Tag on time from your Edinburgh city break to tick off the wild wonders tucked between the Firth of Tay and Forth.
Not only a Scottish region but also a regal kingdom that housed monarchs for some 500 years, Fife is rich in history and beauty. From picturesque villages to far-reaching beaches, it’s popular with lovers of the great outdoors and adrenaline-seekers. With links to 40-plus fairways and one of the country’s top universities in situ at St Andrews, activities and attractions in this lowland corner of Scotland score highly.
Tour the fishing villages of the East Neuk
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Follow the rugged Fife Coastal Path north (on foot, by car or via bicycle), and you’ll discover a cluster of unspoilt villages. Stop off in Pittenweem, Crail, Elie, Earlsferry and St Monans – don’t miss Anstruther (known locally as Ainster) and its famed fish and chip bar. Whitewashed cottages reflect the blue and green hues of the nearby North Sea. The area is reminiscent of a bygone era, with charming harbours and still-active fishing vessels that trawl the waters for boat-fresh seafood.
Go underground into Scotland’s Secret Bunker
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Buried 100ft (30m) underground, and accessed via an unassuming farmhouse, lies what was once a top-secret nuclear command centre. Built in 1953 during the Cold War, the attraction also contains dormitories, a CND centre, two cinemas, a retro café and a broadcasting room equipped with what was then cutting-edge mid-century technology. It’s encased in 15ft (4.5m) of reinforced concrete and found on the B940 road, close to the village of Troywood.
See the starry sights at Culross Palace
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The ochre-coloured palace and organic garden are found on the south coast of Fife, in a once-bustling port town. It’s owned by the National Trust and boasts original painted woodwork along with beautifully restored 17th- and 18th-century interiors. You may recognise Culross from the hit US TV series Outlander – in fact, its cobbled streets and red rooftops have provided the backdrop for many films and on-screen dramas.
Drive a supercar at Knockhill Racing Circuit
Knockhill has been Scotland’s National Motorsport Centre for four decades, hosting the UK’s top televised motorsport car and bike events. Get in on the action with the circuit’s driving experiences, which cover Formula 1 vehicles, rally cars, 4x4s, go-karts and supercars, enabling you to get behind the wheel of a Ferrari or Aston Martin. There are also plenty of full-throttle events for spectators looking to slip into cruise control.
Go doe-eyed for the Scottish Deer Centre
Take a guided tour or trailer ride across this park to get up close with a large number of species, including reptiles. Learn about the 14 breeds of deer – including reindeer – that live in the sanctuary. Then, watch feeding sessions and birds-of-prey demonstrations, and even try go-karting. There’s an on-site café, a pretty picnic area and a courtyard shopping area, too.
Eat by the beach at the Ship Inn
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The quaint (and increasingly upmarket) seaside town of Elie is home to one of the area’s finest old maritime pubs. On a cold night, you can hunker down beside a roaring fire and play traditional board games while tucking into some top culinary fare. When the sun’s out, you should clamour to the huge beachside beer garden. There’s often a good-natured game of cricket happening on the sand, as well as frequent summer barbecues and wine tastings.
Give praise at St Andrews Cathedral
There are only a handful of cathedrals in Scotland, and this is one of the most fascinating. The site has been a centre of worship since the 7th century, with the building erected in 1158 as the hub of the medieval catholic church. The cathedral is now classified as a ruin but is nonetheless breathtaking in stature, clearly visible even from the sea. It houses the remains of the titular St Andrew and has an adjoining museum and visitor centre that detail its historic significance.
Taste whisky (and gin) at Kingsbarns Distillery
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A ticket for this first-class distillery includes time in its exhibition space, a tour by an expert guide, and a tasting of both Kingsbarns’ New Make spirit and its award-winning single malt, Dream to Dram. If whisky isn’t your tipple, opt for the Darnley’s Gin Tour, also held on-site. The family-owned distillery is housed in a beautiful early 19th-century farm steading. Be sure to check out the sweet old-world doocot building (Scottish for dovecot), with its restored Gothic features that render it as a mini fortified tower.
Swim with the sharks at Deep Sea World
Found at the gateway to Fife, just across the bridge from Scotland’s capital, Deep Sea World is a daring day out for all ages. If you’ve always fancied a sand-tiger shark encounter, this venue provides an opportunity of a lifetime. It’s available to those aged eight and over, with or without dive experience, and can be viewed from the other side of the glass by loved ones. Afterwards, spend time wandering through the 367ft (112m), 4.5m-litre (990,000g) underwater tunnel, ticking off varied marine life.