Anstruther is the largest in a string of pretty, colourful fishing villages which make up the East Neuk of Fife. It is most well known for its award winning fish and chip shop and the day trips to the nearby Isle of May to see the cute and comical puffins. There are some lovely things to do in Anstruther. Eating delicious ice cream while watching the array of boats bobbing in the harbour, or eating freshly caught haddock from a cardboard chippy box while sitting on a bench, have always been popular summer activities for locals and tourists alike. These little fishing villages are charming, the locals are proud of the East Neuk and love to make it even more special with their artistic touches, which you'll find as you meander the cobbled streets.
A wee bit of history
Anstruther was formed and given a royal charter in 1587 and throughout the following years it was known mostly for its fishing. Fishing and trade was how the people of Anstruther made a living and when the import duties rose in the 18th century there was little option left but to smuggle goods in and brandy and rum were smuggled in during the dark nights to the 'Smugglers Inn' which has only just closed in the last year.
Herring fishing was a major part of life for Anstruther folk in the 19th century, men would sail the seas and return with their catch at the crack of dawn, the family would salt and pack up the fish, ready to ship off to countries in the Baltics. The village of Pittenweem, a little further along the coast, is the main working harbour now, the harbour in Anstruther is mostly used for pleasure craft.
Anstruther today is an extremely pretty village, as are all the villages in the East Neuk. The pastel coloured houses which line the harbour are occupied by cute little B&B's and guest houses as well as independent wee gift shops and an ice cream parlour that is one of my favourites. In the height of summer the village can get very busy, having an award winning fish and chip shop really brings the folk in. Another major attraction is the boat trips to the nearby Isle of May, which leave from the harbour. The Isle of May is one of the best places in the country to see Puffins so it's a popular choice for visitors.
Things to do in Anstruther
Visit the Scottish Fishery Museum
This museum is a gem. You wouldn't know from the outside, the charming white washed exterior gives little away, but inside is a collection of buildings set around a courtyard and they house a fantastic collection of artifacts and stories about the history of the village and the fishing industry. The museum was opened 1967 by a group of locals who were worried about the decline of the fishing industry, no one wanted to see the history forgotten, so they formed a charitable trust to create the museum. There are 22 boats to see, including 'The Reaper' which was used in the filming of Outlander. The Tammy Norie Tearoom serves home baking and is open Wed-Sun 10am-3pm.
Entry costs for the museum is £9 for adults, children under 16 are free (up to 5 per adult). The opening times can change so check the website before you head along, at the moment, in summer, the museum is open Mon-Sun 10am-3pm. Winter opening hours are Thur-Sun 10am-3pm.
Spot Puffins on the Isle of May
Board The May Princess for a boat trip across to the Isle of May. The boat leaves from the harbour and gives you 2-3 hours on the island. Here, if you visit between April and mid August you'll get to watch 120,000 puffins swoop and dive in the waves and plodding around the island. The birds breed here every year and use the burrows across the island so it is asked you stick to the paths. If you are really lucky you might get to spot some baby 'pufflings'. Other birds who nest on the island include Kittiwakes and Shags and you can spot seals basking on the rocks. You could pack a picnic and enjoy lunch after you have finished exploring. You can book tickets from here.
Have a world class fish supper
Anstruther Fish Bar has been a mainstay in the village for as long as I can remember. Taken over in 2003 by Robert and Alison Smith, who both come from long lines of fisherman, the restaurant has won countless awards including Best Seafood in Scotland 4 times and Best Fish and Chip Shop in the UK. Queues regularly snake along the road during the summer months but I can confirm it is worth the wait!
Walk the Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is 117 miles long and stretches from Kincardine Bridge in the south to the Tay Bridge in the north. It passes along the harbour in Anstruther before continuing onto Pittenweem if you head east and Cellardyke and Crail if you head west. Each section of the path has its own gems so you won't be disappointed wherever you choose to go. The views across the Firth of Forth and to Edinburgh are outstanding. You can read my Fife Coastal Path Guide here.
Go shopping for unique gifts
There are so many cute little independent shops in Anstruther that you'll definitely find some unique gifts to take home, and some truly special Scottish themed gifts that have been lovingly chosen from local producers.
Visit Scotland's Secret Bunker
Just outside Anstruther, a subtle little farm cottage in the middle of the countryside hides an unbelievably fascinating gem. Built in 1951, this secret bunker was built in response to threat from the USSR and was to house government and military officials in case of war. It is 100ft underground and you can explore the rooms including a BBC broadcasting studio, the nuclear operations room, the command centre, the dormitories and the officers mess cafe where you can buy hot and cold snacks and drinks. You. can find out more and book tickets here Scotland's Secret Bunker
How to get to Anstruther
If you are travelling from Edinburgh to Anstruther you can get the X60 bus from Edinburgh bus station to Anstruther which takes 2hr 20mins. If you'd prefer to take the train you can get the train from Waverley train station to Kirkcaldy which takes about 45mins. There are no trains from here into the East Neuk but Kirkcaldy bus station is a 5min walk from the train station where you could get the X60 bus. If you are driving it takes roughly 1hr 26mins.
If you are travelling from Glasgow to Anstruther you can get the X24 from Buchanan Street which takes 2hr 45mins. If you'd prefer to take the train it's a little more complicated as you first have to take the train from Glasgow Queen Street to Haymarket outside Edinburgh city centre, then board a second train to Kirkcaldy, then walk 5 mins to Kirkcaldy bus station and take the X60 bus from there. If you are driving from Glasgow it'll take roughly 1hr 46mins.
It's not very often you get extreme weather in this corner of Fife, although it can rain on and off pretty often. Snow isn't common as the village is so close to the coast, although if there is any it's likely to be between December and February. Spring and Autumn are mild with an average temperature of 9-12°C, winter averages around 4-6°C and in the summer between 14-16°C. It does get windy here, again because it is on the coast, but in spring and summer it's a lovely breeze. You can check the weather on the Met Office website
Anstruther Restaurants and cafes
There are lots of lovely places to eat in Anstruther. There is, of course, the famous Anstruther Fish Bar which has won award after award for the quality of its dishes. They also serve some pretty impressive ice cream at a separate entrance. The Wee Chippy along the road is equally as good in my opinion and is generally less busy. The Boathouse is an excellent restaurant too, and serves one of the best Cullen Skink I've ever tasted. Lisa's Ice Cream Parlour serves delicious ice cream and traditional sweets. The Waterfront Restaurant has a classic Scottish menu and serves breakfast and a lovely high tea.
Places to stay in Anstruther
As Anstruther is a small village there aren't any big hotels as such but what it does have is some truly beautiful little Airbnb's, guest houses and Bed and Breakfasts. Many of the restaurants and pubs along the harbour also have rooms with the added bonus of the outstanding view. Restaurants such as The Bank, The waterfront and The Boathouse all not only sell lovely food but they also have gorgeous rooms with views over the harbour, across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and beyond. The Spindrift Guest House is a stunning, traditional guest house with welcoming hosts, a full Scottish breakfast and a cosy, comforting atmosphere. Brackness House Luxury B&B also gets rave reviews and is traditionally Scottish.
If you plan on visiting Fife the East Neuk, and it's beautiful fishing villages, is a great option.