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Issue 86 - The East Neuk's Hidden Gem

Scotland Magazine Issue 86
April 2016

 

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The East Neuk's Hidden Gem

Keith Fergus visits the village of Lower Largo

The East Neuk of Fife is renowned for its breathtaking coastline and idyllic villages. Sitting at the Neuk’s western edge, Lower Largo is a prime example of both and – although the likes of Crail and Anstruther receive more plaudits – has a timeless feel, in no small part due to the whitewashed cottages that rise directly above the golden sand of Largo beach and the Firth of Forth. The considerably smaller Upper Largo, as you would expect, is situated uphill and about half a mile away, along the A915.

Perhaps the village’s most famous resident was Alexander Selkirk, who was born here in 1676. During the early 18th Century, Selkirk spent four years as a castaway on the uninhabited Juan Fernandez Islands in the South Pacific Ocean; it is said that this provided the author Daniel Defoe with his inspiration for Robinson Crusoe. Visitors to the site of Selkirk’s birth will find a bronze statue commemorating him; situated at first floor level, it is built into a pair of cottages and overlooks Main Street.

Flowing into the Firth of Forth at Lower Largo, under a striking four- arched viaduct, is the Keil Water. A harbour was built here in the 1500s and by the 19th Century a steam ferry service plied its trade between the village and Newhaven on the outskirts of Edinburgh. A small herring fleet also operated from the harbour that, along with the production of fishing nets and the export of coal, helped Lower Largo to develop during this period of economic expansion.

Although it never grew to any substantial scale, the harbour walls still exist today. From here marvellous views extend along the Fife coastline and across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and East Lothian, with the dome of North Berwick Law a conspicuous feature that draws the eye.