Crail is a sleepy little harbourside town in East Neuk, Fife. It is believed to have been settled sometime in the Pictish era or even earlier. Back in the 12th Century it became a Royal Burgh (an autonomous town granted a royal charter). At this time, Robert the Bruce gave the village permission to hold markets on Sundays, causing an uproar amongst religious folk. But the markets became hugely popular, and were some of the largest in all of Europe.
Many of the buildings in Crail date from the 17th-19th Centuries, making it a picture-perfect stop if you’re planning to rent a car to drive through Scotland.
We arrived on a blustery Sunday morning, and the streets were nearly completely devoid of people. I was most curious about hiking a portion of the Fife Coastal Path, a pathway that runs 183 km, from Newburgh in the North to Kincardine in the South. We weren’t about to attempt the entire 6-day route, but we wanted to at least follow a little section of it, and Crail was as good a place to start hiking the trail as any.
The weather wasn’t the most favourable, but we popped into the local Co-operative Food grocery store to buy some snacks and drinks before going for our walk. I wasn’t sure how far we were actually planning to go, since it was quite gusty and walking along the coast doesn’t afford much protection from the elements. But we decided to play things by ear and see how it went.
The path, while fairly well-worn and easy to follow, does pass through (and sometimes, over) a few obstacles. For example, these kissing gates. Kissing gates are designed to allow people through, but not livestock. Which gives you some idea of what kind of terrain you’ll be treading through. Watch your step!
There are some really cool things to explore, including ruins of old homesteads.
The remaining rubble is really quite striking against the lush green grasses surrounding them.
Once we reached Caiplie Caves, we decided to stop for lunch. The sun was finally starting to peek out and warm the air, so we sat down on the rocks and pulled out our grocery store snacks. Onion ring flavoured chips, trail mix, baguettes with cheese and a chocolate bar for dessert:
Caiplie Caves are quite interesting. There used to be a hermit who built himself a door in one of the openings and made it his home sometime in the pre-World War II era.
The door is no longer there, but the caves are home to all sorts of birds, bats and other wee beasties. And is it me, or do you see a face in the rocks?
Caiplie Caves are on the list of “Scotland’s Coastal Heritage at Risk“. So treat them respectfully!
So, moment of truth. I was kind of hoping to make it to Anstruther, home of the St. Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company. (I LOVE cheese!) But we didn’t want to spend the entire day hiking. Plus, being a Sunday, the chances of getting a tour of the cheese factory was probably pretty low. We walked far enough to see Anstruther in the distance before deciding to turn around and head back to Crail.
The walk between Crail and Anstruther is about 6.4 km, so I’d say we did pretty good for a late morning/early afternoon hike! And of course, it just figured that the clouds lifted and skies brightened on our walk back.
Our walk took us about 2.5-3 hours in total. But we were going at a leisurely pace and stopped for lunch in between. The trail even passes through St. Andrews, a picture-perfect town with an incredible history. So it’s worth spending a bit of time exploring it if you can. Even if there are a few obstacles along the way to climb over!
Crail itself is a pretty little town, but on a Sunday there wasn’t a lot open to explore. Luckily, the Crail Trail never closes. So you can hike the trail and see what you can discover along the way on any day of the week!