CCXLIX – Dundee to St Andrews

Helpful MammalHAVING worked up an appetite for breakfast with my early morning amble around Dundee, I did not begin the second walk of the second day of my April 2024 trip until about the second hour after stopping. So that was pleasantly synchronous, at least. Fully fed and fairly rested, I then set off again…

Dundee

Dundee Station

As before, I started my walk from a point outside Dundee railway station, that being where I ended the last one.  Close to the shore of Firth of the Tay, this was as good a place as any to set out from in order to cross over the firth.  I had already spent a chunk of the morning walking besides its waters and but thus far I had to actually cross them.

Map showing that my starting point was Dundee Railway Station
If at firth you don’t succeed…
Tay Road Bridge

My chosen method for crossing the Tay was going to be the Tay Road Bridge, for a couple of reasons…

Tay Road Bridge, as seen from Dundee
The ferry stopped running in 1966 and I’m just not that great at pretending I’m a train.

The bridge was opened in 1966 which is what killed off the ferry. It also did quite a number on the shoreline as several early 19th century harbours were filled in to support the bridge abutment and approach.

Telford Beacon

In particular, the old Tidal Harbour had lain right beneath its footprint, with the William IV Dock right beside it.  Standing on the wharf between the two had been a harbour light, the Telford Beacon.  Despite its name, this was not designed by Thomas Telford (1756-1854) as the docks had been in 1814, but by James Leslie (1801-1899) circa 1834.  The beacon survived the building of the bridge but found itself sitting in a park, 135 m from the waterline.

Realignment of the bridge ramps in 2010 forced it to move from its position, and it made the short trip back to the water’s edge, courtesy of a crane and a lorry.

Telford Beacon, Dundee
It’s not as light as it looks.
Pedestrian Steps

Visible in the photo above, behind the beacon and under the road bridge, are the steps that access its pedestrian walkway. Gates to the steps can be closed, if wind speeds exceed 60 mph, but that was hardly going to be an issue on this day (although it was surprisingly breezy when I got up top).

Progress map showing that I had reached the northern end of the Tay Road Bridge
Had the gates been closed, it would have been quite the blow to my plans.
Pedestrian Walkway

The pedestrian walkway and cycle path runs right down the middle of the bridge between what are normally the southbound and northbound carriageways.  When I walked it, however, there were major maintenance works being done on the bridge – for which I had seen signs the day before – and the southbound carriageway was closed.  This left the vehicular traffic sharing the northbound side in a contra-flow separated by traffic cones.

Views on and from the Tay Road Bridge
The pedestrian walkway (left) and views downstream (top) and upstream (bottom). Not shown: about a billion traffic cones.
Maintenance Works

The bridge is 1.4 miles long, which means that it takes almost half an hour to cross it.  It actually took me longer than that, as partway across I came to a plastic barrier placed across the footway by a man in a high-visibility jacket. 

The works being carried out on the bridge involved using a water jet to blast away the road surface, permitting repairs to the structure underneath and a complete resurfacing. Health and safety concerns meant that they could not allow anyone to walk past while the water jet was in operation, as accidentally slicing up passers-by tends to look bad. Accordingly they had to work in fits and starts, closing the walkway for several minutes at a time.

I only had to wait six minutes, which I didn’t really mind. I felt quite sorry for a teenage jogger, though. As she stood there, rapidly losing body heat and unprotected from the breeze by her shorts and t-shirt the poor lass started to shiver. Had I a jumper to lend her for the brief duration, I probably would have, so evident was her growing misery.  Fortunately, six minutes isn’t all that long – though it might seem like it while the wind chills you to the bone – and we were both soon able to continue, she at a brisk and warming pace and I at a nonchalant stroll.

Progress map showing I'd reached the southern end of Tay Road Bridge
She set off at a mad run, because she was cold, whereas I was just cool. In my head, at least.

Newport-on-Tay

Tay Bridge Kiosk

At the southern end of the bridge, I descended a ramp and found myself in Tay Bridge South Access Car Park.  Why does a bridge need a car park you may ask? Well, damned if I know, but it did have some nice views of the bridge plus the Tay Bridge Kiosk, which sold me an excellent bacon roll.  This is, of course, the Ultimate Food of Walking, and I was very happy devouring mine like a man who hadn’t been fed in well over half an hour. Munching merrily, I made  my way out of the car park and onto the B946.

