The East Neuk in the Kingdom of Fife is one of the most glorious destinations anywhere in Scotland and a perfect place to host a summer festival of music. Venues hosting performances include a magnificent stately home dating back to the 12th century and historic churches and halls in popular tourist haunts dotted along a beautifully rugged coast. Anstruther, Cellardyke, Crail and St Monans – each has much to offer between bursts of music and art and all have idyllic harbours to enjoy on dreamy summer days.
Over the years the area has proved a magnet for artists, writers and musicians who all contribute to a vibrant arts scene that draws thousands of visitors each year. Twice a year the artistic community invites the public into their homes during the East Neuk Open Studios event and another popular attraction is the annual Pittenweem Arts Festival which takes place during the summer in public venues and artists’ homes throughout the fishing village. Galleries to visit include – among others – Fisher Studio and Gallery, and a few miles further up the coast is Crail Pottery where the public can visit a workshop that produces a diverse range of stoneware, terracotta planters, raku and hand-painted earthenware.
For foodies, there is much to savour. Fresh lobster is sold at Crail harbour and Anstruther is now famous across Britain for its award-winning fish and chip shops. The town earns its living mainly through catering for tourists from across Britain and Europe who swell its 4000 or so population greatly every summer. There are plenty of hotels, B & Bs and fishermen’s cottages to welcome visitors and the locality’s award winning restaurants and pubs serve some of the freshest and tastiest seafood dishes on offer anywhere in Europe. The East Neuk’s best restaurants also include The Peat Inn, an establishment in an eponymous hamlet a few miles inshore from St Andrews, and Sangsters in Elie, both the recipients of Michelin stars. At Cellardyke, diners can eat scallops at the Haven Bar and Restaurant which overlooks a picturesque harbour dating back to the 15th century – with any luck they might even spot dolphins swimming close-by in the Firth of Forth. The best of the local cafes include the Honey Pot at Crail and The Cocoa Tree Café in Pittenweem.
This part of Fife is also home to some of the greatest links golf courses on the planet and fishing is another popular sport extremely well-catered for with local fishermen offering angling trips out to sea. For those who prefer to enjoy watching birds and wildlife, a boat called the May Princess takes tourists from Anstruther every day to the Isle of May which sits a few miles out to sea in the Firth of Forth. During medieval times the island was home to monks and a priory called St Adrians but today’s residents are mostly birds including eider ducks, puffins, guillemots, razorbills, shags, cormorants and terns. Harbour seals and grey seals can be seen on the island all year round and passengers aboard the May Princess often see dolphins and – on occasion – whales too. Indeed, the island has been designated as a Forth Islands Special Protection Area and writer Keith Brockie documented its richness of wildlife in One Man’s Island, one of the best selling Scottish nature books of all time which he will talk about at this year’s festival.
Hikers can enjoy walking the Fife Coastal Path which offers one of the most pleasant ways to see the East Neuk’s coastal scenery and unspoiled beaches. The route stretches 117 miles from Kincardine on the Forth estuary to Newburgh on the River Tay taking in 22 tourist destinations. Travel inland and Craigtoun Park offer an ideal day out for families with an adventure playground, boating pond and miniature train all favourites with children. Close-by is the Secret Bunker – another tourist attraction a few miles inland from festival venues Cellardyke and Kilrenny – where Scotland would have been governed from had there been a nuclear war. Hidden beneath a farmhouse the fascinating underground location was top secret during the Cold War providing some 24,000 square feet of accommodation for government officials, a space the size of two football pitches, one on top of the other. In the historic university town of St Andrews – renowned the world over as the home of golf – there is St Andrew’s Aquarium and Anstruther is home to the multi-prize winning Scottish Fisheries Museum. The East Neuk of Fife has something for everyone and rest assured that visitors to the festival will receive the warmest of welcomes.
© Billy Briggs
The East Neuk of Fife is a surprisingly easy place to escape to, being only an hour’s drive of Edinburgh, and readily accessible by public transport.
The nearest train stations to the East Neuk are Leuchars, Kirkcaldy and Cupar. You can change at any station to a Stagecoach bus to take you to the East Neuk.
Fly to Edinburgh Airport, and you have many different ways of reaching the East Neuk. Hire a car and you could be there in an hour driving across the magnificent Forth Road Bridge and then following the coastal road all the way to the heart of the East Neuk.
N.B. Not all East Neuk Festival venues are easily reachable by public transport. Please contact us if you are unsure whether you can get to a venue and would like to check before booking.