One of my personal goals for this year was to explore more of Scotland. My first instinct when I get the chance to escape from St Andrews is to jet off to a new country on the continent, but deep down I also know that Scotland has much to offer, and, on an even more local level, so does Fife. With the added advantage of my boyfriend bringing his car up from home this year, I capitalized upon my birthday weekend to concoct and execute a mini-getaway for the two of us to the East Neuk coast here in Fife.
Despite all my meticulous planning, we really could not have picked a worse weekend weather-wise. The remnants of Tropical Storm Lorenzo blew in the morning of our departure to awash most of the country in blustering gusts of wind and unrelenting rain. Nevertheless, we loaded our bags into James’ car and set off for the little fishing hamlet of Crail.
Our first stop was, for me, highly anticipated: the Crail Harbour Gallery and Tea Room. Nestled in the ground floor of a seaside cottage, this little tearoom offers in tandem a delicious menu of typical cafe fare alongside locally-made art and gifts. The low ceiling, wooden beams, and rough stone floor all made for a cozy cake break as we gazed out at the stormy sea.
We then took our contact with the sea a step further by wandering down to the picturesque harbor before circling back up along the Fife Coastal Path. One of the most unexpected and quirkiest finds of our whole trip was the historic pigeon house along the coastal path. Upon pushing open the round building’s low wooden door, we accidentally triggered a very loud, fake pigeon call that startled both of us to death, as we ducked our heads trying to avoid any disturbed pigeons. The little hut has long been shut as a pigeon domestile, so of course, thankfully, there were none.
Later, we stumbled upon Crail Pottery, a charming family-run studio that’s been making handcrafted ceramics in Crail for over half a century. Their handmade pieces, which came in a variety of textures, shapes, and colors, were absolutely gorgeous and relatively inexpensive considering the artisanry behind them.
As it was beginning to grow later in the day, we decided it was time to move on to Anstruther further down the coast before losing the light. Unfortunately, our time there was cut short and indoors anyway by the nastiness of the wind and rain. We took refuge in Anstruther Fish Bar along the harbor and treated ourselves to some classic crispy fish and chips, consistently ranked among the best in Scotland, while we attempted to dry ourselves out. After our meal, we did our best to enjoy a stroll along the pier in the twilight, but lasted only about fifteen minutes before retreating back to the car and making our way to St Monans for the night.
The AirBnB we booked in St Monans was situated in its own little courtyard in a local family’s back garden, complete with its own studio-style kitchen and bath. As soon as we arrived, we cranked the heat up and settled in, grateful for the shelter from the atrocious weather fulminating outside.
The following morning, after checking out, we wandered down to the Diving Gannet, a cheery little coffee shop with pretty pastels and homemade baked goods. We decided to settle ourselves at a table for two right by the heater. After eating, we headed upstairs to browse their collection of locally made gifts and carefully curated antiques, which offered up the perfect excuse to remain inside away from the dreary morning.
Out of the four towns we visited, St Monans was the tiniest, so our stroll along the harbor was kept brief this time by distance rather than rain, though it continued to lash down. We continued trekking along the coastal path down to the town’s “auld kirk” situated right on the rocky coastline. The church’s tenebrous Gothic architecture matched the gloominess of the weather, creating a moody, inherently Scottish atmosphere around us.
After exhausting what activities St Monans had to offer in the face of a disintegrating tropical system, we hopped back into the car and backtracked a bit to Pittenweem. Upon arriving, we reluctantly left the blasting heat of the car behind on their High Street, absorbing the charming view of the town’s iconic clock tower as we once again donned our rain gear. From there, we meandered through layer after layer of the charming little wynds that weaved up and down throughout the town. Once again, however, we were both nearly soaked through after less than an hour and decided to take a quick detour to Kellie Castle and Gardens in an attempt to find some refuge from the weather.
Though the castle’s exterior was absolutely lovely, we agreed that even the student concession ticket was a bit pricey and opted for a drippy stroll through the garden instead. While still wet, luckily we no longer had to battle the wind. The garden ended up being eye-opening in that we had no idea how many different types of produce could be grown locally in Fife, nor how many breeds of apple there are. In the back corner, there was even a little shed that sold local produce.
By then, we were hungry once more and headed back into Pittenweem for lunch at the iconic Cocoa Tree Shop, notable for their delectable homemade chocolate. Even my chocolate-obsessed boyfriend managed to get chocolated-out as we gorged on their fabulously luscious hot chocolates (I had the vegan version with dark chocolate and pea milk), and decadently rich cake, some of the best I’ve ever had. Even their regular lunch menu was phenomenal – throw pesto, tomato, and mozzarella in a crepe, and you really can’t go wrong.
After our meal, we took one last stroll about Pittenweem before returning to the car for our drive back to St Andrews. We chose to take the scenic route along the coast, stretching out the last moments of our trip for as long as possible. Glimpses of the grey, mottled sea whizzed by as the windshield-wipers threaded back and forth in tandem with the soft croon of Frank Sinatra emitting through the stereo system. Despite facing some of the worst weather I’d ever experienced in Scotland, our weekend still turned out to be one of the best I’d spent in a long while, thanks to the charming East Neuk coast and the perfect company in the driver’s seat beside me. As we made our way home, the soggy rural Scottish landscape out the window blurred into a bonny wet wonderland, the two of us winding through it, warm and dry at last.