The Tay Coast Trail
The recognised birthplace of whisky is just north of Cupar. This tour – with amazing views over the silvery Tay – pays homage to the history of the dram, unearths fantastic fruits, discovers wild Scottish game … and takes in some off-the-beaten-track and unexpected gems including perfect road-side pizzas.
From the town centre, head to Bank Street – the road that takes you north out of town. At the top of the hill, you’re in open countryside – stay on the road and in a few miles you’ll come to Cairnie Fruit Farm & Mega Maze. The seasonal attraction has a large indoor and outdoor Country Café – renowned for it’s made-on-the-premises home baking. The Farm Shop features ready-picked fruit grown at Cairnie, all of which is also available to Pick Your Own. Depending on the season, you’ll find strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries, brambles, redcurrants, blackcurrants and cherries. Come the autumn, pumpkins too!
Continue heading north and you’ll reach the A92. Turn right and after a short distance, take the left turn signposted to Gauldry. When you reach the village, head for The Gauldry Arms. This family-run bar and restaurant serves home-cooked food on the weekends. You might find Mac & Cheese or Beer-bettered Haddock, Steak Burgers or Monkfish Scampi, Stonebaked Pizzas or Flatiron Steak & Chips.
Next, you’re retracing your steps. Keep to the road that brought you into Gauldry – and keep driving west until you reach a crossroads where you’re turning right. This roads takes you downhill and opens fabulous views across the River Tay. It is a beautiful drive that hugs the hillside – heading towards Newburgh.
When you reach the village, you’ll see Lindores Abbey Distillery (on your left hand side), the spiritual home of Scotch Whisky. How is that claim made? Well, on the 1st June 1494, The Exchequer Roll records: “To Friar John Cor, 8 bolls of Malt, wherewith to make Aqua Vitae for King James IV”. This is the earliest written reference to what is now known as whisky. The ‘8 bolls’ amounts to around 500kg in modern terms … enough to make about 400 bottles of today’s whsiky.
In 2017, spirit started flowing once again from copper stills at Lindores Abbey Distillery and the first single malt was released in 2021. The water comes from a borehole near the distillery, in order that they can draw from the same supply used in 1494. For whisky aficionados, the barley is grown in Fife, malted and then mashed in a conventional, semi-lauter tun supplied by renowned distillery fabricators, Forsyths of Rothes. In June 2019, they started using the Concerto strain of barley grown on two local farms whose fields border the distillery. Fermentation is in traditional wooden washbacks, supplied by Joseph Brown of Dufftown. The distillery has three Forsyths copper pot stills, one large wash still and two smaller spirit stills, “which allows greater copper contact in the final distillation, creating a clean and delicate flavour in the spirit“. Tours of the distillery are available and must be booked 24 hours in advance.
Head into Newburgh to discover the village’s food and drink destinations: first up – on your left hand side – is The Bear Tavern, a traditional pub that takes its name from the famous Bear associated with the village through history. For all your groceries, there’s the Newburgh’s Co-Op on the opposite side of the street … and a little further along, you’ll find Cafe Alice. On the south side of the High Street is the Juniper Refillery … “a planet conscious small business trying to change the world, one refill at a time!” And if you find yourself in Newburgh in the evening, drive to the west end to discover Frasers Caravan selling wood-fired pizza at the roadside.
We now start the journey back to Cupar – retracing steps through Newburgh and staying on the A913.
When you reach Lindores, take the B937 (right turn) and follow the road until you reach Woodmill. Please note, Woodmill Game is only open to customers who are collecting orders: it is not a visitors farm shop. For 30 years, Woodmill Game has focused on bringing more game to people’s plates. All their game is 100% wild (never farmed) and is sourced through their own family deer stalking and game bird processing businesses. This allows them “to explore and develop ways to bring exciting and innovative products to our growing base of game fans“. Director, Steven Wade, set up a small pheasant plucking business in 1992. Today, the business processes some 40,000 birds a season, a high percentage of which are turned into a range of tasty and innovative foods – including game sausages, burgers, terrines, salamis and pies. Steven says: “We’ve got the very best butchers, pluckers, deer stalkers, flavour innovators, market sellers and sustainable thinkers in Scotland and we’re extremely proud to call them Our Team.” He adds: “From Hill to Fork, we know exactly where your food has come from, how it’s been prepped and packaged and how it will look when you open your bags & boxes of goodies at home. With such a knowledgeable and hands on professionals with us, we can be fully confident that you are getting the very best that Scottish Wild Game has to offer when you shop with us.”
Continue on the road until you reach the A91 – and turn left. At the roundabout with the A92, take the left. After a few miles, you’ll reach Fernie Castle Hotel. This 480 year old castle is set in 17 acres of woodlands with it’s own lochan. The Turret Bistro is available for light lunches or just a quick pot of tea. The Keep Bar dates from 1530 and The Auld Alliance Dining Room – with it’s Georgian Chandilier – is the hotel’s offering for a more formal dining experience.
To return to Cupar, rejoin the A92 and follow the road east until you get to the A913 junction – turning right and following signs to Cupar.
The road brings you in at the west end of the town.
Thanks for reading.