Fore and Forearm…Our Last Hours In Scotland
DAYS FIFTEEN & SIXTEEN: Sneaking Into Church, Missing Links, Our Foursome’s All Here, Walking A Famous Bridge, A Cathedral In Ruins, Narrow Minded, Neuk Neuk Neuk, Saving Next Time For Bruce, Go Forth, South Dakota, Last Supper, Everything’s On Track, Don’t Sleep In The Subway and A Bloody Mess At Heathrow
We woke up to blue skies in Falkland on our last full day in Scotland.
While Kim and Mary collected our rental mobile, Tracy zipped around town taking a few photos of the village, which after last night’s heavy rain took on a new look.
Before I exited the church, I saw a memorial to Onesiphorus Tyndall Bruce, Esquire of Falkland. He helped build the church, and there’s also a statue of him outside the structure.
We paid our respects to Falkland and the Covenanter Hotel (although the rooms were on the shabby side, the personnel of the hotel was top notch)…
…and soon we arrived at “the birthplace of golf,” The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews. We would have been there sooner, but our GPS kept us missing the links, but eventually, after a few mulligans, we found it.
It was fortunate we visited on a Sunday, because St. Andrews is closed for golfing, so duffers like us could walk the old course. I read, “Historians trace the Old Course’s Sunday closure to religious laws dating at least to the 16th century, when some residents of St. Andrews were cited in town criminal logs for playing on the Sabbath. According to Gordon Moir, the director of greens keeping at St. Andrews, it was not until 1941 that the other courses at the complex were opened for play on Sundays.” Before we hit the course, we bought some overpriced gear at the gift store.
…we came upon the famed stone bridge on the 18th hole, Swilcan Bridge. This bridge is purported to be between 700 and 800 years old. Pretty much everyone out walking on that morning (it was not crowded), stopped to pose on the bridge.
It’s just a few minutes drive to our next stop, the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral (£5).
This was St. Andrews largest cathedral, so we used our imagination to imagine what it looked like in the 12th century. The cathedral was started in 1160 and completed in the late 14th century.
…and decided to climb the tower. Kim, Mary and I started our trek up St. Rule’s Tower (160 steps), however as I started up I saw how narrow it was, so to save my blood thinned skin from certain disaster (yes, foreshadowing) I declined to climb.
While they climbed, Tracy and I went over to a memorial that read “Tommy.” Tommy was the son of “Old Tom’ Morris,” who was a pioneer of professional golf and “served for many years as groundskeeper and pro at the Old Course in St Andrews and is regarded as the father of modern greens keeping theory and practice.”
“Young Tommy” was the Tiger Woods of the 1870s, winning four consecutive titles in the open Championship by the time he was 21, his first at the age of 17. His death at 24 was quite tragic. In 1875 he was playing in a match and “received a telegram from home requesting his immediate return; his pregnant wife, Margaret Drinnen, had gone into a difficult labor. Only two holes remained in the match; Old Tom and Young Tom finished the match, winning, and hurried home by ship across the Firth of Forth and up the coast, but when Young Tom got there both his wife and newborn baby were dead. Young Tom was broken-hearted. Not quite four months later, on Christmas Day, he died at the age of 24. The official cause of death according to his death certificate was pulmonary hemorrhage causing apnea. Young Tom had played and won a marathon challenge match in terrible weather a few weeks earlier, and this may have weakened him.”
We wandered around for quite a while…
…and when Kim and Mary safely returned…
…we got back in the car and headed down the coast to the fishing villages of East Neuk of Fife. Since there were three primary villages, I, of course, had to channel my inner Curly and spout “Neuk, Neuk,Neuk.” (poetic license)
Anstruher is home to the Scottish Fisheries Museum a national museum which tells the story of Scottish fishing from the earliest times to the present day, and although the town was cute, the lure of The Fisheries Museum wasn’t enough for us to visit. Thankfully, nobody carped about that decision.
For the better part of a half hour, we wandered around the harbor area…
…but the realization our trip was nearing the end hit us…
…so it was back in the car passing through Pittenweem as we headed back toward South Queensferry. We thought hard about visiting Dunfermline Palace & Abbey, the final resting spot of King Robert Bruce, but since it was already mid-afternoon and the rental car needed to be returned, we all decided it would be best to go to the hotel. Next time.
As we crossed the bridge toward South Queensferry, we noticed the red bridge across the way. The Forth Bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a railway bridge built more than 125 years ago, and our picture as we drove sucked, but that’s why the internet was invented (photo on right…thanks UNESCO).
In South Queensferry we pulled into the parking lot of the Dakota Edinburgh, which from the outside looks like an office building. However, the interior is quite appealing, and the rooms were terrific…the perfect place to freshen up for our long journey home the following day.
