Travel Europe Day 3, St. Andrews | Fife

travel Europe title

Driving a manual on the left side of the road is super easy when you are in the back seat and you have no idea what is going on.  When your main job is to stay relaxed, to pay attention to the emotions of the front-seaters, and maybe try to ease the tension. When your job is to be quiet and speak only when it’s appropriate.

St. Andrews, Oban, OxfordHow different Andrea’s and my perspective from the back seat was from Dacia’s and Becky’s from the front seat. Dacia reserved/rented the car and was the main name on the legal forms.  We added Becky as the 2nd driver so the current driver could tap out if necessary. Sounds like a good plan, right?

Friday morning, Dacia and Becky got up early to get the car from some unknown-to-me location in Edinburgh.  I woke up and felt the nervous energy in the air as they got ready to go. They were trying to be quiet for Andrea’s and my sakes, so instead of whispering encouragement to them, I pretended I was still sleeping.

They want us to keep sleeping.  They’ll be sad if they thought they woke me up.

They hadn’t because my body was still adjusting to the time change, but wasn’t that kind of me to keep them from feeling guilty?  I know. I’m that kind of a friend.

When they left for the car (with another hour bus ride to this unknown location), I popped out of bed, took a shower and got ready for the day. Two hours later, Andrea and were about to head downstairs hoping that all was fine with the other duo when we heard a car door shut.  Peering out the window I exclaimed, “They’re here!”

“They’re here?” Andrea said.

“With the car!” I answered.

We thumped down the stairs and greeted them as they came in the front door.

“We made it!” Dacia said.

At breakfast, as we once again shoveled all the food into our mouths, Alice asked us what our plans for the day were.

We were heading to St. Andrews, the birthplace of golf and home to the oldest golf course in the world.

St. Andrews
University of St. Andrews


“We are going for the golf course?” Dacia asked when we were making plans for the trip.  She asked in a way that clearly stated I don’t want to go to a golf course.  I didn’t really want to either, but I knew it was potentially important to Andrea. So I held my breath.  Please be more than golf. Please be more than golf.  Please be more than golf.

“No,”Andrea assured her. “We will see the North Sea and St. Andrews Castle, too.  That will be cool. We’ll just stop at the golf course for a couple of pictures.”

Okay, we were in agreement again. That sounded like fun.

Cultural Lesson #5
St. Andrews Links

St. Andrews

St. Andrews is where the game of golf was invented and where the oldest golf course in the world is, St. Andrews Links

St. Andrews Links is not just one 18-hole course, it has seven different courses.  The historic course is called “The Old Course,” and the one you get your photo taken on the 18th hole.  Even if you don’t play the game.

Which we don’t.  Not a single one of us actually cares about golf at all.  But when you are that close and one of your friends has family members who golf for a living, you don’t miss this opportunity.  Especially when you are just 45 minutes away.

As we finished our breakfast, Alice told us, “If you’re going to St. Andrews, you need to stop in Anstruther for fish and chips.  They have the best fish and chips pub in Scotland. And it’s on your way home if you get off the main road and follow the shore.”

Anstruther it was.  We tucked that tidbit away for later and headed out for a day of adventure.

St. Andrews, Oban, Oxford
We were stopped. I promise!

The car

Let me just say, Becky is a beast.  She is a rock star. She is WAY braver than I am. Driving was not something I was going to even attempt except maybe in a parking lot somewhere (which they don’t really have those in Scotland like we do here in Suburbia, Minnesota). Dacia, the navigator, had to pay attention to the map and the road.  I think the hardest part for her was to navigate Becky through the roundabouts.

“At the next roundabout, take your second left.”  Pause. “At this roundabout, don’t take the first left.  Take the second left.” Pause. “At this roundabout, you want to turn left on the second one.”

When she finally had a moment to process what Dacia was saying, Becky asked, “Do I need to go straight through, staying on this road?”


“Okay, if you could say, ‘Go straight through this roundabout,’ that would help a lot,” Becky explained.

Once we got out of Edinburgh, everyone sighed with relief. Even Andrea and I, due to the fact that we had been holding our breath trying to will the car to go the right way.  Out past Edinburgh on the highway headed to St. Andrews, we crossed the “Colin Firth of Forth.”  The countryside was beautiful. Fields and cottages, random castle ruin on the side of the road, a sheep and there. It was lovely to be out of the city. And I loved Edinburgh.  Like I’ve said in previous posts, I want to go back and explore the city some more. But the country gave me so much peace in my heart.

Welcome to St. Andrews

Driving into St. Andrews wasn’t extremely breathtaking. Honestly, I don’t even remember what we saw driving in.  But the day was one of my favorites.

