Lower Largo hotel, The Crusoe, is the perfect base for a Fife food safari

It’s just a short journey from the East Neuk’s finest eating spots
A bedroom at The Crusoe Pic: Caroline TrotterA bedroom at The Crusoe Pic: Caroline Trotter
A bedroom at The Crusoe Pic: Caroline Trotter

Our stay at The Crusoe is well overdue

My other half is linked to the area, and spent summer holidays here as a child. His late dad was from Lower Largo, and is related to Alexander Selkirk - the 18th-century local and shipwrecked sailor on whom Daniel Defoe is said to have based his character Robinson Crusoe.

Also, his parents got engaged in the hotel’s bar, where there’s a footprint that’s said to be Selkirk’s.

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A bedroom window view from The Crusoe Pic: Caroline TrotterA bedroom window view from The Crusoe Pic: Caroline Trotter
A bedroom window view from The Crusoe Pic: Caroline Trotter

We’ve visited this place for food before, but never pulled an overnighter. Until now.

It feels like the perfect time of year, as the atmospheric inn, which was built in 1824 as a granary, feels cosseting, and the Firth of Forth is especially fierce. Take your earplugs if you can’t cope with the sound of the crashing sea, though I found the white noise soothing.

Apart from the occasional dog walker on Largo Bay, when the tide is out, the waves are all you can see from the window in our room, where the wardrobes are lined with lobster wallpaper and there’s a copy of Robinson Crusoe on the bedside table.

They’ve got Laura Thomas Co products in the walk-in shower, where the decor is modern monochrome after a recent refurbishment. And there are Tunnocks teacakes to squash into your mouth as you goggle at the huge smart TVs.

The Ship Inn's aranciniThe Ship Inn's arancini
The Ship Inn's arancini

You can see how this place won Romantic Hotel of the Year for the Fife region at the National Hotel Awards 2023.

This venue was to be our base for a weekend of eating. To kick us off, we had dinner in situ, with dishes including an excellently buttery fish pie that was hotter than the sun on a South Pacific island, and an extra treacly sticky toffee pudding.

They’ve also won awards for their breakfast. Their decadent eggs Benedict totally converted me from my usual sweet cravings, though I had already enjoyed the nutty granola and fruit offering. It was to be one of many Fife meals.


The clam starter at Kinneuchar InnThe clam starter at Kinneuchar Inn
The clam starter at Kinneuchar Inn

It was exciting to spot Scottish and British Street Food Award 2023 winners, Choola, at the lively market, where they were selling their Nepalese momos. You might also see regulars including Pizza Geeks, and burger purveyors, Screaming Peacock and Nae Bother Foods. As far as edible products go, alongside beautiful crafts from creators including Gallus Glass, we browse charcuterie from East Coast Cured, pretty dome-shaped confectionary from Chocolatia and the wares of cheese purveyors, including St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company, who are giving away free samples. However, we’re saving our appetites for lunch at resident cafe, Baern.

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St Monans (www.bowhousefife.com), the next market dates are March 9 and 10.

This is my second visit to this bakery and cafe. It’s in the Bowhouse courtyard and is open weekly, Thursday to Sunday from 10am until 4pm. The first time we came here, it was pretty quiet. No longer. There’s a queue that stretches up the stairs. Apparently, this happens on market weekends. We still manage to bag a table, and order a slice of the sweet Uchiki Kuri squash, goat’s curd and quince tart, with a slab of spiced bread and butter pudding with custard for afters. He tries the smoked Anster and fermented cabbage baked potato pastry, which is like a hot water bottle in food form, and takes away a chocolate and turmeric cookie, so he can eat it, in raptures, in a king-size bed. That’s proper romance. Apologies to The Crusoe for any crumbs.

Lunch at BaernLunch at Baern
Lunch at Baern

Bowhouse, St Monans (www.bowhousefife.com)


This place is owned by the same people, Graeme and Rachel Bucknall, who look after The Crusoe. Thus, they’ve got a shuttle service, which can run you between both venues. We’re whisked away on our second night, for a ten minute drive to Elie. The furry welcome party includes a customer’s Australian shepherd dog, who instantly falls deeply in love with my husband. They have to be pried away from each other, but there is consolation in trying one of their new winter cocktails, Little Garden, with apple juice, rosemary, thyme, honey, gin, lime and elderflower. We drank these in the bar, but ate upstairs, in the bright dining room. We share cheese gougeres with bacon jam, and a cricket-ball-sized and gummy-centred ham hock and smoked brie arancini, then he goes for fish and chips, and I try the hot smoked salmon salad. We skip dessert, since our legs aren’t really as hollow as fishing waders. Taxi!

The Toft, Elie and Earlsferry, Leven (01333 350246, www.shipinn.scot)

Our final lunch is at my spiritual home. I’ve never eaten anything that’s less than perfect at this destination, which is owned by chef James Ferguson and Alethea Palmer. I’m not the only one who’s a convert. Just before our visit, we spotted Michelin-starred chef Angela Hartnett OBE at Elie. After a quick spy on social media, it seems she was at Kinneuchar Inn the night before our visit. I wonder if she also ordered the steamed palourde clams, which are served with a spicy nduja and cider sauce? If not, she missed out. I have this, followed by roast Pekin duck breast with white beans, smoked bacon and caramelised Tropea onions. My well-fed beau starts light, with a salad of radicchio, pickled quince, Mimolette and hazelnut, then goes for the cockle-warming special of venison faggot. We go out with a bang thanks to what our server describes as James’s take on a McDonald’s treat - the deep fried apple pie. It features acidic fruit in a crunchy cinnamon and sugar-dusted pastry sleeve, plus a bit of custard. What would Alexander Selkirk have thought? He’d be very jealous, I’m sure.

9-11 Main Street, Kilconquhar (01333 340377, www.kinneucharinn.com)

Room rates at The Crusoe (2 Main Street, Lower Largo, Leven, 01333 406775, www.thecrusoe.com) start from £110 including breakfast



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