A pleasant circular walk along the Fife Coastal Path through East Neuk fishing villages returning via Dreel Meadow and Balcaskie Estate. There are plenty of points of interest along this route from the St Monans saltpans/windmill to Abercrombie Church.
Distance: 13 km / 8 miles
Ascent: 500 feet / 150 m
Start / finish: St Monans
Facilities: full range of facilities, including public transport, in the three villages of St Monans, Pittenweem and Anstruther.
Other walks in the area: Pittenweem, St Monans Circuit
The walk is described starting from St Monans but you could just as easily start from Pittenweem or Anstruther.
The Mayview Hotel on Station Road makes a good start point. There is on street parking in the area and a couple of small car parks nearby (one with public toilets). Head down Station Road to the harbour area and then turn left on the route of the coastal path towards Pittenweem. Initially the coastal path follows a narrow road to a small parking area. From here, there is a good smooth path to the area of St Monans Windmill and Saltpans. The windmill was built to pump water to the saltpans and there are a number of information boards that describe the operation. Today it is a peaceful and popular picnic spot. The windmill also hosts the local Coastwatch volunteers. When they are on duty there is access to the inside of the windmill.
There is an old open air swimming pool at this location but note that neither this one nor the one at Pittenweem which you will pass are maintained as such. Use at your own risk!
Beyond the windmill the path narrows as it follows the rocky coastline towards Pittenweem. As you approach the village you will reach a playpark with a shelter which could be useful if it is raining. From there the path descends downhill and ahead of you is a picture postcard view of the village.
When you reach Pittenweem the coastal path joins the West Shore road passing quaint pantiled cotttages. After the cottages you reach the harbour area which is worth spending a bit of time exploring. It is a working harbour (as opposed to pleasure boats), home to a fishing fleet and fish market.
Whilst in Pittenweem you may wish to make a detour to visit St Fillan’s Cave on Cove Wynd at the east end of the harbour, where the Saint allegedly lived as a hermit. Although locked, a key for the gate is available locally.
Return to the harbour area. At the far end of the harbour is Gyles House but before reaching it go uphill along the road following signs for the coastal path. The path leaves the road via a gap in the wall to reach a playpark. Follow the path along the top of the cliff behind the houses with views out to the Isle of May. After a short distance the path starts to descend down rocky steps to the shore to reach a golf course.
Stay alert whilst walking around the outside of the golf course on the grassy path. When the path becomes a tarmac road you can divert down on to the sandy beach to avoid a wee bit of road walking. However, you will soon need to rejoin the road at the club house where it becomes a public road leading into Anstruther. Follow the coastal path signs along Shore Road and Crichton Street to reach the main road through Anstruther.
The coastal path goes right to follow the main road to the harbour area. However, as we are going to return to St Monans at this point, cross over to the residential street opposite called Dreelside. Head along this street to the end to join a street lit tarmac path at the side of the houses. A red ash path with a core path purple arrow then takes you past a playpark. Go up a few steps beside an old bridge and then turn right to cross over the bridge. A bench at this point may provide a welcome rest.
Keep on the surfaced farm track through Dreel Meadow Nature Reserve passing some houses and crossing a burn. When you reach a junction with a bench seat turn left on the track through open fields. Follow the track round to the left at the next set of cottages to reach Easter Grangemuir Farm. This is a working farm area so stay alert for moving vehicles and keep any dogs close to heel. After the farm the track passes some polytunnels before reaching the public road.
Turn left onto to the road which is unpaved at this point. It’s best to walk on the right hand side towards oncoming vehicles. After about 400m you reach the entrance to Balcaskie Estate on your right hand side. As well as the estate road there are another two entrances at this point. The one you want is the left hand one.
The estate road will now take you across open fields, past a farm to reach the impressive entrance gate to the estate with its doocots. The actual gates are electrically operated using the button and will close behind you. The first building you will approach is the stable block, note the “mushrooms” at the road junctions. Keep the stables to your left and approach towards Balcaskie House. Keep right so that you stay away from the immediate vicinity of the house and then turn right directly in front of it.
After about 100m turn left on to another estate road and follow this through parkland for about 500m to where there is a woodland on your left. Go left on to a woodland path before you reach a beech hedge. After 250m you will reach a crossroads at some yew trees. Go right at this point to reach the ruin of Abercrombie Church, the burial ground for the Anstruther family.
After the church a pedestrian gate takes you out of the woods and on to a field track. This track follows the edge of the fields for 500m to reach the public road. Cross over this road and take the road opposite passing Abercrombie Farm and heading into the small village of Ambercrombie. Follow the road through the village as it bears left towards St Monans. This road unfortunately, tends to be used as a short cut and carries more traffic than you might expect so best to walk on the pavement. After 1km you will reach the main coast road at St Monans. Cross over and slightly to your left is the start of Station Road where you started the walk.
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