Fife Coastal Path

Inn at Lathones
Inn at Lathones

Between Christmas and New Year we stayed a few nights at the Inn at Lathones, just outside St Andrews, with the intention of walking a few stretches of the Fife Coastal Path. It’s our third time at this historic hotel where we enjoy the cosy atmosphere and good food. This time, we had a room in the Old Forge with access to the deck overlooking the farmland at the back. This would be lovely for sitting out in warmer weather but not in December – however, it did mean we always had something to look at.

Day 1 – Crail to Fife Ness

On our first full day, we headed for Crail, a traditional fishing village with a 17th century harbour.

Although we’d been to Crail many times before, we had never taken the path to Fife Ness which we now set out to do. Near the edge of town, we passed the 16th century doocot (used to harvest doves for meat), then a children’s playground and a very large caravan park. After this it became more interesting as we entered the Kilminning Coast Wildlife Reserve where seabirds, such as shag, eider, cormorant and guillemot can be seen.

Some colourful cottages appeared above us, then we rounded a corner to the lighthouse at Fife Ness – a squat building rather than the usual attractive white tower.

Fife Ness is the most easterly corner of Fife. Its harbour dates from the sixteenth century and was used for fishing until the end of the eighteenth. It was then converted into a sea beacon construction yard, hence the circular grooves in the stone, and lightships were also built here to guide shipping before the lighthouse was constructed in 1975.

The next part of the path skirted a golf course, and then we came to Constantine’s Cave. Local legend has it that King Constantine I (one of the early Pictish Kings) was killed in this cave following a battle with the Danes in 874.

At this point we decided we had gone far enough and retraced our steps back along the coastal path.

North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock were just visible across the Firth of Forth.

In Crail, we took time to admire the buildings before heading back to the hotel.

We were particularly impressed with Penman the butcher’s Christmas window!

Day 2 – St Andrews and Pittenweem

The following day, we didn’t do so much walking. John’s cousin, Lindy, lives in Anstruther and they kindly asked us to lunch which we thoroughly enjoyed. Beforehand, we had a quick stroll around St Andrews.

Afterwards, we visited Pittenweem, Fife’s only working fishing harbour, and the site of a cave used by St Fillan in the 7th century. The light was already starting to fade when we got to the harbour.

It gave the buildings a pleasing glow.

We saw several decorated bicycles – but only one decorated bench.

As we climbed away from the sea, it got darker and darker.

By the time we walked back down past the cave it was very dark indeed.

And the harbour looked even more beautiful with the lights shimmering in the sea.

Day 3 – Dysart to West Wemyss

On our last day, we decided to stop in Dysart, a Royal Burgh dating from the 7th century, to walk the coastal path to West Wemyss. The old Harbourmaster’s House, on the deliciously named Hot Pot Wynd, now houses the Coastal Centre Exhibition and the Harbour Bistro. Great – a coffee before we started. Wrong! Despite the notice outside, and having looked at the website before we left, the place was closed. This was 31st December so not a public holiday. I know a lot of places close for the whole period between Christmas and New Year but some information would be nice. Shame on you Fife Coast and Countryside Trust!

Undaunted, we spent some time wandering round the harbour. Donald Urquhart’s Sea Beams represent the colours of the sea at different times and in different lights.

The start of the walk took us along the shore past the 13th century St Serf’s Tower and the restored Pan Ha’ red tiled cottages, then up Hie Gait.

From Dysart the path climbs to the Frances Colliery memorial and preserved winding gear, testament to the former importance of the coal industry in the area. The colliery, with so many others, closed in the 1980s.

From Blair Point you can look down on West Wemyss.

From here, the path takes you past a walled chapel garden, the private burial ground of the Wemyss family, and some pretty mosaics.

West Wemyss originated as a planned town for workers on the Wemyss estate. At one time, it was one of the most important ports in Fife, trading in coal and salt with the Continent. It is certainly picturesque, but was almost deserted and once again everything was closed despite the local pub being listed on the coastal path information boards as a “Welcome Port”. We’d had a large hotel breakfast, so there was no danger of starving, but the wind was biting and somewhere to warm up would have been nice.

There was nothing for it but to turn round and head back to Dysart where The Man i’ the Rock was able to serve us a late lunch. After a quick look around it was back in the car and home to Glasgow for New Year.

I love this part of the coast: beautiful views, historic towns and villages with some industrial history thrown in. We’ll be back. In the meantime, I’m linking up to Jo’s Monday Walks. She’s in another of my favourite places this week, the Yorkshire Dales, and her cyber friends are walking all over the world. Please take a look!

A few days in Fife

Looking for a break between Christmas and New Year, we found a good bargain at the Inn at Lathones near St Andrews. The plan, if the weather was good, was to do some small sections of the long-distance Fife Coastal Path. The first day, we were really lucky. It was bitterly cold and windy to start with, but pleasant once the wind dropped. We set off from Elie to do the section up to St Monans, where we had lunch in the lovely Mayview Hotel. We did think of walking further and getting a bus back to the car, but having done no research on this we decided not to risk it and walked back the way we came. It’s a very good section of the path with a windmill and several ruined castles and towers and it seemed even more beautiful on the way back in the late afternoon light.

Elie from the harbour:

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Lighthouse at Ruby Bay where we parked:

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Lady’s Tower:

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Ardross Castle:

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Newark Castle and tower:

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St Monans:

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The windmill was part of the salt industry at one time; in the late eighteenth century it pumped water into the salt pans and you can still see traces of the panhouses – mostly just green mounds, but this one is clearer:

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Some of the atmospheric pictures from the way back:

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Our plans for the second day were to do a short section of the path near St Andrews, have lunch there and then drive further round the coast to do a bit more. However, while we were having lunch, the rain and sleet started and we abandoned that idea. We did get some walking in the morning though, starting from East Sands:

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After lunch and a bit of shopping, we headed back to the log fire in the hotel bar. This had two advantages: it was warm and it had wifi so that I could write this post. The same was not necessarily true of the rest of the hotel! The bedroom was quite cold until the evening when the heating cranked up, and the wifi wasn’t strong enough to allow us to connect there. However, the food was very good, the staff were great and the place was otherwise comfortable. It’s an old coaching inn, but the bedrooms are all comparatively modern as they have been constructed from outbuildings such as the Smithy and the Old Forge. It’s also a local music venue and seems to have had some good gigs. Last time we visited it was summertime and I think if I was coming again I would wait for better weather – mind you, that’s probably true of most places in this country!

Inn at Lathones

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