The East Neuk Trail

Fife’s East Neuk is a must for foodies with an array of artisan producers. The circular tour from Cupar climbs over the hills to the south of St Andrews before joining the coast road … a journey that reveals glorious seascapes and the golden fringe of fishing villages that hug the shore …

From Cupar, take the B940 that heads east from the town’s Haugh Park – climbing out of the Eden Valley. At Pitscottie, head over the crossroads and continue on the B940 to Peat Inn, Take the left turn in the hamlet (opposite The Peat Innfeatured in our Largo Law Trail) and continue following the B940 – crossing the A915. When you reach the junction with the B9131, turn left then, after a short distance, right – following signs to Kingsbarns.

The village has a pub – the family-run 18th century coaching inn, The Inn at Kingsbarns. Enjoy food served in their Scranhoose. Where possible, they source ingredients as locally – from butchers, farmers, fruit and vegetable farms. Any food waste is given to a local, free-range pig farmer! In the summer, they operate a BBQ in the garden.

Taking the A917 and heading south, you’ll come to signs for Cambo House – together with Cambo Gardens, Cafe & Shop. The present day estate has been in the Erskine family for over 300 years and is included in ‘An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland’. The buildings within the landscape include stables, carriage house, coach house, mausoleum, walled garden, dovecote, lodges and two model farms, listed by Historic Environment Scotland. The café serves takeaway vegetarian and vegan friendly food. All seating is outdoor in their courtyard areas with a large covered area in the rear courtyard in case of bad weather. The cafe is dog friendly with “treats and belly rubs for good behaviour!

A short distance south is the five-star Kingsbarns Distillery & Visitor Centre. The family-owned and operated company run whisky and gin tours with tastings … as well as the centre’s cafe serving locally-made food including soups, pastries, breads, cakes and scones. A great spot to enjoy their great range of loose leaf teas and freshly ground coffee and – of course – the selection of their very own Kingsbarns and Wemyss Malts whiskies, Darnley’s Gins and Rimauresq fine wines from the Wemyss family’s vineyard in Provence.

Next stop – Crail.

Earliest records show the settlement as ‘Cherel’ – with origins of the name linked to pictish words. A Royal Burgh, Crail has had a traceable association with golf for some 250 years or more. The Crail Golfing Society was formed in 1786 by “a group of eleven gentlemen” who were “fond of the diversion of golf“. Just over a century later, Crail Town Council acquired the lease of land at Balcomie – the extremity of the East Neuk – and sought Old Tom Morris’ opinion. His seal of approval? “I am bound to say that there is not a better in Scotland“.

As you enter the heart of the village from the Kingsbarns side, you’ll see signs to the Balcomie Golf Club – run today by the Crail Golfing Society. Only open to members, guests and visiting golfers, the clubhouse is one of the most spectacular locations … the restaurant, lounge and bar perched high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the 18th green of the Links.

Head into the village and to the harbour (the feature image for this trail depicts Crail harbour) and you’ll discover Brodie’s Grannies … a seasonal take away serving ice cream, coffees and snacks.If you’re looking for day-to-day groceries, pop to Crail’s Co-Op.

West of the village – heading along the coast road (A917) – you’ll find another seasonal offering, Barnsmuir Farm Shop selling a range of soft fruits, vegetables and home produce before continuing on the trail to visit more picturesque villages whose fortunes grew on fishing and are now popular tourist destinations.

First up: Cellardyke. Head into the village and follow signs to the harbour.

The original harbour dates from the 16th century and was a hive of activity – around 200 fishing boats were once based here. Head west through the village from the habour and you’ll find The Haven Restaurant, well known for its traditional fayre be it beer-battered fish n chips or their sticky toffee pudding! Dogs are welcome in the bar area too. A few yards away is Doig Fish Merchant – open to the public – selling an array of locally caught and sourced fish and seafood. The Coastal Inn – on John Street – is another traditional pub (with rooms) and, on the same street, is the Fortune House Chinese Takeaway.

Head into James Street and this will take you along the shore and on into Athstruther. The village was founded as a herring fishing port. Today, the harbour is busier with pleasure craft and welcomes visitors to experience The Scottish Fisheries Museum, pleasure cruises, Fife’s Coastal Path and the nearby Isle of May Bird Sanctuary. Anstruther is home to a great selection of pubs and eateries with award-winning food producers and retailers.

The Cellar is the Michelin-listed restaurant owned and run by head chef, Billy Boyter. Billy grew up in Cellardyke, spent his early career in Edinburgh – working for some of Scotland’s most prestigious restaurants – before returning in 2014 to open The Cellar. Billy and his team work with local farmers, suppliers and producers to create just one tasting menu – “inspired by seasonal Scottish produce and locally foraged ingredients from our coastline and countryside“.

On the harbour is the highly acclaimed Anstruther Fish Bar. Fishing has been the lifeblood of owners Robert and Alison Smith’s families for generations, and both are proud to continue these centuries of service – now preparing and serving the finest Scottish seafood, locally caught and landed, and served in their welcoming traditional chippie. Whether you sit in their restaurant or take away to savour in the sea air, you’ll be joining thousands of happy customers who make the pilgrimage to this unique foodie destination every year!

