Our annual family trip to the Edinburgh fringe festival is always combined with a few day trips out of the city. One of our favourite discoveries this year was the picturesque village of St.Monans in the East Neuk of Fife, and in particular the East Pier smokehouse. Forget the pricey 16 West End down the road, this stunning waterside spot serves up fresh seafood, smoked in-house, for a fraction of the cost. Having just returned from Maine, East Pier easily held its own against the quaintest lobster shacks that New England had to offer.
After lunch, we had a wander around town towards a secluded beach, the beautiful St Monans Church, and the ruins of Newark Castle. Originally a fishing village called Inverie, the town dates back to the 800s. In about 875 St Monanus or St Monan was buried at a shrine here and the village was renamed St Monans. By the 1200s it had become a significant fishing port – and the central pier, still visible to this day, was built in 1596. That’s a touch more history than New England had to offer too.
It is often said that St Monans is the church nearest the sea in the whole of Scotland, and this may well be the case, being only around 20m from the edge. The church, one of the finest remaining from the Middle Ages in Scotland, was built by King David II Bruce (1329–71), initially for a small house of Dominican friars. Wikipedia
To make a day of it, we got back into the car to tick off a few more spots, starting with nearby St.Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company that boasts great views across fields towards the Firth of Forth. Through the coffee shop, there’s a viewing gallery where you can see the cheese-making process in action to get you in the mood for some of their special aged anster.
Then it was on to Kingsbarns further round the coast, an exciting new whisky distillery set up by former golf caddie Douglas Clement and backed by the Wemyss family. The Kingsbarns whisky is sitting patiently in casks, waiting for 3 years and one day to be up (some time in 2018), but there’s still plenty to enjoy here, not least some tasters of Wemyss blends and rare bottlings, and an informative distillery tour around the smartly remodelled Georgian farmsteading (with 200 year old terracotta “doo boxes” still intact).
Last but not least, we made our way to St.Andrews for some late afternoon tea and a stroll around the historic golf course overlooking West Sands beach and the North Sea. If you want dinner in the area, head on to the Balgove Larder, a farm shop, butchery, café and steak barn that also holds monthly night markets. It was sadly closed when we were passing, but we happily made our way home, warmed by whisky, to devour our newly acquired anster cheese.