We recently spent a wonderful two week Summer holiday at Rose Cottage – our first family Summer holiday with mini ENB (or the East Neuk Nipper as one of our friends calls her!). Sun, sea, sand, swimming, silliness, stuffing our faces – good times were had. So I thought I’d share 7 highlights from our family holiday of splendid sandy Summer days in the East Neuk and St Andrews.
Chilled-out country walks through the idyllic East Neuk countryside, with abundant wildflowers, pretty fields, sparkling seas and big dreamy skies brought back happy memories of my own summer family holidays as a child.
So no.1 on my Summer highlights list is to have a leisurely East Neuk country walk and bring home a posy of wild flowers.
With wildflowers but also great views over the East Neuk villages of Earlsferry and Elie and beyond across the Firth of Forth, plus a delightful encounter with some local seals, another highlight of our holiday was no. 2: walk the Fife Coastal Path from Earlsferry to Shell Bay. On this walk you can also enjoy seeing Elie Golf Course where long socks are mandatory (due to the long grass in the rough), the starter looks through a submarine periscope before giving you the all clear and blind shots are common – in fact at the 9th you have to ring a bell to tell the players behind you that you’ve left the green (read a review of this quirky course here)! By the golf course you walk along a nice quiet beach, which is where we spotted the seals. Then a steep climb up the cliff rewards you with the fabulous views, plus some interesting World War 2 structures and then the view over the other side of the cliff down to Shell Bay. Either continue on down to Shell Bay or head back to Earlsferry, perhaps doing as we did and grabbing a drink and tasty bite to eat in the 19th Hole, Earlsferry as a post-walk reward.
A little bit further along the East Neuk coast was highlight no.3 – lunch at the East Pier Smokehouse, St Monans. Sample fishy delights smoked on the premises such as my favourite hot smoked salmon in a lovely relaxed, light and airy place right on the pier in the quaint and quiet East Neuk village of St Monans. It’s so close to the sea that you feel like you’re on a boat. There’s a nice family atmosphere and children are welcome. Don’t miss the excellent cakes and coffee as well. At the weekends it is also open for more formal 3 course dinners, though you must book in advance.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Summer holiday in the East Neuk if you didn’t go to the beach so no. 4 on my list is beaches, particularly Kingsbarns and Elie beaches.
Another Summer highlight in Scotland is strawberries, which brings me to no.5 on my list – Strawberry hill, otherwise known as Allanhill Farm. Children are guaranteed to love all the outdoor Summer holiday fun on offer here, including giant straw bale to climb, fort, farm animals, tractors to sit in, swings and sandpit – all free. The strawberries themselves are incredibly delicious and there are lots of strawberry-themed foodie delights in the cute country farm shop and tearoom – don’t miss the strawberry tarts if you have a sweet tooth. The views down the hill to St Andrews are also very special.
On the family holiday highlights for some of our recent guests and no.6 on my list is Sunday sundaes, slurped while strolling around sunny streets. Jannetta’s ice cream emporium in St Andrews is all pretty and shiny after its recent refurb and open until 10pm, making it ideal for a takeaway-and-walk dessert after dining in one of St Andrews’ many excellent restaurants. The hard part is deciding which flavour you want as there are so many to choose from – I personally couldn’t resist the charms of the Nutella which was a chocolately, nutty, continental scoop of awesomeness. Quite different to Jannetta’s is the Ice Cream Shop in Pittenweem – it’s a proper traditional sweet shop, a piece of nostalgia for times gone by – and I highly recommend buying a cone of their Peaches ‘n’ Cream ice cream and walking around pretty Pittenweem with it. Yum! (Also when combined with a walk ice cream is calorie neutral surely?!)
Finally no.7 on my list is all about Summer adventures for the little ones at Craigtoun Country Park, St Andrews. Just outside St Andrews you’ll find Craigtoun Country Park which has been much loved by families for over 50 years. Mini ENB loved having a picnic on the grass by the boating lake and taking a ride on the “Rio Grande Railway”. Lots of families were enjoying taking a pedalo or rowing boat out round the lake, past elegant swans and a fairytale castle-like structure. For older children the adventure play park looked pretty cool and other attractions are the tractor ride, bouncy castle, putting green, crazy golf, glasshouses and even geocaching. Well worth a visit with the wee ones.
So there are my 7 highlights from a magical Summer family holiday in the East Neuk and St Andrews – already looking forward to doing it all again in Summer 2016!
Visitors to the East Neuk of Fife have long benefited from a pretty fabulous day trip by boat to the Isle of May, in the middle of the Firth of Forth (read all about it in my blog). However it wasn’t possible, unless you chartered your own boat, to get all the way across to the other side of the Forth by boat. Well now you can! Summer boat trips are now running from Anstruther in the East Neuk of Fife to North Berwick in East Lothian, linking two great coastal towns on either side of the Forth. The maiden voyage sailed on Friday 7 August 2015 and seems to have been a great success.
As Seafari Adventures Forth, who run the service, say, the route follows the centuries old Pilgrims route for worshippers heading to and from St Andrews. It also links together two of Scotland’s greatest golfing locations, the home of golf in St Andrews and the ‘Golf Coast’ in East Lothian.
Here are the details:
- Website: www.seafari-edinburgh.co.uk
- Journey time: approximately 45 minutes
- Boat: the catamaran ‘Seafari Explorer’ which is licensed to carry 55 passengers. More about the boat
- Luggage: Bike racks are being fitted on board so the boat can carry bicycles for those wishing to complete a great ’round forth’ day trip, or for those heading on longer routes North or South. Bikes and golf clubs are carried free of charge.
- Sailing times: these differ slightly each day due to the tides but generally the outbound trip from North Berwick departs at 09:30 and then departs Anstruther at 10:30. The return trips are at 18:00 (North Berwick) and 19:00 (Anstruther) This means that passengers have the whole day to explore ‘the other side of the river’ before returning home again. Timetable
- Cost: £25 return for adults, £20 concession, £15 child (free for under 3s) Book online
On the voyage you may see all manner of wildlife from puffins, diving gannets, eider ducks and seals to more elusive whales and dolphins. Keep your eyes peeled, with the help of the crew! Landmarks to enjoy on the way include the Isle of May and its numerous lighthouses, Bass Rock, Berwick Law and lots to see further afield if visibility is good such as Edinburgh’s Arthur’s Seat.
When you get to North Berwick you can enjoy the lovely beach, golf courses, harbour, Scottish Seabird Centre (with cameras to view the wildlife on Bass Rock, the Isle of May etc.), Museum of Flight and excellent boutique shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. More tourist information
Visitors coming the other way to Anstruther will be able to enjoy the harbour, beach and quaint village, Scottish Fisheries Museum, award-winning fish and chips, gift shops, cafes and restaurants, golf courses and walking the Fife Coastal Path e.g. to Pittenweem or Crail.
All aboard me hearties!