Walk with the waves
You can find pine-scented forest, windswept sands and a wonderful range of wildlife at Tentsmuir. The trails are ideal for walking, family cycling or horse riding. If you're lucky you may see squirrels in the trees and seals basking on the sand.
Tentsmuir has a fascinating history too. On your visit you'll be following the footsteps of Pictish cattle herders, kings hunting boar and bear, and soldiers building defences.
Plan your visit with the Tentsmuir leaflet, which shows all the forest trails.
Tree felling at Tentsmuir car park
Due to a serious health and safety risk, a large number of trees in the vicinity of Tentsmuir car park have recently been felled. In this area, the high water table and consequent shallow root system means trees are very likely to fall over, and several already have.
During tree felling, the impact on wildlife – particularly endangered species such as red squirrels and bats – was minimised by experts, who checked trees for dreys and evidence of roosting before felling.
While the view of the car park may seem dramatically changed, regeneration has already begun. Birch and rowan trees will diversify the habitat, and the branches left from felling will help stabilise the dunes, encouraging new vegetation to grow.
It might look tempting, but swimming here is dangerous because of fast moving tides and shifting sand. If you are walking out on the sands, watch the sea and don’t let the rising tide cut you off.
The car park opens at 8am daily, and can be very busy at popular times. From April to October it closes at 8.30pm and from November to March it closes at sunset. The gate is locked when the car park is closed and you will not be able to drive in or out. Please check the closing time on the board at the entrance.
Car park charges
The car park costs £2 per vehicle, payable at the automatic barrier. You’ll need to have the correct change. If you come here often you can buy a season ticket for £50: get in touch for more details. Find out more about pay parking.
Horseboxes are not allowed in the car park, however alternative parking is available at Kinshaldy Stables.
Season passes are also available. For more information please contact us.
Food and drink
The Crepe Shack offers delicious authentic French crepes, tea, coffee and cold drinks. It's onsite throughout the summer from 10am to 5pm every day.
Bring a barbecue
One stray spark from a fire could destroy the whole forest. To keep the trees – and visitors – safe, no fires are allowed in the forest or on the beach, but you’re welcome to bring a barbecue. Use the barbecues in the picnic area on one of the special barbecue plates, and please remember to take used barbecues home with you.
To help keep Tentsmuir welcoming and safe for everyone, a byelaw prohibits alcohol on the site.
Wind through sand dunes and pine forest to discover a 19th century Ice House and some World War II pillboxes.
Largely firm, uneven sandy surface. Several short steep ramps. Includes a short rougher section, exposed tree roots and parts that may be wet.
3 ¾ miles / 6.2 km Allow 2 hours
The forest paths are sheltered, and the air scented with pine. You can return along the beach, which has bracing views over the North Sea. Watch for seals and sea birds on the beach, and see what bits of Tentsmuir’s history the sand has uncovered.
This longer option takes you through part of the National Nature Reserve: please keep dogs under close control to avoid disturbing the birds and seals.
Mountain biking trails
Explore on foot, by bike or on horseback
Close to the car park you’ll find picnic tables and a children’s play area, and a short walk will take you to the beach with its sea views and sand dunes. Tentsmuir is an ideal place for easy cycling, with a good network of firm, level trails. You can hire bikes in Tayport and Leuchars. It’s great for horse riding too. Park horse boxes at Kinshaldy Stables: they’re not allowed in the main car park.
Plan your visit with the Tentsmuir guide map, which shows all the forest trails.
If you’re interested in wildlife watching, head for Morton Lochs on the western edge of the forest. The lochs are part of Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve and there are four hides where you can watch waterbirds and dragonflies. The dunes and sand flats at Tentsmuir Point and Tayport Heath are all part of the reserve too.
Landscape and wildlife
Tentsmuir is a magical combination of forest trails that dip and weave between tall trees and open sand dunes that change constantly with the wind and tides. The coast here is one of Scotland’s most dynamic landscapes: parts of the shoreline are growing out into the sea at a rate of five metres a year.
There’s rich wildlife, from coastal grassland dotted with wildflowers in spring and summer to great flocks of sea birds that come to feed on shellfish. Seals visit often: look out for them hauled out on the sandbanks, or bobbing in the water, watching you as you walk along the shore. The forest is home to red squirrels and roe deer.
The Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve website has lots of information about the landscape and wildlife of the dunes and lochs.
A coast with a past
People have lived, hunted and worked here for thousands of years. Tools and a fire pit from a Stone Age hunters’ camp have been found near Morton Lochs, while an ice house used to store salmon in the 1800s is a landmark on the forest trails. In the second world war, Tentsmuir was part of a long line of defences along Scotland’s east coast. Polish troops who were based here built hundreds of concrete blocks as an anti-tank barrier. Now the traces of their work are hidden or revealed at the whim of the sand. The anti-tank blocks were once at the sea’s edge; now many of them are buried in the dunes. Every time the sand shifts, there’s a chance that new evidence of Tentsmuir’s past might be uncovered.
How to get here
Tentsmuir Forest is 1½ miles (2.4 km) east of the B945 between Leuchars and Tayport in northeast Fife. Follow signs for Kinshaldy Beach. The entrance to the car park is at grid reference NO 498 242.
KY16 0DR is the closest postcode for Tentsmuir.
The nearest bus stops are in Tayport and Leuchars. Buses will stop by request at the Morton Loch road end, from where you can walk to Morton Lochs and then into the forest. Check Traveline Scotland for details.
There are small car parks at Morton Lochs and Tayport, from where you can walk or cycle into the forest.
Just outside Perth, Kinnoull Hill makes a great family day out, with superb views over the Tay. Near Kirkcaldy, you can explore a wooded ravine with an ancient tower at Cardenden, and a pretty wood that was once part of a grand designed landscape at Blairadam.
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For questions and complaints, please contact us directly.