The Ports’ Trail

Take a trip from Cupar to discover Newport & Tayport – the former ferry towns on the Tay before returning via Guardbridge, once a port that served Cupar for its seagoing trade. Your travels will take in tea rooms, fruit farms, award-winning restaurants, river-side eateries overlooking the V&A as well as rural cafes …

Set off east from Cupar on the A91 and you’ll soon reach the village of Dairsie. It has a mini-mart convenience store at the post office as well as Rumbledethumps, a small, family-run restaurant offering home cooking in a relaxed atmosphere. They offer a selection of dishes across their lunch, evening, high tea, senior citizens’ and event menus. – and the wheelchair accessible premises has large car parks right outside.

Just beyond the village, you’ll reach a roundabout. Turn left onto the A914 and after a mile or two, you’ll soon spy Pittormie Farm Shop on your left side. The small, intensive family-run farm aims to “produce quality fresh food which has real flavour” so they try to keep the use of chemicals to “an absolute minimum“. The farm shop is stocked with fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables. Depending on the time of year, you’ll find raspberries, strawberries, gooseberries (red and green), blackcurrants, redcurrants, Tayberries, Loganberries, brambles, blueberries and rhubarb. Vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, lettuce (perpetual and traditional), courgettes, cucumber, beetroot, potatoes (Wilja, Golden Wonder, Maris Piper and Edzell Blues) as well as pea pods, beans, carrots, turnips and asparagus.

They also stock their own range of jams, jellies, marmalade, chutney and lemon curd – and sell the Heather Ales range of fruit beers and Cairn O Mohr’s range of fruit wines. The shop is seasonal, but their hens don’t stop laying when the fruit season finishes – so the ‘Egg Shed’ is opened when the farm shop closes at the end of the summer. In the shed, customers can continue to get fresh eggs as well as potatoes, jams and winter vegetables.

A few hundred yards along the main road is Thai Teak. The actual Teak House itself is a real Thai dwelling – shipped to Scotland and rebuilt on stilts – like the original – to make the most of wonderful open views over the countryside. The coffee shop serves fresh sandwiches, wraps and salad as well as daily offerings of homemade soups, authentic Thai dishes and a wide selection of daily baked cakes, scones, slices and cupcakes … alongside many flavours of homemade ice cream!

Carry on the A914 – through Balmullo with its traditional pub, the Balmullo Inn, and a convenient Spar – and on to St Michael’s where you’ll turn left and, after s short distance, left again. At the A92 roundabout – head straight across – and you’ll eventually reach a T junction. Turn right onto the B946 – and head into Wormit, passing the village’s Spar on your right hand side.

A little further on, you’ll find The View Restaurant– a “relaxed and informal” destination with a style all of its own. Run by husband and team Steve and Karen Robertson, some will know them for their stint running The Glass House Restaurant in Speyside, nominated for Best New Scottish restaurant in its first year of opening. Returning to Steve’s native Fife, the menu is made up of starter size, or “tasting dishes” and allows you to try different dishes individually or by sharing.

The award-winning View – with stunning views across the iconic Tay Bridge – sources “as much produce as possible” from local growers and suppliers. Their fish is landed in Scrabster, Peterhead and on the East Neuk. Their butchered meat is bought through Perth and Thainstone markets by Campbells Prime Meats in Edinburgh. ​Game is supplied from local dealers – along with venison from the Cairngorms. Soft fruits and vegetables are from across Fife and Angus and they source cheese from independent makers from around Scotland. 

Open from 10am, you can enjoy  freshly ground coffee, homemade pastries and cakes – as well as a range of made to order breakfast dishes. They have a snack menu available at lunch and in the evening, so if you are just looking for a light snack or a bite to eat while in for a drink with friends, try their selection of breads, dips and range of sharing platters. Open Tuesday to Sunday for lunch and dinner (closed on Mondays), the View is known for their seasonally changing menus of modern Scottish dishes – delivered by a team of award winning chefs.

