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Saturday, May 17, 2014

THE SCOTTISH CINQUE TERRE - FIVE LANDS OR FIFE LANDS?



Fife is one of the most beautiful areas in East Scotland along the sea and it is little more than an hour driving from Edinburgh.  It is a perfect destination for a weekend or for a longer break.

The five lands of Scotland expect the traveler linked one to another one by paths and cliffs. The air is cold, but when finally the sun is shining and the sky is clear the colours in Fife are inspiring.

Have you ever visited the Italian Cinque Terre? 

I think the similarities between the five villages of Fife and Cinque Terre in Italy are enormous (read the dedicated post about The Cinque Terre):

In Scotland and Italy you have five wonderful fishermen villages.
One connected to the other by a beautiful coastal path, offering breathtaking views along the way and surrounded by wonderful landscapes.

Both Fife and Cinque Terre offer inspiration to artists and travellers from centuries: certainly two places to visit before to die.

Your best place to make base to visit Fife will be Crail, with its houses that run downhill to the squared breakwater at the bottom of this picturesque fishermen's village. 

The heart of Crail is certainly its harbour, but Crail hides also a beautiful main street, tree lined and quiet, along which to walk. 

And if you walk up to the top of the village you will enjoy a fantastic panorama, above the red roofs of Crail you can enjoy the sun rising behind the little Isle of May in front of Crail's Harbour.

If you love birdwatching or you just have time for a extra trip, the Isle of May, today a bird sanctuary, makes for a wonderful day trip.




The area of Fife where these beautiful Scottish five villages are located is called East Neuk.

Neuk is the Scots word for nook or corner, and the East Neuk is generally accepted to comprise the fishing villages of the most northerly part of the Firth of Forth: Crail, Anstruther (and Cellardyke), Pittenweem, St Monans, Elie.

Theoretically you can walk all the way from Crail to Elie, the two furthest villages in one day, but if you don't want to walk so much here is the best part of the walk I absolutely recommend you doing.

Start your walk from the old harbor of Cellardyke, beaten by a timid sun, the village is to the immediate east of Anstruther (the two effectively being conjoined). 

Cellardyke is just a line of old and beautiful cottages surrounded by a large harbour once busy with fishermen boats.

Following the main street lined by cottages you arrive to Anstruther in less then fifteen minutes. 

Here there is a beautiful beach to enjoy, surrounded by stone cottages and overlooked by the bell tower of the church.

At Anstruther the trail continues along the beach and then on the hills overlooking the sea towards Pittenweem. 

Before to get to the old mill and then the wide bay just outside Pittenweem, near the fish market, walk on the breakwater and enjoy the view of the most beautiful and ancient cottages. 

Pittenweem is the home of many skilled artists. Small houses have been turned into beautiful and small art galleries with lot of character. 

Many artists meet in Pittenweem in the summer for a great art festival, and  when the festival ends many leave, but a few remain here for the following years and for the rest of their lives. 

If you continue walking along the coastal path towards the ancient fishermen's village of St Monans, you will notice more houses turned in small art galleries. 



After the rocky beach, it is the old mill, well preserved, almost intact , reminiscent of bygone days. In front stands a long row of white fishermen cottages and this is St. Monans. 

Here the path opens into the harbor's horseshoe. The cottages are small and colorful, on narrow lanes battered by the strong wind.

Then just outside the village, along the sea, there is St Monans' church, alone in a large green in front of the sea. 

St moinans Church is surrounded by a bed of men and women who rest forever listening to the sound of the waves. The church inside is bare, but a nice cup of hot coffee after Sunday mass warms the heart more than many frescoes. And along with the cup so many smiles , so many words , so much interest for the traveler who has left his country to visit the church of St Monans and this seems incredible to many.

Shortly after St Monans' Church are the ruins of an ancient castle overlooking the sea. TIf you are sufficiently tired of you walk you can return to Pittenweem among the many art galleries. 

In Pittenweem the art galleries are homes, in some cases, livingrooms, kitchens , bedrooms and even toilets. Here the artist presents his art at his home. And  this art is sincere, done with the heart.  Not everything is for sale , because from some creations the artist can no longer separate , they are now his daughters. 






If you have another beautiful sunny day to spend in Fife, .this time you should start your walk from Pittenweem. 

The path to St Monans is so beautiful and scenic that you would not mind doing it again but today you can keep going and set off to Elie. 

Back in front of the church and then to the ruins of the castle yesterday , along with the dark and the rain, you will keep going along the coast and cross a long sandy beach, but then the Lady 's Tower in the distance marks that Elie is near. 

Elie is amazing if you're lucky enough to see it at low tide . The beach under the sun in the winter assumes a beautiful amber color and the light is reflected on the stone wall that prevents the sea to reach the beautiful white cottages . 

Elie in reality is made of two villages: Elie and Earlsferry. 

Earlsferry, the older of the two villages, was first settled in time immemorial. It is said that MacDuff, the Earl of Fife, crossed the Forth here in 1054 while fleeing from King Macbeth.

Today Elie is a very charming village with beautiful cottages and a wonderful beach. At low tide in a sunny day the panorama is absolutely fantastic (see the photo at the top of this post).

The sand has a special red colour and the beautiful white cottages all around make a wonderful contrast.

...and if you still have energies, finish your walk at Elie lighthouse, more great views to enjoy on the way.






The last day in the land of Fife is dedicated to St. Andrews but this is another post...

Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.


