Cellardyke Bathing Pool, Fife

The Cardinal's Steps, Cellardyke

Cellardyke in the East Neuk of Fife is not notable for many things. Home to influential musicians, the Fence Collective and Britain's first case of bird flu it's an otherwise unremarkable place, almost imperceptible from Anstruther, its bigger brasher neighbour. But somehow we end up there a lot, overlooking an old bathing pool staring out to sea.

The pool was once known as The Cardinal's Steps after Cardinal Beaton of St Andrews who had a seaside residence here in the 16th century. It was developed into a formal bathing pool in the 1930s by local volunteers. A postcard in St Andrews University archive shows it in its full glory with a tall diving platform and rows of bathing huts filling the space now occupied by a caravan site. What's more, there were people in it, which is something you don't see today.

Tidal bathing pools used to be common up and down the coast. Hardy souls thought nothing of taking a plunge in the North Sea. Although a few remain in use, like the famous "Trinkie" in Wick, they only tend to survive in the south of England where the weather is more forgiving. Today the pool lies broken at the bottom, crumbling at the sides and slippery round the edges. Despite a few forays round the outside to peer into the depths the pool's latest visitors - four 19th century cannons are invisible to the naked eye. These have been deposited here by St Andrew's University School of Chemistry to experiment on corrosion rates. According to their website the fact that the Cellardyke pool is intact and relatively sheltered makes it a perfect laboratory.

This puts paid to any idea of salvaging it as a swimming pool. I have seen kids in there, but wouldn't fancy sending my own in. There probably isn't much call really, now that Cellardyke is no longer the holiday destination it once was. Instead when we come we don't swim, we play in the park beside it where the swings have a lovely sea view. Failing that, we just sit and look out to sea.

There are many low-key attractions round here (Lower Largo and Scotland's Secret Bunker have already got mentions) and the peace of Cellardyke comes as a welcome place to stop after wending our way up the coast.

How to get there


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To find the pool come from Anstruther keep coming along parallel to the coast. Pass the harbour at Cellardyke and continue along the narrow streets until you see a play park. Turn right into the car park and you'll be staring out to sea. Alternatively turn off the A917 when you see signs to Kilrenny Mill Caravan Park.

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