If you're at Pittenweem Monday through Saturday morning, try to get caught up in the action at the fish auction held under a large shed. The actual time depends on the tides. Afterward, go for a walk through the village and admire the sturdy stone homes, some of which have been preserved by Scotland's National Trust.
The weem in the name of the town means "cave," a reference to St. Fillan's Cave (tel. 01333/311-495), at Cove Wynd in the vicinity of the harbor. This cave is said to contain the shrine of St. Fillan, a hermit who lived in the 6th century. Hours are daily 10am to 5pm; admission is £1, free for children 14 and under.
The best way to reach Anstruther is to hike the 2.5km (1 1/2 miles) over to it, because the road isn't paved. If the day is clear, this is one of the loveliest walks in eastern Scotland. From Pittenweem, follow a signpost directing you to Anstruther; you cross Scottish meadows and can say hello to a few lambs. You can also take the walk in reverse, as most visitors do. In Anstruther, the path begins at the bottom of West Brases, a small cul-de-sac off the main road in the village.
Once an important herring-fishing port, Anstruther is now a summer resort, 74km (46 miles) northeast of Edinburgh, 55km (34 miles) east of Dunfermline, 6.5km (4 miles) southwest of Crail, and 37km (23 miles) south of Dundee. The tourist office is on High Street (tel. 01333/311-073); it's open April to September, Monday, Friday, and Saturday from 10am to 5pm; Tuesday to Thursday 10am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm; and Sunday 11am to 4pm.
With its step-gabled houses and little harbor, Elie, 18km (11 miles) south of Anstruther, is many visitors' favorite village along the coast. Only a 25-minute car ride from Edinburgh, Elie and its close neighbor, Earlsferry, overlook a crescent of gold-sand beach, with more swimming possibilities to be found among sheltered coves. The name Elie is believed to come from the ailie (island) of Ardross, which now forms part of the harbor and is joined to the mainland by a road. A large stone building, a former granary, at the harbor is a reminder of the days when Elie was a busy trading port. Of all the villages of East Neuk, this one seems best suited for walks and hikes in all directions.
Earlsferry, to the west, got its name from an ancient ferry crossing, which Macduff, the thane of Fife, is supposed to have used in his escape from Macbeth.
The pearl of the East Neuk of Fife, Crail is 81km (50 miles) northeast of Edinburgh, 37km (23 miles) south of Dundee, and 15km (9 1/3 miles) south of St. Andrews. It's an artists' colony, and many painters live in cottages around the little harbor. Natural bathing facilities are at Roome Bay, and many beaches are nearby. The Balcomie Golf Course is one of the oldest in the world and is still in good condition.
The old town grew up along the harbor, and you can still see a lot of fishing cottages clustered here. Crab and lobster boats continue to set out hoping for a big catch. Upper Crail overlooks the harbor and also merits exploration. The tollbooth dates from 1598 and is crowned by a belfry. Marketgate is lined with trees and flanked by small two- and three-floor houses. Follow the walkway to Castle Walk, which offers the most panoramic view of Crail.
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