Of Scotland, East Neuk of Fife
Neuk of Fife, or corner, is one of the main attractions of
It is a stretch of coastline dotted with a series of delightful
fishing villages, each clustered around its harbour. The villages
are a joy to discover with their wealth of vernacular architecture.
Each village has its own character with its own unique places
to visit. The Fife Coastal Trail goes through this area and there
are numerous excellent Golf Courses and beaches. The East Neuk
is also an excellent base location for visiting much of East and
As early as the 11th Century Fife was the very hub of the Scottish
nation, with Dunfermline as the political and St Andrews as the
ecclesiastical centres. The villages flourished as active trading
ports with the Hanseatic League and the Low Countries. King James
VI described Fife as "a beggar's mantle with a fringe of
gold". It was the royal burghs along the coast, with their
profitable activities of trading, fishing and smuggling, which
were the "fringe of gold". With the development of the
trans-Atlantic routes, the villages concentrated on fishing.
of the China Tea Clippers
In those heroic days of the China tea trade prior to the opening
of the Suez Canal, every day counted. Two masters of these magnificent
vessels came from East Neuk ports: Captain
Alexander Rodger (1802-77) and Captain
Keay. The latter was skipper of the Ariel which held the all-time
sailing ship record of 83 days from Gravesend to Hong Kong. He
is also famous for his race with Rodger's Taeping.
This busy resort is the most attractive burgh. The older heart
of the burgh is clustered down by the harbour while the upper
town is altogether more spacious.
Standing alone in a prominent position overlooking the spacious
market place, the tolbooth (1598), a tiered tower, is graced by
an attractively shaped belfry. The weather vane. a gilded capon
(dried haddock), is a reminder that capons were the town's staple
export. Behind the tolbooth at nos 62-64 is a small museum which
gives an insight into the burgh's history, its main buildings
tree-lined Marketgate is bordered by elegant two-and three-storey
dwellings. Of particular note are nos 30 and 44 on the south side
and Auld House (16th Century) and Kirkmay House (early 19th Century)
opposite. The "Blue Stone" just outside the churchyard
on the left is said to have been thrown by the devil from the
Isle of May in an attempt to destroy the church.
Sloping down to the harbour, Shoregate is bordered by an attractive
group of cottages (nos 22-28). Crab and lobster boats still use
the inner harbour with its attractive stonework. On the waterfront
is the three-storey Customs House (no 35). Note the boat carving
on the pend lintel. The adjoining group of buildings surround
a paved courtyard. On the way up, note no 32 Castle Street and
the delightful 18C no 1 Rose Wynd with its forestair and attractive
( where I was raised )
This linear settlement includes the once independent communities
Anstruther Easter and Anstruther Wester. There is still some creel-fishing
(for lobster and crab) and white fish activity from Anstruther,
but most of the fishermen now operate from Pittenweem, a mile
to the west, which is home to the East Neuk fishing fleet of trawlers,
seiners and creel boats. On the shore-front, The Scottish Fisheries
Museum is one of the best Museums in Scotland.
trips to the Isle
Created a nature reserve in 1956, the island has an important
breeding population of seabirds (puffins, kittiwakes. guillemots.
shags, eider ducks, razorbills and fulmars). Scotland's first
lighthouse (1630s) is still visible alongside its 19C successor.
The beacon consisted of coals burning in the rooftop grate.
This burgh is once again on two levels. Kellie Lodge (private)
in the High Street is the 16C town house of the Earls of Kellie
from Kellie Castle. Corbelled, pantiled and crow-stepped, it is
an excellent example of the vernacular style. Pittenweem.
Cave and Holy Well, is said to have been the sanctuary of the
7C Christian missionary Fillan. Many wynds down to Pittenweem
harbour which is today Fife's busiest fishing port. Of particular
interest on the waterfront are The Gyles at the east end and no
18 East Shore, a three-storeyed building with its Dutch-style
The village is tightly packed around its small harbour. Wynds
and closes lead off into the usual maze of lanes, back alleys
and yards; a smuggler's paradise. The church
was probably begun in the 11 C by Queen Margaret. A large part
of it is 13th Century and the choir was rebuilt by King David
II in 1346. Inside, look for the hanging ship, the coats of arms
and the painted panel from the laird's loft, and the groined stone