Our Trip To England and Scotland

Day 10  - Saturday, May 22

Breakfast at Coppercantie is better than average, although a traditional English breakfast is remarkably consistent.  If you asked a dozen Americans what constitutes a traditional American breakfast, you'd probably get a dozen different answers.  Despite the variety of peoples, languages, and geography that make up Britain, it is noticeably more homogeneous than the U.S.

After breakfast, Mr. Dobson led us to the University Library in the town center.  He told us that St. Andrews University, founded in 1410, is the third oldest in Britain (after Cambridge and Oxford).  I told him that the University where I teach was founded in 1963.  We found the contrast to be amusing.  In the Library, Mr. Dobson showed us the resources to use in researching Susan's Scottish ancestors.  His eyes would light up with every book he pulled from the shelf.  I could tell that he sincerely enjoyed his work and sharing it with others.

Since I wasn't going to be much help at the library, we decided that I would go exploring on my own and check back in a couple of hours.  After paying for the parking display card, I walked over toward the golf courses.  On the way I found an historic marker along the coast road that explained a number of interesting facts about the city.  It showed where they used to throw people accused of witchcraft into the sea.  Those that sank were innocent and those that floated were burned.  I found this story to be a bit incredible, but that's what it said.

Today, St. Andrews is most famous for being the home of golf.  People from all over the world make the pilgrimage to the Old Course, the world's oldest and most famous golf course.  The Old Course is located on a flat barren plain between the hills and the sea and is quite unlike any other golf course I have seen.  It is much less manicured than a typical US golf course.  Because of its long history, it has a number of unusual features.  For example, the first and 18th fairways are shared between a single large open field of grass with a road running across the middle (cars and pedestrians have to yield to golfers).  There is also a road and a stone wall that runs behind the 17th green.  The 17th is called the "road hole" because the road and wall are not out of bounds - you play it where it lies.
 
 
The Old Course
St. Andrews

This picture is taken from the edge of the 17th green looking up the 1st and 18th fairways to the clubhouse.  The picture is badly overexposed, but it is one of the few we have of St. Andrews.

I walked along the first fairway and watched golfers hit into the 25 mile per hour wind coming off the North Sea.  I vowed that I would never again complain about wind on my golf course at home.  Just past the first green, I found myself walking across a huge putting green (perhaps an acre in size) with severe mounds.  A greens keeper came up and asked if I wanted to play a round.  He explained that  this was the Ladies Putting Green, also known as the Himalayas.  There are 18 "tees" marked around the putting green with 18 numbered pins.  For 70 pence you get a ball and a putter and you can play what is essentially the worlds oldest miniature golf course.  I figured this was as close as I would ever get to playing The Old Course.  I then chatted with the greens keeper for a while.  He explained to me a bit of the history of the course and explained that there was an amateur tournament going on, with some of the top amateurs in Britain (which explains why they could hit the ball so far and straight into that wind).  We also discussed genealogy, Candadian acents, and a variety of other topics.

I walked over to the 17th green to take some pictures and did some shopping at the golf shops (there are dozens).  I bought some golf souvenirs for my mother, son and me, and then went back to the Library to check in with Susan.  She wanted a little more time so I stayed to help for another hour and then we went to lunch.  St. Andrews is a very busy  town.  The few pubs we looked into were packed.  We finally found a nice sandwich shop.  Even though it was a large place, we still had to wait a few minutes to get a table.

After lunch we drove to Perth to see Scone Palace (about a 45 minute drive).  Along the way we stopped for more petrol.  Scone Palace is 16th century estate built on the site of Moot Hill which was the center of Scottish and Pictish kingdoms for over a thousand years.  This is where the Stone of Scone was used in the coronation of Scottish Kings before it was stolen by the English.  Today, there is a replica you can kneel on if you want to reenact the ceremony.  The estate home is relatively plain on the outside, but the inside is filled with beautiful furnishings and portraits.  This was the first stately home we had toured and we quite enjoyed seeing how the other half lives.  The tour was set up so there was a guide in each room.  We found this a better arrangement than having a guide that takes a group from room to room because you can go at your own pace.  We took a stroll around the grounds which included wandering peacocks, highland cows, and a hedge maze.
 
Scone Palace

Although very plain on the outside, it is very beautiful on the inside.

Back in St. Andrews, we had burgers at an American style restaurant.  I wondered if I should feel guilty about eating American style food in Scotland, but the place was packed with locals and I didn't see too many of them order the haggis.  After dinner, we took a driving and walking tour around town.  St. Andrews is fairly small and it is only a short walk to just about anywhere you want to go.  There is a ruined cathedral which was the ecclesiastical center of Scotland prior to the Reformation and a castle that played an important role during the Reformation.  However, we only viewed these from the street.  We drove by (and across) the Old Course so Susan could see what I had been up to in the morning.  We both thought that St. Andrews was one of our favorite stops.  Back and the B&B we told Mr. Dobson about the results of our work in the Library.
 
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