Fife Coastal Tourist Route
|Fife Coastal Tourist Route|
|Via:||Kirkcaldy, St Andrews|
|Distance:||85 miles (136.8 km)|
|Meets:||A985, A977, A994, A90, M90, A91, A92|
|Old route now:||A985, B9037, A921, A955, B931, B944, B932, A915, A917, A91, A919, B945, B946|
|Tay Road Bridge|
The Fife Coastal Tourist Route runs from the Kincardine Bridge to the Tay Road Bridge, generally following the coast. For those wishing to explore in real detail, this fascinating coast also has a coastal trail for walkers, but unless you have a week or so free, this driving route is the next best thing.
Kincardine - Largo
From the Kincardine Bridge the route briefly heads east on the A985, before turning south on an unclassified road past Longannet Power Station to the beautiful little village of Culross. Although the shore itself is cut off by a railway line, the village behind is worth exploring, with its picturesque architecture jumbled along narrow streets and some surviving ruins of the Abbey a short but steep walk up the hill. Beyond Culross, a vast man made headland has been created on mud flats around Preston Island by dumping millions of tonnes of ash from the power station, making a wildlife haven with various walks laid out.
The Coastal Trail now picks up the B9037, through High Valleyfield and Torryburn, back to the A985. From here to Rosyth where it meets the M90, there is little of interest to make a detour for. The Promenade between Limekilmns and Charlestown is a pleasant stroll, and there is the ruinous remains of Rosyth's old church. In Rosyth itself, the tower of Rosyth Castle still stands amongst the docks, but is closed up for 'safety'.
East of the M90 the coastal trail takes the A921, although it is worth making the detour via the B980 and B981 south to North Queensferry with its picturesque harbour below the bridges. Inverkeithing High Street also has some fine architecture to see. Back on the A921, past Dalgety Bay to Aberdour where the castle is open to the public and then on along the coast above Silversands Bay to Burntisland and its vast beach. Between Burntisland and Kirkcaldy there are holiday parks along the roadside, and the small town of Kinghorn, but for the best bits of the Fife coast, patience is needed! Kirkcaldy itself offers a fine Esplanade, shops and a beach. There is a small harbour at the north end of town, and then Ravenscraig Castle and Park are worth exploring. Here, the coastal route turns onto the A955 through Dysart, which has a small harbour.
After leaving the urban area behind, the pretty village of West Wemyss on the coast is worth a diversion. The name Wemyss comes from the Scots for Cave and there are some interesting caves both here and at East Wemyss in the coastal cliffs. The urban area of Buckhaven, Methill and Leven, however, offer a stark contrast to much of the rest of the Fife Coast. Here there is industrial wasteland, and the hint of social deprivation on what is generally an affluent coast. For those out to see the best Scotland has to offer, it is best to stick to the main road and carry on past, but for those open to see both sides of life on our coastline, these towns are worth a little exploration, as there are some real townscape gems to discover, and some fine views across the Forth. Signage of the route is a little hit and miss in the area, but either the A955 or B931 lead you to Leven. The Tourist Route appears, on the little signage there is, to follow the B roads nearest the coast: using the B944 to go through Buckhaven and the B932 to go through Innerleven.
From Leven, the coastal route runs a little further inland behind the golf links with a wide sandy beach on the shore. The villages of Lundin Links and Lower Largo are worth exploring, with the small harbour at the river mouth overlooked by the former railway viaduct. There are, as ever good views, and some fine narrow streets to exploreas well as more sandy beaches. The coastal route is now following the A915, but turns off at Upper Largo to take the A917 to St Andrews via Crail. This is the gateway to the East Neuk of Fife, perhaps the most celebrated piece of the coast, and rightly so.
East Neuk and St Andrews
The A917 starts off by running up to a mile from the coast, separated by a huge complex of dunes and wetlands. There are paths and trails to explore, and a forestry car park near a holiday park. Elie is the next village, and the first of the East Neuk villages. These all developed in medieval times as small fishing communities making their living by selling fish to the markets for Scotlands Urban population. With Edinburgh just across the Forth, this could be a prosperous life, and this is reflected in the variety of 17th Century architecture that delight the visitors today. Elie and its neighbour Earlsferry whet the appetite, with a fine beach and harbour, and the old tower on Elie Ness all worth a visit.
The next few villages are all almost bypassed by the A917, but that is a very poor excuse for not visiting them. St Monans or St Monance comes first, with the parish church in a fabulous setting at the west end of the village. As with its neighbours, the focus is on the harbour and the shops and cafes cluster around this historic centre, which is still bustling most days. Step out of the hustle and bustle, however, and there are narrow side streets, alleys and on the shore itself interesting rock formations to be scrambled over.
An old windmill stands on the clifftop between St Monans and Pittenweem, and then comes Anstruther, perhaps the largest of these towns and villages, where the B9131 forms a loop through the town. There is a marina in the old harbour, and so a fine range of cafes and restaurants along the shore. A second, smaller, harbour lies at Cellardyke a little to the east, with a holiday park beyond. On a fine summers afternoon, it would be easy to lose several hours here watching the boast come and go, some landing fish, others purely enjoying the weather in their leisure craft.
Crail comes next, with the A917 running through the heart of the town, although still not passing the harbour itself. For those tiring of this string of picturesque villages, this is nearly the end of Fife, with a road from Crail heading east towards the Lighthouse at Fife Ness, just beyond the Fife Raceway on the old airfield. Its not the most easterly bit of Scotland, but head due east from here and the next landfall is Denmark! The Tourist route, however, turns north in Crail, following the A917 to St Andrews through open farmland with regular coastal views out to the east.
St Andrews is rightly famous for a variety of reasons, and whilst it is perhaps a little more expensive than other parts of Fife in some respects, there is still plenty to see, from the Castle to the Cathedral, beaches and of course the fine shopping streets. There is also the road that runs through an old ecclesiastical ruin. The university brings an vibrant youth culture to the town, and has become ever more popular since Prince William attended, but St Andrews has always been a wealthy corner of Fife, first from the wealth of the Cathedral which was made the seat of the Archbishop and later with the rise in popularity of Golf, which has long been associated with the town. Indeed, the world famous golf courses still draw thousands of visitors every year, even if they can't afford to play a round on the hallowed greens!
From St Andrews, the coastal route runs to Leuchars via the A91 and A919 and then forks right at the staggered crossroads at St Michaels onto the B945. This leads back to the coast at Tayport where it becomes the B946, leading to the end of the route at the roundabout at the southern end of the Tay Road Bridge. Whilst perhaps not as scenic as the East Neuk, Tayport and its neighbour Newport on Tay are worth stopping to explore, even if just for the views across the Tay to Dundee on the far shore.