  • St. Andrews Cathedral Grounds (cemetery):  The cathedral is Scotland’s largest medieval church. And you can see it from the out on the North Sea. We chose to NOT climb the St. Rule’s Tower.  Strolling the grounds was free, but the tower was not.
  • St. Andrews Castle:  The castle was in the middle of the Reformation struggles, and it was where John Knox was imprisoned.  We paid to explore the castle and had a blast. The ruins were fairly well-preserved and we enjoyed popping in and out of places.  The one place that I did not explore was the mine and the counter-mine that were dug during the siege of the castle in 1546-47.  I couldn’t get past my claustrophobia. The other three crawled through it and pretended to be living out The Goonies. I just waited for them to appear as the castle closed.
  • Jennetta’s Gelateria: This was creamy, frozen goodness we enjoyed when we were in downtown. We strolled the streets for a little while with our gelato in hand. When we saw what we thought was the Bobby, we dashed back to the car so that we wouldn’t get a ticket.
  • The North Sea: We enjoyed the North Sea in many ways.  We walked out on the breakwater and turned back to look at the shore.  We watched a man and his dog splash in the sea with a frisbee. And after visiting the castle, we climbed down the stairs on the cliffside to put our feet in the water, pick up shells and rocks, and lay out under the beautiful Scottish sky.   

Adventure on the Golf Course

We couldn’t leave without a photo at St. Andrew’s Links.  Somehow we learned we needed to get to an old bridge that was on the 18th hole for the iconic St. Andrews photo.  I’m not sure how we actually learned this fact. It was probably Andrea and her information-absorbing brain. I think she remembers every detail she read and saw on our trip.  

St. Andrews

Honestly, I had no idea what a big deal this actually was.  We were all so out of our element. We didn’t know anything about golf.  We didn’t care about golf.  But by golly, we were going to do this golf thing RIGHT!

To get the famous Swilken Bridge that spans between the 18th hole and the 1st hole you can cut across the fairways.

“Just pop over the fence and follow that dip across the course to the other side,” the salesperson at the Club Shop said. “The golfers have the right of way, but keep your head low and be aware. You’ll get there.”

“So, what you are saying, is you want me to hop over that rope that is blocking the pathway thing and cut across right there?” I asked.  I had no witnesses with me. Much to my detriment.

St. Andrews Link
This is one of my favorite photos from the trip because both Dacia and I have eyes that say, “We really don’t care about golf and we are taking this picture because we should pretend we are excited.”

“Exactly. Pop over and it won’t take you long.  Just keep your head down,” she repeated.

I didn’t really believe her, so I continued asking to confirm my understanding, “So you want us to walk along the grass where that lady is?  That’s really okay?”

“That’s the route.  Remember to keep your head down,” she said again pleasantly.

St. AndrewsShaking my head, I walked to my friends and said, “You guys aren’t going to believe this.”

“What did she say?  What’s the best way to get over there?”

By way of answer, I led them to the roof of the ClubHouse and pointed. “Do you see that little roped off area?  We just pop over that and cut across the course.”


“That’s what she said.” I knew they weren’t going to like it.

I led them to the “entrance” and hopped over the fence.  “Keep your head down. They have the right of way.”

Andrea hesitated. “This just isn’t right.  We shouldn’t do this.”

“Keep your head down. I know for a fact this is what she told me to do.”

Andrea, being the only one with any golfing education, continued, “But we aren’t supposed to do this.”  

“I know, but this is what she said!  I promise. Keep your head down and go!”  And that’s what I did leaving the others in the dust.

I have no idea what was happening behind me.  All I can tell you is there was some shrieking and a lot of laughing.

St. Andrews
Swilken Bridge at St. Andrews Links

When we made it to the other side of the course, we waited for the golfers to finish the hole and take their picture.  Then, we waited for tourists from Germany to take theirs. Then, we hopped on the bridge, took some photos, and scurried off.  Then, we watched as a couple more tourists giggled their way to the bridge and took selfie after selfie.

On our way back to the car, encountered a man who was hired solely for his deep voice.

“Gaht ouf de cooooourse!  Gaht ouf de cooooourse!”

My heart started racing.  We were off the course, weren’t we?  We tried to get out of the way as fast as possible.

“Gaht ouf de cooooourse!” he continued to yell. Then, we realized he was yelling at the ladies behind us.  The selfie-takers.

“He seems like a fun one,” one of us mumbled.

“Yeah, I don’t think we should ask him for directions,” we agreed.

But as we passed him, he nodded at us, “Lovely day.”

St. Andrews



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