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Visit Fife in Scotland

Updated on February 19, 2015

Kingdom of Fife - a beautiful part of Scotland

Tucked away on the east side of Scotland, just over the water from Edinburgh, is the Kingdom of Fife. This Scottish county is not the best known part of Scotland, but has so much to offer, from genuine Medieval castles to Cold War bunkers, and from golden sandy beaches to extinct volcanoes!

Many visitors to Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland simply race through Fife on luxury coaches or in hire cars. Some make a token stop at St Andrews, right in the topmost corner of Fife. In their hurry to get to the Highlands, they miss out on much that Fife has to offer.

I have lived in Fife for more than a decade and would like to introduce you to this varied and very historic county that was once the home of Medieval kings and queens, saints and heretics.

Image by brianforbes37 on flickr, shared under Creative Commons license.

Fife Coastline

Fife, Scotland
Fife, Scotland


Fife's coastline is dotted with pretty fishing villages.

(Image shared by stusmith_uk on flickr.)

Where in Scotland is Fife?

If you have ever flown into Edinburgh airport, you will have had the thrill of flying down along the Forth River, towards the famous rail bridge and her sister road bridge. You were probably looking for a glimpse of Edinburgh Castle or other sights of this beautiful city. However, if you were on the 'wrong' side of the aircraft, you will have instead seen the coastline of Fife.

The Firth of Forth (the estuary of the Forth River) flows inland from the chilly North Sea and divides Edinbugh (on its south bank) from Fife (on the north). Visiting Fife is a simple matter of taking the train or car, heading north for just a few miles, and crossing the Forth bridges.

At the upper edge of Fife, the county is also separated by an estuary - the Firth of Tay - from its neighbors: the city of Dundee and the county of Angus.

Even though Fife is not a large county, because of its geographical situation between these two estuaries and the North Sea, it has approximately 100 miles of coastline. Its boundaries also include forested areas and the Lomond Hills.

The Kingdom of Fife within Scotland

Scotland map
Scotland map


Detail of a map shared by Eric Gaba (Wikimedia Commons User: Sting). I have added a red arrow pointing to Fife.

Crossing the Firth of Forth to Fife - (Try saying that a few times!)

Forth Bridges separate Edinburgh and Fife
Forth Bridges separate Edinburgh and Fife


The Forth Bridges cross the Firth of Forth, linking Edinburgh with Fife. The suspension road bridge was built alongside the iconic rail bridge.

(Image shared by user hotblack on morgueFile.)

Dunfermline and the West of Fife

To see the outskirts of Dunfermline today, with its new housing estates sprouting up practically overnight to house Edinburgh commuters, you might not know it was one of Scotland's most ancient and important cities.

However, you will begin to glimpse the Medieval past of this city once you explore the ancient Abbey and the palace ruins at its heart. For it was hear in the 11th Century that King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret ruled their kingdom. This is the reason that today you can still hear people speak of the 'Kingdom of Fife'.

A number of kings and queens, including Malcolm and Margaret, are buried within Dunfermline Abbey.

King Robert I (Robert the Bruce), a great Scottish warrior who fought for the country's independence in the Middle Ages, is commemorated in an inscription on the Abbey's tower. His body is buried within, although his heart was taken to Melrose Abbey.

Near the Abbey, you can visit the Abbot House Heritage Centre, which has preserved in its rooms and gardens several periods of Scottish history.

Dunfermline was also home to philantropist Andrew Carnegie, and The Red Shoes ballet star Moira Shearer.

Other interesting places in the area include the Royal Burgh of Culross. Although the industrial surroundings do not promise much, this is a pretty village whose 16th century cottages and narrow cobbled streets have been carefully preserved by the National Trust for Scotland.

The nearby village of Charlestown is today an attractive model village but was once a major Scottish industrial centre. The village was originally built in the shape of the letters CE to commemorate its creator Charles Bruce, Earl of Elgin.

Dunfermline: Once center of a kingdom

Dunfermline Abbey and Palace
Dunfermline Abbey and Palace


Visit the ruins at Dunfermline, and go inside the Abbey. Or visit lovely Pittencrieff Park, gift of Andrew Carnegie to the people of his hometown.

(Image shared by phault on flickr.)

Abbot House in Dunfermline

Abbot House, Fife, Scotland
Abbot House, Fife, Scotland


You can go inside the historic Abbot House, close to Dunfermline Abbey.

(Image shared by themajesticfool on flickr.)

Mary Queen of Scots
Mary Queen of Scots

Central Fife

Head east from Dunfermline, taking the coastal route to see seaside towns bordering a coastline that alternates between rocky cliffs and wide sandy beaches.

Aberdour prides itself on its beautiful train station, bedecked with hanging flower baskets. It also has the famous Silver Sands beach.

Things become more industrial between the towns of Kirkcaldy and Leven, although there are still some fine sandy beaches to be enjoyed.

Kirkcaldy is known as 'the Lang Toun' (the Long Town) and was home to linoleum manufacturing. You can still catch a whiff of linseed oil on the breeze now and then. It is also home to the Links Market. This street fair is one of the oldest in Europe.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown is from Kirkcaldy and attended Kirkcaldy High School. The economist and philosopher Adam Smith is another of Kirkcaldy's famous sons.

