Anstruther is a fishing village on the East Neuk (corner) of Fife on the east coast of Scotland. With a population of 3600, it's the largest of a series of villages along the coast: east through Crail to the tip of Fife, and west through Pittenweem and St Monans to Earlsferry, all covered on this page. Further west the coast becomes industrial and is described as part of Leven, while the area to the north is described as part of St Andrews.
Anstruther is first documented in 1225, when already its fishing was important enough to be the basis of a feud with the monks of Dryburgh Abbey. The Pope himself had to intervene, possibly the first involvement of a pope in a fish fight since the miracle of the loaves and the fishes. "Struther" comes from Gaelic sruthair, a stream, referring to the Dreel Burn which divided the community into Anstruther Easter (the larger) and Anstruther Wester. These grew together in modern times, but after 1936 the shoals of herring disappeared from traditional fishing grounds. Anstruther never had the industry of the more westerly villages near the coalfield, and was too far from the cities to become a commuter town, so its picturesque centre was never re-developed on a large scale. For most of a century it's been an attractive resort with small-scale fishing and leisure boating.
Stagecoach Bus X60 runs hourly from Edinburgh via Halbeath, Kirkcaldy and Leven to hug the coast through Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem and Anstruther then to St Andrews; it doesn't reach Crail. Don't take X61, which from Leven heads inland to Dundee. From Edinburgh airport take the direct bus to Halbeath and change.
Stagecoach Bus 95 follows the coast south from St Andrews through Kingsbarns, Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem, Elie, Upper Largo and Lower Largo to Leven. It runs hourly, daily.
By car from Edinburgh city or airport follow M90 onto A92 then A915; at Upper Largo branch onto A917. By bike cross the Forth on the old road bridge then follow the coast road through Kirkcaldy.
Anstruther can easily be explored on foot, and the bus gets you along the coast. You need wheels to explore inland.
- 1 Scottish Fisheries Museum, St Ayles, Harbourhead, Anstruther KY10 3AB, ☏ . W-Su 10:00-15:00. Museum tracing fishing back to the days of sail, with displays of engines, fishing gear and fishermen's houses. The museum has 18 boats. Adult £9.
- Anstruther Harbour by the museum was built between 1866 and 1880. The 9 m concrete Chalmers Lighthouse is simply a harbour light. It's named for Thomas Chalmers (1780 – 1847), a founder of the Free Church of Scotland, who was born nearby.
- 2 Cellardyke was a separate fishing village, with its own harbour. It merged into Anstruther when both grew during the 19th century heyday of herring fishing. The fishing community suffered several grievous losses of boats but it was a storm of 1898 that wrecked their harbour. The remaining Cellardyke boats relocated to the new Anstruther harbour. Herring vanished from local waters in 1936 and traditional livelihoods ended.
- 3 Pittenweem is the next village west, two miles along the coast, and of all the East Neuk villages this retains the most active fishing fleet. An Augustinian Priory once stood here, with an outpost on the Isle of May. Its 15th century gatehouse and "Great House" have been preserved in what is now the Church of Scotland. There was also a hermit's cave associated with the 7th century St Fillan. This was used for unsavoury purposes into the 18th century then forgotten until 1900 when a horse ploughing the priory garden had the earth open beneath its hooves. The cave has been restored as a chapel and is entered from Cove Wynd, the alley between church and harbour. The key is held at Cocoa Tree Cafe on High St next to the church.
- 4 Kellie Castle, Pittenweem KY10 2RE (off B9171), ☏ . Jun-Oct F-Su 13:00-17:00. Sturdy 14th century towerhouse, extended and prettified from the 15th. The interior and gardens were done over in Arts & Crafts style in the 19th century, and in 1970 it passed to the National Trust for Scotland. An exhibition in the stables block depicts Hew Lorimer, the sculptor and bygone owner. Adult £10.50, conc £7.50, NTS / NT free.
- 5 St Monans is a fishing village named for St Monan, supposedly killed in a Viking raid. East side is a late 18th century windmill, which once powered the salt-panning industry; you can't go inside. The church by the water's edge at the west end of the village is from 1369.
