St. Andrews, town, golf, Cathedral and School
The town of St. Andrews is about 55 miles from Edinburgh and took us under 2 hours to get there. With more history, sights to see, etc. it was an enjoyable trip, out of town into the countryside and another constant narrative by Dave, our driver.
We crossed the Firth of Forth, an inlet from the North Sea over one of its three beautiful bridges. A firth is an estuary, like a fiord. The river is named the Forth. I can’t seem to keep it straight!
Upon arrival at the town of St.Andrews, we immediately saw the Old Course golf hole # 1, the one at which, famously, all the rules of golf were made. There was a small tournament going on. There are actually 5 golf courses but this one is the most famous ( and most expensive).
The other famous feature is the beach along the North Sea where " Chariots of Fire’s" famous running scene was filmed. It was very windy and cold ( in the high 40’s but probably less with wind chill) so we didn’t go down to walk the beach.
Our guide, Shena took us on a grand tour of St.Andrews. Stories of witches cropped up yet again, how they were dropped from a precipice and if they didn’t drown, were burnt at the stake. Enough already!
We followed the road to St. Andrews university- the first or second (depending on the article) rated university in all of the UK,kind of like Harvard.
We visited the beautiful chapel,the inner courtyard, went through and into hidden courtyards where students were meeting in lunchtime study groups, and saw the now famous spots were Prince William met and courted Kate (Middleton).
They even had to put adhesive around the sewer grates in the area as a safety precaution when the Queen visited for special occasions like graduation.Those stories of the royals seem to have taken on an even bigger significance now.
Next was St. Andrew’s Cathedral- the ruins of what was once the largest church in Scotland. It was most impressive for it’s massive size, but also for famously storing the various body parts of St.Andrew after he was canonized. We heard many stories about how they got there, were stolen, where they ended up( many far away places,supposedly), and other minutiae.
The graves around the cathedral included some famous golfers as well as hundreds of clergy, congregants, and some empty stone coffins. The sandstone’s deterioration made interesting patterns in the ruins.
The last major stop was to the ruins of St.Andrews Castle. High ranking clergymen, Bishops mostly, used this as not only a residence, but as a political base on which to control the church population. During the period leading up to the reformation, there were several takeovers, prisoner uprisings and mutinies giving history professors a vast wealth of material for their textbooks.
Our walk back to town over old cobblestone streets led us to an afternoon of exploring restaurants and shops.
The ride home, following a different route mostly along the beachfront of the Firth of Forth was enjoyable but very long. It was broken up by rest stops at a small beach with a marina and lovely views from the outskirts of Edinburgh. These were major vacation destinations for UK residents in the days before cheap air travel to places like Spain, and they still attract summer crowds today.
Dinner was the best meal so far, at a place in the Grassmarket called the Mussel and Steak Bar. Wendy had Linguini with seafood, Jim had mussels, and we shared an absolutely delicious fish chowder soup with the unappetizing name of "Cullen Skink".