Day 15 started with the super-delicious breakfast of fancy porridge from Stuart (at least for me) and of course more tea. Then it was off to the races for a new day. Leaving Stirling, we headed towards small town Dunfermline and their ruined abbey. We had already visited King Robert the Bruce’s buried heart, it was time to see the rest of him.
Religious structures have stood on the site of Dunfermline Abbey for nearly a thousand years. In the 12th century, King David order the construction of the ‘current’ Benedictine abbey. The church would eventually become ground zero for the worship of David’s mother, St. Margaret. The abbey ruins did house a small royal palace for the kings and queens and its grounds contain more Scottish royal tombs than nearly anywhere else in Scotland. The remains of Robert the Bruce (except his heart) are buried under the modern, current church’s altar. The royal palace at Dunfermline also saw the birth of King Charles I, the last king of England to be born in Scotland. Most of the grounds are in ruins which are fun to explore, but there is also an intact abbey church with an older Norman section and a much more modern chapel that is still in use today. It was a great place to visit.
After visiting the abbey and a brief (angry) call with one our banks regarding their not letting the Husband withdraw any moneys via local ATMS, we were on our way to beautiful St. Andrews.
My modern-day royal lovers will know St. Andrews as the college town in which Kate and Wills met and dated (and I assume earned degrees). One of the coffee shops in town had a huge banner reading, “Where Kate and Wills Met for Coffee… once.” Loved. We only spent a few hours in St. Andrews but I absolutely loved it and would go back in a heart beat. I would love to use St. Andrews as a base for exploring more of the general eastern area. It’s just such a quaint, quiet, perfect town. While there, we walked just a bit around the historic area near the coast, visiting the old castle ruins, the cathedral ruins, and of course, part of the golf course. Another thing I loved about St. Andrews? It’s right on the coast. As soon as you exit your car, you are greeted with a rush of salty sea air, like every beach vacation I’ve ever gone on, and it’s invigorating. I swear, one day the Husband and I will own a beach house! But I digress…
Our first stop was at the castle which was not actually a royal castle, but rather a stronghold for the rich and powerful bishops of the area prior to the Reformation. Much of the ruins that you visit today are from the castle rebuild of around 1400. Earlier versions of the castle were lost in the struggles with England. During the Reformation battles of the 16th century, several mines were carved into the undergrounds of the castle and you can climb down into some of those mines and counter-mines today. It’s a bit claustrophobic, so the Husband had to venture part of the way without me, but that was alright as I found a large rock bench that offered the perfect ocean view of castle and water.
After visiting the castle, we headed down the street to the ruined St. Andrews Cathedral next. This cathedral was originally built in the mid-12th century, building upon a tradition and community already worshiping some of Saint Andrews relics at the site. It fell into disuse after the Scottish Reformation and now lacks most of its prior structure.
With both of those major sights done, we headed down the village streets towards the most famous golf course in the world. They say that St. Andrews is where golf was born. It was a sport of kings and queens, and now you too can play the Old Links that have been in use for 600 years. We walked just a bit of the course to head down to the main clubhouse so that the Husband could pick up some sort of golfing memorabilia with the St. Andrews logo on it. I stick to mini-golf myself, but the Husband does occasionally play the real game. Although I think mostly those excursions are just an excuse to miss work and drink beer with a bunch of guys… but that’s just between you and me! 😉 If we had more time, we could have played a bit on the mini-course they have where anyone can putt 9 or 18 holes, but maybe next trip. It looked pretty crowded out there! Hungry from all that walking we headed back into town for lunch at a deliciously modern little restaurant tucked away in a back street. It was so good and the local ale that I had was exceptional. After lunch, we were off to the next town, Pitlochry, for the evening. We stayed at the Craigatin House and Courtyard and could not have had a more lovely stay. They were quite a bit larger than I anticipated for a guesthouse, but our room was excellent, the hosts were amazing, and breakfast was delightful. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay here again. After checking in, we headed out for a walk around the town and ended up taking a footpath that takes you out by the local river dam and salmon ladder. The Husband tried to educate me on fish ladders and we spent a bit trying to find any fish currently moving through the river (spotted a couple!) before heading to dinner at this odd restaurant that blended Italian and Scottish. Despite dinner being odd, Pitlochry was a lovely town with a great main street teeming with shops and plenty of spaces to explore. It was getting late by the time we finished dinner, however, so we walked back out to the guesthouse and settled in for the evening. I think the Husband was pretty excited by that point, because we were about embark on “his” part of the trip- whiskey distilleries!