The Fife Coast

A trip to Fife had been on the agenda for my holiday the previous week, but with the weather so good locally, and not so promising in Fife I kept on putting it off. However, by the 12th, rain had returned to Lochaber and Fife was basking in some glorious summer sunshine, so off I set! The aim of the trip was to visit the many pretty little fishing villages that line the Forth Coast of Fife, several of which have buildings which were restored and renovated by the NTS (National Trust for Scotland) as part of a pioneering scheme in the 50's and 60's.
Most of the pictures are located on the right of the page, and clicking on them will give you the full-size image.


First stop was Culross, a few miles beyond the Kincardine Bridge. Although I had driven through Fife once before on my way to Edinburgh, this was the first time I had ever stopped, and I was impressed from the word go! Unlike some of the villages I shall describe below, the buildings in Culross are set back from the shore, with a shallow muddy beach and grassy foreshore to the south of the road. In some ways, however, this adds to the beauty, with some stunning buildings clustered around the open square at the heart of the village (below). From here, roads radiate inland, climbing the steep hills. Many of the houses are ancient 17th and 18th century structures at heart, with crow-stepped gables facing the streets, the facades littered with elegant sash windows. It is not just this architecture that appeals however, but the different shades of cream and orange used to paint the exteriors, contrasting with the occasional bare stonework, such as the Town Hall.
At the top of the town, with fields beyond, lies the ancient parish church. This is in fact the old church of Culross Abbey, the ruins of which still surround the church, with part of the old cloisters open to the public.

West Wemyss

I continued eastwards, passing under (and over by accident) the Forth Road Bridge, through North Queensferry, Dalgety Bay and the pretty little village of Aberdour (Woodside Hotel to right), before stopping at Pettycur near Burntisland for lunch. Kirkcaldy may have some worthwhile sights, but it was soon behind me as I headed for West Wemyss. This village appears to be off the main tourist trail, set as it is on a dead end, but it is worth a stop. Again, many of the houses have been renovated although this time much more recently, and that had resulted in some unfortunate repetition of design that may not have been original. However, the overall effect from the main street is very pleasant, especially with the town hall tower rising in the middle.
In case you are interested, the 'Wemyss' part of the name means caves. There is a East Wemyss a little further along the coast, and Pittenweem (below) has the same origin. As, indeed, does Wemyss Bay on the Ayrshire Coast, and doubtless many others.

Earlsferry & Elie

Another long run through Leven and Largo into the East Neuk of Fife, where the real beauty is. The villages of Earlsferry and Elie are the first of a group stretching along this coast, all of which owe their origins to Medieval Fisherman and their survival to the NTS. These first two also have the benefit of a wide sandy beach, making them popular to an even wider range of people.
The architecture in these villages is, again, very similar to Culross on many of the buildings, although there are a lot more Victorian houses interspersed. Nevertheless, there are still some real treasures to find, including the elegant, weathered door case pictured to the right.

St Monance

Also known as St Monans (I'm not sure which is correct), this is the first of the real harbourside villages, and probably my favourite. I parked at the western end of the village, and followed the Fife Coastal Path along the coast (naturally), into the heart of the village. The setting is almost like a cove, with the houses climbing up from the busy harbour area in all directions. Again, the NTS were at work here 40 or 50 years ago, and they have managed to preserve a very beautiful little village, if not exactly as it once was, certainly in a manner that draws thousands of tourists every year.
One small matter, that I feel I must apologise for, and that is the excessive bunting that seemed to bedeck almost every building in the village. Of course, St Monance wasn't alone in this problem, but it was by far and away the worst I visited.


Pittenweem was another village that dropped down a curve in the hills to the harbour below. It probably comes a close second to St Monance (above), but the focus of the town centre is away from the harbour, with a short high street a little way up the hill, dominated by the church at the east end.
After Pittenweem, I stopped in Anstruther, which as you can probably guess, was more of the same, and then Crail. Crail is probably the largest of these villages, and has a defined shopping area and high street well away from the harbour. Indeed, the harbour and shore are not immediately visible to the visitor, and it is necessary to seek them out!

St Andrews

It was already early evening when I finally arrived in St Andrews, and my first stop was the Cathedral (although closed by then) and St Rule's Tower, which stands next to it. St Andrews seems to be a very interesting small city, with both the Cathedral of the Archbishopric of Scotland and University providing a mass of intriguing buildings. One of these is a ruined church (?) through which a road now passes! Unfortunately, however, I somehow managed to arrive on the last Friday of the Uni year, meaning that by seven o'clock the centre was starting to fill with students intent on a good night out! I decided to head on, with other destinations in mind before I got home.

Falkland & Crieff

My final stop in Fife was at Falkland, another pretty village, but this time set far inland, around the medieval Royal Palace. As with many of the small ancient towns and villages in Eastern Scotland, there is also a spacious square at the heart of the village, with several narrow lanes and alleys leading off it. The sun was low in the sky when I arrived, so my visit was short, but sufficient to see that a longer tour should be undertaken in the future!
Crieff is, as many of you will know, in Perthshire. As such, it really shouldn't be here, but it was my final stop of the day. With the sun starting to set out to the west, the buildings were aglow as the last rays picked out their details. It is the only time I have ever managed to pass through Crieff in daylight when it was dry, and so I stopped to take a few pictures. There is much more to see, however, so I shall go back!