Here’s why the Fife Coastal Path shouldn’t be missed…
The Fife Coastal Path is a beautiful walk that I’d highly recommend. Stretching out over nearly 200km, it walks you around the beautiful shores of the kingdom of Fife, where I grew up, and through many of the charming towns and villages situated there.
I recently walked a big chunk of the Fife Coastal Path in a day. I did what is arguably the most beautiful part of the path… and also the part that has a helluva lot of the big tourist attractions. Cute fishing villages? Check. Famous fish and chip shop? Check. The intriguing chain walk and Shell House in Anstruther? Check and check.
Let’s dive into why the Fife Coastal Path is well worth walking…
Why do the Fife Coastal Path?
There are hundreds of walks that you can do in and around Scotland, so why choose this one? Well, there are lots of great things about the Fife Coastal Path. It’s in a beautiful part of the world. It’s low maintenance, in the sense that it’s flat and hard to get lost. It’s next to the sea. Oh, and you can make a pitstop in one or more of the pubs along the way.
I was lucky enough to do the walk on a sunny Saturday in July. With sun, sand, fresh sea air, and the promise of a chippy at the end of the walk, it was a really great day out. Especially when the chippy is the world-famous Anstruther Fish Bar!
Here are the reasons I rate the Fife Coastal Path and why you might like it too…
1) You can dip in and out
Unlike a lot of circular routes with a set distance or destination, you can do as much or as little as you like of the Fife Coastal Path. It stretches 187km in total, going from Kincardine in the west of Fife all the way of Newburgh in the Firth of Tay.
The walk is too long to do in a day, so you can just pick the bits that you like or cover it all over a longer amount of time. I’ve done sections of the walk before but it was nicer to cover a bit more ground in one day this time around, rather than just seeing the highlights.
2) It’s by the sea
I recently moved to the city of Stirling and, as much as I enjoy living here, I really miss living next to the sea. I loved being able to breathe in the salty sea air over the course of our walk and I didn’t even mind getting sand in my shoes as we trampled over the beach.
There are wide open beaches to admire, clifftop views into shimmering bays below, and even a couple of lovely open water swimming pools just outside of Pittenweem. If you’re into wild swimming then you may want to pack your swimming gear and a towel.
3) It goes through the East Neuk of Fife
The East Neuk is one of the most beautiful areas in the region of Fife. I love all the tiny fishing villages with their red pan tile roofs, white washed walls, and pastel-hued doors. Everything feels sleepy, charming, and pocket-sized, like a Lilliput-version of real-life.
It’s lovely to walk through all the narrow streets of the various towns, most of which have equally cute names. I always find myself imagining which house I’d like to live in. It would be wonderful to wake up to the lap of the sea on your doorstep each morning, right?
Why not check out some of my other blog posts on East Neuk…
4) It’s flat!
Most of the time when I go out for a walk it’s a hill or a Munro or something that’s at an incline. As much as that can be enjoyable it also feels like a lot more exertion. You’re out of breath for most of the ascent and even going down afterwards takes a lot of effort.
In comparison, the Fife Coastal Path is flat pretty much all the way so it’s a lot less effort. Don’t get me wrong, I walked 25km in a day and I was absolutely puggled by time I got home. That’s a Scottish word for tired, FYI. But I enjoyed just being able to walk without being out of breath and having to stop to recover every twenty minutes or so.
5) You can’t really get lost
I love a low-maintenance walk. You know, the kind where you can just put one step in front of the other without having to be constantly looking at Google Maps to make sure you’re on the right track. And that’s if you can even get a 4G signal where you are!
Luckily the Fife Coastal Path is pretty much as low-maintenance as it comes on this score. There’s really only one way to go and it’s all well signposted. As long as you have the sea on one side you know you’re going in the right direction. What could be simpler?
My experience of the Fife Coastal Walk
Who did I do the walk with?
