A Visit to Saint Andrews

As a change from my usual holiday scrap book…………………

Last Friday we headed up to St. Andrews for a visit to see Sam and then on to a few days in Angus.  One of the things that always strikes me on arriving in Scotland is the light.  David and I flew to Edinburgh and pick up a hire car to head over to the coast and the light is wonderful. We have always been lucky with the weather at this time of year and this time is no exception – with an endless blue sky and that bright Scottish light.  The days are long here – even in May.

St. Andrews is a unique place – bustling and alive – but it feels remote and is approached by quiet roads.  It takes a lot of its life and energy from the University and at this time of the year its coffee shops are full of young people on lap tops revising for their exams which start on Monday.  Sam’s second year exams start on Thursday – so he is hard at work – but able to take some time off to join us for the odd coffee and dinner each night.  Friday night at Forgan’s for fish and chips – delicious! http://www.forgans.co.uk/

On Saturday Sam is busy until late afternoon so David and I are entertaining ourselves – starting the day with a run down to the beach and the golf courses.  The weather is still beautiful – but cold with a brisk wind blowing…………………

Breakfast and then we head out – a few miles up the coast to Kinshaldy beach for a walk along the sands and back through the forest and nature reserve.  The car park is busy with families – but walking out – north along the sand – it is only minutes before was are on our own on a beautiful, clean, sandy beach – littered with shells.  We have made the mistake in the past of walking along the hard sand by the sea and found ourselves rather too far down a sandbar – having to track back to re-find our path – so this time we stay further up the beach which makes the walking harder in the soft sand.  The sun is shining – but it is still chilly and the wind blowing us along keeps us cool.  Our return path takes us through Tentsmuir forest – more sheltered from the wind and warm where the sun penetrates the trees.  The forest is a quiet, shady place – with dappled sunlight. We hear lots of birdsong and woodpeckers going about their business!

Back in St. Andrews there are still hours of daylight to go – so a chance to meet up with Sam and head down to the New Course – where he can show off some of the golfing skills he has been working on since studying here.  The links course runs alongside the beach and we see rabbits and hares running along between the bright yellow gorse bushes in full flower.  You can see all the way over to the mountains where we will be heading next week.  It is peaceful – with just a few other people finishing their rounds at this time in the evening.

St. Andrews is famous for its golf and golf courses.  The Old Course at St Andrews is one of the oldest courses in the world and golfers from all over the world travel here for a “once in a lifetime” chance to play the course.  The British Open has been played here more times than on every other course – HOWEVER – the Old Course at St Andrews remains a public course – so anyone can play it (okay – you do need to be able to play golf) – on common land.  And whilst it might cost a small fortune to play golf here – if you are a resident or student of St. Andrews you can play here (and any of the other 6 courses held in Trust at St. Andrews) as many times as you want – all year round – for less than the cost of one round for a visitor (or for free if you are a child).  It feels a long way from the elitist and patriarchal game played in England.  And because it is common land – the course is “rested” every Sunday and townspeople and many of their dogs walk across the “Home of Golf” taking in the scenery and admiring the ground seen so many times on the TV.  So that is what David and I do this weekend – strolling the 18 holes – out and back and getting some idea of the challenge of playing here in this wind – with these bunkers.  Walking out it seems still and benign – but turning back towards the town – suddenly it is chilled and even hard to stay on your feet in places.  The sand traps are so deep you can step in and not see out! Great fun!  And a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning.

Sunday afternoon is a chance to see Sam again and to wander around some of the shops in the town.  A special favourite is the Topping and Company Bookshop – where you genuinely feel welcome to stay and browse for as long as you like – the booksellers even offer you a seat and a cup of tea or coffee if you hang around for a while! I always find something I want here (usually many things) – but this time I settle for a little booklet of 10 poems from Scotland. https://www.toppingbooks.co.uk/  So it is with one of these that I sign off from St. Andrews as tomorrow we will be heading inland and north of Dundee.  I thought this might be appropriate for this visit………………

The Graduates

If I chose children they’d know stories of the old country, the place we never left. I swear

I remember no ship slipping from the dock, no cluster of hurt, proud family

waving till they were wee as china milkmaids on a mantelpiece,

but we have surely gone, and must knock with brass kilted pipers

the doors to the old land:we emigrants of no farewell who keep our bit language

in jokes and quotes; our working knowledge of coal-pits, fevers, lost

like the silver bangle I lost at the shows one Saturday, tried to conceal, denied

but they’re not daft. And my bright, monoglot bairns will discover, misplaced

among the bookshelves, proof, rolled in a red tube: my degrees, a furled sail, my visa.

Kathleen Jamie

(with apologies about the formatting – can’t get WordPress to do what I want!)


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