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Scotland: Glenrothes, St. Andrews and Edinburgh

   View from Edinburgh Castle

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This was the first major trip that Gene, Randall and I made on our own since moving to London. We went in early December 1986, on a night train from Kings Cross Station in London, to Kirkcaldy, Scotland. We didn't sleep very well since we had to sit in an up-right position in second class. Anyway, we were met at the crack of dawn by Angie, who was an American Project Good News worker in Glenrothes. Angie had graduated from Lipscomb one year ahead of us in 1985. She had arranged accommodations for us with members of the church in Glenrothes; each of us with a different family. This was very good thinking on her part, because it allowed us to meet three charming Scottish families that each took a liking to us and made us feel at home. Needless to say, we were well taken care of, and I had the opportunity to stay up late talking to my host family's teenage son, Graeme, who's slightly punk hairstyle and enthusiastic conversation skills kept me occupied a good bit longer than I had bargained for. Bless him.

Scotland is quite unique in its own way--it even has its own money--and was a welcome contrast to London for us. The climate was colder, but the people were definitely warm and of a cheerful disposition. They are a proud people. The Scottish accent was a bit difficult for us to understand at first, but we quickly caught on and trained our ears to listen carefully to every word. They seemed to have no problem understanding us, fortunately.

Briefly, this was our itinerary: we spent part of a day visiting Angie's flat and exploring the town center; we spent an afternoon visiting the town of St. Andrews; Randall and I went to Edinburgh, by train, for one day (Gene opted to stay in Glenrothes); and we spent part a day in Glenrothes, at the church building, helping with some planned activities there.

St. Andrews was about 18 miles away, and we went there on a double-decker bus that glided along the barren, hilly lane, as we sat on the top front seat overlooking a treeless carpet of grass. Nice view! We didn't know a lot about St. Andrews at the time, except that it was the birthplace of golf; that scenes from the movie "Chariots of Fire" were filmed there; and that it was the home of Scotland's oldest university (established in 1411). Well, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it was an attractively, authentic little town on the coast of the North Sea. There was hardly any auto traffic in the old town area, and we walked everywhere we wanted to go. We went to a wool clothing shop, and each one of us bought a wool sweater to mark the occasion. And, at lunchtime, we bought fish & chips at a take-out that was recommended to us, and we carried the food to the pier, near a ruined church tower and cemetery. That was the BEST fish & chips I have ever had, to this day! After that, we walked along the coast, past a ruined castle, and over to the world-renowned golf course. We lingered there for just a little while, but did not have time to go into the clubhouse, because we had to catch the bus back to Glenrothes before it got dark. That evening we were supposed to go to the church building for a variety/talent show put on by the members, mostly the young people, which turned out to be entertaining.

The next morning was freezing cold, as Randall and I awoke early to take a bus seven miles to Kirkcaldy, and then took an early train from Kirkcaldy to Edinburgh. As we crossed the Firth of Forth--a large channel of water north of Edinburgh--the bright sun was shimmering off the crispy cold waters. Much of Scotland is desolate, but approaching Edinburgh by train, one gets the impression that it is a massively industrial city. This was a fascinating day from beginning to end, as we marveled at the sights of Edinburgh. Without a doubt, Edinburgh is one of the most impressive medium-sized capitals of Europe! We walked completely around the rocky base of the cropped Edinburgh Castle and toured its interior walls, halls, rooms and museums. I was taken by surprise, and a bit startled, when they fired the daily canon-shot, at 1:00 pm. I was in the souvenir shop, obliviously browsing around, standing by a window, and the canon went off just outside the window! I looked out the window in a slight panic to see what made the noise. Later, I had a more heart-warming experience, when I was wandering through one of the older parts of the castle and admiring its historic memorabilia. I saw an old Scottish grandfather showing his two young grandsons the Scottish Crown Jewels. One of the boys said, "Aye, I've finally been to Scotland!" I guess he was very proud to visit the castle, even though he had lived in Scotland all his life. At that moment, I felt proud to be there too!

Randall and I also walked down the "Royal Mile," through the old town, to tour Hollyrood Palace, where Mary Queen of Scots lived, and James VI grew up before they made him James I of the United Kingdom in 1603. Along the way, we saw the John Knox house, where the Protestant leader lived. By the time we ate a late lunch at a restaurant, we were so glad to sit and relax a bit. I was so impressed with Edinburgh that I was already sorry that we couldn't stay longer. There really is a lot to see in Edinburgh, and though we walked a lot, we didn't begin to see everything. By the time we boarded the evening train back to Kirkcaldy, the sun had gone down and we were very worn out from walking so much on this cold, December day. But, what a day!

By all accounts, our trip to Scotland was great. When time came to return to London, the whole visit seemed like such a short interlude. Too bad we couldn't stay longer! On the return trip we took a night bus back to London, and didn't get much sleep, naturally! I did not get a chance to go back to Scotland until 1993. You can read about that trip to Edinburgh from my travel page entitled: London to Edinburgh and back.

"But what I liked in Aberdeen was what I liked generally in Britain: the bread, the fish, the cheese, the flower gardens, the apples, the clouds, the newspapers, the beer, the woolen cloth, the radio programs, the parks, the Indian restaurants and amateur dramatics, the postal service, the fresh vegetables, the trains, and the modesty and truthfulness of people. And I liked the way Aberdeen's streets were frequently full of seagulls." --Paul Theroux, The Kingdom By the sea

Edinburgh & Lothian Tourist Board
Historic Scotland
National Museums of Scotland
Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh
Visit Scotland
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