Do I want to live in Fife, Scotland?
September 4, 2011 1:10 PM   Subscribe

Put my mind at ease - is there anywhere nice to live in Fife, Scotland?

My husband and I are relocating from Austria (though we're both from the UK) as he has just got a job in St Andrews and I am going to continue my job remotely with trips back to Austria once a month (so ideally I don't want to be more than 2hrs from Edinburgh airport). We own a flat in Edinburgh, so we'll live there initially, but we would like to move a little closer to St Andrews to reduce my husband's commute.

Everyone keeps telling me that Fife is really nasty, and that I won't like living there. I know that St. Andrews is nice, albeit expensive, but where else might I find nice property, in or near a nice town with reasonable facilities (good schools, big supermarket, nice cafes, good pub or restaurant). The most important thing to me is to find a really nice house, as I will spend all my working day there, but second to that I would like decent facilities.

Can anyone shed any light on what it's life to live in Fife and where I might like to live?
posted by farfaraway to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Englishman living in Edinburgh here. Your verdict of Fife is a wee bit harsh but I couldn't bring myself to disagree with you. Much of Fife is run down and impoverished and some of the verdicts you hear may reflect that. The weather can also be vile (though that is true for Scotland generally).

Can't say I'd fancy the commute from Edinburgh to St Andrews. Get here first and then look around.

Send me mail if you wish and I can provide some limited local knowledge offline.
posted by epo at 1:34 PM on September 4, 2011

Everyone keeps telling me that Fife is really nasty, and that I won't like living there.

Fife has some depressed former mining towns, and some towns that aren't ever going to turn up on the tourist trails - but it has some beautiful coastline with a lot of incredibly scenic little villages. Your nearest decent-sized town to those would likely be St A's itself, though.

There's also some beautiful parts of the country around Leven and Kincardine, but those towns might be a bit too small for what you're looking for, especially if you're used to Edinburgh.
posted by Catseye at 1:39 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I lived in Edinburgh for 10 years as a child and nothing was more exciting to me than a jaunt to one of the many scenic coastal villages that Catseye linked to. In fact, moving away from Edinburgh just before my teens was probably a great thing - I love that city but it gets horribly depressing in September after the festival ends...

My grandmother lived in a beautiful Victorian mansion house in Dunfermline, though it's not much closer than Edinburgh.

It may not be the most salubrious place in the UK, but is Dundee not big enough to provide some of what you're looking for just across the silvery Tay?
posted by dumdidumdum at 2:20 PM on September 4, 2011

Do consider Anstruther, just a little way down the (beautiful) coast from St Andrews. I have friends there who teach at the University of St Andrews and they are big fans.

Edinburgh is a touch too far to commute, but St Andrews itself is a treasure, and somewhere you might leave with wonderful memories: don't rule it out if you get a chance.
posted by pyotrstolypin at 2:50 PM on September 4, 2011

Yes, it sounds like the East Neuk villages are where you want to look, using St Andrews for facilities. Otherwise, North or South Queensferry would keep you within 20 minutes of central Edinburgh by rail while taking 40 minutes off his commute each day, probably more if he's planning to drive it.

I wouldn't fancy the commute from Edinburgh to St Andrews for an office job, so to speak, but if your husband's an academic who doesn't need to be on campus every day--especially outwith term time--it might be different. I know at least one St Andrews academic who does that. (I do something similar myself.)

Also, last week I met an Italian academic now working in Switzerland who had previously worked at St Andrews. At dinner, someone (English) asked him how he'd enjoyed Fife, in a leading-question, "That must have been shit" kind of voice. He replied with absolute sincerity that he'd loved it, and explained why eloquently--partly it was that it was a great place for his kids, if I remember rightly.

I'm told the queue at the Anstruther Fish Bar can be an hour long, by the way, and that the food is so good that it's worth the wait. One friend of mine who used to work nearby sometimes drives his family out there from Edinburgh, just to get their fish and chips.
posted by lapsangsouchong at 2:57 PM on September 4, 2011

I've been a student in St Andrews for about 8 years, and originally come from Dundee. Fife has a less-than-fantastic reputation, but as others have said, St Andrews is a very nice place and so are some of the surrounding towns in the East Neuk. The reputation applies (somewhat) more as you go into central Fife.

