The Fife Coastal Path is one of Scotland’s most beautiful walking paths. The route traces the coastline of Fife and takes in stunning coastal scenery, beautiful Scottish villages, and historical…
The Fife Coastal Path is one of Scotland’s most beautiful walking paths. The route traces the coastline of Fife and takes in stunning coastal scenery, beautiful Scottish villages, and historical sites that bring to life the past of this unique area. The Fife Coastal Path begins in Kincardine in the Firth of Forth and meanders its way to Newburgh in the Firth of Tay. The walk is typically completed in 7 – 10 days, with eight days being the most common.
The walk visits many villages along its path, providing for plenty of accommodation options for the weary walker. You’ll find an abundance of B&Bs, small hotels, and even a few campgrounds along the route.
This guide will provide an introduction to the Fife Coastal Path through in-depth route maps, navigational resources, elevation profiles, and more!
Let’s get started.
In this Post
- Where is the Fife Coastal Path?
- Interactive Fife Coastal Path map
- How long is the Fife Coastal Path?
- Fife Coastal Path Elevation Profile
- Which maps should I carry on the Fife Coastal Path?
- Stage-by-stage maps for the Fife Coastal Path
- Fife Coastal Path GPS/GPX
- Apps and offline mapping
Where is the Fife Coastal Path?
The Fife Coastal Path takes walkers along the coastline of the Fife region of Scotland and connects Kincardine with Newburgh. The route has been expanded over the years, and makes for an excellent introduction to walking in Scotland. The walk is traditionally done from south to north, beginning in the Firth of Forth and finishing in the Firth of Tay, although there is nothing to prevent you from walking in the opposite direction.
The path will take walkers along the beautiful Scottish coastline and also provide historical context to this area of Scotland with visits to many small towns and villages.
Getting to/from the start and finish of the Fife Coastal Path is relatively straightforward, with easy public transport connections from both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Keep in mind that there are no rail connections to Kincardine or Newburgh, so your journey will have to include a bus ride. For walkers from the rest of the UK, you’ll likely secure transit to Edinburgh before continuing on to reach the Fife Coastal Path.
Edinburgh is the closest large city to the start of the walk in Kincardine, while Perth in the north is closest to Newburgh.
Between Kincardine and Newburgh, the Fife Coastal Path visits some quintessential Scottish sights and provides some excellent coastal walking. Highlights of the path include a visit to the Aberdour Castle, St. Andrews with its world famous golf course, and incredible opportunities for marine wildlife spotting.
The Fife Coastal Path is typically walked in eight stages, although it is very popular to break up the walk into segments and complete it over a number of visits to Scotland. The route rarely strays far from civilization, which provides for plenty of accommodation options as well as other basic services. This allows walkers to minimize how much they must carry, as a cozy B&B or pub are often only a short stroll away.
Below is the standard eight day itinerary for the Fife Coastal Path:
- Stage 1: Kincardine to Limekilns
- Stage 2: Limekilns to Burntisland
- Stage 3: Burntisland to Buckhaven
- Stage 4: Buckhaven to Elie
- Stage 5: Elie to Kingsbarns
- Stage 6: Kingsbarns to Leuchars
- Stage 7: Leuchars to Wormit
- Stage 8: Wormit to Newburgh
Unlike many of the National Trails in England and Scotland, there are few alternate routes along the Fife Coastal Path. Generally speaking, walkers will have little opportunity to stray from the main route in search of variants or alternates.
However, there are a few exceptions to this along the Fife Coastal path, mostly encountered in areas where tides play a role in whether a particular section can be walked. In addition, the Fife Coastal Path also features a short section which can add some excitement to the walk for those with a sense of adventure and the necessary skill and equipment.
This section, known as the Elie Chain Walk, is a short 0.5 km ‘via ferrata’ where walkers traverse seaside cliffs with the help of eight fixed chains. It is important to check the tides before planning on tackling the Elie Chain Walk, as they will influence whether the section is passable or not.
We recommend wearing a helmet and only attempting this section of you have some experience scrambling before. Check out this excellent guide before setting out.
Interactive Fife Coastal Path map
The interactive Fife Coastal Path map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.
How long is the Fife Coastal Path?
Most sources say the Fife Coastal Path is between 116 – 117 miles long, or 186 – 188 kilometers long. These are certainly accurate estimates, however we measure (via GPS routes) the Fife Coastal Path to be 184.7 kilometers or 114.8 miles long from Kincardine to Newburgh.
While we may pride ourselves in determining the exact distance of the walk, the reality is that it will have little practical value for the average walker. Given the possibilities for short detours into the various villages along the path, a quick stop-off at the local pub, and countless other opportunities to explore your surroundings you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further.
