We spent a weekend in the East Neuk of Fife last year, just before covid and lockdown hit us here in the UK. The East Neuk is the eastern corner of the Kingdom of Fife, stretching along the coast from Elie up to Kingsbarns, with St Andrews just a short 15 minute drive north of Kingsbarns. We spent most of our time exploring the beaches and the coastline, we had lunch at Cambo Gardens plus we took a drive to St Andrews where we had brunch and visited St Andrews Castle.
With it’s miles of coastline, beautiful beaches, charming little fishing villages and great places to eat, the East Neuk is the perfect place for families to escape to for a weekend. Walks or activities you do and places you visit will depend on the age of your kids. However if you have 48 hours in the East Neuk, these are some of the things I’d try to fit in while you’re there.
Head to the beach
The East Neuk has some incredibly beautiful and easily accessible beaches. The southern end of the East Neuk is home to the wide sandy Lower Largo beach. It is situated just below the pretty white houses of Lower Largo, with rocky outcrops for rock pooling and views out over the Firth of Forth.
Not far east of Lower Largo is a little sheltered and sandy beach, near to the village of Elie. Ruby Bay, like most beaches in the East Neuk has some rocks that are great for rockpooling, and is also a great place for collecting sea glass. Up above the bay, a short walk from the beach and the car park is the Lady’s Tower. Built in the 1770’s as a summer house & changing room for Lady Janet Anstruther of Elie House. Looking right out over the bay and out to sea, it’s a very pretty location and kids will enjoy how windy it can get in there!
Roome Bay, just next to the village of Crail, is a pretty little cove with sand and rocky bits and crystal clear water. There is a man made pool at one end which apparently used to be a paddling pool, but now provides a haven for water birds and other wildlife. There is also a nice little play area right next to the beach. Crail also has an old pigeon doocot that my kids loved playing in and around for a while.
Kingsbarns Beach (also called Cambo Sands) is a 2 mile stretch of sandy beach, interspersed with rocky outcrops and bordered by rolling grassy sand dunes. It’s a wonderful wide open space perfect for sandcastles, walks, picnics, rock pooling for starfish, anemones, crabs and lots of wee shellfish. Check out The Cheesy Toast Shack, located in the Kingsbarns car park a few days a week, and try one of their insanely good mac & cheese toasties.
St Andrews West Sands, a little bit north of St Andrews so not technically in the East Neuk is also well known for being a long, lovely, sandy beach.
Meet some local wildlife
There are lots of opportunities for wildlife spotting around the East Neuk. Around the fields and meadows you might find pheasants, deer and lots of birds here and around the beaches. Check out the rock pools on the beaches for starfish, crabs, fish and lots of different shellfish. If you keep your eyes peeled you might even be lucky enough to see dolphins out at sea when you’re on the beach.
Take a sea safari boat trip from Anstruther, or a trip to the Isle of May, and find loads of wildlife including puffins, seals, seabirds galore, and maybe even a whale if you’re in the right place at the right time.
For guaranteed animal spotting head to St Andrews to visit the sharks and tropical fish in the aquarium, or the butterfly house in St Andrews Botanic Gardens.
Meet the herd at Fife Alpaca Farm, located just north of Upper Largo, in Bowbridge. They do 1 or 2 hour Alpaca Experiences with hand feeding, training demonstrations and leading the alpaca around a little obstacle course.
Explore picturesque villages
The East Neuk is full of tiny postcard perfect picturesque villages. Explore the little harbours at Pittenweem or Elie. Kids (and adults) will enjoy watching the colourful boats bobbing around in the old harbours.
Take a walk along the harbour walls at Pitenweem and watch the waves splashing up against the walls. Warning though – we got soaked by a few when we were watching them! Check out the food market in Bowhouse, held monthly with local food, crafts and live music.
Visit Cambo Gardens
Families visiting Fife will love Cambo Gardens. Cambo has a walled garden, cafe, shop and arts centre in the East Neuk of Fife just a few miles south of St Andrews. After you’ve entered through the beautiful woodland, the first thing the kids will notice is the brilliant little nature play area.
Take a walk through the woodlands, head down to their very own remote little beach, and after you have had some delicious lunch in the cafe (seriously the best soups ever in here) or some incredible cake with a cuppa, head in to explore the absolutely stunning walled gardens, winter gardens and prairie gardens.
The cherry blossoms at Cambo Gardens are picture perfect and Cambo also runs various events throughout the year including a snowdrop festival in late winter/early spring.
Entry to the nature play area and woodlands are free. Entry to the walled gardens costs £6.50 for adults, free for under 16’s and free for carers.
Explore St Andrews
St Andrews, just at the very northern tip of the East Neuk of Fife, is a great place for families to visit. See St Andrews Castle, have brunch, visit the aquarium or the botanic gardens and spend some time at the beach. You could spend a weekend here alone!
Where to eat with kids in the East Neuk of Fife
St Andrews has a whole bunch of big name chain restaurants, which are always a good shout with young kids, including Pizza Express, Prezzo, Zizzi’s & Nandos. A few local independent places to eat we found are the cafe at The Byre Theatre and Forgans, both of which have some toys and books for kids to help themselves to. Jannetta’s is definitely the place for some ice cream. So many flavours to choose from and all absolutely delicious.
Around the rest of the East Neuk you’ll find a ton of places to eat with kids. Our favourites from our trip were the cafe at Cambo Estate which has toys, books, colouring and really delicious food. Anstruther Fish Bar is a must do when you’re in the East Neuk.
Sit in is very casual and kid friendly, or takeaway and sit by the sea to eat yours. For some really lovely casual dining check out the East Pier Smokehouse in St Monans, serving up fresh and locally caught seafood, plus other delicious dishes. And if you’re at Kingsbarns and fancy something quick and easy, check out The Cheesy Toast Shack and try one of their insanely good toasties.
Where to stay in the East Neuk of Fife
Wigwams at Largo Law
Sleeping up to a family of 4, this is simple, affordable, clean and comfy glamping accommodation. Each cabin has a kitchen and toilet with shower. In the evenings, heat yourself up and toast your marshmallows around the fire pit in the campfire cabin. Beautiful views right out over the Firth of Forth too. There are a few other Wigwam sites dotted around Fife too.
Catchpenny Safari Lodges
These safari style luxury tents sleep up to 6 people in 3 bedrooms. Each lodge has a kitchen, toilet with shower, a wood burner and soft, comfy beds. Inevitably it will likely rain at some point during your stay and the sound of the rain on the canvas is something you’ll either love or not love! Views outside look out to the sea and you can see the Lady’s Tower from your porch.