Scotland: St. Andrews part 2

Once we had walked all through the Cathedral and gravestones, Dad wanted to visit St. Andrew’s Castle site before it closed so they did that…. While the 4 ‘kids’ walked way out the long pier just behind the Cathedral near East Sands beach …

So gorgeous to see St. Andrews from that direction …

For his souvenir, Andrew wanted whisky! We found a liquor store (though I’m sure that’s not what they call it)… and Andrew picked out a bottle of Edradour (the distillery he visited in Pitlochry) …. So fun.

Our parking pass was up at 5p … so we stopped by and got Andrew’s whiskey and went to meet Mom and Dad by the car.

Of course, once we got there we noticed that parking is free after 5p, so we could have stayed “out” without worrying – but no matter.

We were all getting hungry, the big sites were closing, and Andrew and I had to leave early to catch our flight the next morning … .

But first – dinner.

Being in a college town there were all kinds of pubs. Everywhere, practically. We had passed by one – The Central – with a photo of some delicious-looking bangers and mash advertised outside … so obviously we had to go there!

Dinner was … interesting.

  • The bartender was not super polite
  • But, some nice man gave up his seat so all 6 of us could sit together (and then disappeared so we couldn’t buy him a drink)
  • Both Kevin and Chelsea ordered meals that the pub was out of and had to change their order

But my bangers and mash were quite good! I wasn’t able to finish it… but I was also coming down with a cold, so no one else wanted to share it either …

Not much left to the trip … drove home. Finished packing. Earlyish bed.

Thursday night Kevin, Andrew and Chelsea walked down to town to the pub at the Blackwatch Inn for drinks and darts.

I had to bully my dad into reading in his bedroom so I could go to sleep, though.

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From Andrew:

Our last night in Aberfeldy, Kevin, Chelsea and I walked down the road for one last night of drinks and darts to the Blackwatch Inn.

We got a small table right next to the entrance and immediately got a few pints and began talking with a young Irishman. He had been living and working in Aberfeldy for a year or so and was asking us how we liked the trip and Scotland and if we planned to go to Ireland at all. He gave Kevin and Chelsea some recommendations for Ireland and we talked off and on with him for an hour or so.

photo by Chelsea

It was warm and dark in the bar, a perfect complement to the cold drinks. We got a few games of darts in, it was fun playing with 3 people.

The pub is such a good place to relax and enjoy the company of close friends or family. Such a welcoming environment. It was a great way for me to end my Scotland journey.

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All that’s left now is to go home! SO sad!

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Scotland: St. Andrews part 1

When we got to St. Andrews we parked on North Street, about across the street from St. Salvador’s Chapel – and Butts Wynd.

We separated – Mom and Dad to the golf course to buy something for Grandpa, and the other 4 of us to find St. Andrews College so I could get a hoodie.

We passed “Butts Wynd” a street very unfortunately named ….

… and of course the first thing Kevin does is write a song about it …. Kind of early 90s pop-ballad song, all with varying lyrics ending in ‘butt’s wind” … obviously.

We walked down to the Museum of St. Andrews which is cute and small-ish but still interesting.

Among other things – they had a plaque commemorating a visit form Prince William and Catherine Middleton (a month or 2 before they were married) and a seal-press with scratch paper to emboss/press/whatever its called your own seal.

I had to ask the employees there where the bookstore was (so I could get my sweatshirt) and we backtracked all the way to Market Street …

For whatever reason, we always put off picking out souvenirs.

By our last day in Scotland – at St. Andrews  – I had despaired of finding a fun Scotland ornament to take back.

I do, however, love university and college hoodies. So being at the oldest university in Scotland was the perfect place for me to pick out a souvenir.

I am now the proud owner of a purple St. Andrews University hooded sweatshirt … and Andrew picked out a St. Andrews coffee mug to take home.