I did the walk with some of my old work colleagues. I just moved jobs a few weeks ago and I was a little bummed because I’d already signed up to do this walk. Once I handed my notice in I was like, damn, I’m leaving, I guess I can’t go to this anymore. Or not…
I joked that I should come along rocking my old work t-shirt, like a weirdo. And in the end, I decided to just go along anyway. Whether I’d left or not, I’d wanted to do more of the Fife Coastal Path for ages. And I was glad I went because it was a great day out.
Where did we start?
We started the walk at Lundin Links Golf Club at around 10 am. The person who’d organised the trip had worked out that it would take us around six hours in total to do the walk, with enough time for a leisurely lunch at Elie in the middle of the day.
Where did we finish?
We finished up in Anstruther. We were set to arrive there at about 4pm and we pretty much made that schedule. It was the perfect place to finish because it’s the home of the famous Anstruther Fish Bar, which Tom Hanks was recently spotted at. I can’t think of a better time to have a chippy than when you’ve been walking for about six hours.
How do I get there?
This is entirely dependent on where you start the walk. The thing about the part of the walk that we did, in the East Neuk of Fife, is that it’s a little bit trickier to get here. There isn’t a rail link to this area in Fife and so you will have to either drive or get the bus.
Check out this blog post for more details on travel to the East Neuk…
Highlights of the Fife Coastal Path
Of course, I didn’t do the whole of the Fife Coastal Path walk. However, you definitely see a lot of the big-ticket items on this part of the walk. If you want to see a lot in a relatively short period of time I’d definitely recommend going from Lundin Links to Anstruther.
Robinson Crusoe statue
If you walk through the village of Lower Largo then you’ll come across the Robinson Crusoe statue. It’s located in a niche alcove in one of the houses in the village and the reason it’s here is because the house is the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk. But who’s that, then?
Alexander was a source of inspiration for Robinson Crusoe, which Daniel Defoe went onto to write, and the statue is a tribute to him. This statue reminds me of my childhood. I always remember playing on the beach seeing it as we combed the shore for interesting shells.
The Ship Tavern
I’ve walked past the beer garden at The Ship Tavern in Elie many times and wished I was one of the people sitting on the picnic benches sipping on delicious ice-cold drinks. Well, this time I was one of them. We stopped here for some drinks and it was lovely!
One thing to note, it’s not exactly cheap. I paid £8 for a Hugo spritzer, which is probably near to what you’d pay in Edinburgh. We were here during the time of the Scottish Open in St Andrews so maybe the prices were higher because of that. Still yummy though.
St Monan’s Windmill
The St Monan’s windmill is a jolly sight as you make your way along the Fife Coastal Path. It once powered the water that was used to process the salt in the St Monan’s salt pans, back in the 18th century. You’ll pass the ruins of the salt pan buildings on the walk too.
So how did it work? Well, seawater was heated on metal pans until the water evaporated and left just the salt – which was a much higher commodity in this time. These days, there isn’t too much to see but it’s still cool to be able to catch a glimpse of the local history.
Pittenweem tidal pools
Like open water swimming? Well, well, well, you’ll be in luck as you approach Pittenweem. There isn’t just one seawater pool, there are two! The pools are carved out of the rocks on the shore, but the last time I was in Pittenweem it was early springtime and COLD. The water was glasslike and still, reflecting the light of the later afternoon sunshine.
This time around the pools were packed with people! It still looked like the water was on the chilly side – someone was wearing a beanie hat with their swimming costume – but it also looked really refreshing. I was a little jealous I didn’t have my swimming gear!
You’ll get a real sense of the character of the East Neuk when you arrive in Pittenweem. Expect to see pocket-sized houses characterized by their thick stone walls, small windows, and red pan roof tiles. Then there are the pastel-hues of pink, blue, green and yellow on the doorways and cutesy house names.
I love the whole fishing village vibe. Lobster crates stacked on the side of the road. Gorgeous boats bobbing around in the harbour. Ice cream parlours with too many delicious flavours to choose from – and argue over. We agreed that mint choc chip is the GOAT of ice creams!
