Sunday, August 30 (continued)
We left Dundee and polar explorations behind as we drove twenty minutes east to reach St. Andrews, the golfing mecca for those so inclined to chase a tiny pebbled ball around a holey lawn. I must admit, though, it was intriguing to be in such a fabled spot, and having someone with us (Doug) who understood the game made it even more so.
I had read Mary Queen of Scots played golf, probably dressed a wee bit differently than golfers today. Must have been a nice break from the politicking going on.
But, back to present day, which was gorgeous and warm, which only added to the beauty of this coastal town. With Rick Steves’ guidebook we began his self-guided tour by visiting the 18th green where we joined other tourists such as ourselves walking on this sacred land. Doug pointed out landmarks, such as the male-only Royal & Ancient Golf Club (women are allowed in on November 30th only when the Women’s British Open is played; thoughtful of them, isn’t it? At least, the non-profit club loses its tax-free status; yet, due to the wealth of the members that’s as significant as a gnat’s gnaw). FYI: This club is not to be confused with the separate, but similarly named organization, the R&A, formed in 2004 to govern all but USA and Mexico’s rules of golf.
We strolled to a stone bridge over the Swilken Burn (the stream that meanders through and around the holes) where those who love the sport posed for portraits.
Doug patiently stood while we snapped some photos
while Max missed his opportunity to cross the creek, thus being stranded behind other photographers and their subjects.
Once we were all together, we walked to the actual 18th hole
where a small notice asked us to not walk there.
Frankly, I was surprised they let us (and dogs) nonchalantly tramp all over this grass considering it’s used for one of the most prestigious tournaments ever created (as per golf afficionados). But, they did, and it made for easy trekking to our next destination, something my sister Betsy would identify as one of Max’s ‘Disaster Tours’.
Walking to the top of a hill to the Martyrs’ Monument, we passed by a bandstand with its Sunday entertainment
and stopped to look back towards the golf course to the stretch of beach beyond used for the famous running scene in the movie CHARIOTS OF FIRE.
Arriving at the monument shaped like an obelisk with a plaque designating it as the Martyrs’ Monument,
we read how Scotland tossed quite a few people over the cliffs
and burned at least four non-conformists all in the name of religion. I’d like to say thank god that’s not happening now, but, if I did, you’d probably wonder what rock I was living under.
Getting our fill of the wonders of what humans can do to others, we strolled towards the main street through alleys.
Exiting onto the main street, we passed an interesting street name, one where the sign keeps disappearing. Thankfully, it’s also inscribed in a more permanent manner. I kept pronouncing it with a short ‘i’ while Judy gently corrected me saying it’s a long one.
Outside Sally’s Quad, the heart of St. Andrew’s campus, we came to another historical plaque, which commemorated alum and professor Patrick Hamilton, the first martyr of the Scottish Reformation burned at the stake on February 29, 1528. The actual stake spot was marked by the initials PH. Supposedly, if you stood on them, you’d fail your exams. Being a disaster spot, it was natural Max wanted to stand on them. Luckily the only tests he faced that day were which types of ale to enjoy later.
A wedding had just occurred in the quad so we just ducked into the chapel for a peek.
Back out and continuing our stroll we saw another of St. Andrew’s famous buildings, the place where Prince William (and, as Doug said, Kate) stayed while attending St. Andrews University.
Just before reaching the end of the street, Max found another ‘x marks the spot’. This time the initials were GW for George Wishart, a Protestant preacher, who was tied to a stake and lit afire March 1, 1546.
We reached the point of the harbor where the majestic remains of St. Andrews Cathedral anchored the end of town on a bluff. Between 14th and 16th centuries, St. Andrews was Scotland’s ecclesiastical capital. Which explains why all the roastings.
We also discovered that some of St. Andrews’ bones landed here (supposedly) in the 4th century when being transported from Constantinople. Due to this auspicious wash-up on the beach, the site was deemed sacred, and, voila, St. Andrews became the place to be and the guy, the country’s patron saint.
After several hours of exploring by foot and enjoying the summery day and blooms,
we were ready for a libation followed by dinner and our hotel, which happened to be thirty minutes to the west. We quickly found a pub, then our cars and drove to Glenrothes where Max had located some rooms that morning.
A large home now set in the midst of a suburb, the hotel offered a lovely area for another drink and a perusal of their menu. This time the haggis came as a main course described as ‘Haggis Stuffed Beef Olives.’ Not quite understanding how they found olives large enough to stuff with haggis, this became quite a topic of speculation, of which I won’t describe. Suffice it to say, at dinner, we DID try some haggis (a gourmet version: a crispy and, must admit, delicious looking disk with no resemblance to the bulging beigey balloons seen the day before)
and actually thought it was pretty good; but, once again, we all opted for more mundane fare for a main course.
With full bellies and dreams of haggis, we retired to our rooms ready for our next venture – a visit to a family castle.