The coastal walk from Elie to Anstruther takes in one of the most beautiful sections of the Fife Coastal Path, a stunning trail on the east coast of Scotland. On just 6 miles, this hike offers a snapshot of everything the Fife coast has to offer: from bustling harbours and charming villages to colourful flower meadows, remnants of historic Scottish industries and ruins of impressive castles. This guide will help you plan a day hike on the Fife Coastal Path from Elie to Anstruther.
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Not everyone has 9 days to walk the entire length of the Fife Coastal Path from Kincardine to Newburgh.
Luckily it is very easy to plan a day trip to the Fife coast from Edinburgh or Glasgow and hike just a day’s section.
The walk from Elie to Anstruther is one of my favourite parts of the Fife Coastal Path and provides a taste of what the full trail has to offer: the bustling harbours of the East Neuk of Fife, castle ruins throning above the sea, long stretches of seemingly untouched coastline, nature reserves and villages packed with history and heritage.
Read on for a detailed guide to planning this day trip to Fife:
- a detailed description of the route,
- interesting sites along the way,
- transport information for Elie and Anstruther,
- a suggested packing list,
and lots of other practical advice for this scenic hike in Scotland.
Elie to Anstruther Hike FAQ
Where is this hike located?
The hike from Elie to Anstruther is located on the East Neuk of Fife, the easternmost part of Fife.
Fife lies just north of Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth and is very easily accessible from the Scottish capital.
The hike is part of the Fife Coastal Path, a 9-day long-distance trail that hugs the full length of the Fife coastline from Kincardine to Newburgh.
How long is the hike from Elie to Anstruther?
The path from Elie to Anstruther is approximately 6 miles (10.5 km) and takes around 2-3 hours to complete. Of course, you can walk more leisurely to explore the many villages and historic sites along the way.
From Anstruther, the path continues to Crail. This section adds another 4.25 miles (7 km) and 1.5-2 hours to the hike.
Which direction is best?
I recommend hiking south to north from Elie to Anstruther rather than the other way around.
That way you have the sun behind you when it shines which makes it easier to enjoy the scenery and take pictures.
Is the path marked?
The entire Fife Coastal Path is well waymarked and thus very easy to follow.
Getting to Elie and Anstruther
By Car from Edinburgh
Driving from Edinburgh to Elie takes just over an hour. The distance is 45 miles.
Park at the Ruby Bay car park which lies right on the Fife Coastal Path. This is a popular car park, so try to get here early and take up as little space as you can to allow other people to also enjoy this area.
From Anstruther, you can get the bus back to your car in Elie. See below for bus information.
By Car from Glasgow
Driving from Glasgow to Elie takes around 2.5 hours. The distance is 80 miles.
By Public Transport from Edinburgh
Stagecoach bus X60 from Edinburgh to St Andrews stops in Elie and also in Anstruther which makes this section of the Fife Coastal Path an easy day hike.
Edinburgh to Elie takes approx. 2 hours. Anstruther to Edinburgh takes half an hour longer.
If you hike on to Crail, take the Stagecoach bus 95 back to Elie or Leven and take the X60 back to Edinburgh from there.
By Public Transport from Glasgow
The journey from Glasgow to Elie by bus and train is a little more of a trek, so you could consider turning the hike into an overnight trip to arrive the night before or leave the morning after.
It is quicker to take the train to Edinburgh, another train to Kirkcaldy and the X60 bus from there to Elie. This takes 2 hours and 45 minutes.
To get back from Anstruther, take the X60 to Edinburgh and then the train to Glasgow. This takes around 3 hours.
By Public Transport from St Andrews
From St Andrews, you can take Stagecoach buses X60 or 95 to Elie.
Both lines also pass through Crail and Anstruther which makes it easy to get the bus back to St Andrews at the end of your hike.
Trail Description: Elie to Anstruther
The walk from Elie to Anstruther is one of the most beautiful sections on the Fife Coastal Path.
Stage 1: Elie
The walk starts at Ruby Bay in Elie. This end of Elie is made up of a series of bays and sandy beaches – one more inviting than the other.
A small detour at the beginning of the trail leads you to the ruins of Lady Janet Anstruther’s Tower. It was built in 1760 to serve as a changing room for the Lady’s morning bathing routine. The views across the sea from its tall windows are stunning.
A little further out on the headland, you can see the picturesque Elie Lighthouse which is also worth a detour before you start hiking the actual coastal path to Anstruther.
Stage 2: Elie to St Monans
Leaving Elie and Ruby Bay behind, the path follows the shoreline along Lady’s Tower Beach. You can choose between walking on the narrow footpath below the dunes or on the sandy beach.
You could almost miss the overgrown ruins of Ardross Castle if the path did not cross right between the two main buildings. The remains of the castle date back to the 15th century, although first records indicate that a castle has existed here since the 14th century.
The ruins of Newark Castle, on the other hand, are almost impossible to miss. The castle sits prominently at the edge of the shoreline and while the upper stories are ruinous, the cellars are still largely intact.
