For our second excursion from the city, we ventured north, through the Fife countryside, to St. Andrews: the birthplace of golf and William+Kate. With me comfortably shod in my flat leather boots, we set off from Haymarket station with slightly less uncertainty than on our Stirling trip. We took the train to Leuchars station, a middle-of-nowhere stop and paid for a return bus ticket to St. Andrews. We expected to pay less for transit outside of Edinburgh, but that definitely wasn’t true with us pay 4.5 pounds for the trip there and back. Anyway, we gathered change and bit the bullet. As we left the station, we followed Katie as she’s the only one of us who’d been here before. We walked downhill, a promising direction, and soon came upon a cobblestone pedestrian lane that led to the charming city-center, complete with a fountain and tourist information! We went gaga for the selection of free brochures covering nearly all of Scotland. The night man highlighted a trail of budget (aka free) activities for us to do that day. We left there with enough pamphlets to open our own information kiosk and headed to the cathedral ruins. As we skirted down a side street, we passed under the red canopy of a sweet shop that had all of our mouths watering. With the location noted, we knew we would come back!
The cathedral is an ancient structure that was mostly destroyed as Protestantism swept through Scotland, driven by John Knox’s fervor. One wall of the nave, a few columns, the entryway, some of the sanctuary area, and a few outlying buildings are all that still stands. The crumbling stone and foundational remains are eerie when you step back and think of all the people who used to worship there, decked out in their medieval finery. However, in the mid-morning sunshine, the ghosts of the past were safely tucked away. Soon the cameras and the funny poses came out, leading to nearly an hour of frolicking and shutter snapping (all completely free ) A few girls even ventured into deserted sarcophagi for a photo opp.
After we’d had our fill of the crumbling complex, we continued on our “budget” circuit. We walked along the water to St. Andrews Castle; we were all satisfied enough with catching a couple of exterior shots of the semi-ruined fortress which juts dramatically out into the sea. Looking down on the shoreline we noticed an odd structure that looks like a man-made tide pool in the surf. Sure enough, nearby signage confirmed our suspicions: an old-fashioned swimming pool! That must have been a chilly swim! We checked out the gift shop (which had largely the same memorabilia as every other shop in the town) then meandered through the campus of the University of St. Andrews. As we ooed and awed at the buildings that definitely don’t resemble Napier, we joked of walking where William had and all claimed dibs on Harry if we were to miraculously encounter him. We stopped in the University museum (you know your school is cool if it has a full-size museum dedicated to it) and marveled at the artifacts from this, the oldest college in Scotland.
We soon continued on and made the mandatory stop at the Old Course to see the birthplace of golf. With tummies rumbling, the rolling greens couldn’t keep our attention for long and we soon began climbing the hill that we’d spent the whole day meandering down. We ate at a nice restaurant that our tourist center man had called “hip and modestly priced.” We luckily got a table pretty quickly and had no problem ordering from the delicious-sounding offerings. The food came fairly quickly (ham and brie on a baguette for me yummm), but there was just one problem: we hadn’t seen any sign of the waters we had all ordered as soon as we sat down. We were literally finished eating before we could get the waitress to bring them. We drank the pitcher dry in probably under three minutes, nibbled the last bites that we’d all been saving for post-water, and left exact change down to the pence–no tip for her!
We were all pretty tired, but managed to muster the troops in order to hit up the aforementioned sweet shop. Dazzled by the assorted pastries and chocolates, we left there as happy campers. As we wandered back to the bus stop, we spotted another candy store, but this one was going out of business so everything was on sale! Needless to say, we snagged some stuff there as well (whisky truffles, mint hot chocolates, etc). We navigated the bus like pros and ended up dozing on the train ride back to Edinburgh, worn out by our lovely day of exploring!