Scotland Green Living — East Neuk of Fife, Scotland

The East Neuk of Fife

Impressive Camera Collection in St Monans

BBC News article on the man who owned 3,000 cameras who lived in St Monans in the East Neuk of Fife — Jim Matthew Camera Collection Museum in St Monans, Scotland

Fife in Scotland will be a top tourist destination in the years ahead

I recently watched Autumn watch episode 1 on the BBC iPlayer. It featured seals and seal pups on the Isle of May off the coast of Fife. I have never been to the Isle of May, but I did visit the East Neuk of Fife in 2011 with Mum and Dad and could see the Isle of May from my Aunty and Uncle's penthouse suite with stunning sea views overlooking the harbour in St Monans and the Bass Rock, which is stained white from the many segulls that reside on it.
St Monans is a traditional fishing village with historic roots. It has a 12th century church that punctuates the western side of the village. It sits, perched above rocks, on a dramatic cliff edge overlooking the sea. St Monans is a traditional fishing village on the East coast of Scotland with a population of about 1500. Or to be more precise, the East Neuk of Fife. St Monans is situated in the Kingdom of Fife - the home county of golf. St Monans is just a wee village - its people live in homes horizontal to the shoreline in a few long streets that stretch from one end of the village to the other. The design of St Monans is clearly no accident and it is a constant reminder of its roots. At the centre of the village is the harbour. It is a fishing village. Telegraph poles link homes. This strikes me as quite unusual in modern day Scotland. What strikes me about this place is that it still uses telegraph poles to link homes and connect families with the wider world. Fishing may once have been the main source of income for the people of St Monans, but now people commute to St Andrews, Dundee, Perth and Edinburgh. They also have broadband. The Internet is changing the world.
The Isle of May is a nature reserve for a wide variety of animals, nature enthusiasts and tourists. So, if you are a nature buff, you will likely love the Isle of May. But take note: you can only visit it from the start of April to the end of September by boat leaving from Anstruther on the Fife coast. Outwith that period, tourists are banned to prevent disturbance to the many seal pups that live on the island in Winter. Really, the best time to visit the Isle of May is between April and June when there is a hive of animal activity, but if you do happen to visit the island after June, you will get more freedom to explore, as most of the animals will have left. Of course, you can still visit the island after September, but you will need your dookers in order to do so. You’ll need to swim across to the island because the last boat sets sail at the end of September.
When I visited Fife in 2011, I frequented Elie often, a small village close to St Monans and connected by the Fife Coastal Path which runs for a stretch of 81 miles from Dundee to Edinburgh. I did not walk the well-worn tourist trail in its entirety, but in the past I have walked from St Monans to the next village Pittenweem. The Fife Coastal Path is pure dead brilliant – you can enjoy fresh sea air as you walk through scores of quaint fishing villages and crisscross over long sandy beaches. At Elie there are no sharks that want to kill you, which is fan-dabi-dozi, and in 2011 the beach and sea was full of sunbathers, sailors and swimmers, so in the years ahead Fife in Scotland, due to global warming, will be a top tourist attraction.
At the tip of the jugged land mass of Fife is Crail. It has a quaint harbour, a tearoom and a pottery workshop. I visited the quaint harbour and the pottery workshop one day, but if Dad's parents were still alive and were with us at the time we visited Crail, we would have visited the tearoom as well.
Anstruther is home to Anstruther Fish Bar, which was chip shop of the year 2008-2009. I have tasted their chips, and eaten them indoors and out, but I more fondly remember my trip to a supermarket car park in Anstruther
One day travelling from St Andrews to St Monans, Mum and I decided to stay in the car while Dad went into a small supermarket. We felt there was no need for all three of us to go in, but we couldn't have been more wrong, as Dad decided to lock the car, remotely, with us in it. To be fair, Dad did not mean to lock the car with us in it – he was used to locking his car when he left it places. So, allocating blame aside, with the car locked, we were forced to keep still or risk setting our car alarm off. So, we tried to keep still, but unfortunately, Mum had ants in her pants and couldn't. So, sure enough, we were soon alarmingly alert when our car's alarm went off. That said, despite our car alarm going off, we remained in the car and waited patiently for Dad to return, as it was pouring with rain. Shockingly, while we were sitting in the car with the alarm going off, nobody batted an eyelid. No-one came to rescue Mum from my murderous clutches! Mind you, our car alarm didn't go off all the time – it would stop for a short time and then start again in a sporadic, car thief friendly, manner. Too true, we were baffled by the behaviour of our car alarm and when our car boot suddenly opened, we were bamboozled even further, especially as there was no sign of Dad. However, little did we realise it, the car boot opening was down to Dad. He heard the car alarm going off and tried to stop it while in a supermarket queue. He pressed the wrong button on his remote and opened the boot.
A night out in the village of St Monans
One night in St Monans, we walked in the dark to the local hotel (Dad’s excuse for a drink). Intriguingly, despite our brave decision to go out, our night out was uneventful. Not much happens in St Monans on a Monday night and now the hotel has closed its doors for good. That said, after a short outing, we headed back to our accommodation for the week. However, we had a bit of difficulty getting back into our accommodation. While we managed to get in the main door, and up the stairs, we struggled to unlock the flat door. The big chub key would not go in the lock. We all had a go at trying to unlock the door, but none of us could get the key into the lock properly. We could not even break the door down. Believe me, I did try. I tried kicking the door, slamming my shoulder against it several times, but unfortunately, the door stayed solidly shut. Really, kicking a door down is not as easy as it looks on TV and I’m not a burglar – not even an amateur one. Well, for one thing, I made so much noise trying to kick the door down, I woke the neighbour opposite who was in bed sound asleep. Oh yes, opening her flat door cautiously at nearly midnight, our nearest neighbour was seemingly sleepy and irate, but alas, she still tried to help us out of our predicament. She suggested we should get a locksmith. A brilliant response – truly – just a little misjudged and ill-timed. I should not be so critical. After all, she also provided us with a screwdriver. Certainly, we were truly gracious at the time for her help – we just did not know how to use her tool of choice to unlock our door. Curiously, she did not know how to use her screwdriver either to unlock our door. But then again, she openly admitted to having no other tools in her flat. No kidding, it was a case of good luck, good riddance, I am off to bed and off to bed she went.