Kim and Mary dropped the car at the airport and decided to check out the BA terminal to see how the power outage was going. BA had long lines that didn’t appear to be moving, and they were told that no flights had left that day. Kim and Mary took the Tram from the Airport to the train station in Edinburgh to get our train tickets for the next morning. The tram was £8.50 round trip/person and ran very often! They wandered in to the train station, found the ticket office, and collected our tickets for the morning journey to Heathrow via London’s King’s Cross station.
When they returned to the hotel, Tracy and I had secured a nice spot in the bar for us, and we enjoyed a lovely early dinner and a cocktail before heading off to our rooms for the night and early wake-up taxi to the train station.
(From Tracy – We knew we ran the risk of being out the money for both the flight and train as we had taken the chance and booked the train before receiving confirmation that our flight had been cancelled. So it was actually a relief to receive that 4 a.m. email cancelling our flight. Once home, we filed an online claim with British Airways and received a very nice reply which included an apology for the disruption of our trip. Apparently in the EU the amounts an airline has to reimburse you for cancellations are set by law. Shortly thereafter BA deposited the funds into our checking account which not only covered the flight but the train plus about $50 extra. I believe that had we been out anything additional it would have been covered by our trip insurance. We never travel without trip insurance, mostly in case of a medical emergency…it is Tom after all).
Our taxi picked us up (the driver was really nice pointing out some of Edinburgh’s sights) at 5:30 for our 6:30 train trip to London’s King’s Cross station. We virtually opened the train station as the crews were cleaning the place, got coffee and then waited with a bunch of other weary travelers for our train to arrive. The crush of people that wound up taking the same train to London that we were on did not bother us because we were in First Class, and we had plenty of room! The food was not as good as the weekday trains where we got hot breakfast, but the free coffee (many of them) and pastries filled us up.
Once we arrived at King’s Cross, we changed to the tube, and after changing at Gloucester Station, we were off on the final leg to Heathrow. Kim was so relaxed he fell asleep in the tube…standing up.
My 75 cups of coffee had me a little wired, so I finally decided I should wake him up. We talked about about how great the trip had been and congratulated ourselves that no one got sick or injured. Soon, we were at the terminal at Heathrow.
Walking through the terminal to pick up our Air Zealand boarding passes…in a Limoges, France, train station moment (see the gory details here on that fiasco)…the bag I was carrying on my right shoulder slipped and headed toward the floor. Sadly, on its downward path it also tore off a hefty chunk of my upper forearm, which now lay on the terminal floor looking like a Hannibal Lecter amuse bouche.
I handled this painful situation with my usual graceful aplomb. I believe only about 90% of the people milling about the Heathrow terminal heard me loudly hurling out some choice expletives. Speaking of hurling, I thought my bag toss immediately afterward went quite well, too.
Meanwhile, Tracy was concerned that my momentary loss of composure and lapse of sanity might include a trip to the Heathrow Hoosegow, but thankfully I guess my few moments of rage did not register as a full-fledged terror alert.
Regaining my composure (sort of), I calmly walked up to the Air New Zealand check-in lady, who, after taking one look at my arm with a swimming pool of blood on top, let out a slight gasp. “I’ll be right back.”
My immediate concern was that the people behind me would inflict further injury upon this stupid passenger who was now holding them up. In a flash, she was back with another woman from Air New Zealand who was holding the equivalent of a drug store full of first aid paraphernalia in a plastic zip bag.
As I bled profusely, I profusely thanked the Air New Zealand rep behind the counter (I love this airline), while the other woman led Tracy and myself into a rather secluded, vacant restroom where Tracy could administer medical expertise to her aged and clumsy husband. A few minutes later, we rejoined Kim and Mary, who had fled as far away as possible from the bloody scene, disavowing any knowledge of my existence to anyone they could chat up.
A double Gin and Tonic helped alleviate the pain…
Our flight home was uneventful (good food once again on Air New Zealand) and arrived 45 minutes early. Our Global Pass worked like a charm, and from the time we got off the plane to the time we picked up our suitcases and passed through customs only 21 minutes had elapsed. I’ve had waits up to almost two hours at LAX, so this pass is worth every penny.
On our cab ride back home (90 bucks CHEAPER than Uber quote), we marveled at yet another incredible trip.
From cheese toasties to the V&A to Windsor Castle during our visit to London…
… to Edinburgh Castle, Princes Gardens, The Royal Mile…
…a night in Grassmarket, a climb up Calton Hill…
…tea and a wedding with peacocks, a church with an eerie graveyard…
…and a gorgeous stroll through Dean Village, we yearned for a return to Edinburgh.
…we recalled with awe the magical scenery.
A couple of hotels with spectacular views and grounds…
…to an island paradise added to our enjoyment.
From Monty Python to Harry Potter to Outlander, Scotland provides the gorgeous backdrop.
Pass the coconuts please!
Oh, and the castles…
…and the ruins were utterly spectacular, too.
The four of us were fortunate to share another great adventure.
Our trip had more than exceeded expectations.
Enjoy The Journey!
Attitude Is Everything!