This charming stretch of coast runs south from St Andrews to the point at Fife Ness, then west to Leven. Neuk is an old Scots word for corner, and it's certainly an appealing nook of the country to investigate, with picturesque fishing villages and pretty coastal walks; the Fife Coastal Path's most scenic stretches are in this area.
Once among Scotland's busiest ports, cheery Anstruther has ridden the tribulations of the declining fishing industry better than some, and now has a very pleasant mixture of bobbing boats, historic streets and visitors ambling around the harbour grazing on fish and chips or contemplating a trip to the Isle of May.
This ancient fishing village is just over a mile west of Pittenweem and is named after another cave-dwelling saint who was probably killed by pirates. Apart from a picturesque historic windmill overlooking the sea, its main sight is the parish church, built in 1362 on the orders of a grateful King David II, who was rescued by villagers from a shipwreck in the Firth of Forth.
An enchanting little town, Culross (koo-ross) is Scotland's best-preserved example of a 17th-century Scottish burgh: the National Trust for Scotland owns 20 of the town's buildings, including the palace. Small, red-tiled, whitewashed buildings line the cobbled streets, and the winding Back Causeway to the abbey is embellished with whimsical stone cottages.
Pretty and peaceful, little Crail has a much-photographed stone-sheltered harbour surrounded by wee cottages with red-tiled roofs. You can buy lobster and crab from a kiosk there. The benches in the nearby grassed area are perfectly placed for munching your al fresco crustaceans while admiring the view across to the Isle of May.
It's worth stopping in this popular seaside town to ramble around impressive Aberdour Castle. Long a residence of the Douglases of Morton, the stately structure exhibits several architectural phases; it's worth purchasing the guidebook to better comprehend what you see. Most charming of all is the elaborate doocot (dovecote) in the garden.
Just a short stroll from Anstruther, Pittenweem is now the main fishing port on the East Neuk coast, and there are lively morning fish sales at the harbour. The village name means 'place of the cave', referring to St Fillan's Cave, which was used as a chapel by a 7th-century missionary.
Kirkcaldy (ker-caw-dee) sprawls along the edge of the sea for several miles and has a rather shabby promenade with spectacular pounding surf on windy days. It's worth stopping in town to visit the excellent museum. Kirkcaldy is famous as the birthplace of 18th-century Enlightenment philosopher and economist Adam Smith, the man who features on the English £20 note.
Below the soft ridges of the Lomond Hills in the centre of Fife is the charming village of Falkland. Rising majestically out of the town centre is outstanding 16th-century Falkland Palace, a country residence of the Stuart monarchs. Mary, Queen of Scots is said to have spent the happiest days of her life 'playing the country girl in the woods and parks' at Falkland.
A magnificent example of Lowland Scottish domestic architecture, Kellie Castle has creaky floors, crooked little doorways and some marvellous works of art. It's set in a beautiful garden, and many rooms contain superb plasterwork, the Vine room being the most exquisite. The original part of the building dates from 1360; it was enlarged to its present dimensions around 1606.