A ceiling with a difference, a cricket pitch on a beach
and the best night’s sleep of this year – Natasha Mckim explores the well-kept secret of The Ship Inn in Elie
Tucked away in a corner of the Fife coastline is a secret little treasure. The village of Elie feels like it is from another time – The Famous Five would stop off here on one of their adventures.
If you head away from the tiny heart of Elie, towards the sea, you will find yourself faced with an amazing view across the Firth of the Forth and, depending on the tide, a beach big enough for the whole community and more.
Indeed, the whole village is known to gather on the golden stretch of sand where cricket teams play in the summer. The teams brave the tide and, sheltered by the cove and curved inlet, play their tournaments, watched by large crowds.
The Ship Inn faces directly on to this make-shift pitch and has its own team who plays. Sadly, during our March visit, it wasn’t quite cricket season, but my friend and I made use of the beautiful location.
The Ship Inn is the ideal place to escape to and let the sea whip away the trials of work and family life. The sea breeze outside clears away the cobwebs and will give even the palest person a rosy complexion. Stepping inside the recently refurbished inn, the warmth from the open fire cuddles guests and lulls you into a relaxed state of mind.
Rachel and Graham Bucknall were more than familiar with Elie before buying The Ship Inn, having been regular visitors before. Rachel’s parents had a house in the village and she had spent much of her youth in the area. The renovations included the pub and upstairs restaurant and the addition of six beautifully styled bedrooms.
My friend, SJ, and I were given one of the rooms facing out on to the bay. Nespresso machine, still and sparkling water, plenty of plugs in useful places for charging phones and straightening hair and not a speck of dust anywhere made the light room even more comfortable. The Siabann products in the bathroom meant it was acceptable to walk around asking people to “smell my hands” – they were honestly amazing and made your hands and hair and everything else in between smell and feel wonderful.
The bar downstairs is snug, and the wide range of spirits, including my favourite Edinburgh Gin, make it the perfect place to sit and relax, either in the afternoon or before dinner. If you have been for a long and blustery walk along the beach, the atmosphere, food, drink and customer service will quickly warm you up, and your pooch is even welcome to warm their toes inside too.
Upstairs, the restaurant has a wide view of the bay. I can imagine having a big birthday party up here, or equally an intimate meal on a romantic escape. Graham is very passionate about his food and wine, and insists on the ingredients being as local as possible. Our starter of goats cheese, beetroot, candied hazelnuts and horseradish salad was followed by East Neuk venison, sourced from an estate not far away.
That venison had more love and care lavished upon it by the chefs than most humans will ever experience, but golly, it was certainly worth it. The buttery venison loin came with wild mushroom pithiver, salt baked celeriac and black cherry jus, along with very attentive service. After that main, I thought there was no room left for dessert, and nothing could top it, but The Ship Inn team quickly proved me wrong with a passion fruit souffle, perfectly risen, with passion fruit sorbet. After such a meal, the only thing to be done is to retire to the fireside with a glass of pinot and enjoy the company of everyone else visiting the inn.
One of my favourite pieces of decor in the whole property is something a lot of people might miss, above them in the front snug of the bar. On the ceiling, there is an old map of Elie and the surrounding coastline, which Rachel found in a library in Edinburgh and had made into wallpaper. I wished it was socially acceptable to lie on the floor in order to explore the map above, but instead had a sore neck from the amount of time I spent looking up at it. It’s a fantastic thing for tourists and locals alike to study.
We slept like babies. Whether it was the sea air, the good food, the crisp blankets (or the wine), SJ and I had the best night’s sleep in ages. A powerful shower and plenty more Siabann products later, somehow my stomach was rumbling again.
Breakfast was taken back in the upstairs restaurant, and the sun streamed in through the windows. The early March morning was pretending to be summer but none of us complained and the sunshine makes everything twice as pretty. The usual buffet of cereals and juices as well as yoghurt started us off before a full Scottish breakfast – it was impossible to turn down, with haggis, Stornoway black pudding, eggs how you like them, smoked bacon, sausages, tattie scone, mushrooms and tomato. For those not quite as greedy
as us, there is also eggs benedict, grilled kippers, poached haddock, smoked salmon or an exciting Canadian breakfast with pancakes, bacon and maple syrup – no matter what you have, you will be well set up for the day!
The Ship Inn has been restored to keep plenty of character and charm, from the armchairs to the open fire to the charming bedrooms, but one of the things which really stood out was the warm welcome you get there. A romantic weekend getaway or escape with a few friends, there are plenty of things to do in the area and a well stocked bar to return to – SJ is already talking about her next birthday there, so we will be back!
To book a table or a room at The Ship in at Elie, visit http://www.shipinn.scot