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The East Neuk of the Kingdom of Fife
It may sound like something from a book by Tolkien or George R. R. Martin but yes, this is a real place. The East Neuk is the little bit of Scotland that sticks out like a little nose just to the north of the nation's capital city, Edinburgh. You may have heard of the University of St. Andrews if you know anything of the British Royal Family – it is where Wills met Kate. You may also know of it if you are a keen golfer – some say it is the home of golf. It also has a few more claims to fame, being the oldest University in Scotland, over 600 now, and the third oldest in the UK (after Oxford and Cambridge). It has an excellent academic reputation and has hosted many famous and accomplished people since its inauguration. St. Andrews is an absolutely fascinating historic town – well worth a visit for anyone interested in history and ancient architecture. South of St Andrews lies the small promontory of land known as the East Neuk. It is easily overlooked by tourists, who may bypass the area as they travel straight from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, or even miss out East Fife entirely and head further north into Perthshire and the dramatic Highlands. Those people are definitely missing out.
There is a little dispute over where exactly the East Neuk begins and ends, but generally, the term is understood to apply to the picturesque settlements along the coast here, with their beautiful sandstone buildings, crow's gables and red pan-tile or grey slate roofs, the golden sand beaches and geologist's dream of a coastline, as well as a swathe of the fertile farmland and gentle rolling countryside inland behind them. Some say that the East Neuk is the area south of a line drawn between Leven and St. Andrews.
The main settlements of the East Neuk are Elie, St. Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Cellardyke, and Crail. Others try to get in on the party now and then, but those are the main villages with a definite claim to be included in the area. Elie has the most glorious beaches, St. Monans pleasant almost mediterranean views across its rooftops, Pittenweem a thriving art scene which peaks with the Art Festival each August. Anstruther and Cellardyke was once three villages which have now merged into one. Be sure to visit the excellent Dreel Tavern here, an excellent old fashioned pub, and see all the boats in the harbour. Crail is also extremely photo-worthy, with its old harbour and pretty little streets.
You can see all these villages by walking along the stunningly sublime coastal path that fringes the whole of Fife. Take a day or two to truly see the East Neuk at its best.
King James VI of Scotland once called the Kingdom of Fife a 'beggar's mantle fringed with gold'. The East Neuk is the golden fringe, with the bounty of the sea and land, and – no joke – more sunshine hours than all the rest of the country. This truly is a Kingdom apart – it even has its own micro-climate. It is a fairytale place, with which it is easy to fall in love.
where is East Neuk?
(47,750 in 2012)
highest point in Fife
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