This page provides a description of the route and also a map as a guide. You don’t have to follow the map route exactly, there are alternatives, for example if you only want to be on tarmac you can avoid some of the suggested path sections. And of course you need to leave the main route to visit harbours and other points of interest.
The map above can be viewed in more detail online at bit.ly/eastneuk50map
Kirkcaldy has a rich past as home to many of Scotland’s great ‘innovators’ including the philosopher and economist Adam Smith and Scottish neoclassical architect Robert Adam. Kirkcaldy Galleries house a nationally important collection of the Scottish Colourists and work by local resident Jack Vettriano.
In Kirkcaldy, Beveridge Park is a lovely space with woodland walks, rose and flower gardens, play areas and a boating pond, while Ravenscraig Park, next to the castle of the same name, has large sweeping lawns, play areas and great views across the Firth of Forth.
Ravenscraig Castle in Kirkcaldy was built for James II’s queen, Mary of Guelders, in the 15th century to perhaps defend the coast from pirates and English ships. The ruins are well worth visiting, although access is limited.
Tall ships once arrived at Dysart, bringing cargo from the Netherlands, setting off again with coal, beer, salt and fish. Well restored and retaining historic street names such as Hot Pot Wynd (after the hot pans used for salt evaporation), it's an atmospheric place of narrow alleyways and picturesque old buildings.
Dysart’s charming harbour and village are a conservation area with landmarks such as the 16th and 18th century painted dwellings on Pan Ha’, many of which have been restored by the National Trust for Scotland. The Harbourmaster’s House, dating from around 1840, is home to the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust Visitor Centre, bistro and shop. The picturesque harbour was also used in series 2 of the popular TV show, Outlander and has connections with Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Kidnapped”.
Planned 19th century estate village on the A955 road with interesting miner’s cottages
This section of the route travels through Fife’s Energy Coast, which has a great industrial past and is now a world leading centre for renewable energy.
A slight detour from the route will take you to West Wemyss, once a centre for the salt industry, which spreads out from its central Tolbooth, whose origins date back to 1511. Its harbour was later used to export coal from pits on the Wemyss Estates and part of the old village is now a conservation area, with several attractive buildings including a row of traditional miners’ cottages.
East Wemyss takes its name from the ‘weems’ or caves in the cliffs along its shoreline. These ancient caves are famed for their Pictish drawings, which are believed to be the oldest in the UK. They are a short walk from the village and the impressive Court Cave and Jonathan’s Cave are accessible with care.
Once a prospering weaving village and fishing port Buckhaven once boasted the second largest fishing fleet in Scotland, subsequently developed into a mining town and is now being regenerated with community orchards.
Methil was once the greatest coal exporting port in Scotland. Methil Heritage Centre tells the story of the long and eventful cultural and industrial heritage of the area. Home to one of the world’s largest offshore wind turbines
Leven has been a popular destination for visitors since the 19th century and this award-winning seaside town has long sandy beaches and an attractive promenade. Excellent golf course at Leven Links
At Blacketyside visitors can enjoy local produce and especially soft fruits when in season.
Leven Train station to access/leave route
Here you will find opulent houses and spectacular views over Largo Bay. Lundin Ladies is the oldest ladies golf course in the world.
Lower Largo, or Seatown of Largo, is an ancient fishing village nestling around the picturesque river mouth harbour, conservation village and birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, the real Robinson Crusoe, first felt sand between his toes.
Upper Largo benefits from sweeping views over Largo Bay and if you step off the main street you can explore the twisting lanes of this ancient village.
Elegant Elie and Earlsferry have been popular seabathing resorts for over two hundred years. At low tide the beach at Elie stretches to Earlsferry creating almost a mile of pale, golden sand. Golf has been played on Elie’s links since the 16th century with Earlsferry-born golfer James Braid winning the Open Championship five times between 1901 and 1910. Ruby Bay beach to the east of the village is named after the garnets or Elie Rubies washed up on its beach. Just around the headland from the village is Shell Bay, a vast expanse of sand and dunes with rich pickings for shell collectors. The village of Elie is delightful with many attractive buildings and a village green. There is a good selection of shops and places to eat in the village, as well as some cosy traditional pubs.
