As of lockdown and travel restrictions I had a lot of time to explore Fife in the last months. If you plan your next trip to Scotland once this horror show is over, you may want to visit the beautiful Kingdom as well, which is often overlooked because everyone heads straight up to Glencoe and Skye.
Yes, there are hills in Fife! Not as high as the Highlands, but they do make some nice hikes with fantastic views.
My favourite hill has been West Lomond. You can park at a car park at Craigmead and then take a fairly easy walk in to reach West Lomond hill. Stunning views across Loch Leven, towards the Ochil Hills and the West and South of Fife. And all across the area you walked through to get to the summit. I look forward to hike it in late summer, when all the heather is blooming. Must look amazing! You can also stark working from a little lay-by in Gateside, from which you also pass by the Bunnet Stane.
The Bunnet Stane (or bonnet stone) is a rock formation. It sits upon one of the calciferous sandstone outcrops of the Old Red Sandstone suie that exist around the base of the Lomond Hills. It consists of an elevated table of rock, about ten feet by twenty feet across, which sits upon a thin column of rock like a giant mushroom. There are several romantic explanations for the stone’s shape, but it was formed entirely by the natural weathering of the exposed outcrop. (wikipedia)
This way is very very steep though.
From the same car park you can also walk up to East Lomond and go down the other side and walk back to the car park. You have a great view over Falkland, just below East Lomond and across the East and North of Fife all the way up to River Tay.
Glen Vale and John Knox Pulpit: Also in the Lomond Hills area however, yet to explore by myself :). As well as the Mapsie Den near Falkland.
From Glen Vale you can also hike up to Bishop Hill, but I took the path from Kinneswood / Scotlandwell. The start is quite steep but as soon as you are below Munduff Hill with that weird golf ball tower thing it is pretty straight forward. However You may think you are there yet but you are not 😄. You have to follow the path for at least another mile to reach the actual cairn of Bishop Hill. The views across Loch Leven are awesome though and it is a good hill for a sunset in summer 😊.
A more easier hill but with nice views across Loch Ore and Loch Leven is Benarty Hill. The start is a bit steep but then it gets moderately up and then across a plateau through lots of heather to the trig point which basically on the other side of the hill from where you started walking. I went up when the heather was looking and it looked pretty nice.
Coastal Walks and Beaches
The coast of Fife is beautiful – especially the area called East Neuk. Lots of beautiful little fisher villages and beaches. You can walk the whole Fife Coastal Path from Kincardine up to Tayport.
My absolute favourite villages are St Monans and Pittenweem. For lunch in St Monans I recommend a visit at the Diving Gannet or – but you have to book a slot – the East Pier Smokehouse. But that is also only open between April and end of October. In Pittenweem you find Janet’s Icecream and sweeties shop. I also like the Clockhouse Café for lunch or some tea and cakes.
If you love lighthouses you need to visit Elie. The lighthouse sits beautifully on a headland where you can walk and also visit Lady Anstruther’s tower from where you can see St Monans. In the 1770s the Lady’s Tower was built in Ruby Bay, on the east side of Elie Ness, for Janet, Lady Anstruther. It incorporated a vaulted chamber at sea level as a changing room. It is said that Lady Anstruther would bath in the nearby waters, a servant ringing a bell all the while to ensure locals stayed away (wikipedia).
Generally you have some beautiful beaches all along the coast of the Firth up to the Northern Sea. From Limekilns where you find lots of pieces of sea coal, past North Queensferry with views on the old Forth Bridge, all the way to the beaches of Aberdour, Pettycur, Kirkcaldy and Leven and Lundin Links. The biggest beach is at St Andrews – the West sands. And then you also find the forest and beach of Tentsmuir above St Andrews which is a national nature reserve.
There is so much to see and to do along the coast – I still have not explored it all myself. There is a chain walk on the cliffs near Elie. You can take a boat from Anstruther to the Isle of May to see Puffins. There are lots of old towers and castles to explore such as Aberdour Castle, Ravenscraig Castle in Kirkcaldy, Crail Castle and of course St Andrews Castle and especially the Cathedral.
Historic towns and filming locations
There is a ton of history around Fife, too. Dunfermline, where I live, is actually the former capital of Scotland and also the final resting place of Kind Robert the Bruce. He was King of Scots from 1306 to his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation and eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent country and is now revered in Scotland as a national hero. His body is buried in Dunfermline Abbey, while his heart was interred in Melrose Abbey and his internal organs embalmed and placed in St Serf’s Chapel, Dumbarton.
I love strolling around Dunfermline and especially through Pittencrieff Park. Pittencrieff Park forms the western boundary of the town centre covering 31 hectares (76 acres). It was given to the people of Dunfermline in 1903 by Andrew Carnegie. The park is known locally as the Glen and was created from the estate of Pittencrieff and the lands of the house, owned by the Lairds of Pittencrieff. There are peacocks roaming the park freely and loads of grey squirrels that are begging for nuts. The park is especially stunning in Spring when the cherry trees blossom. Autumn is also very nice and worth a wander around,
If you are into Outlander you will probably enjoy a visit to Falkland and Culross.
Falkland is most well known for Falkland Palace. This royal dwelling was once the country residence of the Stewart kings and queens as they hunted deer and wild boar in the forests of Fife. Built between 1501 and 1541 by James IV and James V, the palace has some of the most exceptional architecture of its time in Britain. It is also home to one of only two 16th century tennis courts in Britain (the other is at Hampton Court in England). Falkland was used to portray the city of Inverness in Outlander, where Claire and Frank arrive on their second honeymoon.
Culross is another former royal burgh, which, originally, served as a port city on the Firth of Forth and is believed to have been founded by Saint Serf during the 6th century. During the 16th and 17th centuries, the town was a centre of the coal mining industry. Sir George Bruce of Carnock, who built the Palace of Culross established a coal mine at Culross in 1575 and in 1595 constructed the Moat Pit by which it became the first coal mine in the world to extend under the sea. During the 20th century, it became recognised that Culross contained many unique historical buildings and the National Trust for Scotland has been working on their preservation and restoration since the 1930s. Several filming’s have been taken place at Culross such as The Little Vampire, Captain America: The First Avenger and again – Outlander.
My hidden gem
One of my favourite spots is Limekilns. It is not a well-known or anyhow a popular place but it is calm and you have a beach where you can go hunting for some treasures washed up by the Firth and a nice pub, the Ship Inn. I have watched some amazing sunsets form the shores and it has been my go to place during lockdown now.