Artist Jack Vettriano has a home in Kirkcaldy and grew up in this area. He reportedly would study the paintings in Kirkcaldy Art and Museum Gallery while teaching himself to paint. The Gallery today shows an original painting donated by Vettriano. His most famous work, The Singing Butler, features nearby Leven beach.

Handsome Hollywood actor Dougray Scott (Mission Impossible II, Ever After, Enigma) grew up in the nearby new town of Glenrothes.

Moving inland to the heart of Fife, you will reach the carefully-preserved historic village of Falkland, nestled beneath the Lomond Hills. Falkland Palace is a magnificent Renaissance palace. Mary Queen of Scots and other Royals would stay here while hunting nearby. The palace also houses the world's oldest tennis court, built in 1539 for King James V. The Palace and Gardens are open to the public.

Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland
Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland


A renaissance palace in the heart of a Fife village. Mary Queen of Scots was a visitor here.

(Image shared by jim.gifford on flickr.)

Kirkcaldy's industrial past

Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland
Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland


This crumbling old factory was once at the heart of linoleum production in Scotland.

(Image copyright the author, 2009)

Jack Vettriano: Fife's famous son

Whether you have been a fan for years or have only recently discovered Vettriano's art, this book by the man himself will be a delight. Combines information on the artist with full-color images of his paintings.

Visit Jack Vettriano's beach

Billy Boys by Jack Vettriano
Billy Boys by Jack Vettriano | Source

East Neuk of Fife and St Andrews

The East Neuk is part of Eastern Fife, and the area most of interest to tourists. This region comprises of a stretch of attractive North Sea coastline running between a number of pretty fishing villages and towns.

These villages include Earlsferry, Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther, Kilrenny and Crail.

Of these, Crail is perhaps the most popular and well-known. This picturesque village has its own community of artists. It is home to a beautiful 13th Century church.

Anstruther is the largest and the famous Fish Bar, where Tom Hanks was spotted sampling a fish supper (fish and chips), can be found along the harbour.

St Monans is a quiet spot but has the nearby Saltpans and windmill that allow visitors to look back into the past, when salt was processed here.

Elie is my personal favourite, with its hidden coves and little rockpools in which you can spot ruby sea anemones.

A few miles from Crail, if you follow the signs, you will end up at an ordinary looking Scottish farmhouse surrounded by out-of-commission tanks and missiles. This is the entrance to the Secret Bunker, which dates from the Cold War. You can enter through the shop and descend a lengthy tunnel into the depths of the bunker beneath.

St Andrews is a must for many visitors, particularly golf enthusiasts, who can visit the oldest and possibly most famous golf course in the world. This small town is packed with history. Visit the ruins of the mighty cathedral or wander among the historic University buildings. John Knox preached here, and in more recent times it was home to Prince William who studied at the university.

The West Sands is a wide stretch of sandy beach to the north of the town. It is here that Scottish athlete Eric Liddell of Chariots of Fire fame would run. Allegedly, it is this beach that appears in the movie although it is said to be wrongly credited as Broadstairs beach in Kent (perhaps both were used during filming).

East Neuk villages

East Neuk of Fife, Scotland
East Neuk of Fife, Scotland


The East Neuk of Fife is one of Scotland's loveliest spots. Enjoy working harbours, peaceful beaches and fresh sea air.

(Image shared by Andy Hawkins on flickr.)

Old streets of St Andrews

St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
St Andrews, Fife, Scotland


This beautiful image shows College Street in St Andrews at dusk. This small but famous town has plenty of cobbled streets and historical echoes.

(Image shared by skreid on flickr.)

Would you pay Fife a visit? - Did I manage to convince you to add Fife to your Scotland itinerary?

Submit a Comment

  • LisaAuch1 profile image

    Lisa Auch 

    4 years ago from Scotland

    Yes The East Neuk is definitely a place to visit

  • profile image

    DebMartin 

    5 years ago

    You bet. I would love to visit Fife. It's beautiful. And so is Jack Vettriano's work.

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    5 years ago

    It is something to think about. Very cool lens.

  • SheilaMilne profile image

    SheilaMilne 

    5 years ago from Kent, UK

    We visited a number of times while we were living near Stirling. I had no idea though, that Jack Vettriano came from Kirkcaldy.

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    5 years ago from UK

    @Namsak: Thanks for your kind comment!

  • profile image

    Namsak 

    5 years ago

    Even though I have lived in Fife most of my life I was still surprised at the depth of information in your excellent lens.

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    6 years ago from UK

    @MarcellaCarlton: I hope you get your wish!

  • profile image

    MarcellaCarlton 

    6 years ago

    I would really appreciate a visit to the Kingdom of Fife. You have convinced me with this lens.

  • profile image

    julieannbrady 

    6 years ago

    Golly gee, I sure would love to visit Fife -- might not want to leave! Some truly lovely photos and Dunfermline looks like it was a grand place once upon a time.

