Sunday, 16 November 2008

St Andrews

November 1st we took the train from Edinburgh to St Andrews. It took an hour to get there and cost about 12 pounds each, return. The train station isn't actually in St Andrews, it's in a small town called Leuchars thats a 10 minute bus ride from the city. We arrived at 10 and had all day to explore. We stopped off at Starbucks for a quick caramel macchiato before heading over to explore the castle ruins. We were very lucky with the weather that day. It was a beautiful, sunny day with blue skies, and no rain! We spent a good two hours walking around the ruins. Not a lot is left, except the lower half of the outer walls...and the ultimate loo with a view!

The castle was built in the early 1400s and was in ruin by 1689, a relatively short histroy by castle standards. Some interesting things inside the castle are the dungeon and the mines. The dungeon, called a bottle dungeon, is the best preserved of its kind in Scotland. There is only one way in, being lowered (or, more likely, thrown) down the hole, and only one way out...death. To save some time, I'll copy and paste some information about the mine and counter mine.
During the seige of the castle by the Earl of Arran in 1546 - 1547. The French / Catholic attackers dug a seige mine in an attempt to (literally) undermine the foundations of the castle. The idea was to remove a large quantity of supporting rock from under the foundation, while supporting the roof of the mine with timber. When sufficient rock had been removed, the timbers would be set on fire and thus become unable to support the weight of the wall and foundations. The defenders of St. Andrews castle were well aware of the mining attempt, and dug a counter-mine to try to intercept the attacking mine. Guided by the sound of the attackers digging, and racing for time against the attack, their counter mine was much smaller and branched off in different erroneous directions.The two mines eventually met where the ladder is in the picture below. The mine was re-discoverd in 1879 when the foundations for a house across the street from the castle were being layed.

The mine was very cramped. You almost had to crawl on your hands and knees to get to this ladder. Only Katie went down, but it was probably 3 times as big down there. It was pretty interesting.

After the castle we walked to the beach, past some of the St Anderws University buildings, as well as the house that Prince William lived in while he was a student there! The beach is right beside the Old Course (for those who don't know, that is the first ever golf course). It is the very beach that parts of the movie' Chariots of Fire' were filmed at. The tide was out so we walked along the sand and picked up some nice shells. We then walked to the old course, which isn't very big, and stood at the first hole to watch some golfers. There is an old members only club that only men are allowed in. The only day that women are allowed in the club is St. Andrews day, which is the end of November.

After lunch we walked to the cathedral. What an amazing place! The ruins were beautiful and humongous. It would have been wonderful to see what the cathedral looked like when it was first built. We bought tickets to walk up St. Rules Tower, which is a tower with 158 tiny, twisty stairs, to get a wonerful view of the whole town. The cathedral was started in 1160 and took 150 years to complete. The cathedral area is made up of a few different religios buildings. There are gravestones around the grounds, mostly dating from the 1800s. Many of the gravestones had names of at least one child that died before the age of 5.

We walked around the grounds for a while before heading back into the town to browse the shops. There was a fish and chips shop that sold deep fried chocolate bars for a pound. Katie heard about these on a TV show several years ago and had to try one. It was delicious! We had a snickers bar and the chocolate was all gooey and warm...yummy. We also stopped at the local bakery and picked up some desserts to bring back to Edinburgh for our flatemates. Again, we ran into the problem of having all the shops close at 5:30. Our train wasn't due to leave until 7:45 so we had some time to kill. We lingered over dinner and then took a taxi back to Leuchars to catch the train back to the city. It was a long day with a lot of walking but St Andrews in an amazing town with a lot of history and character. If you want to see more pictures we have a flickr account at

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