Quick Recce Round Fife Day 1
Work and kids’ activities have been getting in the way of us going camping this year, so I made a determined stand: I blocked off a weekend in June on the Big Family Calendar and said that we were going camping then, come rain, shine or tornadoes
Jon suggested that we visit somewhere with less than half a day’s drive so that we could make the most of the weekend. He suggested Fife. I haven’t visited Fife since I was Midi’s age (in the last century!), so I was won over. I selected and booked a fairly basic and cheap campsite because we’d be staying overnight only, then hoped for the best in terms of the site and the weather.
It took us a wee while to pack everything up: still haunted by last year’s discovery that our tent was destroyed only when we were putting it up, we checked everything thoroughly. I even went through our first aid kit, meticulously checking expiry dates and replacing items. Luckily, I’d checked before Christmas on whether the minxes had outgrown their sleeping bags and had replaced 2. So: we were good to go. And here endeth my top tips for pre-camp prep ;-)
As we drove south over the Tay Bridge into Fife the sun broke through clouds and we stopped to buy some ice-lollies and fresh green vegetables to pad out our camping food supplies. We were on holiday!
The campsite was at the top of a hill overlooking the Firth of Forth, so was called, appropriately, Forth House. The ‘incredible views’ were no exaggeration – we all stood around gawping at the sea, the volcanic hills and laws, and the distant towns. Beautiful! And what a quiet campsite! The lovely owner came along to help us identify our pitch and lent a hand as we initially struggled to pitch our little tent in the strong wind. It took us twice as long as usual: 10 minutes instead of 5. Ah well. It gave the minxes time to escape and explore. Half of the field had close-mown grass for tents; the other half had long grass with a big central clearing. There were 3 wide strips mown from the tent-part to the clearing, forming a clever little area for kids to go and play safely! They weren’t at all bothered that there was no play equipment, preferring to roll around on the grass and amuse themselves in games of Trust Falls (!), perfecting their Sister Mexican Wave and Grass Blade music.
We stopped for a quick slather of sunscreen (the sun was really splitting the heavens now) and a quick meal of pasta n sauce with extra broccoli. It’s the kind of cheat-dinner that the minxes would turn their noses up at in disgust at home but treat as the food of the gods when camping.
By the time we’d washed up in the spotless little cabin, we’d established that this was indeed the perfect campsite for quick weekend getaways. Then we set off to explore! As it was so sunny, we decided to hit the coast rather than visit any of the many historic buildings. Though Midi’s fascination with medieval Scottish royalty means that we’ll have to pay another visit to these, maybe in the autumn.
Anyway, first stop was Ruby Bay. Allegedly garnets and rubies are sometimes found on the beaches around here. The minxes set off with their fishing nets and sharp eyes. It didn’t take me long to get fed up with the first bay we visited, though: loud jet skis and a strong smell of fuel. I nipped up and over the headland and just 2 minutes’ walk away found a long, clean and empty beach. Even better, it was shielded from the strong winds and the sound and smell of the jet skis. We all trooped over and spent a happy few hours explored a very different coastal landscape to the one just yards away, admiring very different sandstone rocks to the ones back home, as well as all the volcanic rocks. Jon’s Family Geology Tour eventually took us back over the headland towards Elie Ness lighthouse and a pretty, ruined tower that we later found out was called Lady’s Tower, apparently built in 1770 by Lady Anstruther as a changing hut. Under an innocuous-looking overhang in the rock we found a bricked cave. The minxes thought up previous uses for it than its current late night teen hangout.
Eventually, we agreed that the pasta n sauce calories had worn off and we needed to find somewhere to eat. We couldn’t find anywhere open in our very quick drive around Elie so headed towards Pittenweem, where Google promised us an award-winning fish and chips shop.
Well, it was very easy to spot by the long queue out its door! We were happy to wait if the food was that good, so Jon queued while I took the girls on a quick recce around the town. We nipped down a little passageway beside the ancient-looking church towards the harbour. Tucked beside the steps down we found a rock face covered in a beautiful shell mosaic. It marked the start of the gated St Fillan’s Cave. None of us can resist stairs leading out of sight or a gloomy passageway, so we’d have loved to have explored it, but I felt that asking for the key at 7pm on a Saturday night would be a bit anti-social. It’s on our list of things to do next time, though! And of course, that was the point of such a short visit – it’s a quick recce of things to do and places to go when we visit again.
The fish and chips were indeed spectacular and well worth the wait. Midi and Mini had built up an appetite dragging their sister up and down the passageway between harbour and chippie - I wonder how she bribed them?! We ate the fish suppers in the last of the sun’s warm rays by Pittenweem harbour. Maxi exclaimed about the harbour seal but I put it down to her vivid imagination. Then I saw a long, long dark body break the surface of the water. Loch Ness Monster? Enormous sea snake? Kraken?! No: it was indeed a large seal, certainly bigger than I’ve ever seen before. We watched it swim around for maybe 20 minutes before he left for elsewhere and we left to drive back to the campsite the long way.
We decided that we didn’t need to use maps and would just follow our noses. Eventually we had to give up and pull out the map when the drive threatened to last more than an hour, but we spotted all kinds of interesting places: villages with incredibly ornate churches, very strange spires, golf courses everywhere (of course), and lots of fruit farms. Well, that would be tomorrow’s food sorted, then!
The girls settled to a great night’s sleep, drifting off to the gentle, muted sounds of the musical people in a distant camper van playing the accordion and penny whistle. It was absolutely beautiful – I wish they’d left their door open!
About the Author
About Me & Mine
Hello! I’m Jay, married to Jon, living in North East Scotland with our 3 daughters: Maxi (10), Midi (8) and Mini Minx (6).
Favourite place in the world:
It’s hard to choose between the stretch of Moray Firth coast between Findhorn and Cullen, and Westray (a northerly Orkney island). Both have an amazing diversity of beautiful coastlines in a small space (empty, clean, sandy beaches; crystal-clear rockpools; crags, cliffs and stacks), fascinating wildlife, friendly people and endlessly interesting weather. Bar visits to friends and relatives, we’ve taken all our holidays in Scotland, north of where we live, for many years. We’ve still barely scratched the surface of this beautiful country.
Favourite things to do outdoors:
Rock-pooling and scrambling on local beaches; camping; walking in the gentler local hills; foraging for fruit and jam-making ingredients; and growing our own fruit and vegetables against the combined deterring efforts of our cat and the weather.