Take one well-loved East Neuk pub in a stunning beachfront location, revamp it with a blast of seaside chic, install a top-notch chef and you have The Ship Inn at Elie.
Rachel and Graham Bucknall, who worked their magic on The Bridge Inn at Ratho (AA pub of the Year 2014), have turned their attention to this coastal charmer by extending the restaurant space and adding six bedrooms with oceans of style that make for a seaside experience to blow away the cobwebs. The bar is still at the heart of The Ship, with an open fire and wood-burning stoves, a destination for a drink, pub food or home baking. And for summer entertainment, what better than a beer garden with a ringside view of what surely must be one of the most picturesque cricket pitches in the UK on Elie beach right in front of you.
Budget or boutique?
Boutique with a seaside aesthetic and palette. Think oars on the walls, wood panelling, black and white photographs of ships, floor to ceiling windows in the restaurant, a nautical palette and all of the comforts you require, from a snug bar to a warm labrador, for when the weather takes a turn for the worse.
White shutters frame the stunning views of Elie Bay in rooms that can work as single or twin. The Admiral room on the top floor has a roll-top bath and walk-in shower, three Captain’s rooms have en suites and there are two Superior rooms. Each has free wi-fi, flat screen Freeview TV, docking stations and Siabann toiletries, an espresso machine and tea from the Tea Lovers’ Company. Crisp, white Egyptian cotton sheets, pristine bathrooms with rainforest showers and a sea green and blues colour scheme make for coastal chic that is more Cape Cod than salty old sea dog.
Wining and dining
New head chef Marc Wohner, who honed his considerable skills in Queensland and the Duisdale Hotel on Skye, serves up an imaginative menu that majors on local produce, with seafood a particular highlight. The Ship Inn’s famous fish and chips are there, and the shellfish caught on the doorstep couldn’t be fresher, so it was an easy choice of a starter of red curried clams with lime followed by mussels marinières, where the anise of the tarragon kept the cream, wine and garlic of the sauce on its toes. My partner felt his crispy skinned cod was slightly oversalted for his taste but this was redeemed by perfectly creamed lemon mashed potato, spinach and vine tomatoes. Washing it down with a bottle of dry white cabernet sauvignon as we watched the sun dip into the bay through the wall of windows made for a perfect meal. If you’re a carnivore the local sausages give a lot of banger for your buck and the stacked burgers wafting past looked amazing, plus there are daily chalkboard specials.
Worth getting out of bed for
After a fortifying breakfast, a walk to the lighthouse along part of the Fife Coastal Path – where we watched kayakers paddling along – blew away the cobwebs. If you’re a foodie, the East Neuk is full of delicious destinations, from the Cellar in Anstruther to the East Pier Smokehouse in St Monans, not forgetting the nearby 19th Hole bar overlooking the golf course, which the Bucknalls have also revamped.
If you’re a cricket fan, and even if you’re not, you’ll love sitting in the beer garden and barbecue area watching The Ship’s own team playing on the sandy beach from May to September – if you catch a six, club sponsor Belhaven has offered a prize of your height in beer or soft drinks.
If your best friend is four-legged, you can take them too as dogs are welcome in the bar, downstairs restaurant and one of the guest rooms. Little bowls of water in convenient doggy grazing spots are dotted about and the beach and coastal path make this an ideal destination for canines and their loved ones.
The Ship runs a free courtesy minibus for the restaurant that will collect and return diners in the local area after their night out, so you can fill your boots without having to worry about driving home.
You will never want to drag yourself away – from the view, the food, the comfy bed, the blast of ozone from the beach. And when you do, you’ll be aching to go back.
• Rooms from £90-£140 per double on a B&B basis. The Ship Inn, The Toft, Elie, Fife KY9 1DT (01333 330246, www.shipinn.scot)