  • PNWtravels profile image

    Vicki Green 

    7 years ago from Wandering the Pacific Northwest USA

    Yes, I'd definitely like to visit Fife - What a beautiful place with so much history. ~blessed

  • gregoryolney lm profile image

    gregoryolney lm 

    7 years ago

    I was at JSSL in Crail in 1957/58 - lovely spot, but bloody cold, the wind never stopped blowing all through the winter !

  • makingamark profile image

    Katherine Tyrrell 

    7 years ago from London

    Another great lens - and I learned a few things. I knew Vettriano was Scottish but never knew the Singing Butler beach was at Leven.

    Blessed and added to The Best of the UK

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    7 years ago from UK

    @sayhitoshas: Hello and congratulations on being accepted by the University of St Andrews! Fife (and Scotland in general) is less expensive to live in than many other parts of the UK. It is also less multi-cultural than many other places. However, don't let that worry you, St Andrews is a very small place and about half the population of the town consists of the University's students and staff. A number of these are from overseas countries and many different nations and races are represented. You will fit right in. The only downside to St Andrews is that it is a little isolated and not easy to get to larger towns for work. You may of course be able to find work in St Andrews and the University's career centre would I believe help you with that. Bring warm clothes, there is often a sea breeze or sea fog in the town even in the warmer months! It is a lovely place to study though.

  • profile image

    sayhitoshas 

    7 years ago

    I will be studying at University of St. Andrews shortly. Your article helped certainly in making this decision. Is it an expensive place to live in? Would you suggest working to support myself? And how open are the locals to international students (I'm an Indian)

  • TeacherSerenia profile image

    TeacherSerenia 

    7 years ago

    I would love to visit Fifeshire. You didn't jave to convince me. My 2x great grandfather and his family were from Cameron, Kilrenny and St Monance. Angel blessed for such a lovely lens.

  • Gordon N Hamilton profile image

    Gordon N Hamilton 

    7 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

    Great lens and I know a lot of the places well. My maternal grandmother was from Cowdenbeath. I know Fife fairly well but in recent years I've only visited briefly - Dunfermline for a family wedding. One of the places I lived in Edinburgh, however, looked on to the Firth of Forth and over to Fife! :)

  • Sylvestermouse profile image

    Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

    7 years ago from United States

    Wow! I really missed a lot! Such sadness over that reality. Now I really must return to Scotland and spend a week in Fife so I can really enjoy all of your recommendations. Wanna be my tour guide :) You know it will take me a few years to save up enough money for another vacation, but I would love to really tour Fife now! Most Excellent!!!

  • BrickHouseFabrics profile image

    BrickHouseFabrics 

    7 years ago

    I have, it is lovely!

  • ChrisDay LM profile image

    ChrisDay LM 

    7 years ago

    Fabulous photographs, by the way.

  • ChrisDay LM profile image

    ChrisDay LM 

    7 years ago

    It's on our list and this great lens has just promoted it!

  • profile image

    KDimmick 

    7 years ago

    Great lens! I've added my angel blessings :)

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    8 years ago

    Great Lens , I visited Fife many years ago & Thank You for reminding me how Beautiful it is 5*.

  • dezwards profile image

    dezwards 

    8 years ago

    Thanks for a great lens on one of my favourite parts of the world. 5* fvd and lensrolled. Very informative. just discovered Elie recently, what a hidden gem!

  • Wednesday-Elf profile image

    Wednesday-Elf 

    8 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

    I'd love to visit Scotland. My entire maternal ancestors came from Scotland and several relatives have visited in the past. I've not made it yet, but it's on the Wish List for me and my daughter! The Fife would be a definite - it looks so beautiful in all these lovely pictures. I like the fishing villages -- looks like a Postcard!

  • aka-rms profile image

    Robin S 

    8 years ago from USA

    Your home town is lovely!

  • justholidays profile image

    justholidays 

    8 years ago

    Definitely a wonderful lens. You know that I love the British Islands and since they're close to my country, they're on my travel sheet since a long time! So, Fife's another place I'll write down and visit the day I'll have time for it.

    Marvelous place.

    Dom.

    PS Rated, fav'd and lensrolled and first other lensmaster's lens I'll talk about on my blog!

  • jptanabe profile image

    Jennifer P Tanabe 

    8 years ago from Red Hook, NY

    Oh my goodness! I was born in Fife! We spent every summer in Elie when I was young. Love all your pictures, brings back so many memories.

  • ZenandChic profile image

    Patricia 

    8 years ago

    Sounds and looks wonderful!

  • profile image

    Light-in-me 

    8 years ago

    Hello,

    This lens is wonderful, I love it! The ruins at Dunfermline look so cool and I woud love to visit Falkland Palace. I would love to visit Scotland. Your pictures are beautiful and this is a very interesting lens.

    Nice job!

    Robin :)

  • rubyandmahoney profile image

    rubyandmahoney 

    8 years ago

    Wow! The scenery is gorgeous! You did a fabulous job talking about the history of Fife and places to see. If I ever make it to Scotland, I will be sure to add Fife to the itinerary!

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