A lovely circular walk in the picturesque East Neuk. Discover the fishing villages of Pittenweem and St Monans, 18th century saltpans and windmill, open air swimming pools, Abercrombie Church and Balcaskie Estate.
Distance: 9.2 km / 5.7 miles
Ascent: 90 m / 290 feet
Start / finish: Pittenweem Harbour
Facilities: full range of facilities in both Pittenweem and St Monans.
Start from the picturesque harbour in Pittenweem where there is public parking at the west end of the road.
Follow the coastal path out of the village in a westerly direction past the row of quaint houses at West Shore. After the houses a grey ash path heads up the hill to a playpark, crazy golf area and a shelter. As you walk up the hill, take the time to look back over your shoulder for views of this end of the village. A few benches are available on this section of the path or, if it is raining, take advantage of the shelter. Beyond this point the path starts to become a bit narrower as it heads for St Monans. Ahead of you can be seen St Monans Windmill and St Monans Church. Follow the coastal path signs past the open air swimming pool. If you are tempted by a dip on a hot day, bear in mind that neither this pool nor the one at St Monans are maintained as public swimming pools these days. Use at your own risk.
Keep on along the coastal path for about 1 mile to reach the obvious landmark of St Monans Windmill. The windmill was built to pump water to the nearby salt pans. Today it is home to the voluntary Coastwatch service. There is access to the inside of the windmill when the volunteers are on duty. As well as the windmill, the saltpans are also worth spending a few moments having a look at. With the help of the information boards try to imagine what the area must have been like in the 18th Century.
Beyond the saltpans, the path is both easier and wider into St Monans (this section should be suitable for wheelchair access to the windmill). The path reaches the village at a small parking area which would make an alternative start point for the walk. Walk along the narrow street to reach the harbour area.
From the harbour turn right into Station Road and walk up the hill through the village to the main road. Take extreme care and cross the busy road to reach the side road opposite, signed for Abercrombie. It is probably best to walk on the pavement along this road as it tends to get used as a short cut and carries more traffic that you might expect for a back road. After about 1km you reach the small village of Abercrombie where the road bears right, passes Abercrombie Farm and reaches another main road.
Again take care crossing over this road to reach the field track directly opposite. Follow the track along the field edge to reach the gate into the woods. The gate is easily openable and takes you into Balcaskie Estate and the ruin of Abercrombie Church. The church is the burial ground for the Anstruther family and it’s worth taking a few moments to have a look at the gravestones.
Stay on the obvious track passing the church to reach a crossroad at some yew trees. Go left here through the woods for 250m to reach the private estate road. Turn right onto the tarmac road and follow it through open parkland, turning right when you reach a T junction. Turn left on the road as you approach Balcaskie House so that you walk around the house. Note the “mushrooms” at the road junctions. Pass the stable block on your right and proceed along the road until you reach the impressive entrance gate with its doocots.
If the gate is closed it can be opened by pressing the blue button. The gates will close automatically. Follow the road round to the right to reach the large green barns at Inch Farm. After the farm the road turns to the left passing through open fields and later hedges, to reach the South Lodge.
Turn right onto the public road at the lodge and follow it for about 1km into Pittenweem, passing the recycling centre. There is a pavement alongside the road although it does have less traffic than the Abercrombie Road. Cross over the main road into Charles Street, then cross over Backgate into Brown’s Close which brings you to the High Street. Cross over the High Street and go down School Wynd on the opposite side, next to the post office. Follow the steps down to the harbour emerging opposite the fishmarket building. From here it is a short walk alongside the harbour back to the parking area.
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