Elie to Lower Largo

By Colin Hogarth

The historic streets of Elie and Earlsferry - so called because the fleeing Earl of MacDuff was ferried across the Forth from here in the 11th century - give way to a sweeping arc of sand on this coastal walk to Lower Largo, birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, inspiration for the Robinson Crusoe story. The route follows a section of the Fife Coastal Path and, as well as being an enjoyable leg-stretch in its own right, offers an introduction to the delights of this long distance trail.

The starting point for this walk is Elie, a community long popular with visitors. Back in the 19th century Victorian holidaymakers flocked here in their droves to enjoy the clean air and unspoiled golden beaches. From the Ruby Bay car park on the town's East Links, follow the access track inland and, at the junction where it joins the public road, turn left, then turn right on to Stenton Road, at the bottom. Follow this up to the High Street and turn left. Continue on the main thoroughfare, passing by the 17th century parish church, and then on along Bank Street and Links Place to Earlsferry's High Street, which ultimately leads down to the local golf course. Continuing straight on, a narrow lane passes by a small parking area on the edge of the course, curving south past a line of cottages to reach a turning circle at the end. Walk on across the grass to the ruin of a small chapel with excellent views over the Forth estuary. The path continues round the point, rising over a ridge of rock, to dunes lying between a sandy beach and the golf links.

Follow the path round the bay and, at the far end, steps set into the grassy slope climb on to the headland, leveling off at an old wartime ruin at the top. A narrow path skirts left along the top of the cliffs to a trigpoint below a tall aerial and telephone mast.

Kincraig Point offers a fine view over the sea towards the Bass Rock on the far side of the Forth, the Isle of May, and Earlsferry immediately below. This was clearly not lost on the wartime military who sited large guns on the headland. The remains can be seen in the form of large round concrete pits. The path continues round the point, dropping to more military ruins.

It bears right here, skirting the edge of a field before descending a flight of steps on the left, and continues round the point to the caravan park at Shell Bay. The route emerges at information boards and a small car park on the edge of the camping ground. Join the site's tarmac road here, turn left, and head west along the edge of the site. Stay on the outer road, passing by a small shop and laundry, and continue west, keeping the dunes to you left, until the tarmac swings right at the far end of the park. Leave the road here and continue west along a sandy track leading through a gap in woodland to the mouth of the Cocklemill Burn. A pair of wooden bridges span the wide, marshy outflow, a rundown metal shed in between. Once across, bear left and a path rises through the dunes to the beach.

You can walk along the sand, or a narrow path in the dunes offers a high tide alternative. The whitewashed houses of Lower Largo can be clearly seen across curving Largo Bay, and, above the village, Largo Law with East and West Lomond visible behind. The beach skirts by more wartime remains - bunkers and concrete blocks designed to prevent enemy landing - to reach the outflow of another burn which cuts across the sand. Head right, over the dunes to reach a small parking area below Carrick Villa and climb some wooden steps here to join the trackbed of the old Fife coast railway line. This runs past a ruined house further on, then leads straight into Lower Largo.

Stay with it as it skirts along the back of houses until you reach a set of steps on the left, leading down into a car park with public toilets above the beach.

Lower Largo is a fascinating little village and well worth some exploration. The birthplace of Selkirk, who spent over four years marooned on an island, can be found by following the road from the car park along the front. It turns right at the end, then left again to reach a pair of stone houses with a statue in a first floor niche and a small plaque.

To return to Elie you can either retraced your steps along the beach, or head up to the main A915 road where a regular bus service can be found.


Distance 7 miles/11km (one way). ;
Map OS Landranger 1:50,000 sheet 59. ;
Start/parking Ruby Bay public car park at East Links, Elie (grid ref NT 497997). ;
Grading A predominantly low level coastal route. Take care on Kincraig Point as there are long, steep drops into the sea.