Anglotopia Day 6 – Stirling Castle and St. Andrews
I stood quietly at the water’s ledge, listening to the incoherent murmurs of university-age couples on the rocks as the sea tried its best to grab at my feet and invite me in. The tide was low, and a few people ventured out to explore the tide pools. I looked down and found the remnants of sea glass – and the burnt edges of classroom notes from what looked like a bonfire after graduation.
The sea spray touched my cheek in a familiar way, and I cast my face toward the fading afternoon sunlight near the horizon. The water and sky formed a perfect line save for the distant hill of a boat.
This is why people thought the world ended at the horizon.
About an hour from Edinburgh is the magnificent and beautiful Stirling Castle.
From the top of the castle, the views were mind-blowing. The Scottish countryside unfolded like a vibrant personality – all emeralds and jades, spliced with aquamarine in the distance. It was hard to peel my eyes away from the horizon where the fields meet the sky. The view was something you could stare at for ages.
Scotland should have its own color wheel.
Exploring Stirling Castle was a good few hours of viewing Medieval art, learning about restoration weaving of old tapestries, and exploring history rolled into one location. Again, having the Scottish Heritage ticket from Edinburgh Castle was great; we just had to present our pass, jumping the long queue and spending more time inside the castle.
From Stirling we drove along the inland water and patchwork fields for another hour until we reached the gorgeous university town of St. Andrews. We did not come there to worship at the altar of golf; instead, I wanted to immerse myself in the wild, windswept, and isolated romanticism of the place and have a bit of a wander in possibly one of the prettiest towns in Scotland.
Of course, being a self-respecting Anglophile and a fan of the current young royal generation, I wanted to see what all the hype was about Prince William and Kate attending the University of St. Andrews. Given the small town atmosphere, the sensation of being isolated – as I’m sure the winters make the town quite closed off with snow and whatnot – and all the great bars and pubs, it’s the perfect place to hide out from the world.
The real beauty of St. Andrews, in my humble option, is not in the perfect greenery of the golf courses, though I’m sure golf fans would disagree, but rather, in the jumble of castle and cathedral ruins which lie on the coast like sailors lost to sea.
When I stood outside the castle ruins, my first thought was how absolutely salty and fresh the air smelled – almost like you would find in a candle or air-freshener. However, it went beyond that, and if scent could be three-dimensional, this sea-fragrance would be it.
The castle was a jumble of walls and former turrets on the cliffs above the sea, the middle being a massive green grass space where people once lived and thrived. Few people are inside the castle that afternoon, so it was nearly silent save for the noisy crash of the sea on the rocks below.
From the castle, I decided to go down a few narrow steps to the small beach to have a search for sea glass and shells. It was there whilst searching that I found the charred remains of what looked like class notes. What an excellent way to celebrate graduation, I thought, since I can tell anyone from experience that you use very little of what you write down in university classes in real life. It was more of the skills I acquired that actually helped – I can’t say I’ve looked over my notes any time in the last ten years. That includes notes from education courses as well …
Not to say I didn’t love my university courses – I was an English major with a history minor and all sorts of education courses thrown in to be a teacher. I learned about the greatest pieces of literature, how to analyze works, and how to be a consumer of history. It was wonderful. But, I can’t say I’ve used many of my notes. Experience in the field has become the best teacher.
From the castle, a short walk along the shoreline brought us to the equally tumble-down outline of St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Rule’s Tower. At one point the largest church built in Scotland, now only its bones remain – much like those in the many decorative graves in the kirkyard. St. Rule’s offered a panoramic view of the town and the sea, both of which seemed to be in some sort of quiet harmony.
Whilst I was loathe to leave the beautiful grounds of the cathedral, we continued back into town, past the lovely West Port Gate, and to a local brewery – aptly called St. Andrews Brewing Company – for some locally-brewed beers. I chose the delicious-sounding Mocha Porter to go with the whisky bacon mac n cheese for dinner. We’re throwing down all sorts of good things here – chocolate flavors in dark booze, whisky, bacon, and cheese. The pasta part was a mere bonus.
Full of amazing food and fresh sea air, we headed back in the car to Edinburgh, as we had a long drive ahead of us the next day from Edinburgh to Haworth in Yorkshire, and finally, to Bonsall in Derbyshire.