When the trail was created in 2002 (then called East Fife Coastal Path) it originally ran for 130kms (80 miles) from the Forth Railway Bridge in North Queensferry to the Tay Bridge at Newport on Tay. This section is often still referred to as the Bridge to Bridge Hike. Since then two extensions were added at either end of the trail, so that the full official trail now runs for 187km (116m) from Kincardine to Newburgh.
Since the original ‘Bridge to Bridge’ route contains all of the best features that the trail has to offer, our Fife Coastal Path tours follow this section and they do so in a south-north direction from North Queensferry to Newport-on-Tay.
Starting in North Queensferry, right beneath the impressive Forth Bridge – a cantilevered railway bridge – the trail leads out of the town and enters the Carlingnose Point Wildlife reserve. Look out for seals and terns (seabirds) as the path continues along the coast and keep an eye out for Inchcolm island, often referred to as the ‘Iona of the East’. Across the Firth, the city of Edinburgh and the distinctive profiles of Edinburgh castle and Arthur’s seat are prominent features.
Sandy beaches lead the trail out of Burntisland and past Pettycur, offering much geological interest and interesting coastal grasslands. Castles, caves and historic buildings dot the landscape as the trail passes through the historic and picturesque little towns of Kinghorn and Dysart and onwards to Buckhaven and Leven. The trail continues along long, sandy beaches and the Lundin golf course. Keep an eye out for a memorial to Alexander Selkirk who was the inspiration for Robinson Crusoe.
Fine views and WWII relics accompany the trail, which can feel quite remote as it leads on past the picturesque Shell Beach and Kincraig Head to the pretty town of Elie via some clifftop paths. A little further along the coast, at St. Monans, you pass the 14th century church, with its unusual shape, which at only 20m from the cliff edge, is the closest church to the sea in all of Scotland. Keep also a lookout for the sole surviving windmill in Fife.
The trail is a little more rugged now but full of geological, historical and wildlife interest. Passing the attractive fishing village of Pittenweem, look for St Fillan’s Cave before you continue towards the town of Anstruther. From here, you can take a boat to the Isle of May and it’s nature reserve and large seal colony. As you continue, you pass impressive sandstone caves, known as the Caiplie Caves, which contain a number of inscribed crosses of varying size and two Pictish symbols on their walls. The trail continues along the shore and past another golf course, towards the picturesque little harbour of Crail.
The next stretch of the trail passes through the species-rich, rare grasslands and saltmarshes of the Kilminning Wildlife reserve and then continues around the corner of the East Neuk, taking a more northerly direction towards Kingsbarn and St Andrews. From St Andrews, a transfer will take you to Leuchars before rejoining the coast and heading through the beautiful Tentsmuir Nature Reserve to Tayport and Newport-on-Tay. Return from there by bus to St Andrews.
The Fife Coastal Path is managed and maintained by Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, a registered environmental charity.
The walking on the Fife Coastal Path is relatively straight forward, covering mostly low lying terrain, along grassy coastal tracks and paths, passing over low clifftop and rocky beaches, woodland, bridleways, beach and dune walking and some regular asphalt walking through towns and villages. There are occasional slightly rough, remote sections along rocky beaches and clifftops, especially the part of the trail between Crail and St Andrews.
Aggregate ascent over the entire route from North Queensferry to Newport-on-Tay is only approximately 1,300m (4,300 ft). As you are following the coast with its continuous change from cliffs to beaches, some up and down should be expected. But there are almost no sustained or steep climbs and nowhere does the trail climb above 50m (160 ft) on this route.