Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Walk 166 -- St Andrews to Leuchars

Ages: Colin was 65 years and 56 days. Rosemary was 62 years and 198 days.
Weather: Mostly dry with some sun — but BLACK skies!
Location: St Andrews, via Guardbridge, to Leuchars.
Distance: 7 miles.
Total distance: 1386 miles.
Terrain: 100% pavement bashing. Flat.
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers: No.96, Kinness Burn, in St Andrews. No.97, River Eden, at Guardbridge. No.98, Motray Water, also at Guardbridge.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: None.
Pubs: ‘Central Bar’ in St Andrews where we again we drank Theakston’s ‘Black Bull bitter’ and Houston’s ‘Killellan’.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None — we saw them the other day!
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage in the village of Craigrothie. We drove to Leuchars where we couldn’t park near the church because there was a funeral going on. We found a place in a nearby lane. We walked out to the main road and caught a bus to St Andrews. There we walked through the town, visiting the pub as we passed, to the waterfront where we finished Walk 164.
At the end, Colin moved the car from the lane to the church as it was pleasanter there and the car park was empty. We had some tea, then drove back to our cottage at Craigrothie.

After yesterday’s marathon there was no way I was in a fit state to get up early for another Walk. Since today’s planned Walk was short and easy, we decided to have a lie-in and do it this afternoon. It was raining when we reached St Andrews so we went to the pub for a drink, then to a beach shelter on East Sands to eat our very late lunch. AT LAST it stopped raining, but we were surrounded by black skies for the whole of the Walk. We got going at twenty to four — very late!
We walked the length of the stone pier where there was the inevitable fisherman on the end, then proceeded past the ruined Cathedral with its tower and the Castle with its mines and counter-mines. Just thinking about those men digging away, then stopping to listen and digging away in a different direction always brings a smile to my face. I think it’s the funniest historical story I’ve heard in a long time — a bit like a pantomime act, “He’s behind you! Oh no he isn’t! Oh yes he is! etc. St Andrews seemed to be full of foreign teenagers and Americans, I wonder if they appreciated the humour of that ridiculous situation back in the 16th century.
There was a cannon on the clifftop near the Castle, and a monument to the men executed in St Andrews for their Protestant beliefs. A board nearby names some of them:—
Patrick Hamilton promoted the doctrines of Martin Luther. Henry Forrest owned a New Testament in English. Walter Myln was burnt at the stake – at the age of 82 – for advocating married clergy and condemning the corrupt practices of pilgrimages. George Wishart was burnt for defying the Catholic Church. Their cause succeeded, however, for St Andrews played a leading role in the Reformation of 1560 which rejected the authority of the Pope.
This area of St Andrews is called the ‘Bow Butts’. A board nearby explained the origin of this name:—
The distance from archer to target is a ‘butt’. Medieval archers practised here for battle. Competitions – with University encouragement – were held until the 18th century.
Archers often deserted their bows for golf clubs. This caused kings to ban the game – and football too – in 1457 and twice thereafter. However, by the 1500s, golf was left to become Scotland’s national sport.
And so we emerged into ‘The Home of Golf’ — St Andrews world-famous golf courses! There was golf to the right of us and golf to the left of us — everywhere we looked there was golf, every shop we could see was a golf shop. We were pleased to see quite young children playing on some of the courses, it is a game that appeals to all ages. Yet another board told us all about it:—
St Andrews people’s right to play golf on the links was confirmed in 1553 when the Archbishop acknowledged their right to use the links for ‘golf, futeball, shuting and all games’. Today’s courses are controlled by the Links Trust on behalf of the town.
The Old, the New, the Jubilee, the Eden and the Strathtyrum Courses have 18 holes, Balgove has nine. Visitors are welcome to all.
The Society of St Andrews Golfers was set up in 1754 to organise an annual competition. Eighty years later it became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, and built the clubhouse in 1854. Around 1897 the R&A became the governing body for the rules of golf in all countries except the US, Canada and Mexico. It is still a private club with 1800 members.
We decided not to walk along West Sands because it is a dead end and we were tired. We did consider, for a fleeting moment, walking along the golf road to the end of the sand spit, then making our way back along the dunes where there is no path on the other side. But this is St Andrews hallowed golf links, and we didn’t think we would be very popular even though Scottish golfers are not nearly so snobby as their English counterparts. Also, the black skies threatened rain at any moment, and we didn’t want to be caught out on a sand spit in a torrential downpour. (As it turned out, the rain held off and we even had a bit of sunshine, but the clouds lurked threateningly all around.) We decided to follow the tarmacked cycle/walking route which was tedious but easy. Notices told us that it would be closed in a few days time for a whole month so a temporary grandstand could be erected for the ‘Ladies Open’. So we were lucky to get through.
We went into ‘route-march’ mode for most of the Walk. When the cycle/walking route came alongside the main road we were shielded from the traffic by a hedge, so it wasn’t too bad. We passed a pretty cottage whose nameplate told us it used to be a toll house. Every so often — in fact far too often — jets screamed across the sky very low as they took off and landed at Leuchars RAF base. Even though I was born and brought up in Farnborough and so I’m somewhat immune to the noise of aircraft, I couldn’t live with that level of noise every day. We both felt sorry for all the people who live in the area, and have no choice.
We arrived in Guardbridge and stood by a gate (as there was nowhere to sit down) to eat our chocolate. The black skies had turned even blacker, so we both put on our overtrousers in preparation for the expected downpour. But it didn’t happen, and we just got hot. We crossed the river by the old bridge, which was between the modern road bridge and the pillars which once supported the old railway bridge. A board told us about the bridge we had just crossed:—
The River Eden provided both a source of transport and a barrier to be crossed. Bishop Henry Wardlaw completed this stone bridge in 1419, to keep open the lucrative pilgrim trail to St Andrews. It was built under a papal indulgence that gave spiritual rewards to the many pilgrims who gave their labour and skills for free. (Sounds like a medieval scam to me!) Its six-arched span across a tidal river was a major feat of engineering that was still carrying heavy traffic as late as 1938.
The next bit of land looked a bit derelict to us. But a board told us:—
The paper mill stands on reclaimed land under which lies the old port for Cupar. Ships sailed here from ports all over Europe with cargoes like bone and coal, and left with whisky, grain or potatoes. The pillars in the foreground carried the railway, opened in 1852 and closed in1969. It was built by Thomas Bouch, whose massive Tay bridge collapsed in 1879. The railway helped the local economy, and led to an expansion of the village of Guardbridge.
We passed a car with huge twin exhaust pipes which also had a ridiculously large spoiler on its back (it made us laugh, it looked so daft) and crossed Motray Water on the road bridge. We should have crossed on the old bridge there, but the modern road bridge was nearer the sea! We then crossed the road and walked in the playing fields, which were distinctly soggy underfoot, because it was quieter away from the traffic.
We forked right and walked into the village of Leuchars. We passed the entrance to RAF Leuchars where notices warned us:—
This is a prohibited area under the terms of the Official Secrets Act. Unauthorised persons will be arrested and prosecuted.
Sorry for breathing! We kept being passed by young RAF personnel, both men and women, out jogging. They all looked a lot more fit than we felt! We walked to the unusual looking church in the village centre.
That ended Walk no.166, we shall pick up Walk no.167 next time by the church in Leuchars. It was a quarter to seven, so the Walk had taken us just over three hours. The funeral, which had been taking place when we tried to park the car, was over and the mourners gone. So Colin retrieved the car from the dark and muddy lane, and parked at a much more pleasant spot by the church. We had our tea, and then drove back to our cottage in Craigrothie via the supermarkets in Cupar.

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