Yesterday, we ventured to St. Andrews with our most capable private guide, Alister. On our way, we took a leisurely drive along the Firth of Forth coastline, in the county of Fife, and were able to see several small fishing and coastal villages of East Neuk.
Our first stop was Queensferry, named for the ferry service established by Queen Margaret in the 11th century. During WWI, the British government decided to place a dockyard in the area for the Royal Navy. The Forth Rail Bridge, a cantilever railway bridge and UNESCO World Heritage site, was created to move supplies to the dockyard. They’ve since built two additional bridges for cars.
We drove through Kirkcaldy, a charming little waterfront town that has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. We proceeded to visit Lower Largo, the birthplace of Alexander Selkirk, who is said to have provided the inspiration for William Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe.”
We drove through Upper Largo, where Sir Andrew Wood, a naval hero, lived in the medieval Largo House. He is said to have built the earliest canal in Scotland, in order to be rowed on Sundays to the local Parish Church, only 300 yards away.
We continued on to Elie and Earlsferry, two charming fishing towns. Then on to St. Monans, where we could have a clear view of both Bass Rock and the Isle of May, a bird sanctuary. St. Monans also had a garden of wellies – old wellie boots that have been filled with flowers!
Pittenweem was a another charming fishing town, followed by Crail. We ventured on foot down to the waterfront in Crail only to witness a food festival in progress – featuring fresh crab coming off the boats.
Once in St. Andrews, we began our afternoon at St. Andrews Cathedral. Construction of this massive site began in 1160; when it was finally dedicated in 1318 by King Robert the Bruce, it was by far the largest church in Scotland. There are only ruins left today, but what a tremendous sight to see. For 1,000 years, St. Andrews was the capital of the Scottish Church.
We then walked through the beautiful, stately grounds of the University of St. Andrews, before stopping for a bit of fish and chips from Cromar’s – highly recommend! It was delicious!
Our last stop was, of course, to take in the views of the Old Course at St. Andrews. Incredible! The beach that sits on the far side of the course was used to film the famous scene in “Chariots of Fire.”
Upon making our way back to Edinburgh, we made a quick stop at Falkland Palace, which served as a summer hunting lodge for Scotland’s royal family.
We enjoyed one last stop at Blackness Castle. Built in the early 1400’s, it served as one of the main residences of the Scottish royal monarch. It also served as an advanced military fortification, and a state prison. The castle has most recently been the site for filming multiple scenes for HBOs “Outlander” series. We also got a taste of the Scottish winds and weather while at the castle; it was the first time we were actually chilled to the bone since stepping foot in Scotland!
The tide was out so far, the fixed-keel sailboats were perched in the sand – and allowed me to capture this breathtaking image.
We were exhausted when we finally made it back to the hotel. Drinks and a light bite in the Peacock Alley bar were a nice way to cap off a wonderful day.
Next, our adventure takes a new turn – we rent a car and brave the Scottish roadways to make our way to Inverness and the Highlands. I’m sure we will have stories to tell!