The plan was to meet Mom ad Dad at St. Andrews Castle at 3p. When we got there, though, we decided to go on to the Cathedral instead. There was only a couple hours left before both sites closed – and we had already seen 3 castles in 3 days on the trip.

On to the Cathedral … and the rain still held off a bit….

 

The Cathedral is now only ruins – walls and spires picked clean by centuries of scavengers – surrounded by a still-in-use graveyard…. And a climbable tower.

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From Rick Steves:

It was the relics of the Apostle Andrew that first put this town on the map and gave it its name. There are numerous legends associated with the relics. According to one of these (likely untrue) in the 4th century, St. Rule was directed in a dream to bring the relics northward from Constantinople. When the ship wrecked off shore from here, it was clear that this was a sacred place. Andrew’s bones (an upper arm, a kneecap, some fingers and a tooth) were kept on this site and starting in 1160, the cathedral was built and pilgrims began to arrive. Since St. Andrews had a direct connection to Jesus, his relics were believed to posses special properties, making them worthy of pilgrimages on par with St. James’ relics in Santiago de Compestela, Spain (of Camino de Santiago fame). St. Andrew became Scotland’s patron saint; in fact, the white “X” on the blue Scottish flag evokes the diagonal cross on which St. Andrew was crucified (he chose this type of cross because he felt unworthy to die as Jesus had).

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We walked down the small road to the end of the town where St. Andrews Cathedral ruins are….

There is a big stone wall all around the property – still standing – including entrance gates.

There are partial walls (mostly just foundations of walls) of the Cathedral so you can roughly see the layout of how the Cathedral used to be …. But grass is completely grown in… There is one spot where a large stone step still remains where the altar used to be … but otherwise its all grass

… and seagulls. Very strange to see 2 seagulls nesting on top of an ancient stone pile that used to be the wall of one of the most important Cathedrals in Europe.

Bizarre.

There is a climbable tower … and an unclimbable tower….

… and everywhere you look are gravestones.

The graveyard is MUCH more recent than the Cathedral… how bizarre to choose to be buried near the ruins of a Cathedral. I think I saw headstones from as late as the 1980s!

I wish we could have taken some kind of guided tour here… I did the best I could with the Rick Steves book. But I’m sure there is a lot more to learn about.

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From Andrew:

While we were at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, Kevin, Chelsea and I decided to climb to the top of St. Rule’s Tower, located in the center of the cathedral grounds. Admission to the tower was free with the passes Terry purchased for us, we simply had to retrieve a token to get through the gates.

Once inside, we climbed the 155 stone steps to the top of the tower and were rewarded with a gorgeous view of St. Andrew’s and the sea. The tower is a remnant of the Church of St. Regulus which dates to the 12th century. St. Andrew’s Cathedral was built over these grounds over a period of a century in the late part of the 12th century.

After about 15 minutes atop the tower, the three of us began our descent in order to feed the parking meters. However, just as we got halfway down the extremely narrow stone staircase, a lare group of maybe 40-50 tourists began their ascent. None of them appeared to speak English or to care to let us by at all. We were trapped for about 10 minutes while tourist after tourist shoved by us. It was hilarious. I don’t know how they all fit at the top of the tower’s platform.

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(Just a few hours left of Scotland…. so sad)

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Scotland: East Neuk

Once Mom had gotten her St. Andrew’s sand, we jointly decided to get back in the car, drive south to the little East Neuk fishing villages and find the fish and chips place both Rick Steves and a friend of my mom’s had recommended – the Anstruther Fish Bar.

Of course, we followed Kevin’s GPS driving … and it (again) took us off what appeared to be the main route through ANOTHER 1-lane “road” through a field. And this time we DID run into another driver coming straight toward us.

I have no idea what the protocol is, but she had a tiny pull-out – so she pulled off to the side, partway into the field, to let us pass.

Yes, I DO mean a 1-lane road.