Yet knowing the approximate distances between stopping points on the Fife Coastal Path is very useful information for planning your own itinerary. You can get a sense of the distance you’ll need to cover in any given day and be prepared before setting foot on the path. The two maps below provide just that information, with approximate stage distances for the Fife Coastal Path shown in both miles and kilometers.
Remember that these are just estimates, but they should be useful in helping you plan your own Fife Coastal Path adventure.
Fife Coastal Path Elevation Profile
The Fife Coastal Path certainly doesn’t have the elevation profile of a high-alpine traverse. Following the shore for much of the route, the path has its ups and downs but for the most part is a relatively easy walk. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared!
Over the length of the entire Fife Coastal Path you can expect to climb approximately 3,200 meters or 10,400 feet. Anyone who has completed a coastal walk before knows that the undulating nature of these paths can add some real difficulty!
As you’ll see on the elevation profiles below, the Fife Coastal Path rarely strays far from sea-level over the first seven stages. Then, on your last day, a single large climb dominates the stage and most of the elevation gained on the entire walk. The climb on stage eight takes walker’s up the shoulder of Norman’s Law, but will but shouldn’t cause you any issues.
The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, provide an overview of what each stage of the Fife Coastal Path entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 8-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.
The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from Elie to Kingsbarns is rather long in distance, while the stage from Wormit to Newburgh has a lot of elevation gain.
When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Fife Coastal Path be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.
Which maps should I carry on the Fife Coastal Path?
The Fife Coastal Path is one of Scotland’s Great Trails, meaning you can generally expect the path will be well-marked and easy to follow. However, it can still be quite easy to get turned around, off-course, or generally lost on the walk given the number of intersecting trails and footpaths you’ll encounter.
For this reason, we recommend that all walkers carry some form of navigation with them on their walk.
Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for most walkers. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.
In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring physical maps and a guidebook along. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, since you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!
The Fife Coastal Path is well covered by Ordnance Survey Explorer maps, and you’ll need the following set to cover the entire route:
Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps for the Fife Coastal Path
These detailed maps provide a 1:25,000 scale and include the entire route of the Fife Coastal Path. You’ll need the following three maps to cover the entire walk:
- Explorer 367: Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy and Glenrothes South
- Explorer 370: Glenrothes North, Falkland and Lomond Hills
- Explorer 371: St Andrews and East Fife
In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.
In addition to maps, we always recommend bringing a good guidebook along on your walk. Your best bet is outlined below:
Fife Coastal Path – Rucksack Readers
There are only a few guidebooks available for the Fife Coastal Path, and this version from Rucksack Readers gets the best reviews. It comes complete with daily route descriptions, accommodation options, and thoughtful commentary on the walk. Highly recommended.
Stage-by-stage maps for the Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is typically walked over eight days, with plenty of options to lengthen or shorten the duration. The maps below provide a general outline for each of these eight stages and include distance and elevation change for each stage.
Stage 1: Kincardine to Limekilns
Distance: 17.9 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +298 m / -299 m
Stage 2: Limekilns to Burntisland
Distance: 27.3 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +468 m / -461 m
Stage 3: Burntisland to Buckhaven
Distance: 23.35 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +457 m / -441 m
Stage 4: Buckhaven to Elie
Distance: 19.22 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +257 m / -282 m
Stage 5: Elie to Kingsbarns
Distance: 25.99 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +353 m / -351 m
Stage 6: Kingsbarns to Leuchars
Distance: 21.74 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +367 m / -360 m
Stage 7: Leuchars to Wormit
Distance: 23.51 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +312 m / -301 m
Stage 8: Wormit to Newburgh
Distance: 25.7 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +680 m / -668 m
Fife Coastal Path GPS/GPX
If you are interested in getting access to the GPS data for the Fife Coastal Path you’ll have a variety of options available. The first, and what we recommend, is to use the ThunderForest Outdoor layer in any GPS mapping software. This basemap has the full Fife Coastal Path shown, making it easy to follow. It’s what we’ve used to create the maps in this post!
Finally, there are several GPX files available for download when doing an online search. While we have no reason to believe they aren’t accurate, we won’t recommend a specific site since we haven’t been able to verify their accuracy!
Apps and offline mapping
As mentioned above we highly recommend utilizing offline downloadable GPS maps on your smartphone to navigate while walking the Fife Coastal Path. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you may not have) to display the map.
Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Fife Coastal Path.
Have a great Fife Coastal Path adventure!
We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Fife Coastal Path. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!