Scotland‘s Fife Coastal Path takes you from the historic town of Culross, through the idyllic fishing villages of the East Neuk, past golfer’s paradise St Andrews and up to the mouth of the River Tay. The epic 188km (117mi) route can be covered on foot, by bicycle, by car or by a mix of train and bus journeys. Here are the best places to stop and see along the way.
Tucked in the shadow of the Forth Rail Bridge, North Queensferry is another rambling seaside village. Families can stop for a couple of hours at Deep Sea World, an aquarium packed with sea life from Scottish shores and beyond. You can swim with sharks if you’re feeling daring, or just enjoy them gliding past as you make your way through the aquarium tunnel. North Queensferry’s most prominent landmark is the red rail bridge stretching over the Forth; it has been the subject of paintings, famous photographs and even literature over the years.
The most striking thing about this quaint fishing village is the view of Inchcolm Island. Floating out in the Forth, crowned by the haunting ruins of Inchcolm Abbey, the island is like something out of a fairytale. The 13th-century Aberdour Castle was also one of the filming locations for Outlander and is a worthy stop for any history buff. The Fife Coastal Path runs right by Aberdour Silver Sands, a stretch of sandy beach where you can grab an ice cream, build a sandcastle to rival the ruins of Aberdour Castle or dip your tired toes in the shallows of the Forth.
If asked to imagine a typical Scottish fishing village, your mind would almost certainly conjure up St Monans. Colourful houses with orange roofs sit along winding cobbled streets, and a church spire juts into the sky. The stone harbour is dotted with fishing boats. But there’s more – the crumbling ruins of Newark Castle, up on a cliff above the sea, adds a level of historic intrigue, and the monthly Bowhouse farmer’s market is packed full of local Scottish produce, from land and sea, with street food and local delicacies to sample.
Another typical East Neuk fishing village, Pittenweem is just along the coast from St Monans. It has the same charming pastel houses and lobster creels piled high on the harbourside, but in the summer the irreverent art festival draws people in. For a week, local galleries, studios and even people’s homes open to the public to display some of the finest and funkiest local artwork.
The biggest town along the Fife Coastal Path, St Andrews is worth stopping for a couple of days to relax and recuperate. Take a swing in the birthplace of golf: St Andrew’s Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world. The narrow, cobbled streets of the medieval town centre are home to loads of independent shops, cafés and cosy pubs. Wander through the ancient quads of Scotland’s oldest university and explore the ruins of St Andrews Castle to get a feel for 15th-century life in the town. Or head out to West Sands beach, a bone-white sweep of sand made famous by the beach-running scene in Chariots of Fire. Pro tip: St Andrews has some great seafood restaurants, but a real treat is in store at Haar, which features fine dining foraged from coast and sea.
Just south of Dundee at the mouth of the River Tay, the harbour town of Tayport is the perfect place to end your Fife Coastal Path adventure. More modern than the fishing villages of the East Neuk, Tayport has a Victorian vacation vibe. Stroll the picturesque marina and perhaps celebrate the end of your journey along the Fife Coastal Path with a wee dram at the Tayport Distillery. This distillery takes advantage of the burgeoning wildflowers and herbs in the area and distills delicious craft gin and vodka.