After that, we found our way to the road the Anstruther Fish Bar was on, but couldn’t find the building. I don’t know what the GPS was telling him, but Kevin led our car first north a mile or so, then south … all along the same small road. Yes we had found Anstruther – and it was, in fact, a TINY fishing village. We had found the road it was supposed to be on, and we even had the address…

… but, bizarrely, the buildings on either side did not appear to be in any kind of numerical order …. 36…. 47…. 25…. 19…. ??

And, believe me… it’s not as though we were misreading them. The road we were on was gain one lane. Or, rather, slightly wider than one lane but that INCLUDED cars parked on either side at intervals.

There would be a car parked on the right, half on the sidewalk…. And once we had gotten around it there would be a car parked on the left, halfway on the sideway only 12 or 15 yards down the road…. And then, of course, once we got around that, there’d be another car coming in our direction …. But once they saw there were 2 cars on our side, they would actually have to back up a ways so we could get through.

Combine all of that with the big Mercedes Andrew was driving, still trying to understand the building numbers and at one point a man in a ladder, painting the second story shutters ….. it was insanity! And hilarious!

 

Not to worry …. We eventually found the Anstruther Fish Bar.

For a small town, the restaurant took up 3 store fronts.

It is set up kid of in the style of a diner – our waitress wore a paper hat and everything – with a small ice cream counter near one of the doors.

We got there around lunchtime and it was quite crowded…. In addition to a few families, we also saw several high-school-age uniformed students (presumably on their lunch break) as well as a group of old (old old) people who appeared to be all there together.

We finally were seated, but only by breaking up our party to a table of 2 (mom and dad) up some short stairs and a table of 4 (me, Andrew, Kevin and Chelsea) down near the ice cream counter.

All 4 of us ordered the “special” : Haddock fish and chips …. According to everything we had heard, as well as all the signage on the outside of the restaurant, this was the best fish and chips in the UK.

Apparently all restaurant meals include a drink and bread and butter … so we all got cans of soda… AND each got a single slice of white bread – straight from the bag…. Sliced in half and served on a small Styrofoam plate.

It was absolutely one of the STRANGEST things we were served the whole trip!

Also, I don’t really understand why ….

As I said, the restaurant was pretty crowded that day … and there was a man with a video camera who appeared to be getting some kind of stock or ambiance-type footage of the restaurant on a busy lunch. We soon found out he was taking footage for the website!

He ended up filming quite a bit of our table … when we were served our fish and chips in particular. I’m SURE it’s because we were pretty much the only table of young people in the whole place.

Andrew and Kevin kept joking about giving each other high-fives over the food and other such cheesy ridiculousness and hopefully have that footage used on the website.

Apparently the Anstruther Fish Bar has been dubbed the best fish and chips in the UK … buy no less authority than the Scottish Tourist Board and others.

… but I wish I had had fish and chips somewhere else to compare it to.

It was just fish and chips to me …. Along with that bizarre slice of bread.

Once we were done with lunch, we (obviously) got some of their homemade ice cream and went outside to eat it …

As it had started raining again…. We stayed in front of the restaurant, under the eaves, eating our ice cream.

While we were standing there, a big van (12 or 15 passenger) with the word ‘Ambulance’ painted on the side double parked right in front of the restaurant.

A group of old people started to cross in front of us and line up to get in the van. And I’m talking REALLY old. The kind of old that when they walk by their eyes are glazed over and they wouldn’t hear you talk to them because they have to use all their energy to stay standing up …

So, as they passed us, one of the younger ones (maybe only 85 or so, in the blue sweater in the photo below) saw Dad – of white beard and bald head – and said to him, “Hey, come along with us!”

Andrew said it sounded like they knew each other and had been talking earlier – but that is NOT the case. This adorable old man just took the chance that Dad had a sense of humor and poked a bit of fun at him!

Hilarious and awesome and we couldn’t stop laughing!

 

Finishing our ice cream, still laughing at Dad being invited to join the Ambulance, we hopped in the cars and headed back to St. Andrews….

