Scholars & Sportsmen

St. Andrews is famous for two things: its university and its golf course. We had ample time to see both, since we were there to see the former and were housed next to the latter. Not all of this happened in the best weather – we arrived just in time for storm Doris, which brought tremendous wind and rain to all of the UK. So our walking tour of the university was on the chilly and grey side:


I had to buy a hat just for this visit.  Fortunately, I was in a country that sold woolen products everywhere.


Still, the university shows well in the rain, especially since it is so interwoven into the village. They also took us into their rare book collection, where we got to see amazing things like an order signed by Queen Elizabeth I and an original volume by Galileo. This psalter was beautiful:


I spent a good amount of time reading pages from Mark Cateby’s The Natural History of the Carolinas, an enormous set of volumes published in 1743. I loved both his illustrations and his prose style (read it – I promise that it’s worth it):


Once we were inside for presentations, the university did a superb job of showing us its commitment to a deeply intellectual educatin, offering us presentations by faculty members in everything from Spanish to math to divinity. One of the professors took us outside to give us a quick history lesson (St. Andrews was founded in 1413, so there’s a lot of history). This tree was planted by Mary Queen of Scots:


On my first day in town, I had lunch with Matt Singer, one of my old students from Park School. He is now a sophomore at St Andrews studying International Relations and Arabic. It was great to see him – and to get a fuller picture of the pros and cons of studying there. For my second day’s lunch, I had fish & chips at Cromars. This turns out to be a very monochrome meal:img_1041


But the fish was the best I’ve ever had fried, and I love that there’s so much tea in Scotland.

The university treated us to a formal banquet on our final night, complete with bagpipes and a formal presentation of the haggis:


Haggis, by the way, tastes ok if you don’t think about what it’s made of – but it has a very strange texture. I don’t recommend it.

We ended the evening with a ceilidh, a Scottish gathering that’s like a square dance with faster music (or a contra with fancier footwork). It was tremendous fun!

Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, our home away from home in St. Andrews, was right on the Old Course, one of the six golf courses that now bring people to town from all around the world.   I sat and had multiple pots of tea at breakfast overlooking the first/eighteenth hole (beyond which you can see the Chariots of Fire beach) during sunrise:


Though because it’s Scotland, on some days the sun did not rise quite so much:


Crazy people go out golfing as soon as the course opens soon after seven in the morning.  They go out in the wind, they go out in the rain, they go out when normal people should be in bed or sitting by the fire with a good book and hot cup of tea.  But my counselor friend who had golfing plans at the end of our stay explained that if you travel all the way to St. Andrews, you’re going to golf no matter what, unless they close the course.

In the distance beyond the golf course we could see snow, courtesy of storm Doris, on our second morning (it’s glinting in the brilliant Scottish sunlight on the hill on the left in the background):


I think of golf courses as vast spaces with one huge clubhouse placed somewhere strategically near the top, but this golf course has a good number of buildings scattered around and along it:


Our hotel was near the far end of this row:


It was a great place to stay – I would recommend it highly.

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