Have a look at for property that's for sale and rent around there. That will at least help you get an idea of what you could afford. Prices drop as you move away from St Andrews.

Note that St Andrews doesn't have a train station, the nearest is at Leuchars. The only big (if you can even call it that - don't expect clothes etc) is Morrisons on the edge of town. There is a small tesco in town that I've found most infurating with long queues (which in fairness, go quickly) and occasionally insulting staff (e.g. "I'm fed up serving these saddos who can't use the self service") - but there's really not even enough room to take a trolley down the aisles.

St Andrews is nice for pubs, my suggestions would be the Whey Pat (good real ales and they actually know to keep them properly) and the Russell Hotel (good bar meals, nice fire, friendly staff; not to be confused with the very fancy Rufflets). I've no idea what the villages around would be like though. Restaurants are ok but not great - you can often pay more but not feel you're getting extra.

Another town near to St Andrews that you might want to look at is Cupar, about 20 minutes drive from St Andrews and on the way to Edinburgh. This would at least give you a choice of big supermarkets and there is a train station there if that is how you'd like to get to Edinburgh.

The airbase at Leuchars will probably be turned into an baracks, just a point to consider if that's where you'd think of moving to.

I have friends that live in Kircaldy becase one of them works in St Andrews and the other in Edinburgh. However, this may well be the sort of town you've been warned of!

I hope I've not put you off too much, St Andrews is really a lovely place to stay. Even if you don't go to the beach, it's nice to know it's just a street away, and it feels a very safe place (although I'd also feel that about Edinburgh).
posted by kg at 3:01 PM on September 4, 2011

I spend quite a bit of time in Fife (looking after elderly relation, so I don't have the experience of what it's like to work there). It's stunningly beautiful. But there is a lot of poverty. Your husband could certainly commute from Dundee, although it's not in Fife itself. There are some amazing houses on the east of the city, out towards Broughty Ferry (the latter being one of the places the jute merchants built their houses). As for schools, of three secondary schools I looked at, one has decent inspection results (reports are here). Shops - it has supermarkets, M&S etc, but the deprivation is obvious and I'm not sure how much luck you'd have with cafes and pubs (there are loads, just not sure they're of the standard it sounds like you're looking for). But there are developments going on wch may improve things - particularly the Dundee V&A.

I don't care much for St Andrews myself, though again the setting is lovely. Very touristy, very studenty and I've found it difficult to buy basics. There are some good cafes though, and the charity shops totally rock.
posted by paduasoy at 3:13 PM on September 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Anstruther, definitely. The missus and I have friends in Pittenweem, and I get the feeling they'd rather be in Anstruther.

Remember, at the Anstruther Fish Bar, order a Fish Supper; "fish and chips" will only get you a confused stare.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:25 PM on September 4, 2011

I grew up in a small village near Cupar. It was a great place to be a kid -- I had a lot of freedom to run around, and it was near enough the woods/beach/hills for my parents to take us there when us kids needed to let off steam. As a 20-something, I really enjoy visiting back there.

Schools: I went to the local village school for primary -- with all seven grades combined it reached a max of 30 pupils when I was in my final year, which may or may not be what you're looking for -- and then Bell Baxter (Cupar) for secondary. Bell Baxter's inspection report is pretty positive.

My mum still lives in Fife, and I think she likes the interesting community she's found in the area. Fife is not a cool place to live, so people who move there generally have some other reason for doing so (they like the outdoors, the community, the relatively low cost of living, etc.)

East Neuk and North-East Fife both veer more towards the cutesy/rural vibe that people upthread have been mentioning, rather than the former mining towns. This is total home-town loyalty talking, but I really like Cupar: it's cheaper and less studenty than St Andrews, with a couple of cafes, a good pub or two and a bookshop (!).

Off the top of my head, some things which may be of interest to anyone who is curious about Fife:

Fife has an interesting music scene.

Dundee has the Dundee Contemporary Arts, an art gallery/bar/cinema. The botanic garden is also worth a look.

Pillars of Hercules (near Falkland) is an organic farm with a good cafe on the side.

Lastly: my favourite Fife beaches are Tentsmuir (woods, seals) and Cambo Sands (rock pools).
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 3:09 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

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