Imagine Cornwall, only quieter. The Kingdom of Fife is a bucolic county, just over the Forth Bridge from Edinburgh. The fertile farmland here is neatly trimmed, the coast laced with long sweeps of sand and old stone villages tumbling towards the sea. Harbours jostle with jaunty fishing trawlers unloading their creels of langoustine and lobster and lanes are lined with fancy farm shops. There’s local surf ‘n’ turf and an Italian ice-cream culture to boot (check out Jannettas in St Andrews): in summer Fife feels like a giant picnic hamper.
In the heart of it, on the beachfront in the village of Elie, is The Ship Inn. A local institution it’s recently been taken over by new owners, Graham and Rachel Bucknall (of the Bridge Inn, in Ratho), and they’ve revamped the old pub, opening a sprawling restaurant upstairs and six contemporary, seaside-chic bedrooms. In the pub itself, dogs lie in front of a roaring fire, seafaring photos pepper the walls and a beer garden just above the beach is perfect for a sundowner (try a local Eden Mill gin and tonic). This is old-fashioned, make-your-own-fun, bucket-and-spade territory. Go cockling on the shore, build sandcastles, tuck into a barbecue in the beer garden or take a walk along the Fife Coastal Path.
The Ship’s six new bedrooms are done up in fresh, coastal style with a smattering of eclectic junk shop finds (old washstands, sea chests and shoe lasts). Bedside tables are made from stacks of old suitcases topped with glass. Walls are clad with aquamarine tongue and groove and the seaside vibe is accentuated by old wooden oars, rope ladders, glass buoys and framed photos of ancient seafarers.
Contemporary comfort comes in the form of roll-top baths, monsoon showers, flat-screen TVs, espresso machines and free Wifi. Perched on the window seat in the ‘Admiral’ room on the top floor you can gaze down on dog-walkers weaving across the village’s broad, sandy beach through white-shuttered bay windows.
Famous for its fish and chips, the inn champions Scottish seafood and local shellfish (the crab, lobster and langoustine are landed at nearby Pittenweem, also home to a thriving community of artists). You can tuck into hearty pub grub, bangers and mash-style, or opt for home-cured salmon with samphire, confit fennel, watermelon and a saffron dressing followed by seared sea bream with cauliflower and samphire, tempura oyster and crispy capers.
Watch a game of cricket on beach from the beer garden. The inn is the only pub in Britain to have a cricket team with a pitch on the beach (check out the website for tide-dependent fixture list for matches from May to September). This year the cricket festival takes place over the weekend of 12-14 August.
Double rooms at The Ship Inn start from £90, including breakfast (shipinn.scot)
Written by Lucy Gillmore
First published: March 2016
You might also like…
Best gastropubs with rooms: the Bridge Inn, Ratho
Best gastropubs with rooms: the Sun Inn, Kirkby Lonsdale
The best places to eat & drink on Skye
Olive’s best Scottish food trips of 2015