Fife Coastal Path Jaunt

by Ali Wyllie
Run the Sights
Edinburgh

Just chilling at Break Water House

Just chilling at Break Water House

Cath and I took to the Fife Coastal Path for a 12-mile run, and to quench my desire to visit some well-cherished family memories, naturally my super fit, Hungarian Vizsla; Princess Jasper also joined us. 

Cath and Jas, patiently waiting on me stretching out the calves and achilles 

Cath and Jas, patiently waiting on me stretching out the calves and achilles 

Before I tell you about this amazing running route, let me explain why Elie (the start of our run),  is so incredibly special and personal to me. 

My Granny was always immaculately presented and well spoken.  She was a stern but loveable lady.  She had 6 children and 15 grandchildren and having lost her husband at an early age she raised her family as a single mum in a generation that did not favour a strong female.  She was the family spine and matriarch.  She is the inspiration behind a string of strong ladies following in her footsteps. 
 

Break Water House

Break Water House

Granny ruled at Breakwater House in Elie, this was the family hub, the place all the cousins would congregate, willing away the hours playing on the beach whilst the adults did boring adult things.  In Elie, I was a feral child with sea salt and sand perpetually in my hair and at the bottom of my bed. 

The view from Break Water House

The view from Break Water House

I found running a couple of years before Granny passed away.  My last memory of this wonderful lady is one I cherish and hold very dear.  I was about 16 years old and by this point,  Granny was in a home, at Braids Nursing Home in Edinburgh.  Seeing her confined to a small room was like seeing a magnificent eagle caged.  Here was a lady who soared the skies, never missing a beat.  But her wings had been clipped.  Although by this point, she was tired, she wasn’t fighting and she was perfectly content on her perch, as if resting a while before taking to the skies again. 

This Break Water used to be massive when I was a child!

This Break Water used to be massive when I was a child!

 I had raced in a cross-country race in the borders, my first race out with the school environment.  I was buzzing.  I bounded into Granny’s room and yapped on and on about my race.  She was proud as punch and pulled out the sherry.  I had never had a drink with my Granny before and here I was sipping on a sherry and talking about running. 

A moments reflection outside Break Water House, observing my childhood playground

A moments reflection outside Break Water House, observing my childhood playground

My Granny wasn’t a runner, but she listened and was enthused by my energy.  During this conversation she had a glint in her eye and a softness I hadn’t seen very often.

 She didn’t last long after this and I am still grateful for this precious moment with her;  to share a running story with her and feel her warmth and pride.  I’m not convinced she understood why anyone wanted to run for fun, but she was chuffed to bits for me and I can still feel her support today. 

Princess Jasper leading the way along the Fife Coastal Path 

Princess Jasper leading the way along the Fife Coastal Path 

A little over an hour from Edinburgh, Elie rests on the Fife coastline.  You will find the best car park for the FCP on the east side of the village, behind the harbour road and conveniently close to the amazing Ship Inn.  From here the FCP  is well marked. 

Lady's Tower

Lady's Tower

The first point of interest along the way is Lady’s Tower, built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther (renowned for her physical beauty and flirtatious character), to use as a changing room prior to her morning skinny dips.  Tragically Lady Anstruther met her death by drowning in the waters below the tower.   I remember many a walk to gaze out to sea with Granny by my side at this very point,  as she told me tales of Lady Anstruther.

The view I used to share with Granny 

The view I used to share with Granny 

The route then skims past the ruins of Newark Castle, an ancient 13th century building, believed to have been the residence of King Alexander III during part of his childhood. 

The running trio, with Newark Castle in the background

The running trio, with Newark Castle in the background

With twisting and undulating, single tracked, sandy terrain this section of the route is laugh out loud fun! It is heaven for trail running legs.

Two very happy girlies

Two very happy girlies

The view towards St Monans is breath-taking.   Like most of the small villages along the coast, St Monans is an old fishing village.  One of the most eye-catching features is an old windmill situated on the coast as the FCP leaves the village.  This windmill was historically used to power the salt-panning industry. 

Running brings out my inner child

Running brings out my inner child

Then out of St Monans and on to Pittenweem, with a population of over 1,700 and a thriving fishing industry, the harbour in Pittenweem can be a hive of activity.  The FCP brings you into the village past rows of stunning white stone cottages with red roofs and through narrow alleyways.  These surroundings and the smell of the sea, leaves you feeling you could almost be in a hot European coastal village.

Looking towards Pittenweem 

Looking towards Pittenweem 

Dotted along the trail at this point are various bikes, decorated beautifully and sometimes amusingly for the entertainment of the FCP users.

The fun, decorated bikes of Pittenweem 

The fun, decorated bikes of Pittenweem 

Finally, for this run, we arrived at Anstruther where we were due to turn around and retrace our steps, taking in all the same sights but from a different perspective.  Anstruther is the largest of the coastal communities along East Neuk.  Whilst it still has a bustling harbour; tourism is massive here. 

I love all the different shapes and sizes of the boats 

I love all the different shapes and sizes of the boats 

We ran past numerous cafes, with patrons spilling out onto the street.  Perhaps Anstruther’s most famous acclaim is the Anstruther Fish Bar, which professes to be Britain’s best fish shop (caveated by the word “probably”, after this claim).

Our return journey was just as beautiful, seeing the sights from a different angle 

Our return journey was just as beautiful, seeing the sights from a different angle 

Upon returning to the car and stretching off,  I had to drag Cath over to Granny’s old house.  Perched on the breakwater, taking pride of place.  Oh the memories!  I was initially taken aback to see a mobile café and seating area taking up a large part of the breakwater, Elie Beach café, oh how Granny would turn in her grave at the sight of this.  But times change and with the onslaught of tourists and the mad coffee crazy that seems to have swept the UK over the past decade, there is a real demand for this service.

Break Water House with the Elie Beach Cafe in the foreground 

Break Water House with the Elie Beach Cafe in the foreground 

It turned out the owners of the Café also live in and own Break Water House, they very kindly offered me a nosy next time I am in Elie.  As kind as this offer is, I feel that would be too much, I can look at the same old familiar shell from the outside.  But the heart of this house has changed several times over, I would rather remember it with the sounds of my family and the smell of my Granny. 

Look very closely at the door behind these images. I am to the left of Granny with my twin sister, Helen to her right.  TWENTY years later I stand just a few meters in front of this very spot with my special ginger ninja.  

Look very closely at the door behind these images. I am to the left of Granny with my twin sister, Helen to her right.  TWENTY years later I stand just a few meters in front of this very spot with my special ginger ninja.  

To me, this running route has everything.  Beautiful sights, interesting history, amazing running terrain, fresh sea air and on a personal level - heart-pounding nostalgia.  Running on routes like this is exactly why I run.  Go on - seize the day and experience as many running adventures as you can, see the world on the run, live life with adrenaline and endorphins pumping through your body.  No running adventure is ever a waste of time.    

One day I will do the full Fife Coastal Path over a weekend or even in one full stint – running through the night.  Anyone care to join me?

Happy runners!  

Happy runners!  

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