This weekend, Ben and I were invited to a spontaneous trip to the sea side, by way of St Andrews in Fife.
St Andrews, for those not in the know, is a small coastal town in the Kingdom of Fife, based on the east coast of Scotland. It is host to the oldest University in Scotland (third oldest in the English-speaking world), the birthplace of Golf (this may or may not be an embellishment), and provider of amazing ice-cream.
It is a town full of history, both ancient (castles and cathedrals) and new (a prince meeting their princess), but more importantly (to me) it is a town full of fresh sea air, and golden beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, all against the backdrop of the quintessential Scottish scenery.
St Andrews is a two hour scenic drive from Glasgow, along a stretch of winding roads, past hills and pastures, through small villages and across canals. It’s the perfect opportunity to listen to Driving Music, which for us came from a cheap CD I had bought from Amazon literally called Road Trip, that boasted a bevy of 90’s tunes.
The first thing you notice when entering St Andrews, is the large golf course that seems to merge with the town itself. It is obviously a haven for golfers, as much as it is for students, and being the start of the term, it was unsurprising to see how many students wandered the streets, looking for entertainment, a cacophony of accents that seemed to mingle together melodiously.
Ben and I spent some time on the beach, enjoying the fresh ocean air, before we were joined by his mother and the family dog. Loki, a giant golden retriever (who is actually more ginger than golden) was so excited to be at the beach, the moment he was given the taste of freedom, he raced past us all, to crash through the sprawling waves that lapped at the shores.
After walking along the path that winds its way above the beach, as Loki continued to explore the seashore, we decided to stop for lunch and found ourselves at a small, dog friendly café where we stopped for sandwiches, cake and coffee. Given this was a small break away, I decided to be a bit naughty and indulged in some gluten (a decision I regret already).
After our (very) late lunch, we decided to head towards the cathedral and castle which are both located on cliffs that of course, overlook the sea.
The cathedral, which was built almost 900 years ago, lays in pieces, surrounded by tombstones and grave markers, within sandstone walls that ward off the sea air, which undoubtedly helps preserve the historic site.
A stone’s throw from the cathedral lays another historic site – the castle. Although the current castle ruins that is on display isn’t as old as it’s more religious neighbour, there has been a castle on the site for just as long. Sitting at the edge of the water, with commanding views of the ocean, it’s easy to understand why this site was chosen over again as a seat for royalty.
In fact, the whole town was built with those endless views in minds, it seems, though the university buildings (glorious old facades surrounded by carefully manicured gardens) all sit by the seaboard, hogging the views (though given the costs of attending St Andrews University, it’s a view you pay well for!).
After wandering through the town and its history, and picking up some amazing ice-cream from Jannettas Gelateria which is in and of itself a landmark in St Andrews, it was time to head to our accommodation which was in the small town of Lower Largo, an approximate 30 minute drive from St Andrews.
Lower Largo is a small fishing village, which due to its location is now prime real estate for tourism, yet thankfully without that “touristy” feel. The town rises above the coastline on the gentle hills that permeate all of Scotland, and is full of lush greenery, a quaint canal that runs through to the harbour, and an aqueduct that dominates the scenery from a long disused railway.
The beach in Lower Largo is far more serene than that of St Andrews – it is the type of beach to walk along pensively, alone with your thoughts as the ocean winds whip at your hair, as opposed to the layabout beaches of St Andrews. Rows of houses line the beach, all with stairs that lead directly to the sands, and directly into the water upon high tide, where the waves bump against the lowest of the steps.
I imagine, from my short time there, Lower Largo would be a peaceful, idyllic place to live, and I’m already trying to plot ways that Ben and I could move there at some point in the future (I grew up a city girl, and quite frankly, I’m a bit over city life).
We spent the night at the Crusoe Hotel, named for none other than Robinson Crusoe, a character inspired by Largo’s own Alexander Selkirk, Scotland’s most famous privateer and castaway. In fact, a statue of Alexander (commonly referred to as the Robinson Crusoe statue) is nestled against a wall on the main street of Lower Largo marking where he was born, and looking out towards the far distant islands where he was marooned so long ago.
The Crusoe Hotel was a warm and inviting hotel (that’s also pet friendly), with views from each room out over the beach or the harbour. The staff were incredibly friendly and accommodating to Loki, who is a rather large dog, and made sure he was well looked after with his own bowl of water, as we enjoyed an evening at the hotel Bar.
A few glasses of wine, and delicious food – the fish and chips were amazing according to Ben – we headed to bed early, exhausted from our days adventure.
Falling asleep listening to waves crashing upon each other, retaining walls, and the harbour is the perfect way to fall asleep, and for the first time in a very long time, I didn’t need my ambient noise track (falling rain and thunderstorms, typically) in order to be lulled into a pleasant slumber.
Waking up naturally to the sunlight that peaked in through our window, and to the fresh air one can only find outwith a city, made for pleasant moods all around (Although, I instantly regretted the previous night’s wine).
After a quick stop by the beach, we enjoyed breakfast at the Hotel restaurant before heading out for our next adventure.
Keen to get home to Maia as I hate leaving her alone for too long, the mornings adventure was simply driving through a few of the coastal villages, dreaming of where and when we could move, before stopping in at Kellie Castle, another historic site nestled within Fife, dating back to the same time as the St Andrews Cathedral, for tea and coffee and cake.
After tea, it was time to head home. Although only there for a short period of time, my heart felt like it was breaking, being torn away from a small piece of the world that spoke to me with its beauty and peaceful air.
Ben and I are already thinking about when we can visit next, hoping to spend more than a brief 24 hours exploring this small piece of the world, and Scottish Landscape. And not-so-secretly, I’m plotting a way to purchase property, so I never have to leave again.