Scotland Part Deux- St. Andrews

 I played golf at St. Andrews. I played golf at the birthplace of golf and one of the most famous golf courses in the World- The Old Course at St. Andrews. That feels good to be able to say. Well, technically it is true, but I didn’t reallyplay golf at St. Andrews. Most people would probably say you actually have to play a round to say you have played it, but I’m going to say it even though I only used a putter and an Eight Iron on a few holes, haha. I’ll get to this soon.

So Michelle and I took our bus up from Edinburgh Friday evening and arrived in St. Andrews around 7. There we were met at the bus station by Michelle’s high-school friend, Jenna. She is actually attending the University of St. Andrews (top 5 school in the UK), not just studying abroad. She brought along her boyfriend of 5 months, Stewart, who is Northern Irish and who she met at Uni.

They took us to get some food, and then back to their dorm (nicest dorm I’ve ever been in) where we were staying in their rooms. They introduced us to some of their friends, I had some minimal banter with the Scots over my Wales rugby team dominating them a couple weeks ago, and then they took us out to a pub for a couple drinks.

The next day we got up and had brunch at a really good and somewhat famous little cafe, it was really good. Everything in St. Andrews is within walking distance of each other. The town is only like 14,000 people (smaller then I thought). What I found so strange, but totally cool was the openness of the golf courses (St. Andrews Links has 8 or so courses, with the Old Course being the famous one, and the home of next years British Open).

1st Pic of the Old Course from the walking path. 18th hole

1st Pic of the Old Course from the walking path. 18th hole

By openness I mean that, on our walk to eat, we walked on a path that crossed the 18th and 1st holes of the Old Course. I was so amazed. I’m used to thinking of really nice and prestigious courses as always in gated communities with security everywhere, but not here. St. Andrews is all public courses and very open to the community.  I of course did not walk on the path crossing the 1st and 18th holes, but on the fairways. I took tons of pictures and was just in amazement of being able to stand right in the middle of the home of golf with such ease.

Oh and yeah, it’s really windy there, I suppose it is pretty famous for that.

After brunch we walked backed towards the course, stopped and checked out the Universityof St. Andrews Museum, and then attempted to find a mini-golf course inside the Links that Michelle had heard about. This was a good excuse to go inside the clubhouse and look around, ask where it was at, and of course sign my name in the visitors book!

We were pointed in the right direction of the “Himalayas Mini-Golf Course,” which was located right next to the 1st hole of the Old Course, but it was closed until Easter. But, this is where I was enabled to “play” golf. I ended up finding a bin with clubs (putt-putt putters) and balls. The Himalayas course was actually just like an actual green, just a lot bigger and lots of drastic mini-hills. I guess they change the set up of it every week when it’s open, but it wasn’t set up now, but there was holes in the ground, so the 4 of us naturally created our own mini-golf game.

Himalayas Mini-Golf

Himalayas Mini-Golf

I then realized how close we were to the 1st hole of the Old Course, and I proceeded to go and putt on it for about 20 minutes since no one was playing it at the time. Everyone else definitely got bored with the putt-putt and playing around on the first hole a lot sooner then I did, and so I agreed to call it quits, until I found an 8 Iron when putting my putter away. Of course I needed to sneak back on the course and hit that a few times!

sinking a putt on the 1st hole of the Old Course. Swilken Bridge in the background

sinking a putt on the 1st hole of the Old Course. Swilken Bridge in the background

On the 1st hole green of the Old Course. Did I mention it was windy?

On the 1st hole green of the Old Course. Did I mention it was windy?

Next we had to go check out the most famous bridge in all of golf, The Swilken Bridge, leading across a creek from the 18th tee box to fairway. We had a nice photo shoot on it, and I was once again in amazement of all the greats, (Jack, Arnold, Hogan, Tiger t0 name a few), that have stopped and posed for the exact same picture that I was posing for. So Cool.

On the Swilken Bridge, posing just like all the greats.

On the Swilken Bridge, posing just like all the greats.

We then checked out the Pro Shop, and Michelle convinced me that I couldn’t leave St. Andrews with only pictures, and so I bought a really nice St. Andrews – The Old Course – Polo that was on sale. I actually think this might be my first souvenir I have bought in Europe haha.

Jenna and Stewart had things they needed to do that night, but they pointed Michelle and I in the direction of a good restaurant to eat at. I had one of the best meals I’ve had so far here, Beef and Guinness Pie I think it was called, accompanied with a few local Scottish brews (Nessy’s Monster Mash, and Sheepshaggers were my two favorites, haha) while we waited for the other two to join us.

We didn’t do much the rest of the night, except for a few intense games of table tennis I played against Stewart. That reminds me, my flatmates and I have created a ping pong table in our kitchen, a little to small, but it works pretty well, and we play A Lot, and of course, I’m the flat champ.

On Sunday, we had some really good Paninis at a little cafe, and then some amazing ice cream (researched by Michelle), and then we were off to see the St. Andrews Cathedral and Castle.  Also, all the students at St. Andrews U have these red, harry potter like academic robes they wear for different things, and they also got you in free to the Cathedral and Castle, so Michelle and Jenna wore them, but I was left out, to bad.

Not much of the Cathedral was left standing, it used to be massive, but not just some ruins and a couple parts of the main building, and the town had started to use the rest of it as a graveyard a few hundred years ago. We were able to climb up a huge tower on the coastal side of the Cathedral. It was like a never ending winding staircase going straight up, but the climb was definitely worth it. You could see for miles, including all of the town, the golf course and coast.

View from the tower of the town, castle ruins on the right, and golf course in the back

View from the tower of the town, castle ruins on the right, and golf course in the back

Next we went to the St. Andrews Castle, or what was left of it. It was pretty much just ruins, with some of the entrance and walls still standing. It did have a pretty sweet dungeon too, which was home to a cool looking prison. We then checked out the museum and learned a lot of cool history about the Castle and got some good pictures of it too.

We then went to catch our bus back to Edinburgh for one last night in our same hostel. They had an open mic night going on, which was really cool, with only a few main guys playing (lots of really good Dave Matthews). We then got up at 6 the next morning to catch a bus to the airport to catch our plane so Michelle could be back for her class at noon which she made.

All in all, Scotland has been my favorite trip so far. I didn’t go into it with very high expectations, and it ended up blowing me away. I didn’t know anythingabout Edinburgh, and it ended up being absolutely beautiful and amazing. I knew a lot about St. Andrews, but wasn’t expecting to be able to get on the course so easily, which was so cool. The weather was awesome all weekend, especially for February (a little windy in St. Andrews, but it’s kind of a must there). We met a lot of nice and interesting people, learned a ton of history and were told many fascinating stories. Definitely somewhere I look to be headed back to someday, hopefully with my own golf clubs next time though 🙂

"playing" the Old Course. About to stick it within a foot with my 8 iron

"playing" the Old Course. About to stick it within a foot with my 8 iron

So, for those of you who are wondering, yes I have been going to my classes and keeping up on my school work. But, yes I am leaving once again for another trip this weekend. Wednesday after class, me and three others are going to London to stay in a hostel for a night (going to get Ashes in London!), before taking an early flight the next morning down to Palma de Mallorca, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean. Should be a little more relaxing (warm beaches!) and a not so touristy trip.

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