Hay's Way: A reminder of the plight of Scotland's rural B&Bs

The tent finally came out.
Balhousie Farm Bed & Breakfast nestled in Fife Balhousie Farm Bed & Breakfast nestled in Fife
Balhousie Farm Bed & Breakfast nestled in Fife

Luckily the sun was (mostly) shining for Easter weekend when I arrived at the Fife coast during Hay’s Way as accommodation options were few and far between. There was no room at any inn on my route leaving St Andrews going via Anstruther and on to Elie over the Easter period.

I brought a tent with me precisely for this reason as I’ll be hitting popular holiday spots in high seasons during the walk, but it was eye-opening how there was just nowhere left to book for the March bank holiday weekend.

It comes as no surprise, though, as statistics released in 2018 revealed up to half of all houses in Elie and Earlsferry were holiday homes, with locals in Lower Largo and Anstruther telling me they face similar challenges. Elie residents confirmed these figures to me before I shuffled around on the beach in the dark trying to pitch my tent having failed for the third night in a row to find a bed. I remember walking the Fife Coastal Path in December 2022 and noticing how eerily quiet the town was with many homes sitting empty over winter.

Emerging from my humble abode the next morning, I was greeted by Judith Dunlop, who was preparing her seaside sauna for guests for the day ahead, and which I happened to have plonked myself right next to; an innocent but convenient mistake as, after taking one look at me, she handed me a swimming costume and insisted I take a pew in one of her saunas.

Feeling refreshed, I was still determined to find a bed and shower for the next night, so I decided to walk inland in an attempt to find a B&B.

I left Elie with a clear picture of the need for short-term let licences to address housing demand. But after about eight miles of walking, I came across Balhousie Farm Bed & Breakfast which had room, and which reminded me of where the legislation has got it so wrong in some aspects.

Lived-in homes where the owners provide a bed and breakfast the next morning should not be lumped together and require the same red-tape as entire flats and homes rented out as holiday lets for months on end. Balhousie Farm owners Anne and Jim Jack said they were holding up okay, but knew other B&B owners like themselves in the area who had decided to close from the added costs of the new legislation.

The warm welcome and comfy bed were a relief, but my stay was a little tainted by the reminder that many hosts across Scotland who had businesses like Anne and Jim have been pushed to close their doors.



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