Another eatery – The Waterfront Restaurant – also boasts contemporary AA graded four star guest rooms. Their restaurant – overlooking the bobbing boats in the marina – has developed menus over nearly twenty years to incorporate many local suppliers, based primarily on seafood but with “something to suit all tastes“. Close by is the family-run Coast Coffee – a great wee coffee shop serving teas and coffees as well as a selection of toasties, paninis, cakes and bakes. Sit in or take away … on fine days, there is also outdoor seating so you can enjoy your food & drink alfresco whilst watching the world go by!

For retail experiences, try The Wee Couper of Fife Scotch Whisky Gift Shop, Minick of Anstruther – the artisan butcher – as well as Barnett’s Bakery.

There are four pubs to enjoy: the traditional The Anstruther Boathouse and The Bank – complete with its mature suntrap garden and extensive beer garden providing plenty of space for the whole family. The bar at The Royal Hotel serves a selection of lagers and beers, fine wines, whiskys and ciders as well as coffees and teas. The dog-friendly venue has live music events from time to time, a reading corner, Sky and BT Sports, a pool table, juke box and games tables … so there’s plenty to keep all the family happy. As you rejoin the trail – heading west – you’ll see The Dreel Tavern … one of Anstruther’s most historic buildings. Choose from their Shack and A La Carte menus … “providing local produce at its very best from the land and the sea” and enjoy the beer garden on long the summer and the cosy bar through the winter months, warmed by the Dreel’s grand open fire. They welcome friendly dogs and their owners with treats available on the house!

Just before you leave Anstruther, take a detour to the Golf Club to discover Rockies Restaurant. Families are made very welcome!

The next and final village stop on this trail is Pittenweem. If you’re living or staying locally and you’re after fresh fish, keep an ear and eye out for Andy’s Fish Van. Established in 2014, the Pittenweem business sells fresh seafood door to door – “hand picked, hand filleted and hand delivered“.

At the heart of the village is The Pittenweem Chocolate Company and their cafe, The Cocoa Tree. Try one of their luxurious hot chocolate drinks, a decadent mochachino with white or dark chocolate, cacao tea infusions or chocolate bars paired with complimentary artisan teas. If you’d like a savoury dish and want to experience just a hint of chocolate-inspired indulgence, enjoy their thick mixed bean stew – made with cocoa! You’ll find chocolate cake and gluten-free chocolate brownie, chocolate milkshakes, Belgian waffles or ice cream with their thick chocolate sauce. Before you leave, take time to browse the chocolate boutique where you may well be tempted by their selection of handmade chocolates.

As with all of the East Neuk villages, a walk to explore the harbour is a must. The Dory Bistro & Gallery is a seafood restaurant serving “affordable food with a focus on Fife food treasures“. Lobsters, langoustines and crabs are landed less than 40 metres from their front door and they get the freshest fish and shellfish from St Monans and Pittenweem. They also serve wild game dishes through autumn and winter using meat from Fife estates and have a kitchen garden where they produce our own herbs, vegetables and fruit. Their aim is “to celebrate the bounty from Fife and Angus and its seasonal rhythms so that we can serve local, sustainable and reasonably priced fantastic fresh food“.  We couldn’t leave Pittenweem without a mention of the Adamson’s Bakery – handmaking oatcakes that you will see for sale in many shops and outlets across the region … including at our next stop!

We’re now starting the return to Cupar – via one of the area’s best known producers: St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese. From the village, you head inland – along Charles Street – and follow the brown signs that will take you to Falside, the Farmhouse Cheese HQ.

The Stewart family have farmed at Falside since the 1930s, with the dairy always very much at the centre of the operation. The farm is now run by Robert Stewart – assisted by his wife Jane. They have 3 sons, two of whom (Ben and Adam) have now joined the business. As well as the dairy herd, Falside Farm grows wheat, barley and oilseed rape. Traditional farming methods continue in time honoured fashion – dung from the dairy is spread back on the land, crop rotation is carefully planned, hedges around the fields encourage wildlife and song birds to flourish, and now, traditional cheesemaking completes the circle ‘from field to plate’. It all begins with the top quality raw milk produced by their home-bred herd of Friesian Holstein cows – grazing all summer long amongst the pastures overlooking the Firth of Forth. On their website, they explain that “Cheesemaking is not a ‘spectator sport’! It takes all day to make the cheese, and often many weeks or months for it to mature.

Their journey began in 2008 and they have been making cheese ever since. Today, they are a Visit Scotland 4-star Visitor Attraction and are proud members of Scotland Food & Drink, the Specialist Cheese Makers Association, the Fine Cheese Makers of Scotland, Food from Fife and the Scottish Cheese Trail.

Sadly, the farm’s coffee shop is no longer open to the public but it can be open for pre-booked parties by appointment only.  They can offer a talk about the cheese making, with a look at ‘the action’ from our Viewing Gallery, followed by a cheese platter, with homemade cheese scones and coffee. Their shop’s cheese counter is open and stocks their own award-winning farmhouse cheeses, plus a carefully chosen selection of oatcakes, chutneys, jams and local honey. They also offer coffee or tea to ‘carry out’.

Your return to Cupar zig-zags across the rolling hills of the East Neuk. Glances back across the farms show stunning views to the Firth of Forth and the Lothian hills beyond.

There’s no ‘direct’ route … so a map or satnav is preferable! You can head through Carnbee, joining the B940. This will take you back to Peat Inn where you follow the same road number all the way back to Cupar.

Thanks for reading.