A Sandcastle by the Sea: Hunkering Down in Fife’s East Neuk

by Keith Savage · 5 comments

Sandcastle Cottage, Crail, Kingdom of Fife, Scotland

The Kingdom of Fife is an unusual place. This small peninsula juts out of eastern Scotland between the Firth of Forth and the Firth of Tay and defies classification with Scotland’s usual terms. In feel it is neither highland nor lowland, island nor central belt, but a curious mix of them all.

Fife is most known for St. Andrews, that university town and golfers’ Mecca on the east coast, but many visitors would struggle to characterize the rest of the “kingdom.” The wide interior is largely farm fields and run-of-the-mill market towns, while much of the south coast, from Kincardine to Kirkcaldy, is industrial wasteland – maybe the only area in the entire country I purposefully avoid. But there’s another section of the south coast that warrants visitation: The East Neuk.

“Neuk” means corner, or nook, and it is aptly used in this context for it refers to a small span of atmospheric fishing villages between (and including) Elie and Crail. Here you will find a peaceful quietude amid salty sea breezes and the scents of seaweed-cloaked crab pots roasting in the sun. The East Neuk is a special place not far from Edinburgh and extremely close to St. Andrews, and I made it a base during my trip last year.

As usual, finding the right accommodation was the first order of business. After communicating with a travel acquaintance, I settled on the Sandcastle Cottage in the heart of Crail.

Crail is the easternmost East Neuk village, really just a short drive south of St. Andrews, and it’s one of my favorites. The small harbor is an enjoyable walk and if you’re lucky the little shack there will be serving fresh lobster. Sandcastle Cottage stands at the end of quiet Nethergate, wedged cheek-by-jowl with other brick-built residences. I had the entire building to myself for the three nights I spent in Crail, and, as you can see, it’s a cute, stout little place.

Sandcastle Cottage is much bigger on the inside than it appears from the street. The front door opens onto a long, narrow hall with the living room and dining room/kitchen opening to either side. The hall continues past a stairwell to the second floor and a bathroom before leading out onto the back patio. I was blown away by just how big it is, and my first impression was quite positive seeing it very clean with attractive wood furniture. Skylights brighten the cottage considerable even during the rainy days.

I didn’t spend much time in the living room, solo as I was, but I could imagine it being a fine place to spend time with a group (though the dining table is perfect for that, too). You can’t see it in the picture, but there’s a very small fireplace on the wall opposite the couch. A minor point: The proportions of the furniture and spartan decorations made the room feel a little off. This room is the home of the router and modem for the house. I was very pleased by the speed of the wifi – among the best and most reliable of anywhere I’ve stayed!

The narrow staircase curled up to the second floor past attractive exposed stonework. Upstairs I found a master bedroom with en-suite bathroom and a second bedroom with three single beds. The same pleasant furniture and style can be found up here, and I realized by the end of my stay that Sandcastle Cottage had a calming effect. I had good nights’ sleep on the bed, and the bathroom was perfectly functional if a little cramped.

I was pleased to find a private patio and backyard behind Sandcastle Cottage. It’s not the kind of thing I expect in town. The rain kept me from enjoying it too much, but it would be a great place to spend a sunny evening with a dram or a bottle of wine.

Crail is a lovely village in Fife’s East Neuk and the Sandcastle Cottage makes for a fantastic base. It’s comfortable and outfitted with all the amenities a couple or family could desire, and its location makes exploring the best of Fife a breeze.

Disclosure: I received a discounted rate for my stay at Sandcastle Cottage. All thoughts and opinions expressed, as always, are my own.

maryanne sullivanNo Gravatar November 2, 2015 at 3:18 PM

Hello Keith! I luckily stumbled across your website while trying to plan a trip to Scotland. We live in Boston and would like to come to Scotland for approx. 7 days. My husband is a big golf fan and he would love to visit St Andrews and I know we want to be in Edinburgh also. Other than that, we have no clue as to where to go. We are both in good shape and loved Ireland, so I know we will love Scotland too. Where to start, that is the question? Thanks so much!!

Maryanne Sullivan
(have not picked dates yet, and we are pretty open)

Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2015 at 3:31 PM

Hi Maryanne,

You’ve come to the right place! I can certainly help. To start, have a look at my trip-planning services. Find the one that meets your needs and I’ll be happy to help you plan a dream trip.

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