fish Bar providing the perfect fish supper to enjoy by the seaside. The Sweetie Shop on Rodger Street is worth a visit too! In July, the Anstruther Harbour Festival takes place, featuring a food and craft market and traditional music and dance displays in typical Scottish gala style. 

Boat Trips - The Isle of May National Nature Reserve is a popular attraction from Anstruther, with the May Princesss sailing from the Middle Pier from April to September. Trips last up to 5 hours, allowing 2-3 hours to explore the island. Wildlife is the main attraction, with a colony of seals and puffins being most popular, although dolphins and even whales can occasionally be spotted too!

Scotland's Secret Bunker - Although not in the village itself, it's worth visiting the nearby "Secret Bunker". Scotland's underground nuclear command centre, hidden beneath an unassuming cottage, is the size of two football pitches on top of each other, 100 feet below ground. Not so secret now that it's a signposted tourist attraction!

Scotland's Secret Bunker, Crown Buildings, Troywood, near St Andrews, KY16 8QH

St Fillan's Cave entrance on bunting lined Cove Wynd, Pittenweem

Pittenweem

St Fillan's Cave - One of the main attractions of this fishing village, is this cave set in the natural rock by the red roofed houses on Cove Wynd. Legend says the Irish missionary St Fillan (patron saint of the mentally ill) spent his time writing in the 7th century, by the light of his glowing arm! The cave was also used as a prison during the Pittenweem witch trials of 1705. If you fancy learning more, Weem Witches tours are run by a local man named Leonard Low.
Access to St Fillan's cave can usually be gained by paying a refundable deposit for the key at the nearby Cocoa Tree Cafe, however it's currently not available during the Covid pandemic.

12 Cove Wynd, Pittenweem, KY10 2LE

Kellie Castle and Gardens - Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, 14th century Kellie Castle was revamped in the late 19th century by the Lorimer family. The grounds feature a popular Arts & Crafts garden and a sculpture studio and exhibition in the stables. The castle and tearoom are currently closed, but you can still enjoy a walk in the grounds.

Kellie Castle, Pittenweem, KY10 2RF

Futtle shopfront with blackboard menus at Bowhouse

St Monan's

Fife Coastal Path - Scotland's longest continuous coastal path, this popular walking route runs from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Tay, encompassing the East Neuk fishing villages inbetween. You might not fancy the full 117 miles but St Monan's is a great place to explore just a little of it. Head east of the village to visit the 18th century windmill, or west to discover the medieval church and clifftop ruins of Newark castle.

Bowhouse food market - A marketplace celebrating local producers, Bowhouse is the perfect place for any foodie to discover something new. Market Weekends are back monthly from September, with pre-ordering available online. Some producers are based at Bowhouse permenantly, while other  traders pop up at the regular markets. Find everything from seafood to flowers, cheese and baked goods to fabulous street food vendors like Rost Eats, and Faceplant Foods offering up vegan treats.

Bowhouse Farm, St Monans, KY10 2DB

Futtle - If you like music and organic, homegrown beers, Futtle is the place for you. This brewery in a former cow shed also houses the Triassic Tusk record shop and hosts live events. Unfortunately the bar is currently closed but they are open as a takeaway bottle shop selling natural beers, wines and spirits, as well as their homemade kombucha!

Unit 2, Bowhouse, St Monan's, KY10 2FB

Lady's Tower, looking out to sea at Elie

Elie and Earlsferry

Walk on the beach - Like any East Neuk village, at Elie you'll find a picturesque harbour and stretches of golden sands. Ruby Bay is a must visit for anyone, but paddleboarders and swimmers especially will appreciate the sheltered location. 

Lady's Tower - The story goes that this 18th century tower was built for Lady Janet Anstruther, who enjoyed a dip in the sea from the beach below. Before stripping off for her swim, she'd send her servants out to ring a bell, warning the locals to stay away! These days, it's a striking landmark and excellent viewpoint. You can reach the tower from Ruby Bay, following the coastal route past the picturesque lighthouse too.

Ardross farm shop - Another great spot for foodies to pick up some local, artisan produce. Find the freshest veg straight from the farm in this family run shop alongside their own traditionally reared beef, free range eggs, homemade ready meals, luxury preserves, cheeses and more. Cash payments are currently not accepted.

Ardross Farm Shop, Elie, KY9 1EU

Haggis bon bons at Forgans St Andrews

Where to eat in St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife?

Surrounded by farmland and coast, St Andrews and the East Neuk has a plentiful larder. Whether you fancy charcoal cooked steaks, or freshly landed seafood, there's something to suit every palette.

The Steak Barn at Balgove Larder - Just outside of St Andrews, Balgove Larder is hugely popular for it's farm shop and steak barn in a converted sawmill. The Steak Barn has a wonderfully rustic feel with big wooden benches, and the smell of the woodfired BBQ permeating the air as they cook steaks, sausages and burgers from their own butcher. I recommend the chicken kebab and twice fried chips!

Balgove Larder, Strathtyrum, St Andrews, KY16 9SF

Forgan's - A warm welcome awaits up the leafy corridor, lined with the day's fresh produce, that leads to the cavernous hall of Forgan's St Andrews restaurant. Cocktails, craft beers and fine spirit flights are served from the marble bar, and the food menu is rich with choice. The crispy haggis balls starter is a must, and the beef bourguignon with flaky puff pastry is divine! There's also a veggie/vegan menu, and they serve a mighty fine brunch and Sunday roast. Advanced booking is essential.

