The Fife Coastal Path is the perfect hiking trail if you want to discover the beauty of Scotland’s coastline. This long-distance hiking trail is ideal for beginners. It meanders between beaches and fishing villages offering a wide variety of walking options.
The starting point of the trail, which is not far from Edinburgh, is easy to get to. It also offers the opportunity to supplement your hiking holiday with a visit to the metropolis. Read everything you need to know about this lovely hiking trail here.
The Fife Coastal Path: Fact File
Total length: The original Bridge to Bridge trail is 130kms (80 miles) from the Forth Railway Bridge in North Queensferry to the Tay Bridge at Newport on Tay. Two extensions have since been added either side of that path so the total length is now 187km (116m) from Kincardine to Newburgh.
Difficulty level: Easy to moderate (more difficult after Newport on Tay)
Duration: 7 to 10 days for the Bridge to Bridge section (add at least two extra days for the full route)
Start and finish: North Queensferry to Newport on Tay (Classic Route); Kincardine to Newburgh (Full Route)
Geographical location: In the south-east of Scotland. The Fife Coastal Path is only a short train ride from Edinburgh and is easily accessible by public transport.
Total ascent: North Queensferry to Newport-on-Tay has only approximately 1,300m (4,300 ft) of ascent
Highest point: Nowhere between North Queensferry to Newport-on-Tay does the trail climb above 50m (160 ft)
What is special about the Fife Coastal Path?
The Fife Coastal Path is one of Scotland’s finest coastal hiking trails. It is characterized by its pretty seaside villages, sandy beaches, famous bridges, interesting history, and charming old harbors and buildings. It is also a perfect location for connecting with wildlife, particularly marine species such as seals, dolphins and birds.
Another special feature is that you are walking through the “home of golf” with many famous golf courses in the area, most noticeably St. Andrews. This town is also where British royalty are educated in it’s famous university, the oldest in Scotland and the third oldest in the UK. There are also many famous old buildings to explore including the ruins of it’s old cathedral.
The mix of splendid coastal walking past beaches and fishing villages with lovely woodland trails makes it a special experience to hike and one which all levels of walker can enjoy.
Who can hike the Fife Coastal Path?
One could rightly call the Fife Coastal Path a perfect hike for all levels. Compared to some other long-distance hiking trails in Great Britain, it is relatively short, well signposted and never far from accommodation and places to eat.
The walking on the 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.
Tips for planning your hike on the Fife Coastal Path
When is the best time to travel?
The normal hiking season for the Fife Coastal Path is from the start of March until the last week in October. Between April and September normally gives the best chance for good weather. In the summer the days are longer and warmer but the path is much busier.
April/May is normally a good time to go and although the North Sea in spring may not be the warmest for a post-hike dip, Fife is the sunniest place in Scotland, with lower annual rainfall than Rome. At this time of year, the rocky Fife shoreline also has a fringe of wild flowers and abundant wildlife.
Which way should I walk on the Fife Coastal Path?
Although you can walk the Fife Coastal Path either way, it is recommended to start from Kincardine-on-Forth or North Queensferry, to put the prevailing wind at your back for the greater part of this anti-clockwise circuit around the Fife peninsula and travel from south to north.
How can I get there?
Travel to Fife is very straight forward. The easiest option is to fly to Edinburgh Airport and you can then take bus or train connections to arrive in North Queensferry within an hour. There are also two airports in Glasgow, Prestwich and International, which are just an hour from Edinburgh. There are very regular public transport connections available from both to Edinburgh. Further information and links can be found on our main Travel Info tab.
What types of accommodation are there on the Fife Coastal Path?
There is no shortage of accommodation for various travel budgets along the trail. From campsites to youth hostels, B&Bs and hotels, you will find a wide range of accommodation in the pretty towns along the way. B&Bs are particularly popular with hikers because they offer an excellent mix of comfort, contact with locals and good value for money. After a long hike, possibly with mixed weather, there is nothing better than the prospect of a hot shower and a comfortable bed.
How can I get food on my hike?
There are shops as well as cozy pubs and restaurants near the trail. Breakfast is traditionally included in the price of B&Bs and is usually quite generous. A cozy after-work beer in the pub around the corner is often one of the highlights of a hike in Great Britain or Ireland and there is usually food too. Some B&Bs also offer packed lunches to take away should you worry about lunch the next day. Alternatively, you can pick up what you require at a local shop.
What equipment should I pack?
Rainwear and sun protection are also a must in hiking luggage. If you pack a daypack, it is always worth taking energy bars and snacks as well as clothes changes (especially socks) with you. There are not many water stations along the path but you can ask for water refills at any cafe, restaurant or pub en route. Even if you’re not a patron, it’s law that they cannot refuse you. A lightweight reusable bottle is therefore certainly an advantage.
Cell phone reception is generally good over most of the trail. But remember to take the appropriate adapter with you, if travelling from abroad, so that you can charge your mobile phone on the go. Check out our Essential Hiking Equipment post for more information.
What are the sights and highlights on the Fife Coastal Path?
Aside from sweeping views and a landscape that could adorn any postcard, there are still some special historical, geological and culinary highlights waiting for you on this special east Scotland long-distance hiking trail.
The Bridges of North Queensferry
North Queensferry is famous for it’s bridges. Most famously is the Forth Bridge, the famous red cantilever railway bridge across the Firth of Forth. However, the Queensferry Crossing is also a splendid sight in it’s own right and road access across the Firth of Forth.
You are truly spoiled for beautiful harbours and beaches along the Fife Coastal Path with Crail, Elie, Aberdour and Burntisland to name a few. Kinghorn Harbour and beach is one of the best sitting in the shadow of cliffs, which have several footpaths offering spectacular views of the beach and out across the Firth of Forth towards Edinburgh & The Lothians.
St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle is a ruin located just outside of St Andrews. The castle sits on a rocky promontory overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands and the adjoining North Sea. The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times dating back to the Wars of Scottish Independence but has been in ruin since the Reformation in Scotland in the 1600s.
St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral was built in 1158 and became the centre of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. However, It fell into disuse and ruin after Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th-century Scottish Reformation. It’s remains are still impressive and give a fascinating insight into it’s previous grander.
Self-guided walks on the Fife Coastal Path
If you are tempted to experience the idyll coast of Fife yourself read more about Hillwalk Tours’ self-guided hikes on the Fife Coastal Path. Different route options are available to suit every fitness level and cozy B&Bs and luggage transport are all part of the overall package. As far as planning is concerned, you are in good hands all round: all you have to do is enjoy your hike on this spectacular trail!