Pittenweem - A Scottish coastal gem

Pittenweem - A beautiful and fascinating Scottish fishing village.

25th August 2020.

I always love touring coastal areas, and this peninsula has one of the most charming routes in all of Scotland. We feature Pittenweem on our private tours of Scotland, it has lots to offer with much  local charm and character. And, as it is not a huge distance, it can be explored on foot via the Fife Coastal Path, www.fifecoastandcountrysidetrust.co.uk/walks/fife-coastal-path/ by bike or in your car. When we conduct tours of this historic area, we are able to get in to the smaller villages to look at some of the local history which can be over looked by other operators.

One of our favourite stops on this route is the charming and working fishing village of Pittenweem. Pittenweem derives its name from the Celtic pit na uaimh, meaning ‘the township of the cave’. The cave still exists and can be visited and has long been known as St Fillan’s Cave. Legend has it that a 7th or 8th Century Irish Saint hid out in this cave as he tried to convert the local Pictish population to Christianity. The cave is long and dark, but he was able to work and write with the help of a glowing left arm! Another, possibly more plausible story, is that of the Culdees, a powerful sect of the early Christian church who founded a religious establishment at Pittenweem which was presided over by an abbot named Fillan.

Click the link to view our recent YouTube film on Pittenweem https://youtu.be/0V-LSCoGKvY 

The High Street in Pittenweem is a lovely local street with fabulous small independent shops including local fine quality arts and crafts. There is no shortage of great food and drinks too… The local Bakers GH Barnet and Sons have small bakers shops in a few of the East Neuk villages and they offer quality breads, scones and more delicious snacks www.barnettsbakery.selz.com/ There are some excellent coffee shops to which also double up as art galleries. A must visit for chocolate lovers is the delectable Cocoa Tree Café and Pittenweem chocolate company www.pittenweemchocolate.co.uk/ Step inside for lunch in their café or spend way too long trying to from their amazing collection of hand-made chocolate! The staff are very friendly and will help you choose.

Midway down the High Street is Kellie Lodging, a late sixteenth century town house built for the Earls of Kellie. By 1651 it was occupied by Robert Smith, the town clerk of Pittenweem. In the spring of that year King Charles the 2nd visited the town, rallying support to join the Scottish army to fight against Oliver Cromwell. The king was welcomed into the house, where a table was set, covered with one of Lord Kellie’s finest carpets. The house adds real character to the High Street and it’s worth stopping by to look at the architecture.

At the end of the High Street is Pittenweem Parish Church. The tower of the church was built in 1588 as the burgh Tolbooth and contained a prison on the ground floor. The projecting 5th story and spire were added in the Seventeenth century and contains two bells dated 1663 and 1742. The clock was made by the local clockmaker, John Smith in 1773.

Walking down Cove Wynd or Water Wynd offers wonderful views over the rooftops of beautiful old cottages to the Firth of Forth and Pitteweem’s old harbour. This is a working harbour with fish market which serves all of Fife and the city of Edinburgh. The catch here is mainly Haddock (perfect for fish & chips) and shellfish – Lobster, Langoustine and Crab. The harbour dates to the second half of the sixteenth century, it was destroyed by a storm in 1655 and rebuilt in 1688. It was again damaged and repaired in 1702, 1723 and had major improvements in 1771. The earliest details of a fishing industry in Pittenweem go back to the seventeenth century and are recorded by the local historian Sibbald who in 1710 notes that twenty-one boats were involved in White fish and Herring fishing.

We always recommend a walk around the harbour; it is very accessible and there is almost always some activity going on with boats departing or arriving with a catch. On the harbour front is the newly opened and excellent Dory Bistro and Gallery  www.thedory.co.uk/ The food served in here is landed at the market opposite so if you love seafood, or fish & chips this truly is a local gem. The local is worth a look at too.

In the month of August the village puts on the much loved Pittenweem Arts Festival www.pittenweemartsfestival.co.uk The festival is entering its 40th year and we think it is one of the best small festivals in Scotland. Spread across the village centre and the harbour there are over 100 artists displaying their work throughout the village in houses, garages, halls, sheds and anywhere that has a place to hang or place artwork.

Invited Artists too… The yearly invitation to several internationally known and respected artists has resulted in acclaimed and innovatory shows. There is also a wonderful programme of exhibitions, workshops, talks, children’s events, and evening performances all related to the arts. Within a setting of a local seaside village, this is one of the most picturesque places to hold an arts festival.

Pittenweem is a one and a half hours drive from Edinburgh. There are lovely local guest houses spread across the East Neuk of Fife as well as hotels up to 5-star in St Andrews, which is 20 minutes from Pittenweem.

We offer fascinating day tours to the East Neuk of Fife including Pittenweem and its Arts Festival. We normally include the historic town of St Andrews on our tours to this part of Scotland.