- 6 Newark Castle is a dilapidated 15th century turret, you just come for the coast walk and the view. It's no relation to the one in Newark-on-Trent where King Charles I surrendered, though one owner General Leslie did serve with the Royalists. The Edwardian shipping tycoon Sir William Burrell considered restoring the castle, blanched at the cost, and instead founded the Burrell Art Collection in Glasgow.
- Ardross Castle half a mile west of Newark Castle is of similar age but even scrappier, as its masonry was plundered for building, and what's left is the rubble that no-one wanted.
- Lady Janet's Tower on the headland east of Elie is a Folly, a picturesque look-out tower and bathing hut of 1770. It's said that Lady Janet Anstruther would have a bell rung to warn off townsfolk before she went skinny-dipping, but that was probably just wishful thinking by locals with tinnitus.
- 7 Elie and Earlsferry were combined in 1930. This was a medieval crossing point of the Forth, for instance by pilgrims to St Andrews, and in legend one Earl that took the ferry was Macduff fleeing Macbeth. It remained a crossing point until a storm trashed the harbour in 1766. There's an attractive High Street, a church of 1639 with an octagonal tower, and a small lighthouse. Elie House, built 1697, is now private apartments.
- West of Elie the coast is not unpleasant, but the view is of industrial towns further up the Forth. See Leven for Lundin Links and Largo.
- 8 Caiplie Caves are in a sandstone bluff two miles east of Anstruther. They were religious sites in Pictish and early Christian times and have ancient carvings. They suffer from vandalism and strewn trash.
- 9 Crail is the most easterly of the villages, picturesque and with a parish church from 12th century. The dovecot is the only remnant of the Franciscan Friary, and the royal castle is long gone.
- 10 Fife Ness the tip of the East Neuk is a bit disappointing, as it's dotted with modern buildings.
- 11 Scotland's Secret Bunker, Troywood KY16 8QH (On B940), ☏ . Apr-Oct daily 10:00-17:00. Hidden within a farmhouse is the entrance to a labyrinth, a blast-proof underground complex where government would re-locate if nuclear attack was likely, and carry on governing (what?) in the aftermath. It was built in 1954 and stood ready until 1993. Adult £13, conc £12, child £9.
- 12 Kingbarns: see St Andrews for this and other points along the northeast coast of the Neuk. There's golf and a distillery. It's surprising that medieval kings trusted this exposed shore to ship their grain: you can even surf here.
- 13 Isle of May lies five miles off the Fife coast out in the Firth of Forth. Its ruined priory was abandoned in 1318. The lighthouse is a Gothic affair of 1816 by Stevenson. The nearby Low Light was added to create a pair to assist navigation but is no longer lit, and is used as a bird observatory. This is the main reason to visit, as the island is a National Nature Reserve owned by Scottish National Heritage. Seals can be seen all year round, whales can be spotted in late July and August. April-July there are thousands of puffins. Anstruther is the usual departure point for boat trips, see below; they sometimes also sail from North Berwick.
- Anstruther Golf Course, Shore Rd, Anstruther KY10 3DZ, ☏ . Founded in 1890, this is a 9 hole course on sandy soil. Black tees are 2545 yards, par 31. Visitor 18-hole round £30.
- Crail GS is at Fife Ness. The old course laid out by Tom Morris is the Balcomie, and the Craighead is the modern championship course. Visitor round in summer is £100, day ticket £135.
- Golf House Club is in Elie, visitor round £100.
- Charleton GC is 4 miles north of Elie, within the grounds of plush Charleton House, a private dwelling. The clubhouse is under construction in 2021.
- Boat trips sail most days Apr-Sept, weather and tides permitting. It takes about an hour to sail to the Isle of May, and the landing trips give you 2-3 hours on the island, so those take 5 hours in all and cost around £35 adult, £25 conc, £20 child. The non-landing trips just circle beneath the cliffs, among sea birds and seals, so they will have you back ashore within 3 hours.
