Our college counselor tour took us northeast from Edinburgh to St. Andrews, a small village in County Fife. The drive took us past lots of low, rolling farms. Villages are few and far between. But if you glance out the window, you’re guaranteed to see a few sheep as they whizz by!
I fell for St Andrews about fifteen minutes after our arrival. My room at our hotel wasn’t ready, so I walked straight up to Topping & Company Booksellers. I arrived hungry (I’d had no lunch), cold (it was windier than windy outside), and tired (I’d hiked up a small mountain that morning, gone on an Edinburgh walking tour, and sat on a bus for nearly two hours). Then this conversation ensued as I was meandering through the travel section:
Salesman (walking up to me with a smile): “Would you like tea or coffee?”
Me (bewildered – is this a coffee shop? Do I have to pay for it?): “Yes!”
Salesman: “Scottish breakfast or Earl Grey?”
Me (still puzzled – why is this man offering me tea in a bookshop?): “Scottish breakfast would be lovely. You’ve just saved my life.”
The store itself is crammed nearly floor to ceiling with books (the novels all appear to be identically sized, which I found both bizarre and satisfying). I sat down in a comfy chair in the cooking section, and the friendly salesman soon brought me a tray with a cheerful round blue teapot, matching cup and saucer and pitcher of milk, and a biscuit. He asked if I wanted sugar (the answer is always yes), and I settled down to flip through cookbooks by Yotam Ottolenghi and Madhur Jaffrey and to wonder why the world doesn’t have more perfect afternoon moments like that one.
Two other college counselors passed by after I’d finished my tea, and we all went out walking together. St. Andrews charmed me immediately (the word “charming” has never crossed my lips so often as it did in my two days there). The buildings are all grey, as they are in Edinburgh, but they’re low-slung and seem somehow friendly. It is truly a village, and it feels like one.
While we were all tempted by the idea of shopping and snacking – St Andrews is a college town and has its fair share of boutiques, cafes, and pubs – the weather forecast suggested that this might be the only day we would have in the sunshine. We all wanted to see the ocean, and we drew collective happy breaths at seeing the water.
We soon found ourselves right in front of St. Andrews castle, which looks more like a pile of rubble than the ecclesiastical fortification it once was.
But we grew even more excited once we arrived at the beach:
We passed an amazing graveyard…
… and these archways in the street …
…and the old cathedral (the grounds were closed, but we circled nearly the entire outside taking pictures). This is the iconic emblem of St Andrews, the one that makes it onto most of the postcards:
You can see that it was once a church of significance:
Scotland amazes me because you can walk around and find signs like this:
I’d also found this guy in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, who appears to have suffered a similar fate (beheaded rather than burned, but still). The Reformation was not kind.
The town of St. Andrews has all sorts of endearing features. I had to stop myself from taking too many pictures of doors (they come in all colors, with all kinds of nameplates and doorknobs and knockers):
We loved this doorway (it connects two sidewalks and is very heavily trafficked):
St. Andrews tends to be more temperate than most Scottish villages, so there were many early spring flowers to be found, from daffodils …
… to crocuses …
… to hellebores …
… to primroses.
We were all freezing cold by the end of our walk, but thoroughly satisfied. We stopped in at a pub to try some Scotch (my co-counselors announced that my Tallisker tasted “like dirt that had been lit on fire”).
We ended the evening with a long, leisurely, filling dinner at Vine Leaf. And I had a lemon meringue baked Alaska for dessert – very exciting!