Path beside B946 near Greenside Scalp
I wasn’t literally on it, but beside it on this path.
Dundee Law

The weather experimented with being changeable at this point, rapidly switching between scorching sun and misty rain. I paused during a light sprinkle of the latter to look back across the Tay to where I’d just come from, and the hill of Dundee Law, atop which I’d been standing, hours earlier.

Dundee Law, as seen from across the Tay
It’s still sunny on that hillside, perhaps I should have stayed over there?

Tayport

Greenside Scalp

As I passed the bank of shingle known as Greenside Scalp, a couple of things happened. Firstly, I crossed an old parish boundary, and secondly I reached a loop of road like a lay-by that appeared to be utterly pointless.

This was actually the remnant of where the Newport Railway had once dived beneath the road.

Progress map showing that I had reached Greenside Scalp and the old Newport Railway road bridge.
I then pointlessly walked round the old loop, because of course I did.
Newport Railway

The Newport Railway was opened in May 1879 and connected Tayport to the Tay Bridge (opened 1878) via Newport-on-Tay, with the bridge providing a connection onto Dundee.

Just seven months later the Tay Bridge collapsed, severing the rail route to Dundee but not invalidating the Newport Railway, whose traffic now reversed to make use of a ferry at Tayport. A rebuilt Tay Bridge restored the rail link in 1887 and the Newport Railway continued to make that connection until 1966, when the building of the Tay Road Bridge severed its route. The part of it west of the new road bridge limped on for three more years before closing for good in May 1969, 90 years after it first opened.

As I was now east of the road bridge, this was the section that had closed in 1966. It being a shame to let it go to waste, the foot and cycle path now veered away from the B-road to join the line’s old alignment.

Newport Railway alignment between Greenside Scalp and Tayport
You know I said I’m not good at pretending to be a train? Well, practice makes perfect. Choo! Choo!
Tayport Lighthouses

The path was now flat and level, as railway alignments tend to be, and switched between sun-dappled leafiness and grey misery, as dictated by the whims of the weather. 

With my mood similarly cycling rapidly, I headed eastwards along it and soon came to the West and East Tayport Lighthouses.  These stand to the west of Tayport, about a quarter mile apart, and were built in 1823 to designs by Robert Stevenson (1772-1850). Together, they helped to guide ships safely into the Firth of Tay.  As such, they were private lights, owned and operated by the Port of Dundee and not by the Northern Lighthouse Board.

The East Lighthouse only lasted for 25 years, being discontinued in 1848 in favour of a new pile lighthouse by James Leslie, which was itself discontinued in 1965.  The West Lighthouse remains in operation today, albeit in automated fashion (the keeper’s cottage beside was sold off long ago).

West & East Tayport Lighthouses
The West Lighthouse is still flashing today. The East was a flash in the pan.
Defence against Daisies

At the western edge of Tayport, the footpath sidestepped off the old railway alignment and onto West Lights, as the access road to the lighthouses is named.  This then crossed the old line on what was once the first of two bridges but now just appears to be a pair of random parallel walls.  I then crossed back again on the second such bridge, about 60 m further onwards.

Old railway bridge with the cutting beneath filled in and grassed over. Daisies are growing in the grass.
The railway ran in a cutting, necessitating this road bridge. But with the cutting now completely filled in, the parapets only protect you from straying onto those daisies.   I mean, they’re wild, those daisies. That wall might just save your life!
Tayport Castle

The second bridge directed me down to the waterfront and the oldest part of Tayport Harbour, which goes back at least to Mediaeval times – an 11th century ferry carried pilgrims across to Broughty Ferry for an onward journey to Arbroath

For about 400 years from circa 1450, this was overlooked by a castle which, together with Broughty Castle on the opposite shore, would have contributed to the defence of the firth. By 1855, Tayport Castle was a ruin and its remnants were completely demolished using gunpowder. Its site is now a private garden in which no trace of it remains.

Progress map showing that I had reached Tayport Harbour
At least it went out with a bang.
1920s copy of a contemporary sketch of the castle in the mid-19th century.
This copy of a contemporary sketch depicting its ruinous pre-BANG! days comes from a history of Tayport by local industrialist Sir James Scott (1838-1925), which was published posthumously in 1927.
Tayport Harbour

Tayport’s harbour was extensively rebuilt in 1847 by the Edinburgh & Northern Railway, which had a cunning plan to upgrade the old ferry.  Having remodelled the quays on both sides of the firth, they set about introducing the world’s first ‘roll on/roll off’ (RORO) rail ferry.  This provided a rail crossing of sorts some thirty years before the North British Railway constructed its Tay Bridge.