- Anstruther Pleasure Cruises (+44 7957 585200) sail in "May Princess" from Anstruther middle pier. The boat takes 100 passengers and has a small snack bar and toilets. Online booking preferred (in mid-summer they often book out) but you can also buy or book at their kiosk on the pier.
- Osprey Anstruther (+44 747 363 1671) sail from the middle pier in Ribs, which are fast but wet and bouncy and only take 12.
- Elie Sea Safari sail from Elie in 12-person Ribs. They only offer short non-landing trips.
- Crail Raceway is a hot-rod and go-kart racetrack along the lane east of Crail towards Fife Ness.
- East Neuk Festival is a classical music festival, with events in Anstruther and elsewhere. It's held in June / July with the next on 29 June - 3 July 2022.
- Co-op Food is northwest edge of Anstruther on St Andrews Road, open daily 07:00-22:00.
- The Pop In is an antiques and art shop at 1 Backgate, Pittenweem KY10 2LG, open daily 11:00-17:00.
- Bowhouse Market is off A917 west side of St Monans. Dates vary but it's usually the second weekend of the month 11:00-16:00.
- ENOS - East Neuk Open Studios - is a promotional event for local artists, you can visit the individual studios or their collected work at the Bowhouse near St Monans. The main event is the last two weekends in June, with a further show first weekend in Nov.
- Anstruther Fish Bar, 42 Shore St, Anstruther KY10 3AQ, ☏ . Daily 11:30-21:00. Takeaway and sit-in restaurant. Wide selection of fish served in batter with chips, and the usual alternatives like sausage or haggis. haddock supper £7.50, sit-in £10.
- The Cellar, 24 East Green, Anstruther KY10 3AA, ☏ . W 18:00-21:00, Th-Su 12:00-21:00. Acclaimed restaurant, especially for its seafood.
- Haven Bar and Restaurant, 1 Shore Street, Cellardyke KY10 3BD, ☏ . M 18:00-23:00, Tu W Su 12:00-23:00, Th-Sa 12:00-01:00. Good seafood selection.
- Larachmhor Tavern, 6 Mid Shore, Pittenweem KY10 2NJ, ☏ . Sa-Th 10:00-00:00, F 10:00-01:00. Good seafood, dog-friendly pub.
- 1 Kinneuchar Inn, 9 Main St, Kilconquhar KY9 1LF, ☏ . W-Sa 12:00-23:00, Su 12:00-18:00. This village pub, re-opened in 2019, serves great meals and also has rooms.
- See St Andrews for the exceptional Peat Inn at Cupar, Fife.
- Anstruther has the most choice, with Dreel Tavern, Royal Hotel, Masonic Arms, Ship Tavern, Coastal Inn and The Haven (above).
- Pittenweem has Larachmhor Tavern (above) and West End Bar.
- Elie has Ship Inn (see Sleep) and Station Buffet Bar, where no train will ever interrupt your sup.
- Crail and St Monans are too small for free-standing pubs.
- 1 Silverdyke Caravan Park, Windmill Rd, Cellardyke, KY10 3FN. Mar - Oct. Check-in: 1PM - 5PM, check-out: 11:30AM. Caravan and motorhome site with 31 touring pitches, but no tents. There are also some static caravans on the site, but these are individually owned weekend retreats. from £25 per night.
- 2 The Bank, 23-25 High Street, KY10 3DQ. Hotel with bar and restaurant (mains from £10). from £50.
- The other little villages along the coast all have accommodation. The standout is The Ship Inn in Elie.
- 3 The Ship Inn, The Toft, Elie KY9 1DT, ☏ . Charming pub with rooms, views and great dining. B&B double £190.
As of July 2021, the East Neuk has 4G from EE, but a poor signal from the other UK carriers. 5G has not yet reached this area.
- North to St Andrews, the home of Golf, with a cathedral and university.
- Further north across the Tay bridge is rejuvenated Dundee.
- The coast west from Kirkcaldy is industrial and worth missing, so head inland to Falkland Palace, the Lomond Hills and Lochleven Castle.