St Monans is another of the East Neuk’s charming fishing villages looking over the Firth of Forth towards the Isle of May and Bass Rock. The village takes its name from Irish Saint Monan who is thought to have brought Christianity to the region in the 9th century and whose shrine drew thousands of pilgrims for many centuries. The harbour is surrounded by merchant houses and fishing cottages with the crow-stepped gables, date stones, and pantiled roofs that are typical of the area. Visitors can watch boats come and go from one of the three piers in the harbour. St Monans is also a wonderful village for foodies with plenty of places to choose from.
St Monans Church to the west of the village sits on a prominent rocky bank right on the shoreline. It is thought to be the closest church to the sea in Scotland. Its origins date back to the 9th century but its current structure originates in the 14th century and has been subject to several restorations. It remains an impressive place to visit with a strikingly bright interior. The church was used in the 2017 Whisky Galore! remake with Eddie Izzard, and 2013 The Railway Man with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.
Nearby visitors can visit Bowhouse, a food hub showcasing local food and drink suppliers with regular markets.
Pittenweem has the East Neuk’s only working fish market and visitors can watch the day’s fresh catch being unloaded at the harbourside most mornings. The colourful cottages and mercantile buildings that surround the harbour have been attractively restored and display a distinct Dutch influence. There are tremendous views from the top of the village across the harbour to the Firth of Forth. Looking west from the sea front reveals the evocative view of St Monans and its landmark windmill. To either side of the harbour are rocky beaches that can be explored as the tide recedes.
Pittenweem is a hub for local artists and the village’s annual art festival in July/August has earned an international reputation. Visitors can enjoy regular exhibitions at some of the local art galleries and there are several interesting art shops to explore. A series of wynds connects the waterfront to the centre of the village with its attractive selection of shops, cafes and galleries. St Fillan’s Cave sits on one of the village wynds, an ancient refuge of smugglers, priests and Celtic saint, Fillan.
Anstruther is a bustling harbour town and the commercial centre of the East Neuk. Dozens of yachts shelter in its marina and the coming and going of leisure boats and fishing trips make its sea front an ideal place to watch the world go by. It has an interesting range of shops and cafes and world famous, award winning fish and chips as well as a Michelin star restaurant. With an attractive sandy beach and the Scottish Fisheries Museum on the harbour, Anstruther has a lively atmosphere and lots to do. The ferry to the Isle of May sails from the harbour.
The village of Cellardyke, which adjoins Anstruther to the east is well worth visiting in its own right. Its attractive little harbour and the surrounding cottages have a distinct charm and reflect the East Neuk’s maritime traditions.
From Anstruther harbour visitors can take a sea angling trip or visit the Isle of May, an important nature reserve characterised by high cliffs and rock formations – it’s only a mile long but packed with interest. As well as the remains of a 12th century monastery and the oldest lighthouse in Scotland, there’s incredible wildlife to see such as puffin, guillemot, razorbill and cormorant. The Isle is also a breeding colony for seals.
One of the most picture perfect of all the East Neuk villages, historic Crail is a great day out destination. It has a lovely beach, two wonderful golf courses and a particularly charming harbour where you can buy fresh lobster and crab from a wooden shed at the harbourside.
Crail Museum and Heritage Centre tells the story of this ancient Royal Burgh which has been a prosperous trading and fishing port since the 12th century. Its castle, built by King David I, stood on the cliffs overlooking the harbour, but has long since disappeared. There are picturesque walks to be enjoyed along the coastline and nature lovers will appreciate the abundant seabirds in the area. There are several galleries in the village exhibiting the work of contemporary Scottish artists and Crail Pottery sells stoneware planters and bright hand painted earthenware in a pretty courtyard setting. There are plenty of coffee shops, restaurants and traditional pubs in the area serving up home baking, speciality coffee and a selection of beers and wines.