Forgan's, 110 Market Street, St Andrews, KY16 9PB

Mitchell's Deli - In a former butchers shop on Market Street, Mitchell's pride themselves on using seasonal, local produce in their relaxed restaurant. Brunch is served every day, and I can confirm their full breakfast alone is worth a visit! Vegan options are plentiful, with black pepper tofu a particular highlight. 

Mitchell's Deli, 111-112 Market Street, St Andrews, KY16 9PB

The Doll's House - This beautifully decorated restaurant, with dog friendly courtyard seating, is perfect for a casual brunch, lunch or even just coffee and cake overlooking the town's historic church. 

The Doll's House, 3 Church Square, St Andrews, KY16 9NN

Tailend - A takeaway, restaurant, fishmonger and deli all under one roof, Tailend is the best place for classic fish and chips in St Andrews. Whether you fancy haddock, scallops, fishcakes, langoustines, Arbroath smokies... they've got it all! 

Tailend, 130 Market Street, St Andrews, KY16 9PD

The Seafood Ristorante - For more of a fine dining experience, this restaurant offers panoramic views of the bay, serving fresh Scottish seafood with an Italian twist. Dishes include Cumbrae oysters, grilled Anstruther lobster and baked Shetland cod. 

The Seafood Ristorante, Bruce Embankment, St Andrews, KY16 9AB

The Cheesy Toast Shack - On the more casual end of the scale, the Cheesy Toast Shack is exactly what it says on the tin. Find them at East Sands in St Andrews and Kingsbarns beach with a plethora of grilled cheese goodness for sale. Their macaroni toasties are a big hit!

The Cheesy Toast Shack, Kingsbarns Beach Car Park, KY16 8SX

"Lobster cooked while you wait, also dressed crab" - sign on the Lobster Hut in Crail

The Lobster Hut by Reilly Shellfish, Crail - This unassuming wee shed by the harbour in Crail serves fresh shellfish throughout the summer season. Think dressed crab and whole lobster at very reasonable prices. Currently open 12-4pm from Tuesday to Sunday - get there early as they sell out quick! We were there bang on 12 o'clock and grabbed the last two lobster rolls as the rest had been pre-ordered. There's plenty of benches dotted around so you can tuck in overlooking the historic harbour. Please note they are cash only.

Reilly Shellfish, Shoregate, Crail, KY10 3SU

The Cellar, Anstruther - Offering a seasonal inspired tasting menu, using locally foraged ingredients, The Cellar in Anstruther has become a must visit in the East Neuk. Lunch is priced at £45 and dinner at £75. Perfect for any special occasion!

The Cellar, 24 East Green, Anstruther, KY10 3AA 

Anstruther Fish Bar - Be prepared to queue at this award winning fish and chip shop. I always remember being amazed as a kid standing in line in the 90's, by the newspaper clippings about Tom Hanks eating there! You can still spot them on the wall as you enter today so it's clearly a proud moment for them. Anyway, the food is worth the wait and tucking into that cardboard box of some of the best fish and chips in the country, overlooking the marina, is the quintessential East Neuk experience.

Anstruther Fish Bar, 42-44 Shore Street, Anstruther, KY10 3AQ

East Pier Smokehouse, St Monan's - From cullen skink to whole lobster, fish tacos and everything in between, the casual dining at East Pier Smokehouse is hugely popular. At the moment they're open Saturday and Sundays for pre-booked food and with limited availability, it's best to book a couple of weeks ahead!

East Pier Smokehouse, East Shore, St Monan's, KY10 2AR

The Harbour Cafe, Elie - This beach side cafe with takeaway hatch is in a stunning setting, especially on a sunny day! Currently open Thursday - Monday, they also specialise in fresh seafood, with whole brown crab, langoustines and Andalucian potato salad on the menu.

The Harbour Cafe, The Toft, Elie Harbour, KY9 1DT

Irn bru sorbert from Luvians, in St Andrews

Where to Stay?

You're spoiled for choice with accommodation options in and around St Andrews, especially if you're after a bit of luxury! Golfers will enjoy a stay at The Old Course Hotel or RusacksRufflets Hotel is also in a beautiful setting just outside the town. If you'd prefer to be in the East Neuk villages, you can stay at Cambo Estate in one of their guest wings or nearby cottages. The Ship Inn in Elie offers excellent sea views or for something a bit different check out Catchpenny Safari Lodges!

Have you ever visited the East Neuk of Fife?
Whats your favourite things to do there?

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Exploring St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife

4 comments:

  1. St Andrews looks lovely! I would love to visit one day.

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  2. St Andrews seems amazing! Great itinerary for a first time visitor like me. This is really helpful

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  3. I adore Scotland. What a charming and scenic little town! I need to get back and visit some more cities - hopefully on our next UK road trip. There's just something so enthralling to me about the UK! :)

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  4. I have wanted to visit Scotland for years but just never quite made it there. Your post highlights so much that I'd love to see and do and I love all the tips on where to eat. Definitely saving this post for when I get there :)

    ReplyDelete