Fishing Village Tour
This route contains 1hr 17mins driving time and comes to 38 miles for the day.
This tour takes you from St Andrews to Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem, St Monans, Elie, Lower Largo along the coastline and returns to St Andrews inland.
Crail is the most easterly of the old fishing towns along the south coast of the East Neuk of Fife. It is also the oldest Royal Burgh in East Neuk, with a charter dating to the 12th century. In 1310 Robert the Bruce granted Crail the right to hold a weekly market. This market was held on the wide Marketgate, and its location is marked by the slender 17th century Mercat Cross topped by a carving of a unicorn.
Near the Mercat Cross is the 16th century Tolbooth, with council chambers on the top floor and gaol cells below. Atop the Tolbooth is a weathervane shaped like a fish; a reminder of the Crail capon, a dried haddock delicacy that made Crail famous. Beside the Tolbooth is the early 19th century town hall and the Crail Museum, which has displays ranging from local seafaring, smuggling, and golf, to the intriguing history of the local air station, HMS Jackdaw, and its role in training linguists for service during the Cold War.
Further along Marketgate from the Tolbooth and museum is the old kirk of St Mary’s. Outside the church gates lies a large boulder called the Blue Stane. This is traditionally said to have been thrown by the devil from the Isle of May. A circular depression on the surface of the Blue Stane is said to be the mark of the devil’s thumb.
If you love fish you should time your tour to have some lobster or crab at the Lobster Hut
The Royal Burgh of Anstruther was created in 1587, and combines the neighbouring communities of Easter Anstruther, Wester Anstruther, and Cellardyke. The focus of the community is the parish church of St Adrian, built in 1634.
Near the church, in Back Dykes, is the Old Manse, built by James Melville in 1590. Melville wrote a series of diaries which give a fascinating glimpse into life in medieval Scotland. Near the town hall of Easter Anstruther is gabled Buckie House, notable for its decoration of scalloped shells and buckies
Anstruther’s history as a centre of the herring fishery is remembered at the Scottish Fishing Museum, located at the east end of the harbour at St Ayles Land. This is one of the oldest properties to survive in any Scottish burgh, and dates to 1318.
The historic fishing port of Pittenweem clusters around a small circular harbour. The town takes its name from the Celtic words for ‘town of the cave’, referring to the ancient cave of St Fillan on Cove Wynd. The cave was said to have been the residence of the 7th century Fillan, who was able to read and write in the dark cave by the light of a mysterious glow emitted by his left arm. Within the cave is the Saints Well and a small altar, still used by modern pilgrims.
An ancient stair leads up through the solid rock to the Priory Gardens, but this stair has been closed to visitors and a wrought iron gate blocks further access. There are two main chambers to the cave, which was restored in 1935. The cave is normally locked but a key can be obtained from the friendly folk at the Cocoa Tree Cafe and Chocolate Shop just up the hill on High Street (yummy chocolates for sale, too!).
Every year Pittenweem hosts the Pittenweem Arts Festival which is a perfect time to stay in Pittenweem or visit.
