Anstruther is a famous fishing village in the East Neuk of Fife. It is home to the Scottish Fisheries Museum which is a good afternoon out if you have children.
Tourism is now the main industry for the village/small town. Along the harbour front is the main street which has several pubs shops and the famour Anster (pronounced Enster) Fish bar. It has been known for the queue for this chippy to be right along the street on a bust sunday afternoon.
The main hotel in the town is the Craws Nest which used to be "THE" hotel in the area and was run by the family of Edith Bowman the radio 1 DJ.
The town lies about 10 miles south of St Andrews and has a population of around 3,000. It has a very good community high school - Waid academy which serves the town and the surrounding smaller town and villages.
Not much to keep you occupied for a weeks holiday in the town itself but a great base if you are touring the east neuk
Almost cut off from the rest of the country by the Forth and the Tay, the peninsula of Fife has had a long and illustrious history. At one time, this was the most important area of Scotland and was known as the Kingdom of Fife. Dunfermline was the capital of Scotland for over 500 years, and the Abbey there is the final resting place to many early Scottish kings (including The Bruce), while St Andrews was the ecclesiastical heart of the country and home of the country's oldest University (they also play some sort of game there - golf, I think).
I have a lot of associations with Fife - I worked there for many years and I have family and friends who live there. One part of the 'Kingdom' I am very familiar with, is the extreme eastern corner....THE EAST NEUK.
The coastline from Largo to Kingsbarns, near the mouth of the Firth of Forth, is dotted with small fishing villages and picturesque burghs strung along the shore, interspersed with rich fertile farmland.
The East Neuk was once described by James VI (later to become James I of England) as "a fringe of gold on a beggar's mantle", meaning that the interior was poor but the ports and towns on the coastline were wealthy.
These ancient little fishing villages, with their cobbled streets and irregularly shaped, whitewashed houses with red pan-tiled roofs and crow-stepped gables, are a little sleepier and quieter places these days, but as evidenced by the architecture, they were once thriving ports with trading links to mainland Europe, especially: the Low Countries, France, Scandinavia and the Baltic States. Coal, linen and fish (particularly herring) would be exported, and the returning ships would use those pan-tiles as bal
ANSTRUTHER is the main commercial centre of the East Neuk.
In common with other Fife place names, Anstruther is often shortened to Anster (locally pronounced as Ainster or Enster), which may be due in some part to its claim of having the longest place-name in Scotland - THE ROYAL BURGH OF KILRENNY, ANSTRUTHER EASTER AND ANSTRUTHER WESTER!
It's around 50 miles North-East of Edinburgh, and 20 miles South of Dundee.
People have long inhabited this area - there's evidence of occupation in the area by hunter-gatherers from 8,000 years ago, and burial sites suggest resident settlement around 4,000 years ago.
About five miles off the coast, the ISLE of MAY was the site of an early monastery (c 1200) and later, became one of Scotland?s most noted places of pilgrimage. It is still possible to visit the Isle of May - but more of that later.
At the time of the Reformation (1560) Anster was composed of three distinct and different communities - Anstruther Easter, Anstruther Wester and Cellardyke (which was the harbour for Kilrenny).
The communities were united in 1929.
KILRENNY was created a Burgh in 1578 and accidentally included in the roll of Royal Burghs in 1592, where it stayed. ANSTER EASTER was made a Royal Burgh 1583.
ANSTER WESTER received its royal charter in 1587. Just in time to welcome the cre
w from a ship of the Spanish Armada which was wrecked off-shore in 1588. Naturally, the occupants were given a warm welcome from the town and helped to return to their native land. After all, they had been trying to invade England - at that time Scotland's mortal enemy.
The town continued its growth during the 17th and 18th centuries with fishing and trading being most important.
Much of the trade of the town took place as smuggling when import duties rose dramatically in the 18th Century after the Union with England. When the tide was high, and the night was dark, brandy, tobacco and rum, and more besides, was brought up the Dreel Burn (a small river). THE SMUGGLER'S INN is a wonderfully evocative old tavern which straddles the Dreel and you can still see the seaward door-opening on the burn where contraband was unloaded.
During the 19th century, as trading ships and ports became larger, Anster turned to fishing and in particular, the North Sea herring industry. An arch of whale jawbones behind a house in East Forth St. commemorates the time in the 19th century when the town was Scotland?s main fishing port, boasting a fleet of 1,000 ships.