Love alfresco? They have a secluded area at the back of the restaurant which is a real sun trap – perfect for dining or simply relaxing with a cold drink on a summers day. They also serve Sunday Afternoon Teas (booking essential 24 hours in advance) where you can enjoy a selection of freshly prepared filled sandwiches, wraps, homemade pastries and fresh cream cakes served with a selection of teas and freshly ground coffee. Meeting the changing needs of customers, The View can also help with your own dinner party plans. They can provide you with anything from canapés, a starter, homemade dessert or the entire meal. If you like to cook yourself, why not get them to prepare the ingredients, sauces and garnishes so you can simply cook the meal without all the fuss of preparation and wastage. And if you’d like the full experience at home, take away meals are available Wednesday to Sunday: orders must be placed by 12 pm on the day or any point in advance.

Back on the trail, you’re heading east along the coast towards Newport – catching glimpses of the Tay and across the water to Dundee. It is Dundee that has shaped the founding and development of the small ports on the south side of the Tay. In 1715, a new pier was funded by the Guilds of Dundee, which led to the settlement being called ‘New Dundee’. A new harbour built by Thomas Telford in the 1820s cemented the town’s popularity as a destination for prosperous jute manufacturers and industrialists who were keen to live across the water from their factories and work. New Dundee became Newport.

As you enter Newport, the road splits and you drop to the old ferry port – now converted to Boat Brae. The pub and restaurant are a stunning addition to the waterfront.

The pub – winner of the CIS 2021 Pub Excellence of the Year Award – is a homely bar on the ground floor. Through the bar and upstairs is the restaurant – flooded with light with tables overlooking the Tay served from a galley kitchen. The bar menu has a collection of snacks and bites – plates and shares including seasonal soups, platters, sandwiches and wraps. The restaurant menu shouts ‘Scottish’ with locally-sourced seafood, Ayrshire pork, Perthshire duck and their own steak or vegan burgers. Desserts are equally tempting!

Both the bar and decking operate on a first come first serve basis. There are lots of tables on the decking and only on very rare occasions is there a short wait. Their online booking function is only for guests wishing to dine from the a la carte menu in the restaurant. And you should always keep an eye on their website’s events’ section as they often have live music sessions too!

A little further into the village is another award-winning foodie destination – Kitschnbake. The family-run business is a bake shop with coffee, savoury favourites and some carefully chosen gifts. Established in 2010, they create artisan, small batch, homemade cakes, delightful afternoon teas and tasty bakes for all occasions. And if you’re looking to order some delicious treats online for local delivery – or through the post – they do that too! Their cakes are packed with fair trade, organic & locally-sourced produce, with “no nasty preservatives“.  Their location looks out across the River Tay, and has a front row seat looking over to the V&A Dundee.

More award-winning destinations are just around the corner!

The Newport is run by Chef Patron, Jamie Scott, and his team. Jamie grew up in neighbouring Angus and is “passionate about bringing fine dining to Dundee and Fife“. The building has panoramic windows over two floors and boasts some of the best sunsets in Scotland. The casual, informal, dining restaurant has an emphasis on locally-sourced natural, seasonal and sustainable food – that changes seasonally. All dishes change regularly depending on which locally grown and reared ingredients are deemed at their best.

Alongside the food, The Newport has a carefully selected wine and drinks list – from local distillers, brewers and artisan producers to hand-selected wines from small makers, new world, natural and biodynamic. The restaurant’s bar boasts a wide and varied offering and, at the top of the building, are four unique rooms offering a space to relax and unwind … some enjoy the stunning views over the River Tay.

Jamie is also behind The Newport Bakery – an artisan bakery that started life as a pop-up. It has flourished into a must-visit. Their talented bakers are at the heart of the business – hand-making all their products each morning. Their focus – seven days a week – is on Danish-style pastries, viennoiserie and long-proved sourdough.

Throughout the shop is a wide selection of local, independent suppliers & products … and they offer a fruit & veg exchange throughout the seasons – in return, paying in pastries with the aim to ensure zero waste wherever possible! They also offer barista coffee using their own ‘Daily Grind’ blend from Sacred Grounds.

