Canvassing ideas on Fife’s coast

The East Neuk of Fife is a gem of a place: picturesque fishing villages, coastal walks, beaches, cricket and a growing focus on provenance … a passion for the area’s produce and producers. For those looking to stay on the coast, there’s a new destination. We took time out to visit and discover the thinking behind Catchpenny …

If you’ve ever walked the Fife Coast Path between Elie and Anstruther, there are two memorable landmarks – the ruins of Newark Castle and St Monans windmill on either side of the village that gives the windmill its name. It is a stunning section of the 117 mile coastal trail. Close to the castle ruins – and sporting wee windmills of its own that power the place ‘off grid’ – is a unique holiday destination.

Catchpenny is a dream realised by Alex and Tara Nairn from Elie. They’ve created a very special place that will not only help to boost the area’s tourism industry but that also supports their own vision to help build a more sustainable community.

Alex’s family has long been associated with Elie. His ancestors owned Elie House – now redeveloped into apartments – and the former estate is now a trust under his family’s stewardship. It looks after rural housing, farming and forestry, working in conjunction with the Forestry Commission and Fife Council, as well as Kilconquhar Loch, a site of special scientific interest, where they work closely with Scottish Natural Heritage.

One of the estate’s most well known businesses is Ardross Farmshop, set up in 2005 by the Pollock family. The farm – part of the Trust’s land – produces over 40 varieties of vegetables which are all sold through the shop.

Alex explains: “This is our home and we want to invest for the benefit of the generations who will follow. Our vision is to create a sustainable community – looking ahead not just a handful of years but well into the future … 50 to 100 years down the line. My family has been here for almost a century. By planning and investing now we can help to ensure this area not only retains its outstanding natural beauty and appeal but also grows as a living community to support local people in employment as well as all of the facilities required to make a community thrive.”

Back to Catchpenny: where did the name originate?

Catchpenny – or ‘Catch-a-Penny’ as it sometimes used to be known – is the name of a former tavern located close to the site between Elie and St Monans.  In days gone by, villagers were not allowed to drink alcohol in their own village on a Sunday.  So what did they do? They built a tavern between the villages so they could take a stroll away from such punishing jurisdiction and enjoy a sly sip on the Sabbath! Sadly, the old tavern is long gone. If you’re in The Ship Inn in Elie you can spy it on an old map on their ceiling – and now its spirit lives on!

Alex and Tara wanted to provide a traditional camping experience but with “a touch of luxury, style and sophistication”. Alex says: “At Catchpenny, the whole family – including the dog – can enjoy the great outdoors without compromising on comfort or, most importantly, a good night’s sleep.” That’s because the Nairns have not skimped on the beds. In fact, they’ve not skimped on anything. There’s accommodation for up to 48 folk keen to glamp in a spectacular setting, yards off the coastal path with uninterrupted views across the Forth to the Bass Rock.

The site has eight safari tents, chosen by Alex and Tara for the space they provide. They are unique in Scotland. Alex explains: “We’ve done our research. There are numerous pod and Wigwam destinations, but we wanted to provide accommodation on a different level – a place that has many of the comforts of home in a quirky, holiday experience.” Each tent sleeps 6 – one king size as a ‘master’, a twin room and a hideaway, elevated king size cabin. At the back is your own shower room, toilet and basin. There’s even a heated towel rail – and plenty of space for storing coats, wellies and the things you’ll bring for a break by the seaside. You’ll find real beds with excellent quality mattresses and linen as well as hot showers and even flushing loos.

All your linen, towels and bath mats are provided. Each tent has its own well-equipped kitchen with a fridge, two-hob gas stove – for rusting up a cuppa or a quick snack – and they stock each with essential kitchen cleaning equipment as well as the cooking basics – tea, coffee, sugar, cooking oil, salt & pepper.

The kitchen’s worktop is handmade from the family’s own fallen trees – each is unique. And talking of handmade, so is your dining table. It is in the open plan living area together with leather sofa and coffee table. You also have a wood burning stove (a basket of logs is provided) with its additional hob and oven. The stove also helps to make your holiday home toasty in those chillier evenings as you look out over the waves.

Talking of the sea, it is right in front of you. Each deck has stunning views … and the canvass can open up to provide totally open living on the best days. You’ve got deck furniture to relax in – either in the sunshine or as the day ends, warmed by your own fire pit whilst enjoying a sun-downer.

As mentioned, the whole site is ‘off grid’ meaning all the power required on site is generated right on your doorstep: small wind turbines top each tent and there’s a bank of solar panels capturing the rays on the south facing bank. The electricity generated is stored in batteries built into the site – relayed to each tent for your use. Here’s a very important bit of info: there are no three pin sockets – only 12V USB charging points. As the gas and stove are provided, you should have all you need without having to plug in high energy appliances. There’s no Wi-Fi, but for those on the right networks, there’s a good 4G service.

The arc of tents means each looks out at a slightly different angle from its neighbour. It is perfect for a family, a group of families or a gathering of friends. Take one for an unforgettable holiday experience on Fife’s coastline … or all eight for a celebratory gathering on this stunning section of coastline.

What the Nairns have created at Catchpenny is a great example of how innovative ideas are helping to shape and support rural areas across Scotland. New thinking creating exciting places to visit and explore. As the villagers from Elie and St Monans might have said as they walked east and west on a sunny Sunday … we’ll drink to that! For more information, follow any of the links from within the Blog.


To check availability and to book your time at Catchpenny, please follow this link.

You’ll also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Thanks for reading.