Have you ever visited a place that didn’t quite have the vibe you were hoping for? Maybe it was more crowded or more globalised that you expected, or maybe it just felt kind of artificial?
Scotland isn’t that place.
Just an hour outside of Edinburgh lies the Kingdom of Fife, a Scottish historical county that makes dreams of rolling green hills, rugged coastlines, and quaint stone cottages come to life. It’s a place of crumbling castles, windswept fishing villages, and overgrown paths by hedgerows and raspberry bushes. It’s every BBC country drama come to life (but without the murder mystery).
Fife has a charm that is at once quiet, unselfconscious, and utterly genuine. It’s the sort of place that lends itself to days of relaxed exploration. It’s absolutely worth a few days of your Scotland itinerary, and you might just want to stay forever. Trust us – your Insta followers are going to be pretty jealous.
Exploring In The Slow Lane
Fife is a place to take it easy. It’s a place to meander down cobbled streets past homes bursting with flowers in window boxes, to take in views of the wild North Sea, and to imagine the lives of medieval nobles as you stroll the grounds of ruined castles.
A relaxed pace will let you find the gems hidden at the end of winding paths. The delightful Crail Pottery, in a crowded little cottage in the village of Crail, is overflowing with unique handmade items. The Reaper, a restored fishing ship over 115 years old, bobs in the harbour at Anstruther, where volunteers keep her ship-shape and cheerfully wave passers-by aboard for a poke around.
Follow a path and see where it takes you.
Castles, Landmarks And History
Fife is dotted with historical landmarks new and old, and it’s not hard to track them down. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed Forth Rail Bridge, connecting Edinburgh to the Kingdom of Fife, is a man-made marvel of red painted steel and completed in 1890. It sits beside two newer bridges – one for road traffic, one for cyclists and pedestrians – and is said to be the only place in the world you can see three side-by-side bridges built in three different centuries. A bridge-climb experience will open in 2020, for unmatched views over the landscape.
There’s no shortage of castles, either. Falkland Palace, a former residence of Mary Queen of Scots and, more recently, the set of Outlander, is an impressive mass of stone turrets and gardens. St Andrews Castle, the site of numerous historical sieges, is a glorious ruin in danger of falling into the ocean. It’s also a venue of choice for student pranksters from nearby St Andrews University, the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world, dating to 1413.
Golf-loving whisky aficionados will be delighted to discover Fife is the historical home to both whisky and golf. Even if that’s not your thing, it’s still fun to see keen golfers teeing up on the Old Course, where the game was invented 600 years ago.
Villages across Fife are dotted with quaint cafés and tea houses where you can pop in for a cuppa and a scone, or make a stop at the Anstruther Fish Bar for award-winning fish and chips. Splurge on high tea, or check out modern newcomers such as The Newport, opened by a recent Masterchef UK winner, for unforgettable food and stunning sunset views.
Gin culture is thriving in Fife, and many distilleries are open for tours and tastings. Eden Mill Distillery offers unique local brews and a fascinating insight into a hand-made process, where even the labels are added by hand.
Ceilidh Your Heart Out
There’s something irresistible about the mix of traditional and modern culture, and the modern ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee) might be one of the best examples. Ceilidhs are traditional folk dances, and they’re increasingly held in modern pubs and venues catering to lively crowds in their 20s and 30s.
Totally accessible to new comers, the band call out the dance steps as you go, so you’re never totally lost – even if your dance partner is a little tipsy. A few dances at a ceilidh will leave you breathless and laughing, and totally in love with Scotland and Fife.
How To Get There
- Fly into Edinburgh Airport
- Take the TRAM service towards York Place to Edinburgh Gateway
- At Edinburgh Gateway, take the Scotrail service towards Dundee to Leuchars
- At the railway station, take the 99 service to St Andrews
- Kingdom of Fife, UK
Martina Donkers was a guest of Visit Britain.
(Lead image: Paul Tomkins / Visit Scotland)