The small and unassuming village of Kingsbarns, between St Andrews and Crail, has found itself in recent years the focus of the international community thanks to the development of the ancient nine hole golf course (closed since WWII) into arguably one of the UK’s finest, which opened in 2000. In 2014, Kingsbarns Distillery & Visitor Centre opened, taking the Kingsbarns name to the world. The name of Kingsbarns derives from the area being the location of the barns used to store grain before being transported to the royal palace at Falkland.
To the south of the village is the beautiful Cambo Estate. The Stables Visitor Centre houses craft and plant shop, cafe for hearty lunches and homebaking and regular family events and horticultural courses. The Stables is the gateway to Cambo’s iconic Georgian walled garden with a modern twist offers woodland walks by a sparkling burn leading to the sea.
Known as the Home of Golf and the location of Scotland’s oldest university, visitors can uncover St Andrews’ place in history at the mighty ruins of St Andrews Castle and St Andrews Cathedral. Wonder at St Andrews very ancient past at the atmospheric Dunino Den, rumoured to be a pagan ceremonial site. Follow in the footsteps of golf’s legends at The Old Course, the world’s oldest golf course and a regular Open Championship venue. Discover the history and heritage of golf at the award-winning World Golf Museum.
The village of Leuchars is dominated by the airbase, whose history of aviation dates back to 1911. Throughout the Cold War and beyond, the airbase was home to fighter aircraft which policed northern UK airspace. The station ceased to be an RAF station in 2015 when it became Leuchars Station and control of the site was transferred to the British Army. The RAF temporarily returned to Leuchars between August and October 2020 to carry out Quick Reaction Alert responsibilities while runway works were being carried out at RAF Lossiemouth.
It was home to the very popular Leuchars Airshow for many decades until 2013.
Leuchars train station to access/leave route
Just around the coast lies Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve, home to seals, seabirds, wildfowl, dragonflies, rare butterflies, otters and a very popular snack bar, Salt and Pine Scotland.
Tayport clings to the corner of Fife that juts into the Tay estuary where it meets the North Sea. With a small but perfectly-formed harbour providing protection from the waves, views across to Broughty Ferry and miles of sandy beach to wander along, Tayport’s a great spot for nature lovers, sailors and beachcombers.
Formerly known as Ferry-Port on Craig, in the 11th century, pilgrims from St Andrews travelled to this coastal hamlet to be ferried across the Tay and continue their pilgrimage to Arbroath Abbey. Centuries later, ferries were still making the trip across the estuary, carrying travellers and even railway carriages, a service which continued until the Tay Rail Bridge opened in 1878.
Today, Tayport Harbour is largely a marina, with yachts and small boats berthed at the jetties - perfect for photos. As you wander round the harbour, keep an eye on the Tay. A large pod of bottlenose dolphins lives in the estuary and they often make an appearance close to the harbour entrance, especially on summer evenings.
Tayport is also home to one of Scotland’s smallest distilleries. The family-run Tayport Distillery makes artisan spirits inspired by the distillery’s surroundings, including Wild Rose Gin containing wild roses found on the banks of the River Tay and a liqueur made from local raspberries.
Tayport is a great vantage point for watching cruise ships departing from Dundee
Dundee, is a dynamic and compact city that’s becoming a modern wonder. Not only is it a UNESCO City of Design, but it’s home to the V&A Dundee, the world’s only V&A museum outside of London.
This is a city with science, historic ships including Captain Scott’s Antarctic research ship RRS Discovery, and museums for kids (and big kids), plenty of culture with theatres, arts centres and cool bars for grown-ups, and walking routes past interesting architecture for everyone who visits.
Train station for starting/finishing the route.