Area focus: East Neuk of Fife

The 34th East Neuk Festival begins today [1 July] with a rich programme of music and arts-based events at various locations across this quaint and perfectly picturesque corner of the Kingdom of Fife.

Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam
Visit Scotland/Kenny Lam

The four-day-long celebration of classical and world music combines art installations, in-person events, on-air and digital experiences, held at village halls, churches and outdoor spaces all over the Neuk.

With something for everyone, the family-friendly festival provides the perfect opportunity for home hunters to investigate the attractions of the villages dotted along the Firth of Forth coastline.

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The region, described as a “fringe of gold” by King James VI, was once the beating heart of the East Coast’s fishing industry, and while many of the ports are now used more often for recreation than for landing a day’s catch, they lend a wealth of charm to each setting.

The villages feature idyllic seaside architecture, from white-washed fishing cottages topped with red pantile roofs, to impressive stone manses and merchant’s townhouses.

The village of Elie, in the former burgh of Elie and Earlsferry, is on the south of the peninsula and is arguably the most highly desired East Neuk location, with an average property market value of £478,533, according to Zoopla.

Full of character and with a harbour dating to the 16th Century, Elie has attracted holidaymakers for decades as the quintessential Fife seaside resort.

The Toft is packed with former fishing cottages that benefit from striking coastal vistas over Elie beach, as does the sought-after street named The Terrace.

A property at The Toft is likely to cost more than £340,000, while the latter is likely to be double that

sum – at least.

Keen golfers will be hard pressed to find a better location than in this corner of Scotland, and Elie – birthplace of British Open Golf Championship winner and course designer James Braid – is home to two links courses.

St Monans is a five-minute drive north of Elie and homebuyers can expect much more bang for their buck here in comparison; the average price of a property at St Monans is £219,905, an increase of 5.96 per cent on last year.

It is the smallest of the East Neuk fishing ports and is said to have been named after St Montance, who was killed by Vikings and to whom a shrine was built, forming the basis of the village.

Surrounding the harbour is an array of picture-perfect blue, white and stone terraced and detached houses with dramatic seascapes.

Pittenweem, its name deriving from the Pictish word for “place” and Gaelic for “of the caves”, is less than two miles along the coast from St Monans and has a working harbour which hosts a thriving fish market each morning.

With crow-step gables and traditional stonework, the village’s winding lanes are packed with much-sought-after terraces and former merchants’ houses, costing an average of £327,884.

The village is steeped in history and its best known site is St Fillan’s Cave, on Cove Wynd, once home to the legendary saint who was said to have tended to and cured those suffering from mental illnesses.

Five and a half miles away is Crail, which has many buildings dating from the 17th-19th centuries and a petite harbour, which is home to Fife’s crab and lobster fleet.

With many historic sites, scenic and evocative cobbled streets, and an annual food festival, homes in Crail are popular, fetching an average price of £234,719.

The East Neuk villages have a number of primary schools, and secondary education is provided by Waid Academy in Anstruther.

It is also ideally positioned for those commuting to busier destinations, with the Fife hub of St Andrews a 15-minute drive away, while Dundee is 40 minutes by car. Edinburgh is also within easy commuting distance, lying just across the firth and roughly 50 miles away by road or rail.

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