Walking in the East Neuk of Fife

Just as we entered Anstruther for our latest walk we saw a combine harvester cutting barley, so we know that harvest has begun for another year.

We parked opposite the Fisheries Museum next to the Lifeboat Shed to walk more of the Fife coastal path, continuing on from last year when our walkers went from Crail to Anstruther and back to Crail.

Anstruther was busy as usual, lost of bustle around the harbour area, now filled with pleasure boats, but the Reaper was missing, possibly away to fish or at a Harbour festival at the moment.

The stepping stones across the Dreel burn were unusable as the tide was in, so we quickly made our way by the closes and narrow streets to Anstruther Wester arriving at the golf course, from here the path is sign posted and follows the edge of the land to St Monans.

To enjoy the views across the Firth of Fourth, we decided to have an early lunch and sat in the warm sunshine. The Isle of May, Bass Rock, North Berwick and it’s Law hill where there are whalebones forming an arch on top, to Fidra and the Pentland hills behind Edinburgh, were all there for us to see.

Arriving at Pittenweem up a long flight of steps we passed lots of gardens with great varieties of flowers and shrubs. Butterflies were hopping around too, especially in the Buddleia bushes.

Pittenweem was once a famous harbour- along with others on this coastline- where fresh fish was landed daily-. Now the fish market only handles prawns, crabs and lobsters, with the occasional flat-fish accidentally brought p to the prawns. Thanks to the EEC and it’s fisheries policies a whole industry employing local fishermen, salesmen, porters and fish houses have gone.

Now all the landings are quickly unloaded, packed in ice, weighed and then whisked away in large containers in the back of freezer lorries and vans. So much for progress.

The harbour is colourful with all the little boats coming in with their 6 to 10 boxes of prawns or lobsters, then turning round to go into the firth for more.

Another feature in Pittenweem is the row of flower boxes along the harbour wall, all with a plaque carrying the name of one of the boats and it’s number. Maybe they are sponsored by boats owners.

The path continues along the shore past all the painted houses with their boxes of flowers or tidy little gardens and after a mile or so arrives at a restored windmill beside where the salt pans were.

Salt was a scarce commodity at one time and Scotland used to trade it with the Baltic and Netherland countries.

Huge iron pans were filled with sea water, fires were lit using low quality coal below the pans and the water evaporated off leaving the salt crystals. Although dark in colour- unlike our modern bleached salt- it was something that could be traded or sold as an export. The restored windmill and the story about it is accessible to the public during the summer months.

We had another cup of tea in St Monans, a quick look around the harbour and saw all of the sea birds lined up on the rocks, big black shags and cormorants all lined up like soldiers on guard duty.

Back to Anstruther on the bus- the main group had walked back having covered seven miles in total- and we finished off our day in Fife with a fish supper from it’s most famous chippie. As the weather was perfect we decided to have it ‘Al Fresco’ along with many other visitors, along the harbour.

This had been another memorable day’s walking in the best walking conditions.

This week on the 9th August, we have no Community bus as it is being used by the church for it’s holiday club. We will therefore, make our way in our own vehicles from the burgh buildings car park at 10am, so be on time to get a lift to Johnshaven for a walk there.

The Hillwalker