The Dreel Tavern
We finished our walk at the Dreel Tavern in Anstruther, which I’d been to once before during a weekend stay in Pittenweem. However, this time around it was warm enough soak up the late afternoon sun in their lovely beer garden, so we headed straight outside.
I ordered a gin and then had a couple more Pimms and lemonade. I was also reminded of the truffle fries they have on the menu here, as I kept catching wafts of them as they were carried out to other diners. If you get a chance to eat here, definitely do!
The Shell House
Just around the corner from the Dreel Tavern is the famous ‘Shell House’. The house dates back to 1692 but the façade is the handiwork of Alex Batchelor, who lived there in the 1840s. He was known as being a little quirky and even Robert Louis Stevenson, who visited the area as a child, commented that the house belonged to an “agreeable eccentric.”
In fact, he also adorned his coffin in shells and even charged people to see it. The house is also known as the Buckie House, and this comes from the fact that shells can also be known as ‘buckies’ in Scotland. It’s not a term I know, even being Scottish, but there you are.
Anstruther Fish Bar
As I mentioned, the best part of doing this long walk was knowing that there was fish and chips waiting for us at the end of it! I’ve been to the Anstruther Fish Bar a few times and it’s always good food. And, hey, if it’s good enough for Tom Hanks it’s good enough for me.
However, the Anstruther Fish Bar is always busy so you will have a wait on your hands. We had to stand in line for the best part of an hour and that’s fairly typical. Just don’t rock up if you’re absolutely starving as you’ll definitely be hangry by the time you get served.
Anything thing else on the Fife Coastal Walk?
The Elie chain walk
Have you heard of the Elie chain walk? It’s a fairly unique tourist attraction: there are chains attached to the cliffs and you basically use the chains to pull yourself along. I find it quite strange that it actually exists to be honest – you would think it would never pass health and safety restrictions – but it’s here and it’s a pretty intriguing tourist attraction.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while but it had been closed for repairs. Unfortunately, when we got to it I needed a wee, so I passed this time around. I think it’s probably better to do it on its own rather than as part of a longer walk, but that’s just me. It’s also worth noting you can’t have a dog with you if you want to do it.
The public toilets situation
The most challenging part of the trip was the first part between Lundin Links and Elie. It was the longest stretch we did without stopping. But that’s probably not what I’m referring to. It was mostly because I’d sunk two cups of tea in the morning and needed a wee for most of it. We walked for about three hours but there were no toilets at all on this part of the route.
If I wasn’t with my colleagues I probably would have just ducked behind a bush somewhere but I felt a bit awkward doing that with this group. A lot of this part of the route is quite open as well, with the beach on one side and golf courses on the other. Something to keep in mind!
7 things to pack for the Fife Coastal Walk
Here’s my guide to what you should pack in your bag if you’re going to be doing the Fife Coastal Path in the summer months. You can probably ignore most of these in winter!
You can probably skip the hiking boots for this walk, at least in the summer months. It’s so flat that they’re not needed and you can get away with a decent pair of trainers.
There are stretches of the coastal path where you’ll be walking for quite a while without going through a town or village, so I’d definitely pack some snacks to keep you going.
The East Neuk of Fife is a pretty expensive area and if you have to buy lunch you may end up forking out more than you want to. I would pack your lunch if you’re likely to get hungry!
We were doing the walk in July during a time when it was particularly warm. A few people in the group did get sunburned so I would make sure you pack some in your bag.
You may want to unwind at the end of the Fife Coastal Path walk with a few drinks in one of the lovely pubs in the East Neuk. Freshen up by packing some deodorant in your bag.
6) A spare t-shirt
The same as above. I thought I was going to be pouring with sweat so I packed a spare t-shirt in my bag so that I didn’t have to sit around in my sweaty gear all day.
7) A jacket
You’re on the coast so it can be blustery. If you’re like me a light jacket is a good shout – and it’ll keep you toasty when you’re enjoying a drink outside later on in the evening.