East Central Scotland

Fifeshire and the area between Edinburgh and Dundee

The beautiful coastline of the west and the rugged scenery of the highlands - these are the usual attractions for the visitor to Scotland. In our early caravanning days we made several trips to Scotland and these were the regions that always drew us.

Making a return visit after many years we decided to try somewhere else and spent a week in the central eastern part of the country, an area loosely described as being between Edinburgh and Dundee.

The scenery here is very different from that of the west. The countryside is attractive rather than spectacular: hills are generally more rounded and the coastline less rugged. Yet even so there are plenty of things to see and do and access from the south is easy.

We had two bases during our stay - the first close to the town of Kinross in Perthshire, and the second near Glenrothes in Fifeshire. From these we were able to tour the area easily, including trips towards central Scotland and also along the northern coastline of the Firth of Forth.

We visited several interesting places and found a number of places to walk. At Meiklour, near Blairgowrie, the tallest beech hedge in the world runs alongside the roadway, towering over the traffic. It stands at heights varying between 80 feet and 120 feet alongside the road, and is thought to have been planted around 1745.

The countryside and scenery of the valley around Gleneagles are beautiful, ideal both for driving and walking. If you want to try something a little different, how about afternoon tea at the famous Gleneagles Hotel? The hotel is set in beautiful grounds and has wonderful views across the surrounding countryside.

This is an area long connected with golf - the east coast of Scotland is famous the world over for its golf courses and tournaments. At St. Andrews there are several courses close to the sea, and usually there are plenty of players to watch as they follow in the footsteps of the famous.

Castles and houses

As with much of Scotland this is an area well provided with castles in various states of repair and several are worth a visit. Falkland Palace (National Trust for Scotland) has a spectacular outdoor courtyard along with wonderful gardens. The castle was built in 1500 by King James IV of Scotland; his young daughter - better known as Mary Queen of Scots - used to play and hunt here. This was the Balmoral Castle of its day, a country retreat. It boasts the oldest Royal Tennis Court (sometimes known as Real Tennis), built in 1539 and still in use today.

Lochleven Castle, on a small island in Loch Leven, can be reached by small boat from nearby Kinross. One of its claims to fame is that it was used between June 1567 and May 1568 as a prison to hold Mary Queen of Scots. At that time the water level in the loch was considerably higher than now, so that the island would have been even smaller and the castle even more remote.

Further north, Blair Atholl Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl (although the current Duke lives in Canada). It has an interesting interior that includes a display of armaments alongside art, furniture and other memorabilia. Bruar Falls, close by, is a 200 feet waterfall that can be reached after a pleasant (and largely uphill) forest walk.

More modern (built around 1907, and also National Trust for Scotland) is Hill of Tarvit, a country house and gardens near Cupar. It is an interesting insight into the way of life of a wealthy Dundee jute merchant and his family in the early 20th Century, and still has much of the original furniture.

The coast

The stretch of coastline east from Elie to Crail has long been connected with the fishing industry and although here (as everywhere) the industry has declined there are several small harbours spread along a relatively short distance. Pittenweem is a pleasant little fishing town with a small, but still active, harbour and it is here that much of the locally-caught fish is now brought ashore.

Anstruther, a few miles along the coast, is perhaps a little more touristy but has a pleasant harbour. It was from here that we made our most enjoyable outing - a trip to the Isle of May, about 5 miles offshore near the mouth of the Firth of Forth. The island is approximately one mile long by a third of a mile wide, and has been a protected bird sanctuary for many years. A trip lasts for about 5 hours, and of that you can expect to spend around 3 hours ashore. This is long enough to see most of the island along with many of the thousands of birds including puffin, shag, etc. (dependant upon the time of year). On the day of our trip the sea was choppy and the crossing quite rough, but even so it was well worth the effort.

We stayed at two sites. Gallowhill is on the edge of Kinross, and part of a working farm with good facilities and views across open countryside.  The Caravan Club site at Balbirnie, close to Glenrothies, is pleasantly secluded and has all the usual Club facilities. It lies at the edge of Balbirnie Park, which has many acres of grounds and easy walks from the site.

© GDS 2004
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