Want to read about the Italian Cinqueterre after having discovered the Scottish ones?
Click here to read about Cinque Terre - The five most inspiring fishermen villages in Italy.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

SKYE - PROBABLY THE MOST SCENIC OF THE SCOTTISH ISLES

The entrance to the beautiful Armadale Castle in the Isle of Skye, Scotland.


In the morning, the Island of Skye in Scotland is covered with clouds. And from the sky two mounds of smoke merge with the clouds.

Like old friends, the chimneys of the Talisker distillery smoke their pipes in Portnalong.

You should get tour accommodation in this small village on the West coast of the Island of Skye, overlooking Loch Harport, I stayed in a caravan cold and run down but I didn't have reason to complain too much about it.

If you get a rainy day and the rain continues to come down and the visibility is extremely low you can only do so much in Skye.

You can at least reach the top of a hill around Portnalong and  from there you can enjoy beautiful views of the coast. The wind would almost push you down from the cliffs and therefore you may have to sit on the lawn of heather to avoid falling and admire the sea during a storm .

Then, already soaked with rain, you would probably descend from the cliffs and move near the beach to brave a little walk along the sea, hoping that the sky would become clear for a while.

The sea calm and the boats would color the beach that stretches up to an isolated cottage at the end.

All this, my dears, is Scotland at its best!

At Mallaig you can clearly see the other side of the channel.
Caledonian Mark Brayne  connects quickly by ferry the Isle of Skye from Armadale to Mallaig.


In the small Village of Caroy,  not far from Portnalong, the whiskey shop makes the morning more cheerful. The whiskey warms the body ...better than the sun of Scotland, you might think.

Then if the sun comes out really from the grey clouds, the brown turns into bright yellow and the white lighthouse at Caroy shines on the islands on the horizon.

You should walk along the coast, facing the sea that turns pink, and you can enjoy the breeze which finally moves the clouds away.

At Mallaig you can clearly see the other side of the channel. Caledonian Mark Brayne  connects quickly by ferry Armadale to Mallaig.

Entering the garden of the castle of Armadale is experiencing the joy of discovery , like finding a little treasure.


An ancient Viking boat is hidden under the trees
at Armadale Castle, as if it was stranded there.
There are no ticket and there are no doors , only a small gate to find yourself in a park of old trees. Trees trunks that four people would barely be able to embrace. The gate and its strange tower are dyed red at sunset.

In the evening, the best time to visit Armadale park, there would be probably no one in the park. You can climbs the tower and enjoy the view from up there.

In the large garden, the grass is perfectly cut. Only squirrels though are around.
The castle seems empty, but it is not. Someone still lives in this old manor house.

An ancient Viking boat is hidden under the trees, as if it was stranded there.A bed of leaves apparently is the sea. 

When I visited I jumped on the boat and lied down on the bottom, closed my eyes and thanked heaven for a sunset so beautiful over Armadale's Bay in the Island of Skye.

Portree is a pretty town in the Isle of Skye. But those who live there do not seem to think so apparently.
The traveler knows that sometimes the appearance of a place is deceiving. 

Portree, however, makes a good impression. When you will finally snap your fish & chips at the harbor, Portree will enter in your heart.

You will enjoy to sit there on the bay to see the fishing boats sway on the waves. Portree, according to some means the King's Port, it is definitely the Queen of Skye. 

Four large cottages in pastel colors give grace to the beautiful bay. 

You will see the white , pink and blue of the cottages facades mirrored in the water.

From Portree you should absolutely rent a car and drive along a panormaic road to visit the Old Man of Storr nearby.

From there you can have great views all over the island. You can see those great views leaving and arriving in the island of Skye .

The beautiful typical landscape of Scotland in the Isle of Skye.


The Old Man of Storr saw Prince Charlie escape over the Sound of Ramsay, it saw hunger , misery and despair. But it also saw beautiful thousand sunsets , rain and rainbows .

The trail up to the Old Man of Storr is usually muddy , but the closer and closer you get to the great man of stone and the more you will want to resist the strong winds.

From Loch Leathan the trail plunges into a dense forest of conifers that does not seem to have end. Then finally the trees thin out and the view opens up, looking barren almost like the moon. Among the large stone pinnacles the silhouetted profile of the Old Man of Storr stands up.

The largest natural menhir stone will leave you breathless. The clouds rise and the panorama opens up on the big Sound of Raasay and the neighboring islands.

When you will finally sit at the feet of the Old Man of Storr in the Isle of Skye you will enjoy a unique panorama overlooking the Sound of Raasay.

Here how to visit the Old Man of Storr (from Wikipedia.com): 
"A well constructed path, used by many sightseers, leaves the A855 just north of Loch Leathan. It heads up through an area of forestry, with glimpses of the scenery beyond. After about 1.6 kilometres (1.0 mi) the walker emerges from the trees, into a spectacular, almost lunar, landscape.

Most day-trippers are content simply to wander around the Sanctuary, admiring the pinnacles and gazing up at The Storr's eastern cliffs. Walkers can easily ascend to the summit, however, by skirting below the cliffs whilst heading north from the north end of the Sanctuary".

Stories of men and women who were able to live happily in the simplicity of this island are well known. Men and women who have lost everything but their honor and their faith. Men and women that poverty and deprivation have made the most noble and brave. Men and women who are survivors motivated only by the beauty of the landscapes and the smell of the sea.

You will feel that you now reached the edge of the Great North , the next move will take you over the choppy sea in the Hebrides . Solitary islands and wild are the Hebrides. Islands that still remain ancient and glorious. But this is another post...

The white lighthouse at Caroy shines on the islands on the horizon.
Want to read more about the Scottish Isles?
Click here to read more about Scotland and the Scottish Isles.