Thursday, August 18, 2011

Scotland Highs and Lows - Part Two: St. Andrews and Edinburgh (Lowlands)

After our adventures in the beautiful Highlands we hit up two great cities: St. Andrews and Edinburgh. I have to say that I loved Scotland. My view might be a little skewed since we had amazing weather, but I really loved this country. From the people, the landscapes and the overall culture, the Scots had so much pride in their country and it was a great spirit to be around.

We stopped in St. Andrews on our way to Edinburgh from the Highlands. For all of you that don't know here are a few facts about this town. This is where golf originates from and the first golf course was right here. The University of St. Andrew's is the oldest in Scotland and the third oldest in the UK behind Oxford and Cambridge. Prince William and Kate Middleton attended and started their relationship at St. Andrews University. We lucked out on weather and had a few hours to stroll around this cute town.

Right on the coast. Not a bad place to have a golf course

This is where the famous scene from Chariots of Fire was filmed. This is Justin's reenactment

The famous golf course, the Old Course, at the 18th hole

We stumbled across a free outdoor concert. They played some great tunes like the Beatles and it made for a great ambience.

Enough said

What remains of the St. Andrews' Castle

Also the remains of St. Andrews' Cathedral. I really liked seeing this Cathedral because you could imagine the enormity of what stood here before.

This place was huge. Both the castle and the cathedral had the best location right along the cliffs over-looking the ocean. I can only imagine these places in their prime.

From guidebooks to our Scottish friends they all told us we had to go to Anstruther's Fish Bar. This is a small town south of St. Andrews that has been awarded the best fish and chips in the UK.  Justin liked his with some Iron Bru.

I have to admit that these were my favorite fish and chips of the whole trip. Not greasy and definitely fresh fish.

A view of the harbor in Anstruthers

Finally in Edinburgh we had a few days to explore the sights. We started by visiting the Edinburgh Castle. This isn't like all your other castles, because within the castle there are museums from the crown jewels to the history of the military. 

The castle overlooks the city and made for a great afternoon of Scottish history

One of my favorites was the FREE Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh. We just walked through these beautiful grounds. They even had areas where St. Andrews horticulture students were planting some school projects

One of Justin's nature shots within the gardens

We also visited St. Giles church. This church is famous because John Knox preached here.

This was the first thing we saw when heading to the famous Victoria Street. How cute!

This is Victoria Street. Full of restaurants, pubs, and shops. This area of town had a great vibe and I could definitely picture myself here. When I travel I like thinking about if I could live somewhere. There have been a few, but not many and this was one of them!

We visited the National Museum of Scotland. This place was jammed pack with history and man do the Scots have some history. It was really interesting and throughout the trip I was able to see how all of the pieces fit together. Here you get to see how the clan tartans were made.

The view of the city. Like many European towns, when the sun is out so are the people.  I love it. I fit right in with my pasty skin.

My Scottish girl, Katy, has got me reading this series called 44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith. The books are all set in Edinburgh and from reading the books I was even more excited to see this city than others. The Cumberland bar is the neighborhood bar that all the characters go to after work.  This bar was located outside the main hustle and bustle along a neighborhood street. We got there around 4:30 and enjoyed a pint for good measure. The place was empty when we got there, but packed when we left with women and men in work clothes. It felt just like the book.

On a funny note, on my quest to find places from the book we went searching for none other than 44 Scotland Street. When we got to 42 and the street ended into a park I asked a guy if the street continued across the park. He promptly asked, "Are you looking for 44?" I started to smile and said, "Yes." He smiled back and told me that 44 doesn't exist. Silly me! Either way it made for a good laugh.

St. Andrews and Edinburgh are two great cities, not your typical European cities. They are definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Scotland. I suggest going in June or July to get some good weather. But during August they have a month long festival with plays, comedians, and music if you are up for it.

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