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02nd May 2018 Lorraine Flood

The best things to do in Fife and St Andrews

Outdoor persuits

Fife St Andrews Days Out 9

Throughout the year, Fife offers exciting and fascinating attractions to fill the days with challenging outdoor activities, indoor cultural experiences, thrilling historic revelations, and a wealth of inspiring retail possibilities. In addition to the obvious golfing delights, Fife is almost unbeatable for country sports enthusiasts. Choose from Craigluscar near Dunfermline, Newtonhill Country Sports at Wormit, the Scottish Off-Road Driving Centre at Strathmiglo and Cluny Clays in Kirkcaldy – all popular destinations for activities such as fishing, clay pigeon shooting, quad biking or off-road driving. Goldenloch, near Newburgh and Cameron Reservoir close to St Andrews, are fisheries open to the public.

On the St Andrews to Crail road, there’s quad biking, off-road driving, laser clay pigeon shooting and abseiling at Kinkell Byre. Craigie Farm at Leuchars is home for the Scottish Clay Shooting Centre. Instructors are fully-qualified in all aspects of game and clay target shooting and all standards of skill can enjoy a superb day out.

To explore the game that makes St Andrews famous the world over, The British Golf Museum lies across the road from the 18th hole of the Old Course. It documents the history of golf from medieval times to the present and can be enjoyed by those who aren’t massive fans of the sport. Between April and September, a fun alternative to a round of golf can be had at the “The Himalayas” putting green between the Old Course and the West Sands beach. It’s owned by the St Andrews Ladies’ Putting Club and luck plays a part in success here as much as experience.

Depending on your skill, dedication and the time of year, you could decide on more than one round in a day over Fife’s many golf courses. Aside from the obvious favourites, Crail’s Balcomie Links was laid out by Tom Morris in 1895 while neighbouring Craighead Links dates from 1998. Anstruther’s golf course boasts what has been described as the toughest par three in the UK, ‘The Rockies’ at the 5th. To try the game as our forefathers enjoyed it, book a tee time at the Kingarrock Hickory Golf Course in the grounds of Hill of Tarvit Mansion House, near Cupar. You’ll be issued with hickory clubs, an old golf bag, balls and tees representing the early 20th-century golfing experience. The National Trust for Scotland Mansion House is open five afternoons a week from April to October, but you can access its grounds all year round.

Aside from being golf’s spiritual home, St Andrews is also a thriving community where all ages and nationalities meet and mingle. From its ancient university and historic monuments to its award-winning beaches and enviable array of independent shops and eating places, it is cosmopolitan, charming and rarely only visited once. The West Sands and East Sands beaches are award-winning attractions. Pack a picnic or enjoy one of the traditional beach kiosks and cafes. The harbour, only a short walk from East Sands, still has a fleet of small boats fishing for lobster and crab. If you feel energetic, you can try a pier walk as the students traditionally do on a Sunday.

To try the game as our forefathers enjoyed it, book a tee time at the Kingarrock Hickory Golf Course in the grounds of Hill of Tarvit Mansion House, near Cupar

Green spaces to enjoy

Days Out in Fife & St Andrews

St Andrews Botanic Garden offers 18.5 acres of green space in the heart of the town, recognised and registered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Not only is it a valuable amenity in which to walk, relax and enjoy the beauty of plants, but it also aims to provide a scientific garden for teaching and research. Entry is free.

Craigtoun Park on the outskirts of the town is another wide-open space where children can really let off steam. Catch the park’s popular miniature railway train, enjoy tractor rides, play crazy golf or take a boat out on the pond. And there’s a café to refuel after all that activity.

There are even things going on underground. If you see the brown tourist signs for a Secret Bunker, it is exactly that. Built in the early 1950s during the Cold War under a seemingly innocuous farmhouse, this was the command centre to be used in the event of a nuclear attack. At Troywood near St Andrews, the scale of the bunker is incredible, with the command centre, dormitories, a broadcasting studio and a chapel. It provides an insight into the fear of the time.

Along the coast from St Andrews, the extensive grounds of Cambo Estate at Kingsbarns offer a stunning backdrop for theatrical productions and art exhibitions as well as the beautiful ‘Snowdrops by Starlight’, which takes place in some years during the Snowdrop Festival through February and into March. The neighbouring Kingsbarns Golf Course is regarded as world-class.

Inland, four miles west of St Andrews, the historic craft of brewing has been re-introduced in Guardbridge. Long associated with brewing and distilling, the area’s history is re-told on story boards on the walls of Eden Mill for visitors who can book tours through the website. Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve, near Leuchars, and the adjoining Eden Estuary Local National Reserve are internationally-acclaimed and a haven for wildlife with waymarked paths and cycle routes. The western area of Tentsmuir reserve is one of the oldest occupied sites in the whole of Scotland.