Lovingly left to our own devices, and out of other ideas, we decided to try calling BT Directory Enquiries for a locksmith, but are efforts were futile because we had not learnt the postcode for the flat we were staying at off by heart. All was not lost however – luck was still on our side. The owners of our accommodation were still awake when we phoned them, rather frantically, just shy of midnight and they gave us good advice. Not only were they able to tell us the postcode of their flat, but they were also able to direct us to a local source of help. Dad's brother-in-law had a sudden spark of genius. He suggested that we should try the local hotel for help as the staff there are usually very helpful. Truly inspirational advice, it paid dividends. A line of punters sitting at the bar racked their brains and then directed us to the local undertaker's house. The undertaker is the village handyman. Or at least, one of the village handymen as he jointly runs a joinery business with his Dad. A handy occupation certainly. We were relieved at the prospect of getting our hands on a joiner. And so, led by a young hoody, we walked to the local undertaker's house at the dead of night. It was pitch black at the undertaker's house, but despite it being dark, we approached the undertaker's front door and bravely rang his door bell. Well, to be honest, the young hoody we were with rang his bell. We stood just behind the young hoody, in a state of desperate despair, waiting for the undertaker to answer our call for help. We waited patiently for a minute or two before the door opened. But, it was well worth the wait as our luck was in. The undertaker was able to help us, but not on his own. No, he decided to call his Dad instead.
Well, to be fair, his Dad works on-call round the clock, so he did not mind being disturbed and rather conveniently, he lived nearby from where we were staying. By the way, before you get any murderous ideas, his Dad is on-call 24-hours as a joiner, not as an undertaker. He does not bury people at midnight by request. Morbid thoughts aside, having established help was on the way, we returned to our flat and waited patiently for the undertaker's Dad to show up. We did not have to wait long – he was pretty prompt, not to mention efficient. Yes, he had our door open in a jiffy, using only a lone screwdriver, and without breaking down our door. Needless to say, we felt like fools for not being able to open our flat door on our own.
The problem with the lock was due to a safety mechanism built-in to the lock getting triggered when Dad tried to insert the key into the lock, and this stopped the door from unlocking. In other words, Dad did something wrong when putting the key in the lock to trigger its burglar defences. Having said that, it could of course equally be Mum's fault for switching the hall lights off on Dad when he was in the process of unlocking the door. Who knows? It’s a strange paradox since Dad strenuously denied Mum's actions were the cause.
Mum didn't mean to turn off all the lights. She simply tried to turn off the lights on the ground floor. You see, there are two light switches located on the ground floor of that block of flats. One is beside the main entrance and the other is just along a bit. Mum thought that by switching off the second one, she would turn off the hall lights located on the ground floor. She could not have been more wrong as the second light switch turned off all the lights, and plunged the entire hall, including the stairwell, into darkness.
In case you are wondering, the light switch Mum should have turned off is located just inside the door of the flat we stayed in – it is not in the hall at all. So, Mum did not need to run up the stairs in the dark and back down again in a state of sheer panic. As astonishing as it may sound, we did not arouse the neighbour in the downstairs flat, despite Mum pulling down her nicky nacky noos and splashing out in the communal garden at the back of the flat.
Unearthing Scotland's secrets
Scotland's Secret Bunker is situated on the road between Anstruther and St Andrews, the Secret Bunker is not hard to find. It may have been a closely guarded secret when it was Scotland's facility in the event of nuclear war, but not anymore. No, there are plenty of signs pointing to it these days as it’s one of Fife's most visited tourist attractions.
Certainly, I was intrigued by it, so I convinced Mum and Dad to take me there. That’s no exaggeration – Mum and Dad took some convincing. However, once there, Dad found it fascinating. He’s just like me – a big kid at heart! Dad found the story about how the Secret Bunker got turned into a tourist attraction fascinating. Really, there’s a good story behind it. Basically, two guys from Edinburgh were looking for a house near Anstruther to go fishing. In doing so, they came across a small house in a field. The house looked ordinary, but when being shown round they were told that there is a big bunker lurking on the other side of an ordinary looking door. The house was under the Official Secrets Act, so the bunker could not be advertised. It was on offer for £160,000 and it sold for £165,000.
There were various offers. Other people wanted the house for storage, growing mushrooms and so on. When the house was sold, it was empty. However, the two guys that bought the house got the army to reinstall everything for free and then opened it as a museum. The bunker got three quarters of a million visitors in its first year and tickets cost £6.50. If you are thinking of visiting, take note that there are no lifts allowed due to health and safety, so do not bother taking your elderly relatives along.