Friday, 25 February 2011

Crail to Anstruther

Unlike Cameron McNeish in Scotland’s 100 Best Walks, I already knew how picturesque the villages of East Fife are: but like him, I was not prepared a few years ago for just how enjoyable the Fife Coastal Path was to walk, especially the two-day section between St Andrews and Elie.

Crail Harbour:

My last post took you to St Andrews. So while we are in the area, why not have a look round more of the East Neuk?

Starting out in Crail:

The day after St Andrews we decided to go for a short walk along the Fife coast, starting in Crail. It was a dull day, but watching the cormorants and seagulls from the coast path entertained us. There were few other people out this day, save a small passing group who looked and sounded like students. How different life must have been when the two isolated fishing bothies on the shoreline were inhabited. The low rocky shoreline is backed all the way by crumbly earth cliffs.

There was a great deal of driftwood washed up on and caught in the shore rocks and we collected some. Loads of plastic bottles had also been washed up, but had been collected together by civic-minded persons and placed in fish boxes, prior to a later removal. However the highlight of this stretch of coast between Crail and Anstruther was the Caiplie Caves, a strange sandstone formation that includes holes going right through the rock and out the other side.

Approaching Caiplie Caves:

As we approached Cellardyke and Anstruther, I couldn't get James Yorkston and the Athletes' tune Shipwreckers out my head. This band are a member of The Fence Collective, a loose band of musicians who have coalesced in Anstruther around the organising figure of Kenny Anderson, stage name King Creosote. James Yorkston and the Athletes is one of my favourites, and Shipwreckers is redolent of this coast. Hopefully we would have a warm crackling fire later with the driftwood we had collected! The settlements on this coast, clinging like limpets round their tiny harbours, have been fisher touns - and no doubt, havens for wreckers and smugglers too - for centuries. Cellardyke - back when it was thriving - was called Stinky Haven. Today is is neither smelly nor busy!

Stinky Haven:

Cellardyke - as I have been firmly informed by a local - is a separate town to Anstruther and not, as one might assume from the map, a suburb. The clue to this is its separate harbour. As we walked through the streets of Cellardyke into Anstruther, the day's forecast sunshine suddenly burst through thinning clouds, and our last hour was bathed in the beautiful sunshine of a winter's afternoon.


Anstruther in late evening sunshine:

After buying chips in the famous Anstruther Fish Bar - its fame has caused a loss of business in chip shops as far away as St Andrews - we walked along the harbour wall and took the bus back to Crail, the lighthouse winking on the Isle of May, Shipwreckers still on my mind.

It is only after you drive away from this area, towards your home in one of the grey unprepossesing towns in the Central Belt, that a nagging question bubbles to the surface. Why aren't more Scottish towns as attractive as those in the East Neuk?

Essence of the East Neuk:


PurestGreen said...

I love the photo of the approach to Caiplie Caves. Now that the sun is making an appearance I am looking forward to getting out for more walks. This one looks ideal, especially including that necessary stop for fish and chips. :)

Robert Craig said...

The whole coast from St Andrews to Elie is worth walking. If you have the energy, I can recommend walking as far as St Monans from Crail - the once-an hour bus takes you all the way back along the A917.

blueskyscotland said...

Good post and info and a walk that is often overlooked but one of the most charming coastal strips around.Anstruther chippie is a victim of its own deserved reputation through as its always been mobbed when I,ve been there:0)
A lot of the fed up local folk go elsewhere in the town if theres a big line of tourists outside in summer.Bet Prince William got someone else to wait in the line for him.