Spring Travel: explore Leven as train services set to resume

The new terminus at Levenmay mark the end of thetwo-station Levenmouth Rail Link, but it is defiantly not the end of the line. Greeted by squawking gulls as you emerge on the platform,Leven’s famous sands – bathed in the romance of local luminary Jack Vettriano’s Singing Butler – beckon,along with a town and wider Levenmouth area alive with adventure.

And possibilities as endless as the big Fife skies.

Leven was once a wildly popular seaside resort and there is optimism again on its sweeping beach that stretches off as far as the eye can see. “Postie” is symbolic of the renewed community spirit. Originally installed as part of a temporary art project, the locals didn’t want to lose their colourful over-sized Scottie dog and clubbed together to save him. Leven’s kids even donated their pocket money.

Close to the popular sculpture, Beachcomber is a throwback to the resort’s glory days – an amusement arcade, with a cafe sporting epic views, that is being tarted up in time for the new rail link.

A stroll along the town’s sands, Lower Largo and the Law. Image: Simon HirdA stroll along the town’s sands, Lower Largo and the Law. Image: Simon Hird
A stroll along the town’s sands, Lower Largo and the Law. Image: Simon Hird

There is much more renewal in the salt-tinged Leven air. A new Italian restaurant opens this spring on the main square by the station, with talk of bright new delis and a swish wine bar. Rebecca Moncrieff, owner of the town’s homeware and interior design boutique Khee, talks of “fresh blood and younger people being drawn here, with the new railway link a major part of that”.

Leven old-timer, the Fife Heritage Railway, is not being left behind either. They are opening a new visitor centre, cafe and shop in the premises Network Rail’s construction team has just vacated. Regular open days are slated to tempt visitors straight from ScotRail onto their vintage diesel and steam trains.

An ambitious urban renewal project will eventually see pathways link up from their site to the other new railway station at Cameron Bridge in the Levenmouth hinterland.

Already linking up Levenmouth up for walkers is the world-class Fife Coastal Path, Scotland’s longest continuous long-distance coastal trail at 117 miles. Cut west through Methil and weave through the old and new of Levenmouth, with industrial legacies enlivened by new shipyard projects and a swathe of renewable energy dynamism.

Cricket on the beach at Elie.  Image: Alan DavidsonCricket on the beach at Elie.  Image: Alan Davidson
Cricket on the beach at Elie. Image: Alan Davidson

Buckhaven brings Norse heritage, a return to coastal promenades and a community path that links to a local orchard.

Levenmouth is not done there, as the Wemyss Caves out west are a must. Quite simply the finest Pictish cave carvings anywhere, close your eyes and the binary sounds of the surf and the seabirds have not changed in millennia. Open them again and the caves captivate with 49 of the 60 known Pictish symbols arresting your imagination. Take a guide from the passionate Save Wemyss Ancient Caves Society to really bring the caves and nearby Macduff’s Castle (yes, that Shakespearian Macduff) alive.

Cut east along the Leven sands instead with your fish ‘n’ chips from award-winning Imrie’s as the volcanic hulk of Largo Law draws you on. The golf courses of Leven and Lundin Links swirl around – Fife is the Home of Golf after all, with myriad Levenmouth courses – before Silverburn Park begs a diversion.

This brilliant project has seen a local mental health charity rejuvenate the woodland, run paths through it, cultivate gardens, open a campsite with wooden pods and –this summer – a plan to offer beach wheelchairs and a new fleet of bikes to provide access to as many people as possible.

Pictish carvings in Wemyss Caves. Image: Adobe StockPictish carvings in Wemyss Caves. Image: Adobe Stock
Pictish carvings in Wemyss Caves. Image: Adobe Stock

As well as conjuring up arguably Fife’s best scones in their welcoming cafe, Silverburn Park’s focus is on “growing minds” as much as plants. A massive project to transform an old flax mill into an events and community space is currently unfolding too.

Further east, mile upon mile of beach spirits you off to a world where man is vastly outnumbered by seabirds. Look out for the porpoises, dolphins and even whales that patrol the bountiful coastline that fronts the life-affirming Dumbarnie Wildlife Reserve.

The notorious Elie Chain Walk –not for the fainthearted or ill-equippe d–or an even more scenic clifftop trail, create a dramatic route to postcard-pretty East Neuk.

Elie spectacularly bookends Levenmouth and opens up the East Neuk. Its curving sandy beach is famously home to the only cricket club in the UK whose home ground sports a beach as a pitch. If you want to get active, join the local wild swimmers.

Afterwards warm up in the brace of saunas by the sands conjured up by Elie Seaside Sauna. Owner and yoga teacher Judith Dunlop is keen to bring what she calls, the “real sauna magic” to Leven too. Watch this spirit-soaring space.

On Sunday, 2 June, passenger trains will run into Leven for the first time in over half a century, but they most definitely are not reaching a dead end. Indeed Levenmouth is welcoming the impending arrival with a burst of regeneration and positivity. You can hop on a ScotRail train knowing endless adventures await under those big Fife skies, whether you are 16 or 60, whether a golfer or a family seeking adventure. Maybe you’re a lover of nature, a lover of those big skies, or even just a lover rekindling the romance of Vettriano and this gloriously nostalgic beach resort.

Getting there

Scotrail trains will run to Cameron Bridge and Leven from Edinburgh Waverley using the new six-mile stretch of track from Sunday, 2 June. More tourist information is available online atwww.welcometofife.com.

Eat Well

The exposed brickwork and low-fi decor at Base in Leven feel more East London than East Neuk, but the mussels here are a highlight.

Both the Old Manor House and the Ship Inn (see Stay Over) have restaurants worth staying in for with Forth views.

Picnic in style on Leven’s waterfront with ultra-fresh produce from Bowhouse, Ardross Farm Shop and Blacketyside Farm.

Stay Over

Stay by the beach in the wooden pods at Silverburn Park, or recline in more luxury at the Old Manor Hotel in Lundin Links. The best rooms here have terraces.

The beach and seabirds come to you at Elie’s Ship Inn when you book a Forth-view room overlooking the sands. And the cricket.

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