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East Neuk of Fife

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Kingdom Fife in Scotland boasts some of the most beautiful towns and villages to be found. East Neuk in particular is steeped in history. King James II of Scotland described it as "the fringe of gold on a beggar's mantle".

On Scotland's craggy east coast, close to St Andrews, the popular holiday destination has attractions and facilities to suit all ages. It's all about views and fresh air, wide sweeping beaches and fishing villages, busy harbours, secluded spots and a proud maritime heritage with a history of smugglers and pirates, along with political and religious intrigue.

The shoreline of the Firth of Forth is dotted with some fine beaches and spectacular links golf courses. Shoreline walks are very satisfying, as are visits to ancient castles, museums, country parks, watersports and sea-angling.

A visit to Neuk takes you back in time. Traditional cottages with red pan tiled rooves and crow-stepped gable ends are unchanged. Fishing boats rest in the harbour after unloading their catch, just as they have done for centuries.

Local people are very friendly and love visitors to join in the events and galas they hold during summer. Anstruther Lifeboat Gala and Pittenweem Fish Festival are great fun.

There are no trains servicing the parts of Fife that the Getaway crew visited, so they booked a car through Drive Travel before they left home.

The tiny village of Pittenweem, the first stop, was declared a Royal Burgh in 1541 and is the only one which still has a working harbour. It dates to around 1600. The harbour and market square are connected by cobbled streets known as 'wynds'.

The 16th century parish church and the ruins of the priory remain. Originally on the Isle of May nine kilometres away, it was moved to the mainland when administration was turned over to the Augustinian monks of St Andrews. The move eliminated sea pirates menacing the Isle of May. The new priory gave the area a welcome boost, and the flourishing Pittenweem became one of Scotland's most prosperous areas.

The new priory's underground passages led to St Fillan's cave, a secret hiding place for smugglers. St Fillan's Cave can be explored by obtaining a key from the Gingerbread Horse in the High Street.

Pittenweem is steeped in witchcraft history and was once well known for its harsh punishment of witches. Several trials took place and witches were drowned in the loch at Kilconquhar.

One of the largest villages, and described as the heart of the East Neuk, Anstruther was once one of the busiest ports in the area. The history of the fishing industry on the east coast is captured in Anstruther's famous fishing museum. It is housed in a building associated with fishing for over 400 years and bears a memorial to the many men who have lost their lives at sea for their occupation.

The museum houses over 66,000 items, most of which are considered to be of national or international importance. There are many model boats, a collection of 18 boats including a twin masted Fifie herring drifter over 100 years old, fishing gear, a significant historical photographic archive and paintings.

The museum has a small private chapel which commemorates the Scots who perished at sea while fishing.

Nearly every building in Anstruther tells a story. Buckie House was embellished with shells by Alex Batchelor. Not content with that, he shelled his coffin and charged people to see it!

Part of the folklore of East Neuk is that the fishermen returned from over the seas with a strange game they saw the Dutch playing. Kolf. The Scots adapted it by putting a tin can into a hole and hitting a ball into it. It eventually became golf. So now you know who to blame.

Location

1½ hours north-east of Glasgow.

Cost

ExciteHolidays has accommodation in Glasgow starting at $106 a night twin share, including breakfast.

DriveTravel has car hire from $39 a day, year round.

Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther entry is around $11.50 for adults and free for children up to 16 years.

Balcomie Golf Course costs around $50 a round during winter.

Emirates has flights to Glasgow.

Fares from;
  • Melbourne, $2010
  • Brisbane, $2012
  • Perth, $2017
  • Sydney, $2027
  • Adelaide, $2638
  • Darwin, $3415

On sale until February 23, 2007 for travel between October 4 and November 11, 2007. Conditions apply.

Prices quoted are correct at February 15, 2007.

More information

ExciteHolidays
Ph: 1300 733 858
Fax: 02 9599 3667
Website: www.exciteholidays.com
Email: res@exciteholidays.com

Drive Travel
2/1 Balmoral Street
Frankston Vic 3199
Ph: 1300 883 588
Fax: (03) 8781 1109
Website: www.drivetravel.com
Email: reservations@drivetravel.com

Balcombie Links
Balcomie Clubhouse
Fifeness
Scotland KY10 3XN
Ph: 01333 450686
Club House: 01333 450278
Fax: 01333 450416
Website: Email: info@crailgolfingsociety.co.uk

Scottish Fisheries Museum
St Ayles
Harbourhead
Anstruther Fife,
Scotland, KY10 3AB
Ph: 44 (0) 1333 310628
Website: www.scotfishmuseum.org

Visit Scotland
Scotland's National Tourist Board
Ph: +44(0)1506 832 121.
Website: www.visitscotland.com

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