Best outdoor activites in Fife – some weekend highlights
The Scotlanders were back on the road this month as we stormed into the Kingdom of Fife. Doing what we do with our individually tailored theme weekends, the role of embracer of the outdoors fell to me as I took in some of the region’s many outdoor attractions.
Based, as we were, in the village of Crail in the sublime stretch known as the East Neuk, this is an area of Scotland that screams ‘explore’. From a peaceful wander around the fishing harbours of the well-distributed coastal villages to the bracing experience of a North-Sea-air-battering as I went fleeing along on my bike, the East Neuk is a well-loved little hideaway. Crail is a particularly attractive standout. Close to the easternmost tip of the Neuk, the coastline here is magnificent. Gradual and rugged to just the right degree, it is the ideal base for visitors. Best of all though is the picture-perfect harbour. If not bowled over by the eye watering stench of the deep, there is everything to love. Just be sure to leave time for a cheery self-indulgent jaunt along the road to Anstruther for as good a fish supper as you’re ever likely to experience.
But for my primary outdoors adventures, I’m off to St Andrews. A handsome spot at even its most modest, the town simply glows when the sun is out. And in such instances, the place to go is the massive West Sands beach, minutes from the town centre. I have a rather unfortunate teenage student day trip memory of setting up a staggeringly dire picnic attempt here with my friends. What the hell is wrong with the student mindset anyway? What part of sweating a burger to ash and barbequing a washed up welly boot for good measure ever seemed like a good call?
Nevertheless, I’ve matured somewhat in the decade since. Never let me mature so much as to not relish getting whizzed about on a landyacht though! The idea of twin brothers Guy and Jamie to set up this super-exhilarating and instant stress-buster of a business, Blown Away, was inspired. A fantastic location and a relatively simple, but riotously fun, activity combine to make for one of the highlights of the weekend. Kayaking is another of their popular activities and this stuff is great for individuals, friends, couples and colleagues alike.
Another of my standout activities in my weekend of adrenaline was my debut behind the barrel of a shotgun. A visit to outdoor specialists Cluny Clays near Kirkcaldy has all the answers in this department. After a quick buzz around on a Segway, another personal first, I was off to embarrass myself with some clay pigeons. A shameful three hits out of ten suggests all those hours chucking myself around my bedroom as James Bond and Rambo in an early lifetime full of preparation was not time well spent. Come to think of it, between that and cooking wellies I’ve not done very well at all have I? Hmmm.
Fife’s biggest asset for me is its diversity. While charging around over an intensive weekend of outdoor activities is a big incentive, there will always be plenty more to draw you to the region. Take history – St Andrews alone has enough to satisfy any fanatic. From the advantageously placed Cathedral (a favourite for sunset/sunrise photographers) to the atmospheric Castle that was prominent in the Wars of Independence, the place is full of stories. Going further still, St Andrews’ University is the third oldest in the English-speaking world and the legendary Old Course is where the sport of golf took off in the 15th Century. History is everywhere, and is integral to every element of the town.
Further exploration of Fife unearths all sorts of historical gems. Impressive Dunfermline Abbey was chosen as the burial site for Robert the Bruce; Falkland Palace boasts one of the grandest interiors in the country and the little burgh of Culross is the very definition of quaint. The latter is a particular favourite – birthplace of St Mungo this is a spot where time has stood still since the 17th Century. Perfect for a lazy wander down the perfect alleyways and medieval side streets, both the Palace and the Abbey are must-sees.
Fife is also great for a drink. Said the kilted man with a slur. One of my highlights of the Scotlanders weekend was a visit to the new Kingsbarns Distillery, to be found between Crail and St Andrews. An impassioned whisky tour by man-with-the-plan Douglas Clement was a wonderful insight into the birth of the only distillery in the area. Set in a gorgeous rural location, there are a range of year-round tours available. Expect to see the good stuff hitting shelves from 2018.
You can trace my picks for an adventure-filled weekend in Fife on the map below and check out the Scotlanders website for the rest of our adventures around the kingdom by Scotland’s top travel bloggers.