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Fife, Scotland

Elie Chain Walk

The only fixed chain and post trail in Scotland snakes its way along the base of a towering seaside cliff. 

Passing through the quintessentially Scottish towns of Earlsferry and Elie, you’ll undoubtedly want to spend some time walking the quaint streets lined with cosy pubs, cafes, and boutiques. But just a short walk toward the coast bestows a seaside adventure like no other in Scotland.

Along the coast, eight vertical and horizontal chunky chains snake their way along the base of a towering cliff. The chains allow adventuresome hikers to traverse basalt columns, scramble across boulders, and examine specimens in the nearby tidal pools.

The walk itself is about a third of a mile long and dates to only as far back as 1929, when several Elie and Earlsferry residents wanted a more accessible route around Kincraig Point. They commissioned a local blacksmith to install chains and posts traversing the cliffs and to carve footholds in the volcanic rock so a once-inaccessible part of Scotland’s coast could now accommodate pedestrian traffic.

Several interesting features can be found along the route, which is a small offshoot of the nearby 90-mile Fife Coastal Path. Near the eastern entrance to the trail, explorers can find the cave where Macduff, Earl of Fife, allegedly hid when he was fleeing Macbeth in the classic Shakespearean tragedy. Legend has it that Macduff cowardly hid and waited for fisherman to ferry him to safety and later erected a chapel at Chapel Ness to commemorate his gratitude. 

Dotted along the tops of the cliffs are World War II pill boxes, which served as military stations to help prohibit access to the naval dockyards at Rosyth. But the most striking features of the trail are the basalt columns that line intermittent sections of the cliffs, standing erect like 300-foot petrified pipe organs.The East Neuk is part of Fife’s Coastal Path walk which covers 117 miles from Kincardine to Newburgh.  

Know Before You Go

Be aware of the tidal conditions before setting out on this trail. There are signs posted at either end that warn of the danger of the trail at high tide. Please do take these seriously as the trail hugs a cliff, so there isn't any other access to the trail if caught out by the tide.

The GPS coordinates listed lead to the holiday park near Shell Bay, which is near the start of the trail.