The original name of St Monans (or, as it is sometimes called, St Monance) was Inverin. The village was renamed for St Moineinn, an Irish saint whose relics were reportedly brought here by early Christian missionaries from Ireland. These missioneries established a shrine to Monans near the site of the Auld Kirk, on the western edge of the village. In 1326 King David II visited the shrine to give thanks for surviving the wreck of his ship in the Firth of Forth. He gave funds for the establishment of a new church near the shrine; this is St Monans Auld Kirk, a striking building with a squat shape, topped by a sturdy tower. This historic building lapsed into disrepair by the 18th century, but a major rebuilding from 1826-28 under the direction of William Burns meant that the church was saved for future generations to enjoy.The Fife Coastal path leads past the Auld Kirk, and hugs the clifftop while it leads west, past a lovely old 16th century dovecot on the edge of the cliff. Unlike most dovecots in Fife, this is built to a beehive shape, rather than the traditional rectangle with a sloping roof.Just past the dovecot the path reaches the romantic ruin of Newark Castle (not to be confused with a castle of a similar name near Glasgow, or another in Newark-on-Trent!). Newark Castle was the home of the Abercrombies until it was purchased by General David Leslie in 1649. Leslie, the victor over the Earl of Montrose in the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645, became the 1st Lord Newark in 1661. He was buried in St Monans church, but during the repairs of 1828 his remains were accidentally thrown into the sea. If you carry on past Newark Castle you come to the even more ruined relic of Ardross Castle, built in 1370 by the Dishington family.At the other end of the village, also near the coastal path, is St Monans Windmill and Salt Pans. The windmill dates to about 1770. The mill was used to pump seawater into the salt pans, where coal fires burned off the water, leaving behind salt deposits. The salt was then shipped to market from Pittenweem harbour.As a final note, several of the fishing cottages around St Monans harbour have been restored, and are really incredibly attractive!
The twin towns of Elie and Earlsferry merge together to create a larger community along the shore of Ruby Bay, one of the widest and prettiest stretches of coastline in Fife. While most fishing villages on the East Neuk coast have fairly compact harbours, Elie harbour stretches out in both directions.
Elie was a Burgh of Barony as early as 1589, but in 1929 it was joined with Earlsferry. The name Earlsferry tells its own tale. It seems that the 11th century Earl of Fife, MacDuff (he of Shakespeare fame), hid from his enemies in a cave near Kincraig Point. Local fishermen then ferried him across the Firth of Forth to Dunbar when it was safe, thus giving the village a perfectly apt name of Earlsferry.
There are two Largos; Lower Largo clusters around the old harbour, while Upper Largo is based at the foot of Largo Law. Legends cling to the Law, suggesting that buried treasure lies somewhere on its slopes. There may be some truth to the tales, for in 1819 a tinker discovered buried silver jewellery from the Celtic period on nearby Norries Law.
On a rise at the edge of Upper Largo stands the old kirk, a place it has occupied for over 1100 years.In 1628 a striking spire was added, set upon the arched chancel roof. In the churchyard is the Largo Stone, a carved Celtic stone. There are further carved stones inside the church, as well as traces of medieval wall paintings.
Lower Largo is best known for its association with two sailors. The first is Alexander Selkirk, whose sensational real life adventures were fictionalised by novelist Daniel Defoe in his book, Robinson Crusoe. Selkirk was a native of Lower Largo, a sailor who argued with his captain – never a good idea.
Selkirk’s irate captain set him ashore on the island of Juan Fernandez, a speck of rock in the Pacific Ocean. There Selkirk lived alone for four years until he was rescued by a passing ship. Selkirk became a celebrity when he regained British shores, and his adventures were fictionalised by Defoe. The house on Main Street where Selirk was born no longer stands, but the building on the site is now decorated by a statue of this real-life Robinson Crusoe, looking out to sea.
Selkirk is further remembered by the large Crusoe Hotel on the edge of the harbour. This popular hotel was originally a Victorian era granary but is not a perfect place to watch the sea. Outside the Crusoe Hotel (if you click on this link you can view their menu) is an amusing signpost indicating that it is a mere 7500 miles to Juan Fernandez Island.
The other sailor of note to call Lower Largo home was Sir Andrew Wood (1460-1540). Wood was an advisor to King James III and James IV and captain of the ship Yellow Carvel. When an English fleet sailed up the Firth of Forth in 1498, Wood led the Scottish defence. He defeated the English fleet and sent them scurrying for home. As a reward, Wood was knighted and given the manor of Largo. He built a fortified house here, with a canal running to the church, where he is buried
Please feel free to use the link below to submit an inquiry or call 0044 7446112672 to discuss your requirements
List of other attractions:
Castles, Churches, historic buildings:
Cambo House Kingsbarns