East Neuk of Fife
Neuk, or corner, is one of the main attractions of Fife. 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.
This is the area of Scotland in which I was raised, in the old
fishing village of Cellardyke, often referred to as East Anstruther,
but not by me, for I am "Dyker" through and through.
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
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
and activities. The 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
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 door surround.
( where I was raised )
This linear settlement includes the once independent communities
of Cellardyke, 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.
to the Isle of May
Kilrenny is a
village at the eastern end of Anstruther formerly known as Upper
Kilrenny to distinguish it from Nether or Lower Kilrenny which
is now known as Cellardyke.
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.
Kilconquhar, Fife, Scotland, is a village in the East Neuk of Fife, Kilconquhar is situated on a knoll on the north shore of Kilconquhar Loch just north of Elie.
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.
Cave and Holy Well, is said to have been the sanctuary of the
7C Christian missionary Fillan. Many wynds down to the 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 gable.
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 11th century 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 roof.
Elie and Earlsferry
These two villages are linked around a natural harbour, and
both are popular seaside resorts with many facilities to offer
both locals and visitors. Gone are the days of the 1800's when
the harbor was a bustling port.
Elie and Earlsferry have a more relaxed atmosphere where people
enjoy windsurfing, sailing and golf. The most famous Elie golfer
is James Braid who won the Open Golf Championship five times
between 1901 and 1910.
is a very old village where the ferries used to arrive from
North Berwick and other ports on the Lothian coast. The village,
however, owes its name to Macduff, the Thane of the Earl of
Fife in the 11th century. When Macduff was escaping from the
clutches of Macbeth he took refuge in a cave near Kincraig Point
until it was safe for a local fisherman to ferry him over the
Firth of Forth to Dunbar. Thereafter the village was known as
Earlsferry lie the ruins of an old chapel which provided shelter
for pilgrims heading to and from the town of St Andrews. There
is also an old road leading from Earlsferry which crosses the
golf course and was known as " Cadgers Road." This
led to the Royal Palace at Falkland and was the route that carriers
or " cadgers " took to deliver fresh fish to the Royal
Palace. There are many historic building throughout the villages.
One of the oldest, known as the " Castle " stands
in South Street and dates back to about 1500. Also in South
Street is Gillespie House which was rebuilt in 1870 but kept
the " Muckle Yett " doorway of an earlier house on
this site. Nearby, and in the High Street is the old Parish
Church built in 1639 by Sir William Scott of Ardross. Its Tower,
with its interesting octagonal shape, was added later in 1726.
Elie house built in 1697 was cursed by a gypsy. The curse stated
that only six generations of the residents, the family of Anstruther's,
would live in the house, and this is exactly what happened.
you would like to Tour East Neuk of Fife on a highly personalized
small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me: Sandy