Saturday, 21 May 2016

St Andrews.


This blog is starting to make it look like all I do is visit ruined old churchy-type buildings, but I swear I do more with my life! If you can make it through the next few posts then I'm actually going to be making some changes to the content of my blog, but I'll get into that some other time. Today I wanted to share some pictures of a very chilly day out in St Andrews.


St Andrews is a small town on the east coast of Fife, and it's just beautiful. It's a fairly posh old area, and is famous for two fairly posh things - its historic and extremely well performing university, and for being the 'home of golf'. Basically everything in St Andrews is old... except most of the students, who make up around a third of the population of the town during term time. 


St Andrews University is the oldest in Scotland (founded in 1410), the third oldest in the English-speaking world and currently ranked the third best in the UK after Oxford and Cambridge. It's also where Prince William met Kate Middleton. 

I can imagine going to university in St Andrews would be a very different experience to the one I had getting my degree in the very gritty and grey city of Aberdeen. Not quite so many Friday night fights,  or people passed out in gutters and a lot more money - although I'm sure the extortionate rent prices and the killer seagulls were issues in common. 


Anyone who cares at all about golf will understand probably a lot more than I do why St Andrews is known as the home of golf. Apparently the Royal and Ancient Golf Club located there is the governing body for golf everywhere except the US and Mexico... they like to do their own thing. Then there's the Old Course, seen above, which is one of the oldest courses in the world. It was established in 1552 which is ridiculous, because that means that even after 500-odd years people still haven't realised how boring golf is. Despite this though the Old Course has been home to the Open Championship 29 times, and lots of famous golfers have played it (can you name any golfers other than Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy? I'm struggling).  



That little bridge is called Swilken Bridge and is iconic within the golfing world. Who knew that it was actually built about 700 years ago to help shepherds herd their flocks across the burn? It's absolutely tiny in real life: 30 feet long, 8 feet wide and 6 feet tall. It's a traditional spot for photos, and while we were there this time we saw some completely random couple just hop the fence and take some pics on it. Can't imagine the people who'd paid hundreds of pounds and been on a ridiculous waiting list in order to play the course were massively impressed with the course-invasion... plus, sidenote: she was taking photos on her iPad. Does it annoy anyone else when people use their iPad as a camera? I had my view of the Mona Lisa blocked by about 50 of them being waved around. Anyway...!




The beach at St Andrews, which is apparently called West Sands Beach, is the setting for the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, where a bunch of athletes run barefoot down the beach at the edge of the water. I can't even imagine how horrendous that must have been to film. The day that we visited was a typical Scottish day, not quite raining but lovely dark clouds everywhere. It was COLD. Having always lived on the East coast of Scotland, I've taken a dip or two in that North Sea water once or twice, only on the hottest days of the year and it has given me mild hypothermia each time. Bless those poor actors.


It's a beautiful stretch of seaside though, and if you can brave the cold and the wind it's definitely worth a stroll along. However the clouds were darkening so we headed back inland to visit the cathedral.


Despite having been to St Andrews a fair few times I'd never actually visited the cathedral. I know, a ruin I hadn't been to?! Seems unlikely but it's true. Turns out I was missing out on what was the largest church in Scotland. To give you an idea of scale, I took the top of the above two photos while standing in the doorway in the bottom photo. You can see just how long this cathedral would've been, and it's crazy to think how old it is. The actual building of the cathedral took over a century, beginning in 1158 with the west end needing rebuilt in the 1270s after being blown down in a storm. There was also a fire that destroyed part of the cathedral in 1378 leading to further restoration in 1440. The cathedral was Roman Catholic, so following the Scottish reformation, where the country became largely Protestant, the cathedral was abandoned and left to ruin in 1561.



A really interesting feature is the tower that you can see in the centre of the above picture. It is St Rule's Tower, and actually pre-dates the cathedral. It was originally part of an earlier church that apparently housed the bones of St Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. Nowadays though there are fewer body parts on show, and you can climb the spiral staircase (my nemesis) to get a wonderful view over St Andrews. Probably better on a nicer day, if you manage to find one...!

St Andrews is a great place for a day out. It's peaceful, pretty and relaxed, and there's so much packed into such a small area. After a lovely pub lunch we had to head back to the "big city" but it was so nice to have a chilled out day. 

Have you done any local exploring lately? :) 


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