Anstruther's many shops and busy attractive harbour make it the main commercial centre of the East Neuk of Fife. Fifty years ago, this picturesque port was so busy it was possible to walk from one side of the wide harbour to the other by stepping from one fishing boat to the next.
Then the North Sea herring shoals disappeared, taking with them much, but not all, of the fishing fleet. You can read the history of Anstruther in the chapters about East Anstruther and West Anstruther in D Hay Fleming's 1886 book: Guide to the East Neuk of Fife.
Anstruther's association with the fishing industry has not been forgotten. The town is home to the Scottish Fisheries Museum which tells the story of Scottish fishing from the earliest times to the present day. Housed in a fascinating complex of buildings beside the harbour, displays include a recreated cottage belonging to a fishing family as well as a chronological series of displays charting Scotland's fishing heritage.
From the harbour you can take sea angling trips or visit to the Isle of May aboard the May Princess. This is a nature reserve only one mile long located out in the mouth of the Firth of Forth. During the summer half of the year there is usually is one departure to the Isle daily though departure times vary depending on tides, and can be cancelled in adverse weather. Allow four or five hours for the round trip and remember to dress warmly.
Between April and July the Isle of May's sea cliffs are covered in sea birds and the island is also home to a colony of grey seals. Visible from the mainland is the lighthouse, erected on the Isle in 1816 by Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather, as are the remains of Scotland's first lighthouse, built in 1636, which burnt coals as a beacon.
Inland there are the remains of St Aiden's Chapel, dedicated to a monk who was murdered on the island by Danes in 875. Also inland from Anstruther is a relic from a very different age. Scotland's Secret Bunker is a truly remarkable and fascinating visitor attraction, a vast underground complex that remained secret until 1993 and which would have served as the seat of the country's government in the event of a nuclear war. A few miles to the west of the Secret Bunker is Kellie Castle, operated by the National Trust for Scotland.
Anstruther itself is a fascinating town. Take a walk along the cobbled streets through a rabbit-warren of little alleyways and wynds and note the dates on the buildings. In the main streets many of the shops still display original signs and advertisements for companies long forgotten. There are restaurants serving local seafood specialities as well as the Anstruther Fish Bar on Shore Street, which won the title of Scottish Fish & Chip Shop of the Year in 2000/1, 2001/2, 2006/7 and UK Fish & Chip Shop of the Year in 2008/9.
And if you find Anstruther busy, for an antidote make your way to the hidden treasure of Cellardyke, whose harbour is just half a mile to the east of Anstruther's but could be a world away.
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