st andrews, scotland

We took our first weekend trip in Scotland just a short ways away from the farm to the charming town of St Andrews.  After about an hour of driving (and a quick stop to look at some very cute sheep and lambs!), we arrived and parked along The Scores.  It's a street that's along the coast and that has free parking - if you're driving I'd recommend looking for a spot here as we found spots here both days (just make sure you can parallel park!).  

D - That parallel parking thing is more tricky than it sounds when it feels like the whole car is flipped around!  

We didn't have to walk far to get into the center of town - only about two or three blocks - and after walking around a bit, we stopped by the Tourist Information center.

We began a self-guided walking tour through town thanks to our favorite guide, Rick Steves, and our library district at home - we just used an ebook downloaded onto Danny's phone.  The tour began at the Old Course, the world's oldest and most iconic golf course.  Neither of us has actually played golf before (besides, of course, mini golf), so we didn't really have a great appreciation for visiting the "home of golf," but it sure is a beautiful setting along the North Sea and the West Sands beach, as well as the elegant buildings of the town which surround it.  We wanted to play the 18 holes of the Himalayas, a putting green where anyone can play around and practice for just £2 a person, but they only accept cash, and we didn't have any yet, so we'll have to save it for another time.  (P.S. The Himalayas are only open from April - September.)

D - I was hoping to play on "The Himalayas," just to tell people we've played the links at the place where golf was created.  Hopefully, if we get another chance, people don't find out that "The Himalayas" also goes by its older name of "ladies putting green."  On another note, I couldn't help but think about Duff Killigan while here (the old Kim Possible character - an irate Scotsman who turned to crime once he was banned from pro golf.  He calls himself "The World's Deadliest Golfer" and uses exploding golf balls as his weapon of choice.) though unfortunately we didn't see anyone who even remotely resembled him.  

We continued our tour along the Scores, and then crossed back into the center of town.  We stopped by 13A Hope Street, where Will and Kate lived while students at the University of St Andrews.  From there, we walked around St Salavator's College and Chapel, the oldest college in the University of St Andrews as it has been around since 1450.  

D - I didn't know about the university before doing some research before our trip, but it's actually quite prestigious (obviously since the probable future King of England went there).  It's the third oldest English speaking university in the world, behind Oxford and Cambridge.  Sometimes it's viewed as sort of a safety school by upper class English students, much to the annoyance of some who refer to these students as "yahs", because of the way they say yes.  

After some cheap and quick sandwiches for lunch at the university cafe, we toured the Museum of the University of St Andrews.  The museum houses some of the artifacts of the university's 600-year history, as well as a gallery about student life and temporary exhibitions.  We especially enjoyed the terrace on the roof with great views of the sea and the chance to try on the undergraduate gowns that are required for events such as graduation, formal dinners, Pier Walks, debates, and chapel.  

Next up was St Salvator’s Hall, where Will and Kate lived as freshmen on campus, and one of the most prestigious dormitories on campus.  It’s a beautiful building, and many of the rooms overlook the sea.

Just on the other side of the dorm is the Scores, where our car was parked, as well as the castle and the cathedral, which we had peeked at in the morning, but got a better look at and read more about in the afternoon.  Nowadays, both buildings are really just ruins of their former glory, but they're still pretty gorgeous.  The castle was once the home of bishops and archbishops of St Andrews, was built around 1200, and was used until 1689 before it fell into ruin.  The cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic church built in 1158 that fell into disuse and ruin when Catholic mass was outlawed during the Scottish Reformation of the 16th century.  It's the largest church to have been built in Scotland, and it's free to wander around the grounds (although you'll have to pay if you want to go up the tower or in the small museum).  

We walked along a variety of narrow (and adorable) streets to get to St Mary's College, another section of the University of St Andrews.  They just don't make houses like these in Colorado...

At this point we were up for some sort of afternoon pick-me-up, so after deciding against ice cream and scones (both good options, but the place we wanted to eat scones had run out of them and it was too cold for ice cream), we went to Fisher and Donaldson, a very popular bakery in St Andrews.  It's been around for almost one hundred years, and has a royal seal of approval.  They're best known for their fudge doughnuts, which are filled with custard and topped with fudge, although I found it a bit confusing because I felt like the fudge was actually caramel and not fudge, but perhaps it's another British English vs American English difference.  Regardless, it was amazing, and definitely worth a stop if you're ever in St Andrews.

D - I would definitely consider myself somewhat of a donut connoisseur (I often eat them regardless of whether or not I am "hungry" and have been known to threaten whole boxes of Krispy Kremes) and these donuts at F&D were very good.  

