There are certain places that are “must-sees” around the world for different reasons. For Catholics, that place is the Vatican. For people whose ancestors immigrated to the US from Europe in the years spanning 1850-1950, that place might be Ellis Island. For golfers, (even very bad lapsed ones!) that place is the Old Course at St. Andrews. Once we scheduled our cruise and realized how close the town of St. Andrews is to our port in Edinburgh (South Queensferry), we knew without question how we would be spending our day.
Gordon from G&S Tours suggested a route, and 8 of us prepared to get an early start on our day that would include Falkland and the small coastal fishing villages of Fife as well as several hours in St. Andrews. We wouldn’t be able to play, but since we would be walking on golf’s holy ground we were excited anyway!
South Queensferry is a tender port, and we were a little worried about a wait to get off the ship. Luckily, one couple in our group had two Priority Tender passes to cover the group, and we were able to walk right onto a tender. It didn’t seem backed-up or even busy when we went ashore, but it was nice to have the insurance!
For once, Mother Nature didn’t cooperate at the beginning of the day. We started out with low clouds and an annoying drizzle. By lunch time it would give way to the bright sunshine and brilliant blue skies we’d had throughout the trip.
Our first stop was in the village of Falkland. The tiny rural town dates back to before the 12th century. In recent years, it’s best know for being an Outlander filming site, but it’s also widely known for its horticulture. Even though the day was gloomy, I could still see the beauty of the flowers and gardens at every turn.
St. Andrew’s is such a beautiful town! Of course, there are the golf courses, but there is so much more. St. Andrew’s Cathedral is fascinating, and the village and university are just charming. We started our visit with time to explore the cathedral grounds before we went to the golf course for our tour. Most of these pictures were taken later in the day when we went back for a few minutes. The light was much better, and I had corrected my camera settings from the morning’s accidental moving of a dial.😳
After the cathedral, we were off to St. Andrew’s links where we met our guide, Gordon’s friend Fergus. He was fascinating because in addition to golf knowledge he is a horticulturalist and explained a lot about the course architecture and the reasons behind the construction.
St. Andrews was both familiar and not at the same time, if that makes sense. Nothing looks exactly like it does on TV, and the Old Course at St. Andrews is no exception. I was surprised to learn that St. Andrews is not one, but SEVEN courses, all stacked one next to another, with the most famous Old Course right in the middle. We also learned that the courses are public land, and as such anyone has the right to walk on them right in the midst of the golfers. Needless to say this causes quite a bit of chaos with golfers and tourists all trying to get a photo on the famous Swilcan Bridge! St. Andrews is closed on Sundays unless there is a tournament, and the grounds are used for picnicking, riding horses, and bicycling by locals.
We chose to eat lunch right there at the golf course in the interest of maximizing our time. It wasn’t cheap, but it was filling and reasonably fast, so our objectives were met. After lunch we had some time to shop and were able to take care of a few Christmas gifts. Buying Christmas presents in July is always a great thing, as long as I remember who I bought for and where I stashed them!
After lunch and shopping we spent a few more minutes at the cathedral and/or castle before heading towards the coastal fishing villages on our way back to the ship. I had requested an up close and personal look at a Hairy Coo, and Gordon did the best he could but the cows (coos) just wouldn’t cooperate! They were where he thought they would be, but about as far from the road as possible! It’s almost like they knew I was coming with my camera and they weren’t feeling photogenic that day. Here is what I was hoping to see:
This is what I actually saw:
We hugged the coast and made brief stops in Crail and Anstruther, with more time in Pittenweem — each town was more idyllic than the one before! Pittenweem also had the added benefit of a great ice cream store so we had enough energy to make it back to the ship!
When we got back to South Queensferry the line for the tender was long but not unreasonable. I think we waited about 30 minutes but that was OK because it had turned into a beautiful day! While we were waiting things did get a little “chippy” when buses coming back tried to offload passengers in such a way as to allow them to cut the line. Fortunately there was also a lot of staff on hand to help organize people, and even though there was plenty of grumbling everybody took their place in line.
We were back on board and cleaned up for our evening long before the last tenders made it back to the ship. We sat in Vines with our wine and watched the proceedings for a while before dinner. Our dinner was long and leisurely, and true to form I didn’t have much left by the time we finished eating. I went to the casino for a little while, but luck was definitely elusive on this trip!
We only had two days left. The next day was a sea day (and packing) followed by our last port of LeHavre and a full day tour to the U.S. War Sites in Normandy. I was really looking forward to Normandy, but definitely not excited about getting off the ship and flying home!