Even as recently as around ifty years ago, the town's main harbour was so busy it was possible to walk from one side to the other by stepping from one fishing boat to the next. Unfortunately, the North Sea herring shoals disappeared, as did much of the fishing fleet.
There is still some creel-fishing (for lobster and crab) and limited white fish operations from Anstruther, but most of the fishermen now operate from nearby Pittenweem - pleasure craft having usurped the fishing fleet in most of the East Neuk's harbours.
In fact, tourism is now the major industry in the
ANSTER'S association with the fishing industry has not been forgotten though. The town is home to the SCOTTISH FISHERIES MUSEUM which tells the story of Scottish fishing from the earliest times to the present day.
The museum is located next to the harbour in a complex of 16-19th century buildings around a cobbled courtyard housing full-size, restored fishing vessels.
There's far to much in the museum to detail here, but the exhibits range from: models, reconstructions, dioramas and tableaux, to a replica of a fisherman's cottage from the 19th century. There's an aquarium featuring local fish and shell-fish, displays of methods and equipment used, paintings, maps and photographs. There are exhibitions dealing with whaling and all the ancillary trades that fishing relied on - women gutting and packing herring, coopers, boat-building etc, and much, much more.
There's even The Reaper, an old herring drifter moored in the harbour which it's possible to board.
The museum is open all year from 10-4.30 and admission is £4.50. A bargain, even if, like me, you're more interested in eating fish than catching it. And if you are interested in eating it, the museum has a restaurant as well as a gift shop. Why, it even has an on-site fishmongers for that extra special, perishable souvenir.
And if it's sea-food that interests you, you've come to the right place (sea how I resisted the temptation to slip a pun in there?). There are many restaurants serving local seafood specialities around town and ANSTRUTHER FISH BAR on East Shore won the award for Scotland's best fish and chips in 2001.
he ISLE of MAY is a nature reserve in the Firth of Forth which you can visit via boat-trips from the harbour. On the island are the ruins of a 12th century chapel which was dedicated to St Aiden, a monk who was murdered by Vikings in 875. The island was an important religious centre until the 16th century when the monks moved to Pittenweem. There are also the remains of Scotland's first manned lighthouse (1636) as well as the lighthouse built in 1816 by Robert Louis Stevenson's grandfather.
Between April and July especially, the island's sea cliffs are literally covered with sea birds, and it's also home to a colony of grey seals.
The 5 hour trip departs every day between May and September, weather permitting. It costs £13 for adults and £6 for children.
Continuing eastwards from the harbour, a walk along the narrow streets of tightly-packed fisherman's cottages brings you into the adjoining village of CELLARDYKE. This was previously named NETHER KILRENNY AND SKINFASTHAVEN (no wonder they shorten place-names around here!) and is much quieter than Anstruther but still has the same old-world charm. There's a lovely little harbour here too, with one of the best pubs in the area sitting just above the harbour with lovely views from the upstairs restaurant - THE BOAT TAVERN.
I would say this is the best option for a pub meal in the area. The quality of the food is very good and the surroundings are lovely. In the unlikely event that the weather is fine, they have a large, secluded beer garden in a courtyard behind the pub.
There are all sorts of &#
65;CCOMMODATION options in Anster and the immediate surroundings. These range from camp & caravan sites to B&B, small inns, self-catering cottages and flats, right through to the 5-star Old Course Hotel in St Andrews (8 miles). Probably the best hotel in Anster itself is the Craw's Nest.
EATING and DRINKING in Anster is not a problem, especially of you like seafood. You could choose from freshly-caught lobster or prawns straight from the boat, or a visit to the chippy, right through to the Peat Inn, one of the top restaurants in Scotland (with prices to match).
THE DREEL TAVERN was a 16th-century coaching inn which has retained its old atmospheric charm. The walls are of rough stone with a low, wood-beamed ceiling. Two different areas of the bar are separated by a large fire. Meals here are very good and they have a small garden down by the river.
ANSTER has probably seen it's heyday as a tourist resort when trainloads of tourists would descend on the town during the annual exodus of workers from the Fife coal-fields and industrial Clyde-side, but it's still pretty vibrant and can be quite crowded during main holiday periods.
Personally, I prefer it off-season when it's quiet and ever-so-slightly deserted. It has a lot more atmosphere then.
Either way, it's a great place to spend a day or two.
Thanks for reading,