The sweet treats just about wrapped up our day in St Andrews.  We picked up the car and drove to the West Sands beach, where we found free parking, and walked down the iconic beach.  The beach is primarily famous because it is featured in the opening scenes of the movie Chariots of Fire, and its location is quite prime as well.  The two-mile long beach is adjacent to the Old Course, and we enjoyed walking along the sand and the views of the town, the sand dunes, and the water.  

D - In addition to my love of donuts, I also love movies, so it was cool to be on location where a famous scene was filmed, even though I've never seen "Chariots of Fire."  You can watch me reenact the scene here.  

After the beach we were on to Anstruther, our home for the night.  We found Airbnbs and hotels in St Andrews quite pricey, so we decided to stay about 15 minutes away in the quaint fishing village of Anstruther.  Our Workaway host, Caroline, suggested doing this, and it turned out to be a great idea, as it saved us tons of money, and we also really enjoyed checking out another area as well, as we saw most of St Andrews on our first day.

We found a place to park, dropped off our bag with our host, Tom, and checked out our surroundings.  Our location couldn't have been better - the living room overlooked the sea and was on the main street in Anstruther, as well as only a block or two from the Anstruther Fish Bar.  We read in our Rick Steves guidebook that it is the best fish and chips shop around, and after doing a bit of internet recon, it seems that the award gets voted on each year in the UK, and the Anstruther Fish Bar has indeed won, but not since 2008.  They have won a variety of other awards, though, and the truth is, we were very impressed (mostly Danny, since I had a veggie burger).  It's quite the place.

We got our fish and chips (+ veggie burger) to go since dining in costs £2.50 extra per person and ate them back at our Airbnb.  The weather outside was pretty miserable, but we were warm and cozy inside.  

D - Maybe it was the placebo effect, but I really felt like these fish and chips were a cut above all the rest I've had.

In the morning we enjoyed the great breakfast provided by our host and set off to walk around the small Anstruther harbor.  The weather was cold, spitting rain, and just pretty unpleasant overall, but we made the best of it.

Our Airbnb host, Tom, recommended we check out "the area over there, by the flag," so we decided to drive out to the point and see what it was all about.  Turns out it was a part of the Fife Coastal Path, a 117-mile long trail that runs from Forth Estuary in the south to the Tay Estuary in the north.  We decided to walk along it for just a little while and ended up going for about two hours, it was just so beautiful, and we kept coming across fun finds - a snail!  beach full of shells!  swings!  great views!  another cute town!  and so on.  Parts of it were paved, parts were dirt, and others were just grass, but that didn't really matter to us - it definitely ended up being one of the highlights of our weekend.

D - So true!  We loved this path!  It would be so cool to do the whole thing (you know, if I was the type of guy who did 100+ mile hikes).  I mean people are always singing about walking a thousand miles (or more) so how hard could it be?  I would probably need a pretty good incentive at the end though, like another F&D fudge donut.

At this point we thought about grabbing lunch at the fish bar since the food was so good the night before, but decided to be cheap and head back to St Andrews for sandwiches from Tesco.  We ate in the car (Haggis flavored chips for Danny since we haven't had the real thing yet!) and then walked to the Old Course, since it's closed on Sundays and the public is allowed to walk around as they please.  We couldn't resist a picture on the most famous Swilcan Bridge, of course...

D - Everybody back home keeps warning me about Haggis, but those chips were pretty good and I'm excited about trying the real thing!  Besides, I love hotdogs, and how much worse could a food get?

...and then I convinced Danny to take one last quick walk on West Sands beach before we left and then, the sun came out!  For the first time all weekend, we had some blue sky, and it was so delightful.  We decided to take a quick circuit around town and see our favorite spots one more time and take some pictures of places in the sunshine.  We even stopped at Jannettas Gelateria for some ice cream (okay, so maybe that's how I convinced Danny to walk to many places we'd already seen a few times).  

D - See what I mean about walking incentives?

St Andrews is a lovely town with a surprising amount of things to do and see for a town its size (only about 17,000 people live there permanently, plus about 7,000 students).  I especially loved walking around the cute streets, seeing the places that Will and Kate used to live, study, and eat (most of which I didn't feature here since I figure most of you aren't really big Royal family fans), and being along the coast in Anstruther and St Andrews. It was a peaceful, laid-back weekend, and I really enjoyed it.  I'd go back anytime! 

D - Unhealthy obsession with food aside, this was an awesome trip and I really enjoyed Anstruther and St. Andrews.  They both feel so quaint and typical of Scotland!