Up and down, the trail follows the natural makeup of the sandstone cliffs of this section of the coast.
Soon, the Fife Coastal Path reaches the charming village of St Monans with its whitewashed buildings and sheltered harbour.
Notice the quirky welly garden made up of colourful wellies (rubber boots), painted rocks and flowers right by the harbour.
There are a few eateries in St Monans, including Craig Millar (16 West End) and The Diving Gannet (10 Station Road).
Stage 3: St Monans to Pittenweem
After crossing the village, the Fife Coastal Path leads past the St Monans Saltworks and a beautiful windmill that looks strangely out of place on the Scottish coast.
In the 18th and 19th century, salt was a major export for the Scottish industry. Like many coastal towns and villages, the people of St Monans used coal fires to turn saltwater from the sea into sea salt.
The windmill was used to pump seawater into the salt pans, which today lie underneath the grassy mounds.
After a short walk from St Monans, the path reaches Pittenweem, another quaint village with narrow walkways on the waterfront and a picturesque harbour.
Here, you have the option to visit St Fillan’s Cave, a natural cave that gave the village its name. Pittenweem comes from Gaelic for “place of the cave”. The 7th-century missionary St Fillan is said to have lived here for several years.
If you visit Pittenweem during the first week of August, you might be lucky enough to catch the Pittenweem Arts Festival.
Stage 4: Pittenweem to Anstruther
From Pittenweem it is a leisurely walk to Anstruther along Billowness Beach. The beach is an area of Special Scientific Interest due to its diverse habitat for birds, insects and plants.
Before you know it, the clifftops give way to the roads leading into Anstruther, the largest of the fishing village on the East Neuk of Fife.
Anstruther is the perfect place to end today’s walk on the Fife Coastal Path. Make your way through the village and turn left at the church-like tower of Dreel Halls and the house covered in seashells.
The crafty village centres around a bustling harbour. Here you can visit the Scottish Fisheries Museum or refuel at some of the best fish & chip shops in the country.
Anstruther Fish Bar (42 – 44 Shore St) is particularly popular and on a sunny day, prepare to stand in line for a while before you can get your fish supper. Vegan options are not available (apart from chips).
Optional Stage 5: Anstruther to Crail
If the walk from Elie to Anstruther was not enough for you, you can continue along the Fife Coastal path to Crail.
Crail is possibly the most photographed fishing village on the East Neuk of Fife.
Located just over 4 miles up the coast from Anstruther, it is very easy to expand the walk from Elie to Anstruther to Crail.
Leaving Anstruther, the trail passes through the adjacent village Cellardyke and its picturesque harbour.
From the grassy path, enjoy spectacular views to the Isle of May and the Bass Rock, both worth a visit, particularly for birders.
A natural highlight along this section is known as The Coves, a bizarre rock formation moulded into a series of arches.
After a short walk by the sea, you will reach the quaint village of Crail.
From Crail, catch the bus back to Anstruther or Elie or onwards to St Andrews.
Boat Trips to the Isle of May
If you can, I highly recommend spending an extra day in Anstruther to explore the coast.
The boat trips from Anstruther to the Isle of May are particularly popular during the summer (May-July). Standard trips take 4 to 4.5 hours and includes 2.5 to 3 hours on the island. Shorter trips without landings and private charters are also available.
The Isle of May is home to a puffin colony as well as many other sea birds, which are a pleasure to see and photograph.
Day Hike Packing List
Since this is a day hike, I recommend packing everything you need in a decently sized day pack (around 30L). I have an Osprey Tempest 30L which is a great backpack for day hikes.
If you are looking to buy a larger backpack for longer hikes, reach up on the best features a trekking backpack must have.
What to wear for hiking in Scotland?
The best hiking clothes are made from breathable and quick-dry material. Fife is one of the sunniest parts of Scotland, so during the summer chances are high that you will hike to Anstruther in shorts and t-shirts.
Waterproofs are a still must on any hike in Scotland, including a good rain jacket and waterproof trousers. You never know!
The Fife Coastal Path follows mostly flat terrain, but I still recommend wearing proper hiking boots as it can be muddy or uneven underfoot. Sturdy trainers can also be sufficient for this hike though.
Wind chill is real, so even though it can get very warm on a sunny summer’s day, it is best to be prepared for cold, wet and windy days with a hat, buff and some light-weight gloves.
Essential Items to Pack
The Scottish east coast is generally much drier and sunnier than the west – don’t forget your sun lotion!
Pack a swimsuit for a dip in the sea on a hot summer’s day.
Food & Water
The path fon the Elie to Anstruther walk passes through several villages with cafes and shops where you can fill up your water supply. No need to carry more than a regular water bottle and a few snacks with you.
The coastal walk from Elie to Anstruther is a great active day trip from Edinburgh and a soft introduction to long-distance hiking in Scotland. It covers one of the most beautiful sections of the Fife Coastal Path and offers everything from quaint fishing villages to castle ruins and spectacular natural landscapes.
Put your trainers on and hit the trail!
Have you ever hiked in Fife?
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.