Spring break is coming up and a lot of plans have been made for the well-deserved time off to visit family and friends back home or travel Europe. All those remaining here in St Andrews probably look forward to some peace and quiet when the town is not crowded with students for once. It is an ideal opportunity to explore the beautiful country of Scotland a little better. Cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, or the highlands might be travel destinations that first come to your mind. However, there is no need to go quite as far. After all, a variety of interesting places can be found in the immediate vicinity of St Andrews. At a closer look, Fife may have some surprises in store. It certainly offers lucrative alternatives to simply golfing and shopping in Dundee.
Fife Coastal Path
Conveniently situated right along the coastline of St Andrews is the Fife Coastal Path, which stretches over 150km from the Royal Burgh of Culross in the south all the way up north to the Tay Bridge. In St Andrews, the walking trail can be easily accessed at the East Sands. It leads through a scenic landscape of rugged cliffs and sandy beaches, past historic castles and picturesque fishing villages. Postgraduate Valeria Fadda says, “There are lots of animals, especially birds that you can observe simply walking along the path.”
Indeed, the Fife Coastal Path provides an easy access to a magnificent wildlife in short walking distance from town. Listening to seagulls soaring above the ocean, breathing in the fresh air and watching seals and dolphins play along the shore might be just the kind of getaway to nature everybody needs once in a while. Postgraduate Berenika Mioduszewska suggests, “I would recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of hiking but nothing too demanding”.
East Neuk of Fife
If you don’t hear the call of the great outdoors, you can leave your hiking boots behind and still enjoy a trip along the East Neuk of Fife. A Fife Day Rider bus ticket takes students on a whole day of traveling quaint little fishing villages or simply provides an opportunity to escape university life for an afternoon. According to second year student Dominik Huebner, it is “the perfect place to get away from all your studies, relax and get an impression of the region.” The first stop should be in Crail, where you can walk over a curved breakwater dating back to the 16th century or watch local fishermen returning to the harbor with their catch of the day. “Just hang around a little bit, find a nice place to relax or have coffee or tea in one of the cozy little cafés,” Dominik says. “And try the fish and chips in Anstruther – it is an absolute must.”
The largest of the East Neuk fishing villages is home to the famous Anstruther Fish Bar. The award-winning fish and ships shop was entitled to serve the best ‘fish supper’ in the UK in 2009 and attracts tourists from the local area, around Scotland and abroad. There is always a queue and customers will have to wait patiently, but the freshly prepared food is absolutely worth waiting for.
Isle of May
On a sunny day, many of the little fishing villages along the East Neuk provide a scenic view onto the Isle of May, a Natural Nature Reserve owned by the Scottish Natural Heritage, just five miles off the Fife coast. Nature lovers will enjoy a cruise to this peaceful little island that becomes the home of one of the largest seabird breeding colonies in Scotland during the warmer months. Among the most popular tourist attraction are puffins and grey seals launching on the rocks in the sun. Though rarely seen from the island itself, the crossing from the coast promises a glimpse of dolphins and Minke Whales.
“It’s a fantastic way to see more Scottish wildlife, a lot of which you don’t get around St Andrews,” says fourth year student, Katrina MacIver. “It’s great to walk around and perfect for a day trip.” Indeed, the 1.5km long and 5.5km wide island can easily be toured in one visit. Besides its rich wildlife, a hike across the Isle of May will lead past the oldest lighthouse in the country, dating back to the 17th century, and the remains of a 12th century monastery, set in an idyllic landscape of rough cliffs and rock formations.