Sitting on the east coast of Scotland, the Fife coastal path (117 miles) winds past quaint fishing villages, industrial sprawl and more fairways than you can shake a golf club at. Expect pine forests, seals, cooing American tourists and a few rough patches.
Where on Earth?
Fife Coastal Path at a Glance
|Closest major cities||Perth or Dundee for the northern part; Edinburgh or Stirling for the southern section|
|Distance||117 miles (Newburgh to Kincardine)
I walked 95 miles from Newburgh to North Queensferry
|Start/end points||Newburgh to Kincardine
or vice versa
|Landscape||Sea, golf courses, cute fishing villages, built-up urban areas|
|Best||St Andrews, Crail, Pittenween, St Monans|
|Worst||Leven, Methil, Buckhaven, East Wemyss|
The total trail covers 117 miles from Newburgh to Kincardine but many people choose, as I did, to start or end at North Queensferry (the southern bridge visible on the map) for ease of getting into Edinburgh and skipping more industrialisation.
The northern parts of the Fife coastal path are the most scenic, up until Leven where the landscape turns into towns, some far less appealing than others. The southern end of the route was once home to several coal pits until Thatcher sounded the death knell for the British mining industry.
St Andrews coastal path is where you’ll find more buggy-toting golfers than anyone else and plenty of signs saying you’re likely to get walloped by a ball. They won’t welcome you, even if you are following a long-distance trail, and remember golfers always get right of play.
You’ll want to scurry past Leven all the way to West Wymss, the less salubrious areas, which had a pervading smell of skunk wafting through them. I didn’t have any trouble, in fact all the locals I passed smiled and said hi, or maybe it was ‘high’.
You’ll mainly meet dog walkers a few miles from the towns yet hardly anyone else in the less urbanised areas. I have to say everyone I came across on the route was welcoming and happy to chat.
There are buses that run not far from the trail so you can always skip areas or just walk for a couple of days rather than doing the whole route. I’d recommend St Andrews to Leven if you’re short on time or prefer less built-up spots.
Accommodation on the Fife Coastal Path
Wild Camping on the Fife Coastal Path
I hopped off the train at Perth and felt an igloo would be more appropriate than a three-season tent. I’d made plans to go camping in October along the Fife coastal path just as the Met office announced the tail-end of a hurricane would hit. My timing was impeccable. Thankfully the weather held out bar day one and I even finished with a suntan. (Or was it windburn?)
So, if like me, you like to emulate a tortoise by carrying a house on your back then you’ll be pleased to know you can wild camp on the Fife coastal path, as in all of Scotland. Yet finding spots isn’t always easy. There are a plethora of golf courses, and although they might look tempting to pitch your tent on, you’ll likely be clubbed by well-heeled golfers or prosecuted by the diamond-sweatered owners. There are urban areas to take into account, too, so check your OS map for places that look wild campable.
I camped each night (five in total) with several short days so as to find somewhere to pitch before I hit a town. Again, the northern part was easier, but you won’t find anywhere from Leuchars until just before Crail due to golf courses.
Check your OS map for any disused pits and take notice of any warning signs.
**Leave zero trace of your camp and never destroy the environment.**
I take no responsibility for anything that may happen if you choose to wild camp. The decision is your own.
Campsites on the Fife Coastal Path
There are several holiday parks along the path, listed below, which cater more for car-campers and charge between £20-25 per night per tent.
Beds on the Fife Coastal path
If you’re not up to lugging your tent and pitching it (I hear you), there are B&Bs in the main towns. You might want to book ahead though, to make sure you’re not sleeping under a binbag on the beach should they be full.
Water Refills on the Fife Coastal Path
I’ve made a promise that I will NOT buy plastic bottles of water when hiking (or any other time), so I was always on the lookout for potable water on the Fife coastal path. Drinking water from natural sources, however, isn’t plentiful on this route so I filled up at cafes, at a campsite I passed through, in sinks at a golf course (I’m sure they only have posh water), and from a stream. Ideally you’ll want three litres of water, I had only two and had to ration it.
You might find potable water at:
*a stream in the woods one-two miles west of Balmerino
*a stream about one-two miles south of St Andrews
*just before Kinkell Ness beach
*an outside tap at Silversands beach near the shower block
(use purification tablets if you’re unsure)
Alternatively, 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, though in theory I’m not sure everywhere will oblige. You’ll probably struggle to fill up at sinks in public loos due to the short depth of the sinks.
Facilities on the Fife Coastal Path
There are plenty of public loos en route, including at Newport-on-Tay, Tayport, Tentsmuir Sands, St Andrews, Pittenweem, St Monans, Lower Largo, Leven, Kirkcaldy, Kinghorn, Burntisland, Aberdour and North Queensferry.
Along the Fife coastal path, you’ll find numerous cafes, my faves being the plant-based Combini Cafe at St Andrews (card only, no cash with a limited food menu) which has amazing latte teas (and I’m not even a tea drinker) and the best fill-you-up-all-day oat milk yoghurt/fruit/nut combo; Coast at Anstruther for fab desserts or a sweet breakfast; no-frills, cheap but filling Scottish breakfasts in Leven; Morrisons at Kirkcaldy and heaps of others you come across.
You can buy food supplies each day in all towns but no gas supplies for little camping stoves along the actual route.
Best of all was a sign for showers at Silversands Bay, Aberdour, but unfortunately when I arrived they weren’t in order. So I rocked up to Edinburgh in desperate need of a wash!
The route is well marked with signs and as long as you keep the sea on the same side you can’t go massively wrong! About 2.5 miles west of Balmerino (NO 3427 2386) the on-ground signs take you into the forest up to Balmerino which is much nicer than the route on the Ordnance Survey maps.
Fife Coastal Path Tidal Areas
There are a few high tide signs on the Fife coastal path. I arrived at the one at Kinkell Ness at high tide (doh!) and had no problem – I just waded through calf high water after clambering down a rock. You’d need to decide if you were able to do it. The other I arrived at low tide (rocks two miles northwest of Fife Ness) and so can’t comment if it’d be walkable or not in high tide. The other places where high tide is an issue have alternative high tide routes, just follow the signposts.
For high tide times, just Google St Andrews high tide times as that’s your closest biggest town for the northern section.
Fife Coastal Path Recommended for:
- First-timers on a long-distance hiking route
- People who want a cooked breakfast without actually cooking it (plenty of cafes along the route)
- If you want a flat walk
- If you fancy counting how many golf shops can actually coexist in a row in St Andrews
- If you like wee fishing villages
- If you want to avoid hiking/camping in the mountians
You can find the official Fife coastal path guide here.
Jane Batchelor spent a year hiking through Britain mainly wild camping as she went, although the Fife coastal path was a separate journey walked in October 2019.