This tour includes much of the coast of Fife, including the fascinating and extremely attractive villages of the East Neuk of Fife. But it also includes St Andrews and what was for a time the effective capital of Scotland, Falkland.
The description assumes that the route is tackled anti-clockwise. There's no strong reason for this and it could equally be tackled clockwise: but doing it our way means that if you found you were getting short of time having reached St Andrews, you would already have seen the best parts of the route, and you would have an easy option to return directly to the start point.
Glenrothes is Fife's administrative heart, a new town developed after the Second World War. From it you should follow the A911 towards Leven, then the A915 along the coast to the twin villages of Lower Largo on the coast and Upper Largo a little inland. Then you follow the A917 south west to Elie. Here you find the first of a string of beautiful villages that lie along this south coast of what is known as the East Neuk of Fife. Elie and Earlsferry are actually twin villages and between them they occupy the inland side of a broad south facing bay.
The A917 along the coast bypasses the next of these villages, St Monans, but you should take the time to explore what some describe as the most attractive of Fife's coastal villages. There are a number of attractions on the shore either side of St Monans that can be explored. West of the village are the ruins of Ardross Castle and Newark Castle, while St Monans Parish Church occupies the shoreline on at the west end of the village itself and the St Monans Windmill stands above the remains of its salt pans a little to the east.
The next of the East Neuk villages you encounter is Pittenweem, which retains the most active fishing harbour. A little inland is Kellie Castle & Gardens. A couple of miles east again, and you come to the twin villages of Anstruther Wester and Anstruther Easter, usually simply known together as Anstruther. This is the largest and busiest of the East Neuk settlements: and is home to the Scottish Fisheries Museum. Don't leave Anstruther without exploring the narrow shoreside streets immediately to the east of its harbour. These lead to the hidden gem of Cellardyke, complete with its own beautiful harbour. Cellardyke is perhaps the least commercialised of the East Neuk villages. It is now effectively part of Anstruther. A little inland, again, is Scotland's Secret Bunker.
Kilrenny stands just to the north east of Anstruther. A few miles further east you come to the most remote, and perhaps most photographed, of the villages in the East Neuk of Fife, Crail. The harbour here has featured on postcards for as long as there have been postcards, and the whole village is a fascinating place to explore.
In Crail the A917 takes a sharp left turn and heads north a little inland from the east coast of Fife. At Kingsbarns you come close to the sea again, and a on the south side of the village a road leads you through what is now a famous championship golf course to a parking area from which you can enjoy Cambo Sands and the surrounding rocks. North west of Kingsbarns the road passes Boarhills, a tiny residential village, en route into St Andrews.
St Andrews is known world wide as the home of golf. It is also home to one of Scotland's oldest universities, to a castle standing on a rocky outcrop, and to the partial remains of a once great cathedral. It also offers, to the south of the town, a harbour and beach, while to the north are more beaches fringing the golf links. St Andrews is a fascinating place on many different levels, and whatever else you do on this trip, ensure you spend a little time here to make the most of it. St Andrews is also home to the British Golf Museum and to St Andrews Aquarium.
From St Andrews the A91 heads north east, and you follow it as far as a roundabout in the village of Guardbridge. Here you turn right, travelling past the end of the runway of RAF Leuchars, home each September to a major air show, to the village of Leuchars. Here you find St Athernase Church, whose choir and apse have been described as "the second finest piece of Norman work in the whole of Great Britain".
Your route from Leuchars depends on whether you are taking the optional excursion to Tentsmuir Forest and Tentsmuir Sands. If so you will follow minor roads north from the village that lead via an out-and-back to the parking area behind the dunes at Tentsmuir to the B945 en route to Tayport. If not, you will follow the A919 then the A945 to Tayport.
While the East Neuk villages revolve around their harbours, the north Fife villages of Tayport and Newport-on-Tay tend to be a little overshadowed by Dundee, just across the water (and across the Tay Road Bridge). West of Newport-on-Tay you should follow very minor roads as closely as possible to the coast. A slight detour from one takes you to the fragmentary ruin of Balmerino Abbey.
Eventually these minor country roads bring you out in Newburgh, and from here you should head across country via the A913 and the B936 to Auchtermuchty. Following the B936 south from Auchtermuchty brings you to Falkland, a village that, with good reason, was made Scotland's first conservation area in 1970. Falkland Palace, whose remains still dominate the village, was built from an existing castle for James V in 1539 and became his preferred residence. It includes the the world's oldest Royal Tennis Court still in use. From Falkland it is only a few miles along the A912 and A92 back to Glenrothes.
Visitor InformationThe main circular route shown on the map in dark blue is 76 miles long, mostly on good quality roads with some (avoidable) single track roads along the north coast of Fife. The route assumes a starting point of Glenrothes but it can be tackled from Edinburgh at the cost of an additional 33 miles each way (mostly dual carriageway) from Edinburgh to Glenrothes. It can also be tackled from Dundee by the addition of 2 miles each way, just nipping across the Tay Bridge and taking Newport-on-Tay as your starting point.