Cathedral, Castle, Royals, and Golf! St Andrews


Main Street in St Andrews. These little boys started waving madly when they saw me taking pictures of the coffee shop. They were sitting in the window luring people in, cute as they are.  You could see the young Wills in all their young British faces. This is one of my favorite pictures from Scotland. We met such nice people.

Who knew…..

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), an avid golfer, is thought to have coined the term “caddie” by calling her assistants “cadets.” The Queen traveled to France to play golf and historians report that she was criticized for playing golf and not spending enough time on Royal matters. It is during her reign that the famous golf course at St. Andrews is built.

Wednesday July 29, Day tour to St Andrews

Off to St Andrews today. We weren’t sure  if we would be in a large bus or a 19 seater – we were relieved when the 19 seater pulled up with our tour guide/driver Graham. Graham is a jovial Scot of about 50, he loves to talk and is a wealth of information, a virtual sponge. I suspect about 60% of what he’s telling us is accurate, but regardless, he’s entertaining and we’re learning a lot of history and fun facts about Scotland and the Scots – past and present. Our group is social and more importantly — on time!

So nice to let someone else do the driving. The bus has two rows, double seats on the left and singles on the right, we choose the single seats so we each have a window. Leaving Edinburgh we cross the Firth of Forth over the Forth Road Bridge. The bridge was build in 1964 to replace the old ferry service from Edinburgh to Queensferry. Originally established in the 1100s by the Queen (hence Queensferry) the ferry carried religious pilgrims from Edinburgh to St Andrews.  It was in service steadily until the 1960’s, which to me is amazing.   There’s a Victorian era railway bridge on our right, so well maintained it looks new. On our left another road bridge is being built to replace the current 1960s era bridge on its last legs.

Our first stop is the 13th century Aberdour Castle. It was originally built in the 1200s but added to substantially in subsequent centuries. It’s easy to distinguish the newer, versus the older construction. We arrived right at 9:30 for a bathroom and coffee stop and a quick walk around the grounds. This castle was used in the Starz Outlander series as the French Sainte Anne de Beaupre monastery (I have to go back and look at that episode). It’s early morning and very peaceful here. I wish we had the time to go through the castle – another reason to return to Scotland! As it was the person assigned to open up is late so we wander around waiting for the person to arrive to open the bathrooms – the coffee will have to wait.

Aberdour Castle Fife

800 years of history

Back lawns

Our next stop is further up the coast towards St Andrew’s . The fishing village of Anstruther is very charming and old world , there are certainly signs of the 21st century but much of the town was built in the 1800s and feels it. We have a limited amount of time and after walking up the street admiring the architecture and small shops we duck into a coffee shop to have a cappuccino and scone. No paper cups, plastic stirrers, or mass produced muffins here. Strictly homemade and beautifully served. Makes me want to run home and dust off the tea pot, tea strainer, cozy,  and the lovely tea cups my mother gave me   when she moved out of her “big house” into her condo years ago.

Anstruther coffee shop

Main Street Anstruther

The pictures make it look like winter but we really didn’t notice until we looked at our pictures! It was actually comfortable travel weather.

Sea wall

Lovely flowers in all the small towns

Our next stop is St Andrews. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of the city and the golf course and was surprised. The Old Course is downtown right beside a beautiful beach (opening scene of the movie Chartiots of Fire!)  The ruins of St Andrews Castle and Cathedral, as well as St Andrews University, shops, restaurants, pubs are all a short walk from one another.  Its a very walk-friendly city.

We parked in the parking area near a clubhouse .  Workers are busily taking down the considerable number of stands and other non permanent structures left from “The Open” the week before. Meanwhile the course is busy. There’s a miniature course where families with children were playing and a putting area that was busy. Between the golfers, families, and workers, it was not the pastoral scene I expected. I pictured a course in the countryside, with gates and staid old buildings and signs saying “members only”.  Not the bustling scene we encountered.  There was more a feeling of excitement, guys finally stepping on golf’s hallowed ground and getting to play “The Old Course” they’d dreamt of since picking up their first putter.

Old Course St Andrews, stands still up from The Open

It took everything in me not to interrupt him to ask where he got his cool duds.

Beach right beside the course with kayakers – brrrrh!

We have three hours in St Andrews and the others are going to lunch at a seafood place with our driver.  Gail and I decide to pass , not wanting to waste sightseeing time, and we go our separate way. There’s St Andrew’s Castle ,and the Cathedral, and we both want to pop into the University . Everything is walking distance and within the town – amazing! I can’t imagine living amongst these ruins from the 10th and 11th century, passing them everyday on my way to work or to the grocery store, such an beautiful and interesting city!
St Andrew’s Castle ruins

The Castle is right downtown and beside the Cathedral, both on the water with lovely views and protection I assume.

Looking back at the castle from the Cathedral

Gruesome things happened here in the name of religion.

Castle rooms still in tact. Damp and cold!

Located on the cliffs overlooking St Andrew’s Bay, the castle and adjacent Cathedral are in ruins, their stone having been pillaged to build the town. It’s fascinating to see the gruesome dungeons still visible at the castle, and the cemetery stones surrounding the ruins of what was once the largest cathedral in Scotland. It would take all day to properly see the castle and cathedral so we see what we can and, trying to manage our time, head to the university. Along the way we pass a small coffee shop with a sign announcing “Where Kate met Wills”. There are three young boys, probably 8 or 9,  sitting in the window hamming it with the passersby , seeing my camera they give me a big smile and a wave. Very cute.

Huge drooling Newfoundland Dog in St Andrews. He was drawing quite a crowd but was looking quite bored, or maybe that’s his normal expression.

Lovely flowers all over Scotland in the summer

We’re conscious of time, we both want to pop into the gift shop at the Old Course Clubhouse and we need to grab something quick to eat before the long ride back to Edinburgh.  We pop into the inner courtyard and gardens of the University, no time to seek out the library or other interesting buildings. It’s old and soaked in tradition,  just as I imagined.  It’s summer but it must be fun to be there during the school year – students taking over the pubs, coffee shops,  and restaurants, laughing and full of life.

Gardens St Andrew’s University

After that we head back to the Old Course Clubhouse and gift shop. After a quick look around and purchase of some souvenirs for our golf playing sons, we were greeted as we entered the restaurant and escorted to our table. Windows surround the restaurant and we can see the golfers teeing off.  We have enough time for soup and scone — and of course another pot of lovely Earl Gray.

Our tour mates are all on time – so lovely – and we’re back on the bus headed for Edinburgh.  The driver has one more stop for us, Queensferry.

This building is from 1628

You can see the rail bridge, current road bridge and to the left of the road bridge is the new bridge construction.

The Victorian era rail bridge


One Reply to “Cathedral, Castle, Royals, and Golf! St Andrews”

  1. What a trip! St. Andrews was one of my favorite places in a long list of favorite places. What I’ve come to realize is that certain places seen to have an almost magnetic pull to them, like the places themselves are aware of their own memory-making powers. We were lucky enough to see many quaint homes and awe-inspiriting castles, but some have a “draw” more than others. The Irish in me wonders if some stones in certain castles and some doorways in other quaint cottages have been able to keep the spirit of those long gone. Words are failing me here, but you can “feel” it and, mystically, “feel” them. And it’s kind of cool that we were there, and “they” were there before us. It gives you that circle’s-closing feeling that makes some memories sharper and more forever than others.

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