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Scotland: West Sands Beach

Thursday. Our final day in Scotland. It feels like the week went by so fast! There’s so much more to see in the country!

I added St. Andrew’s to the itinerary primarily because of Dad … and his desire to see the golf course.

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From Rick Steves:

St. Andrews

For many, St. Andrews is synonymous with golf. But there’s more to this charming town than its famous links. Dramatically situated at the edge of a sandy bay, St. Andrews is the home of Scotland’s most important university – think of it as the Scottish Cambridge. And centuries ago, the town was the religious capital of the country.

In its long history, St. Andrews has seen two boom periods. First in the early Middle Ages, the relics of St. Andrews made the town cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Christendom. The faithful flocked here from all over Europe, leaving the town with a medieval all-roads-lead-to-the-cathedral street plan that survives today.

But after the Scottish Reformation the cathedral rotted away and the town became a forgotten backwater. A new wave of visitors arrived in the mid-19th century, when a visionary mayor named (appropriately enough) Provost Playfair began to promote the town’s connection with the newly in-vogue game of golf. Most buildings in town date from this time.

Today, St. Andrews remains a popular spot for both students and golf devotees (including professionals and celebrities such as Scotsman Sean Connery, often seen out on the links). With vast, sandy beaches, golfing opportunities for pros and novices alike, playgrounds of ruins, a fun-loving student vibe and a string of relaxing fishing villages nearby (the East Neuk), St. Andrews is an appealing place to take a vacation from your busy vacation.

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We left Aberfeldy early-ish to drive about an hour and a half to the east coast to St. Andrew’s. It rained on and off the whole way there, but once we arrived the rain had stopped for a bit.

Upon arriving in town – a tiny, coastal college town – we went straight to West Sands Beach. Just off the Old Course, and the site of the filming of the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, West Sands Beach was at VERY low tide when we got there (maybe 10:30a or so).

The walk from the parking lot (of the golf course) to the beach was over a wooden boardwalk, through beachy weeds – very northeast-U.S. beachy. Definitely reminded me of the beach in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or similar. There was even a looks-like-it-is-about-to-fall-over wooden slat fence keeping the overgrowth from the sand.

In true tiny-tourist-town fashion, as soon as we stepped on to the sand we saw a lifeguard picking up the little bit of trash that was present on the beach.

We spent maybe 45 minutes or so at West Sands Beach …

When you walk on to the beach, the town of St. Andrew’s is to the south (your right) with only coastline visible to the north (your left). We stepped on to the bright sand, and the ocean felt so far away! I just tried to imagine what the opening scene of Chariots of Fire must look like (since I’ve never seen it) … with a lone runner jogging down the beach…

We all started heading toward the water – but at different speeds. The ocean was at low tide, yes, but parts of the sand were still pretty wet and muddy. Andrew was wearing canvas boat shoes that ended up getting pretty wet. Chelsea was wearing suede boots and I don’t think she came very far out at all.

We were generally headed in the direction of what looked to be some climbable rocks … as we got farther and farther out toward the water line, we began to see something strange on the wet sand.

Andrew thought they were worms – and they certainly looked like they could be … brown, squiggly thin piled on the sand…. But then – especially as we got even closer to the water – we started to see these piles appear from the sand!

I still haven’t looked them up to see specifically what it was… but we came to the consensus that SOMETHING (crab, worm, something) was under the surface of the wet sand and expelling or regurgitating thin columns of sand up onto the surface. … just like those Play-Doh factory toys …. Squeezing out Play-Doh spaghetti.

I still tried to avoid stepping on them, but I was kind of glad to know I wasn’t surrounded by worms!

360 degree video:

Turns out the dark rocks were totally covered by slippery sea plant of some kind, smelling and not at all climbable. They must be under water once the tide comes up …

SO beautiful there :)

After visiting the beach, it was just about lunch time …. that story coming up!

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