Over the years of traveling, I’ve learned there are certain suggestions or pieces of advice offered from people who have traveled the road before you. Almost invariable, it is a good idea to take these little golden nuggets and put them in your travel bag. Such is the case with the suggestion from my friend, and fellow wanderer, Tim Warrner, who emphatically suggested I visit St. Andrews. Now Tim is a big time golfer so this makes perfect sense to him. Me…not so much. I’m left to view golfing success as the number of swings per dollar spent. It puts a positive spin on things when I look at the score card. So I must admit to feeling luke-warm, at best, about St. Andrews. I had been thinking about heading up the west coast after Edinburgh.
But Tim’s suggestion kept tugging at me….AND I knew what kind of crap he was going to give me upon returning if I didn’t go to St. Andrews. So at breakfast this morning when Maria, my host in Edinburgh, asked where to next, I blurted out, “St. Andrews!” And I’ll never regret it.
I hopped back into the car on the righthand side, worked the stick-shift with my left hand, turned the windshield wipers off after mistakenly using that wand for the turning signals and headed in the direction of the Forth Road Bridge which would take me over the Firth of Forth and into the Kingdom of Fife (say that 10 times over after a few scotches). I wound my way north along the coast that provided some beautiful views back across the water at Edinburgh. On a much, much, smaller scale it reminded me of the view looking back at Istanbul from the Bosphorus Bridge heading over to the content of Asia.
After winding through one quaint town after another on the scenic coastal route, I soon took a more narrow and curvy road through farm country until…just like Tim described, “you come up over a hill, and suddenly you’re looking down a mile or so, right on the coast, you see the steeples and stone towers of St. Andrews. It’s beautiful!”
And Tim was right. It is beautiful. And just like Tim, I will probably always remember that curve on that hill. I was going to stop and get a photo of it but there was no spare room on that road anywhere.
One of the first things I did visit the Travel Scotland information center and inquire about accommodations in town – Tim’s recommendation showed no vacancy. Unfortunately, nobody right in town had an opening, but I did end up with a nice place just a few miles further up the firth (estuary). While I was there, I also booked my next accommodations over in the Loch Lomond area (a teaser).
It was mid-afternoon by the time I got out of the information center so I had to get serious about doing St. Andrews. First, I headed to St. Andrews Cathedral and the St. Rule Tower. What an awesome and powerful place this is! You can’t help being moved by the power of this place. A climb up the narrow, winding, stairs of St. Rule tower provides a fantastic view of St. Andrews Cathedral, St. Andrews Castle, the forth, and the city of St. Andrews – Even over to the Old Golf Course.
After the Cathedral, I visited the castle, or the little that’s left of it. What I’m going to take away from this place is a photo for the perfect outdoor fire pit! It did have a very interesting museum that explains the history of the castle. Leaving the castle, I walked through a beautiful university neighborhood that led to THE Golf Course….St. Andrews!
What a great experience this was. It’s just right there. Out in the open like it’s part of a seaside public park and it’s the most famous golf course on the planet. I walked right up to The Royal and Ancient Club House…but they don’t let peasants in so I just took photos of the outside. Then I walked right up to the eighteenth green and looked down its length to the tee box. The history here!
Then I walked along the side of the eighteenth fairway toward the tee box. There wasn’t any groups playing the hole so I just stepped right out on the fairway and took some pictures of the 18th green and The Royal and Ancient Club House. Then I walked a little further to the famous Swilcan Burn Bridge..and right out onto it and asked another guy to take a picture of me on it! (cheesy I know, but it was right there!). This is about the time we were politely thrown off the course.
After finishing the 18th hole, I figured it was time for a pint and a dram. The nearest and coolest place is known as “The Jigger” located right along the 17th fairway, attached to The Old Course Hotel. Which I discovered upon reading the drink coaster, is owned by our very own Herbert V. Kohler from Wisconsin! My waiter informed me that Mr. Kohler enjoys his scotch at The Jigger quite often when he’s in town. Check out the Old Course Hotel and The Jigger by clicking HERE.
Well, one more Wisconsin guy did so as well today – along with eating one of the biggest and best burgers of my life. In fact, I had a pint of beer called appropriately, The Jigger. Then I finished the meal with a scotch. I had to! Here is an excerpt from Tim Warrner’s email to me: “…St. Andrews it is a great place and fife is worth some time!… Have a Balvenie double wood for me and take a look at the Old Course.”
So Here’s to you, Tim. Thanks for the push.