A trip to Loch Leven, Fife
I was about to begin this post with an apology for the photo spam, but then again… you know those rare occasions when the perfect dress meets the perfect location? Our trip to Loch Leven in Fife was one of those times. Read on to find out more about this beautiful island, with its stunning history…
I first visited Loch Leven castle as a child – right at the height of my obsession with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned on the island for a year, and made a thrilling escape from it, which was the stuff Hollywood movies are made of.
I think I must have read a book about this or something, because, when we arrived on the island, bits of the story started coming back to me, and I found myself walking around constantly saying things like, “I mean, she would DEFINITELY have looked out of this window, Terry! Do you think she’d have looked out of this window? And maybe touched it, like I am now?!” I’m pretty sure my 10-year-old self said exactly the same kind of things when she was there, so, yeah, some things never change, do they?
Sadly, of course, Loch Leven castle HAS changed since Mary’s day, and is now a ruin, but even the boat ride out to the island was a pleasure on such a hot day, as was the little picnic we had, sitting in the shady courtyard. This turned out to be the hottest June day recorded in Scotland in 20 years, AND it was right at the start of our school holidays here, but the boat to the island only carries 12 people at a time, so the island didn’t feel crowded at all, and we had plenty of time to explore (And, you know, to take ridiculous fashion blogger photos, obviously…) before heading back to the mainland again.
We were only there for a few hours, but the weather and the scenery combined to make it feel a bit like being on holiday, so even if you don’t have a lot of time to explore, I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit.
Things to do in and around Loch Leven
While on the surface Loch Leven Castle appears to be an idyllic ruined island castle begging to be photographed, painted and written about, the castle has the kind of dark past that Hollywood movies are made from. It was here that Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned and forced to abdicate after her marriage to James VI in 1567. This is one of the most traumatic periods in Scottish history, and it’s easy to see why the castle has earned its reputation as being a place for reflection and mourning.
The Loch Leven Heritage Trail circles this beautiful inland loch, allowing visitors to explore the area on a well-maintained gravel path. This 13-mile cycle trail allows walkers and cyclists to enjoy the scenic landscape along the shores of the loch. You’ll find several points of interest along this route, including a visitor centre with a cafe and toilets, as well as a kiosk to hire binoculars for wildlife spotting.
As a result, it is a popular destination for bird watchers and is considered to be one of the top natural assets in Scotland. You can find a variety of different types of birds at Loch Leven, including pink-footed geese, lapwings and wrens. The RSPB centre nearby is a great place to visit, and staff can help you identify the different birds that are passing through the area.
You can, of course, also take a boat trip to Loch Leven Castle, as we did. You can board a passenger boat that leaves from the pier at Kinross and takes just 10-minutes to reach the island. The ruined tower house on the island was built between the 14th and 15th centuries and was where Queen Mary was imprisoned. She eventually escaped from the castle and was exiled to England.
Eating and drinking at Loch Leven
The Loch Leven Larder is a family-run farm, restaurant and deli that’s based on the shores of the loch. The restaurant has a menu that changes seasonally, and you can sample their locally produced products in the shop.
Other attractions in the area include the Loch Leven Brewery, which specializes in craft beers made with only the best ingredients from local farmers and fishermen. Visitors can purchase beer from the on-site shop or sample it in the brewery’s tap room.
Things to do in the surrounding area of Fife
Loch Leven is a great base to explore the rest of Fife, with many things to see and do in the surrounding area. The region is home to many historic buildings and landmarks, as well as fantastic places to eat, drink and play golf.
One of the most famous sites in the surrounding area is the historic St Andrew’s Cathedral, which is a must-visit on any trip to Scotland. Known for its medieval sculptures and artefacts, including St Rule’s Tower, it’s also a great place to learn more about the history of Fife.
Another must-see is the Fife Coastal Path, which stretches for an impressive 117 miles across the region and offers a variety of different terrains to enjoy. Whether you want to stroll or take on a hike, this route is perfect for families and outdoor enthusiasts.
The Coastal Path is easy to follow and punctuated by a variety of towns and villages, so you won’t be short on opportunities to stop and refuel on your journey. You can take on the whole route or choose to tackle a shorter section to fit in a few days or even a weekend.
You can also visit the world’s smallest lighthouse at North Queensferry Harbour, which is a must-visit for anyone looking to experience Fife’s unique maritime heritage. The quaint and historic town offers plenty of seafood restaurants, and you can climb the tower to learn more about the history of the lighthouse, or even light it yourself!
There are plenty of other places to visit in the nearby area, including my personal favourite, Pittenweem, plus other coastal towns like Elie, Crail, and Anstruther. These old fishing towns have a fantastic range of shops and restaurants, as well as stunning views out across the water.