Looking for a traditional takeaway when in Newport? Try The Fifie at the top end of the High Street – owned and run by the same family for almost 20 years. A few steps up the hill you will find the unique Manna Cafe – a local café “designed to serve the community of Newport-on-Tay and beyond!” Opened in March 2006, Manna is owned by Newport-on-Tay Church of Scotland and the profits from the business go towards helping fund a full-time Christian youth worker who works with young people of all faiths or none. Wherever possible, they aim to serve Fairtrade – both drinks as well as their home-baking.

Run by an enthusiastic team of volunteers of different ages and backgrounds, the cafe proved a success and expanded ‘next door’, increasing the size of the café and allowing the opening of a small gift shop which sells products from Created and Traidcraft. There’s a wonderful selection of gifts for all ages.

Back on the trail and you’re now heading towards Tayport. You’ll go under the A92 Taybridge Road and follow the B946. In 1180, the lands on this headland were granted to the newly formed Arbroath Abbey – and a ferry serviced already operated across the Tay. The abbey constructed shelter and lodgings for those making the pilgrimage between St Andrews and Arbroath. The ferry crossing grew in popularity – and so did the settlement. Ferry-Port on Craig – as Tayport was then known – saw a dramatic increase in population at the end of the 18th century when tenants displaced by agricultural improvement and clearances, came to take advantage of jobs in the town’s textile and shipbuilding industries. By the 1840s, a steam ferry service ran between Tayport and Broughty Ferry and, from 1851 until 1878, this was operated by the Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee Railway which used the route for a railway ferry service from Edinburgh to Aberdeen. When the Tay Rail Bridge re-opened in 1887, Tayport’s ferry became ‘passenger only’ and ran until 1920. Some small industry remains, but today’s harbour is almost wholly leisure-based in its activities – new housing now standing where railway carriages were once manoeuvered onto ferries!

There are a couple of pubs in Tayport – The Bellrock Tavern and Cobbies Inn.

The Bell Rock Tavern – or simply ‘The Bell’ – has stood on the same spot in the heart of Tayport since 1887. It has a “contemporary Indian & Scottish restaurant” together with a traditional bar and beer garden. Named after the Bell Rock Lighthouse – built by Scottish Engineer Robert Stevenson and first lit in 1811. The rock was the scene of many shipwrecks as it lies just below the surface of the sea for all but a few hours at low tide … the lighthouse supposedly got its name after a 14th century attempt to install a warning bell on it. According to legend, the bell lasted only one year before it was removed by a Dutch pirate!

Cobbies Bar & Kitch-Inn is close to the harbour and has a lounge with a pool table, darts and a large screen TV. Children are welcome – accompanied by an adult – until 8pm. Their Kitch Inn provides home cooked bar meals and snacks – and their bar has a wide selection of draught and bottled beers, spirits, malts and wines, along with soft drinks.

For a cafe offering, try The Harbour Cafe – 0perated by the Tayport Community Trust – serving hot breakfast rolls, Belgian waffles, toasties and sandwiches, paninis, baked potatoes, pancake stacks, fresh salads, homemade pizzas and more. Looking for something sweet? Their cakes are baked in the cafe or by volunteer home bakers. The Trust also operates The Larick Centre and its Café that opened in 2020. Located near Tentsmuir Nature Reserve and Beach, it provides a community space for the residents of Tayport and visitors to meet, socialise and enjoy a variety of activities and events. The cafe serves hot breakfast rolls all day, wraps, toasties, paninis, and freshly made soup … plus cakes and tray bakes, with vegan options, dairy free and gluten free choices available.

Close to The Larick cafe is Scotscraig Golf Club – the 13th oldest Golf Club in the world. The clubhouse oozes character with memorabilia displayed for all to see. The dining room has a lovely setting overlooking the course. The menu is extensive – ranging from bacon rolls and coffees to full meals.

You’re now back on the Trail – and heading south from Tayport.

