Edinburgh & St Andrews
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
Ø July 19 Edinburgh (Friday) More pictures can be found here.
Departing from the hotel, my walk was 10 minutes, and the lifts at the Carlisle station were working. My train leaving England for Scotland was a Virgin Rail, so I had a nice reserved seat for the 80 minutes, seated with a young woman from Baton Rouge. She was studying English Literature and Letters at Oxford, and was on a 4-day break with her camera. She’d meet up with classmates who were travelling by bus once we reached #Edinburgh. And while there was actually enough room to stash my bag in the rack area, I’d been preceded by a group of 13 women who made getting seated such a production (there’s another word here, but …) that I left the bag near the door. I was unable to detect when we’d crossed the border.
Once to Haymarket station, my walk to the B&B flat was a breeze. I had to cross only two streets, one of which was the dead-end street the building was on. Ten minutes tops, and relatively level. The lockbox worked great, a single curving (180°) staircase, and the door was in a corner at the top of the stairs. The bedroom was huge, with closets and a bureau and a small desk/vanity. An ample sized bathroom was next to the entry door, and there was a good size living/dining/kitchen room with a convertible sofa that I’d be using for 4 nights.
While planning my trip, my friend of 30 years, Mandra, had asked if she could join me during my Scotland leg. Once I adjusted to just Britain, with her suggestions (her bucket list items) I fleshed out the last 2 weeks so as to accommodate both of us. She would be arriving the next day on a flight to Glasgow, so I had a day and a half to myself at the start of week 8.
Returning to the Haymarket station, I boarded a local train bound for Arbroath. My destination was 7 stops and an hour later at Leuchars. Crossing on the Forth Bridge over the Firth of Forth, the first bridge west was the Forth Road Bridge, a stunning suspension bridge similar to pictures I’d seen of the Millau Viaduct in southwest France. Once at Leuchars, I crossed the tracks on an overhead pedestrian walkway to get to the bus stop. Boarding a bus for #StAndrews, I was heading to the golf mecca of the world. And a half hour later, I’d crossed the River Eden, rolled pass St Andrews Links and got off the bus near the bus station on the main shopping thoroughfare.
Probably about a half mile, walking through the town of St Andrews was pleasant. Without a real map, I zigzagged down St Mary’s Place/Market St towards South Street which took me to The Pends and the Arch Bridge (ruins, over street) outside the walls of the cathedral grounds. I noted not many dining opportunities in the touristy shopping district. St Andrews Cathedral is a ruin situated on a headland over the North Sea. Built in 1158, it was the seat of the Archbishop for Scotland until the Scottish Reformation and Catholic practices were ban. The building fell into disuse after being sacked in 1559.
What remains is part of the west face, with an arched entry and a tall southwest spire; part of the south nave wall to the crossing; piers where nave, transept and quire columns had stood; the southwest wall of the transept which had walled in the cloister as well. At the east end, the remains of the full east wall include two stone spires. Off to the south is St Rule’s Tower. Most of the grounds to the north and east have been used as a graveyard. A small shop and museum occupy either side of the southwest corner of the cloister. The shop is where I got my ticket to climb the 160 steps of the Tower, as well as give me access to the museums and to St Andrews Castle.
Without wanting to seem callous or cynical, I spent about an hour walking around the grounds on well-tended grass, around and through building blocks or ruins. At 2, I joined a limited group with timed tickets in a climb to the top of the St Rule’s Tower where I took more pictures, but due to security barriers, I didn’t get the ones I really wanted. (My arms are only so long.) I then spent some time in the museum for the cathedral grounds, observing the weathered remains of grave and tomb carvings.
At a quarter to three, I left the cathedral site and walked to the castle, part of this journey following the coast. Before actually reaching the entrance, I watched as some daring folks tested out the waters along the beach below the castle’s wall. Crossing a moat over a drawbridge, access to the ruins and grounds is restricted to ticket holders. There is a café, shop and visitor center, as well as interactive museum-like displays explaining aspects of the castle. It was used as the residence for the Archbishops of St Andrews, although its strategic location had the English and Scots battling for possession up to the religious wars, at which point ownership went back and forth between Scottish Catholics and their allies, versus English Protestants, and Scottish Reformists. It survived for about another hundred years before falling to ruin.
Of interest are the subterranean jail cells, the mine and countermine, the wells, the views and the visitor center displays. About half three, I continued walking west on The Scores, between the walls of several colleges of the University of St Andrews. Passing through one college green, I had my first encounter with Oor Wullie. An iconic cartoon character, these decorated statues of a boy reared back while sitting on a bucket ranged all over Scotland. The example I encountered in St Andrews had a royal crown and sash, but I would see many more examples over the next two weeks. [Our Tuesday guide Elma made it a point of photographing any she encountered. Supposedly there were 200, to be sold to raise funds for children’s hospitals.]
The bus ride back went much more smoothly, as the road construction inducing one-way traffic had ended. A ten-minute wait on the train platform, and I was soon on my way back to Edinburgh, as the weather was turning blustery and damp. My pictures of my new bridge fascination weren’t great, but we got to Haymarket, and I walked back to the flat. The 180 pictures for the day got sent to the cloud.
After a break, I decided to follow the written host suggestions for Chinese, however, I couldn’t find the restaurant. Crossing the street, I walked into the Coop and went grocery shopping. Picking up a “nuke meal” of pasta, sausage, veggies (peppers and broccoli), I added red wine, eggs, OJ, bananas, butter, bread, olives and salad fixings. Back at the flat, after searching around – there are shutoff switches for everything, so there’s an extra step to do anything – I got the pasta dish nuked, and ate a leisurely dinner on the couch and relaxed. I unfolded the couch and made it up, finding it a tad short, but acceptable. I cracked the window, turned off any heat I could find, and went to sleep.