One of the things I love about living in Scotland is that you don’t have to travel far to feel like you are a million miles from home. For us, living less than an hours drive from the Fife coast with all it’s sandy beaches, quaint harbours and wildlife watching opportunities is perfect. So imagine our joy when we discovered Catchpenny Safari Lodges, located between Elie and St Monans overlooking the sea.
Putting a new spin on the glamping scene these home from home luxury canvas lodges are not really what you expect to find in Scotland but they really do make an ideal getaway with a difference. Taking camping to another level there is no communal toilet and shower block to walk to in your jammies before bed because inside the lodges, an indulgent bathroom has a double shower, heated towel rails and hot water.
If you are in need of a digital detox there is no WiFi or television to distract you from the ever changing view. Take that book you have been promising yourself you must finish (in my case Sean Conway’s – Cycling the Earth) or a pair of binoculars to watch the gannets diving out at sea.
Catchpenny Safari Lodges
From the roadside there is no hint of the eight lodges that stand to attention, lined up along the Fife coastline, just a discreet sign at the top of the driveway.
Inside, the heavy duty canvas makes light work of covering the spacious living and dining area, kitchen and bedrooms. More than enough room for just the two of us; each lodge sleeps six and has a double bed, two singles and a rather cool double cabin bed (yes it’s big enough for two adults if you wanted to call “dibs” on it before the kids!).
We really liked the open plan aspect of our lodge and it’s ideal for families or friends spending time together. Options for cooking meals – on the wood-burning stove, a small gas hob or outside on the fire pit (it screams out for toasted marshmallows with hot chocolate). The kitchen is well equipped for serving up salads, steaks or boiled eggs in the mornings. Plenty of glasses for that cheeky gin at the end of the day, a bottle opener for the wine or a cafetière for fresh coffee to start the day.
When you are away from home it’s the small details that count and it seems the team at Catchpenny have covered most bases: hot water bottles for each bed, extra wraps and blankets for sitting out on the deck, board games, local walking and bird books.
In case you forget your shampoo, shower gel, washing up liquid, fear not because you will find eco friendly versions of all of these already in the bathroom and kitchen in the lodges too. I love that you are encouraged to make as little carbon footprint as possible during your stay.
Without even leaving the deck you can look straight out and spot a variety of seabirds both in the air and on the water. A favourite of mine are the eiders and their soothing “Oooooooo” call but we also watched gannets diving. What an incredible sight that is! At this time of year Bass Rock is home to over 150,000 gannets and so you will be in with a pretty good chance of spotting them.
During our stay, further along the coastal path we saw seals basking out on the rocks and cormorants drying out their wings too. Oyster catchers, curlews also make these shores their home.
The East Neuk in recent years has also become a safe haven for corn bunting. After working closely with the RSPB Scotland, local farmers and East Neuk Estates, the call of the corn bunting has returned. Sadly we didn’t see any but we did hear one. One to keep your eyes peeled for!
One bird we did see and hear was the skylark. Whilst protected in the UK it is still classed as a Red List species so it quite special to watch.
When the tide goes out there is a fabulous opportunity to check out the rock pools for crabs, star fish, sea snails and small fish. We didn’t get around to the rock pools on this trip but it certainly does bring out the big kid in me. Just remember to keep an eye on the tide coming back in.
What to do
If you are staying at Catchpenny (and you should) then the Fife Coastal Path is literally on your doorstep. The nearest small beach is about 200 metres away but following the footpath closer to Elie and the beaches get whiter and longer; quite impressive. It doesn’t take long via the footpath to walk out to Lady’s Tower which can also be seen from the comfort of the lodges but is far more impressive close up. Even if it is just to use the arch windows to frame the view to the lighthouse!
The wildflowers along the coastal path include gorse, sea pinks, poppies and bluebells. We spotted all of these and I think a small orchid too.
Golf. Every golfer wants to play at the “Home of Golf” and with St Andrews not far up the road you will be in the right place. But if your budget doesn’t stretch to Old Course costs then Earlsferry Links Course would be a great place to play.
Fife is full of creative people and if getting hands on and learning a new skill is also your thing then you should check out East Neuk Glass too. We once did a weekend course and learnt how to make a small stained glass window. Something quite different for a weekend away, a challenge, a lot of fun and you get to come home with your attempt at a stained glass window.
The small harbour villages of Elie and St Monans are definitely worthy of an Instagram photo (or two), with fishing boats, narrow streets, reflections on the water, a windmill and a welly boot garden. If you need any more reasons you can find a good selection of coffee shops, restaurants and pubs that can quench a thirst and refuel you after a day walking.
All the food
Catchpenny lodges are perfectly placed for food heaven! Just a short walk (or drive if you think you can’t walk back carrying all your wares) is Ardross Farm Shop. Jam packed with fresh vegetables grown right there on the farm, locally reared beef, the most amazing meringues I have ever seen and tasted, a selection of Scottish gin and whisky and friendly staff.
Being on the coast, of course there is an abundance of seafood on menus everywhere and even just fish and chips can be a real treat.
We spent just two nights at Catchpenny Safari Lodges but it felt a much longer break than that and I’m not sure if that is because we crammed so much in or because as soon as we arrived we felt relaxed? Either way it was just the ticket. The one thing that appealed to us about this stay was that lack of technology and all the usual “stuff” that still manages to somehow encroach on time away. There was non of that here and because of that I found myself not even checking my phone as much for social media fixes.
Each lodge produces it’s own power through solar panels and small wind turbines and that certainly gave us a sense of “off grid” living. As I mentioned earlier, there is no WiFi provided here but if the thought makes you totally twitchy then rest assured I did get a decent 4G signal without having to stand on one leg. However it’s worth mentioning that there are no three pin plugs in any of the lodges which meant my hairdryer was pointless! Thankfully we were blessed with gorgeous weather and all I had to do was stand outside for 15 minutes in the sunshine, not so much an option when the great Scottish weather isn’t playing nicely! Mobile phones can be charged via the USB points so don’t panic.
The hot shower and massive bath sheet towels were much appreciated and make a nice change to something the size of a flannel!
With so many outdoor activities on tap straight from the lodges it’s no surprise that they welcome dogs too.
There is SO much to see and do in this wee corner of the East Neuk but if you didn’t want to move a muscle and relax on the deck of your canvas lodge then there is no better place.
*Thank you to Alex and Tara of Catchpenny Safari Lodges for your kind hospitality. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in return for my Instagram takeover and this blog post. All thoughts on the size of bath towels, au naturale hair drying techniques and bird noises are my own.