Not only is it a valuable amenity in which to walk, relax and enjoy the beauty of plants, but it also aims to provide a scientific garden for teaching and research

Head to the coast

Days Out in Fife & St Andrews

If you head west along the A91 from St Andrews through Cupar, you’ll arrive at the Scottish Deer Centre. Here you’ll find 14 breeds of deer – including moose – Fife’s only wolf pack, otters and wildcat in grounds covering 55 acres. There is also a Raptor Bird of Prey Centre. However, if it’s the delights of the famous East Neuk of Fife and its landmarks you want to get to know, one not to miss is St Monans’ beautiful ‘Auld Kirk.’ Said to be the closest church to the shore in the country – and one of the most visited – it lies next to the Fife Coastal Path. The narrow streets are made for exploring, or head to the salt pans and the windmill once used in salt production.

If you feel peckish you can enjoy local seafood at The Mayview Hotel in the centre of the village, or the award-winning restaurants Craig Millar @ 16 West End, and the East Pier Smokehouse, but this does close during the winter months. Crail harbour is a must-see on any visit. One harbour master and his house were once immortalised at Denmark’s Legoland and it’s been the inspiration for countless artists. Boats from there land shellfish, including lobster, which can be bought fresh at the pier. This is yet another village steeped in history and aside from several small shops, the family-run Crail Pottery is somewhere to browse and buy something different to take home. There’s a viewing window into the workshop as you climb the stairs to the shop.

Pittenweem Harbour is the main landing port and market in the East Neuk for shellfish – mainly prawns, but lobster, crab and some fish, too. Stroll streets sloping to the harbour or browse around galleries and shops. The name Pittenweem means ‘place of the cave’ and St Fillan’s cave, where the saint spent most of his life as a hermit, has a fascinating history. Later used by smugglers, the cave, which has a holy well, is now a recognised place of worship. If you feel peckish after all that walking, treat yourself to one of the best-kept secrets of the area, a Pittenweem fish supper.

Further inland at Dunino is another ancient place of worship. There are many legends and theories about what went on in Dunino Den back in the mists of time. The site is fascinating but be careful if it’s been raining, the path running along the side of the churchyard to reach the ancient site can be slippery.

However, if it’s the delights of the famous East Neuk of Fife and its landmarks you want to get to know, one not to miss is St Monans’ beautiful ‘Auld Kirk.’ Said to be the closest church to the shore in the country

Wonderful castles

Days Out in Fife & St Andrews Kellie Castle

If the here and now are what captures your imagination, Fife has a wonderful array of parks and gardens to visit. Many of its palaces, castles and great houses have wonderfully-planted grounds. Kellie Castle, near Pittenweem, has acres of woodland walks, an adventure playground and organic fruit and vegetables. Dating from the 14th century, the castle is open to the public.

Ravenscraig Park, on the outskirts of Kirkcaldy, has woodland walks connecting with the Fife Coastal Path and access to Ravenscraig Castle and Dysart Harbour. Kirkcaldy is Fife’s largest town, at one point it was the world’s main producer of linoleum. Today its most famous son, the economist Adam Smith, is commemorated in the theatre which takes his name. Kirkcaldy Galleries is part of the War Memorial bequeathed to the town by linoleum manufacturer, John Nairn. Further west, Dunfermline Abbey and Palace grounds and its town parks contrast with its bustling commercial centre. Dunfermline is also home to the governing body of water skiing in Scotland, Water Ski and Wakeboard Scotland, based at Town Loch in the beautiful Townhill Country Park. Beginners are always welcome.

Nearby Aberdour and South Queensferry are Fife bases for Dun Eideann Sea Kayaking. Paddle under the Forth Bridges and take in the islands and wildlife of the River Forth from a different perspective. There are several full or half-day options, with instruction. Under those bridges there is underwater fun at Deep Sea World, Scotland’s National Aquarium. Come face-to-face with the most exotic creatures from the deep and take the opportunity to dive with sharks! There’s more underwater fun at the St Andrews Aquarium. Located on the Scores looking out to sea, there are indoor and outdoor activities here including some hilarious feeding times.

You’ll also find dry land entertainment for all the family in and around Dunfermline. For motoring enthusiasts there’s Knockhill Racing Circuit where you can try go-karting or watch one of several top motoring events on four wheels or two. For a more sedate pace, catch a vintage bus ride around the Scottish Vintage Bus Museum near Dunfermline. It houses around 190 vehicles in various stages of restoration on a 49-acre commercial site at Lathalmond and has a cafe and shop. At Muddy Boots near Cupar, there’s the opportunity to meet some furry pals or get down to some crafting Primarily for the children, there’s including pottery painting, a soft play barn, grass sledging, zorbing, pig racing, a quad train, duck racing, hand diggers and ride-on bikes. Something for everyone looking to enjoy the outdoors in this beautiful part of the world.

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Image credits: ©Hugh Shaw/Adobe Stock; ING Image;

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