After a few miles, take a left – and follow signs towards Tentsmuir Forest to The Rhynd Cafe. The Rhynd farmhouse and steading were built well over a century ago and have been used for farming ever since. The Foster family has owned the Rhynd since the early 1950s when Major Derek Foster bought it as part of Leuchars Estate. His son John and his wife Clarinda farmed the land from the early 1970s and their youngest son Ed now helps out.

The Rhynd was predominantly a dairy, which remains to this day in one of the buildings, but it was also a base for farming cereals. The café was used as a grain store upstairs and features much of the original stonework, timber and roof. It showcases local produce – all cooked on site – with a menu that changes seasonally. They are now growing their own vegetables and salads and try and source as much of their food as possible from local suppliers including Minick of St Andrews butchers, Fisher and Donaldson, the Cocoa Tree and East Neuk Orchards.

Separately, Bacon & Brakes is their monthly car and motorcycle meeting that takes place between 10am and 12pm on the first Sunday of every month. They welcome all cars and bikes, from all eras. There’s no charge for coming, and there’s no need to book. Bacon & Brakes is “an old-school, friendly car and motorcycle meet” and they are not pretending to be anything grander than a bunch of people with a shared passion for all things automotive!

From The Rhynd, follow the single-track road to Leuchars. The village was adopted by the RAF for an airbase first built in 1911. The RAF left in 2015 and the military base is now an Army station. The village has two pubs – The Commercial Arms (which describes itself as “Local pub. Beautiful beer garden. Child and dog friendly. Good food and drink.” – and Ye Olde Hotel that has been run by the same family for over 50 years and prides itself on  its real ales and gin list.

In the heart of the village is the Leuchars Butcher. The shop was taken on by Steven Reaper in 2021. His family farm locally at Loanfoot Farm, Balmullo, and have further land at Dairsie. They have a herd of pedigree Hereford cattle, Zwartbles sheep as well as free range pigs. Steven says: “Our focus has been to improve the quality and range of products in the shop, working with local farmers – buying stock direct at the source from the farm, cutting food miles and adding provenance to what we sell in the shop.” They can always tell you where your beef, lamb and pork has come from, where it was slaughtered and for how long it has been hung. Steven adds: “We are just a small shop, but we pride ourselves on offering an excellent range and standard of product as a true artisan butchery.

From Leuchars, take the main road to Guardbridge – the village on the Eden estuary that takes its name from the 15th-century six-arched bridge built by Bishop Henry Wardlaw who founded the University of St Andrews. It is home to the Eden Brewery & Distillery. More than 200 years ago, the Eden was offering its crystal clear waters to the legendary Haig brothers, helping them distill and lay down some of St Andrews’ finest whiskies. Before them, the same site hosted the Seggie Brewery, known for their strong connections with local farmers and agricultural workers. Roll the clocks forward to 2012 and Eden Mill resurrected this fine brewing and spirits tradition creating Scotland’s first single-site brewery and distillery. They use “the best of local water sources and regionally grown barley”  and are “at the forefront of experimental wood ageing and distillation methods” to produce an award-winning range of drinks that include beers, gins and whisky.

Sustainability is at the heart of their mission: they aim to build Scotland’s first carbon neutral distillery located within the University of St. Andrews’ Eden Campus in the village. Power and heat for the stills will be supplied by the University’s biomass plant and solar panels on the distillery’s roof. Always striving to create new, innovative and unique ways to improve the sustainability of their products and packaging, they have introduced a new bespoke, lightweight glass bottle to replace some of their classic ceramic bottles.  In 2018, Eden Mill released the first Single Malt whisky to be distilled in St Andrews in over 150 years. The first bottling – sold at auction – broke the world record for a first release, at £7,100.

Before returning to Cupar via the A91, there are two more visits to make: the Guardbridge Inn is the village’s small, family-run pub and restaurant serving quality locally-sourced food both indoors as well as in their large beer garden. Off the bridge roundabout is Dali’s Fish & Chips … a traditional takeaway serving fish & chips, burgers, pizzas, calzones, kebabs and more.

Thanks for reading.