The Tay Bridge made this service obsolete as soon as it was built, though its early ‘roll on/fall off and die’ service model offered a brief respite until that was fixed.

The harbour found a new purpose in the 20th century, servicing the timber industry, but this went by the wayside in the 1980s.  Since the 1990s, it has catered to leisure traffic as a marina.

Views of Tayport Harbour, and Broughty Ferry as seen from it.
Top: the rebuilt harbour in its current guise as a marina. Below: Broughty Ferry seen through the harbour entrance. The RORO train ferry ran directly over there.
Fife Coastal Path

Since coming off the Tay Road Bridge, I had been following the Fife Coastal Path and this now decided to be as coastal as possible. Having skirted the harbour, it ran along the shoreline, sandwiched tightly between the back gardens of some houses and a short drop off a low sea wall.

Path atop low sea wall along shore at Tayport south of the harbour
It’s a path and its coastal, just like the name says. Any other expectations that you may have brought with you are entirely your own problem.

In fairness, it did offer the promise of prettier pathways, by giving a view to Tentsmuir Point and Tentsmuir Forest, about 2½ miles ahead:

Tentsmuir Point, as seen from Tayport
What we’re effectively doing here is peeking fifty minutes into my future.
Tayport Common

The path soon met back up with a public road that formed the Promenade around the edge of Tayport Common

The Promenade then turned into North Links Road and threaded its way through the Tayport Links Caravan Park but I’d spotted a footpath that ran around its edge and happily took that instead. This crossed Scotscraig Burn on a footbridge and carried me towards Lundin Bridge.

Progress map showing that I had almost reached Lundin Bridge
I do hope that isn’t falling down.
Lundin Bridge

Lundin Bridge was not falling down as Tayport had had quite enough of that sort of nonsense back in 1879.

Lundin Bridge
And even it had collapsed, the worst I’d have got from Lundin Burn would be wet feet.

Something else that Lundin Bridge was going to have absolutely no truck with, according to the very solid evidence lining up before it, was an amphibious tank invasion:

Anti-tank blocks in a line between Lundin Bridge and the sea
This is taking the phrase ‘block their path’ extremely literally.

Tentsmuir Forest

A Woodland Walk?

After Lundin Bridge, the road that had crossed it became a gated track. This initially ran parallel to the shore, separated from it by a combination of anti-tank blocks and salt marsh. Thereafter, if my Ordnance Survey map were to be believed, it would plunge into the northern edge of Tentsmuir Forest.  And, I suppose, it technically did.  But recent tree felling activity had introduced a technical difference between the edge of the forest, and the edge of the actual trees.

Path through Tenstmuir Forest but all the seaward trees have been felled.
So, I guess the map was half right.

The forest is owned and managed by Forestry and Land Scotland, which replaced the now-defunct Forestry Commission Scotland in 2019. The latter had been part of the once-nationwide Forestry Commission, which still manages forestry in England. Established in 1919, it was the Forestry Commission that had afforested Tentsmuir in 1924. Before that, the terrain had been mostly dunes with a couple of small woods here and there.

Tentsmuir Point

Now a full century old, Tentsmuir Forest is home to red squirrels and roe deer (allegedly), though I didn’t see either. But, then also I didn’t see the cyclist who suddenly whizzed past me, almost giving me a heart attack, so I think the fault there is mine, rather than the critters’.  Still, I kept a hopeful eye out – meaning, in my case, that I was only semi-oblivious – as I wended my way around Tentsmuir Point. It was, as predicted, just under an hour since I had gazed upon this headland from near Tayport Harbour.

Progress map showing that I had reached Tentsmuir Point.
What was that? Did you hear something?

After rounding the point, the path did finally plunge into the woodland so that there were now trees on both sides.

Path plunging into Tentsmuir Forest from Tentsmuir Point
Although some of them were tired and having a little lie down.
March Stone

I walked south from Tentsmuir Point for a smidgin less than three quarters of a mile and this brought me to the March Stone

This was a boundary stone for fishing rights, erected in 1794. While today it stands about a quarter mile from the shoreline, it was right upon it when first placed.  It fixes one end of the fishing boundary line, which then extends in a straight line inland to Normans Law, a hill 12½ miles away.

The March Stone.
All the trees in this photo would have been in the sea, had they been there in 1794.
Tents on the Moor

It is thanks to the sea, and its treacherous nature, that Tentsmuir gets its name, in a roundabout way. Allegedly.

Tentsmuir supposedly gets its name from literal tents erected on moorland, following a shipwreck. The story goes that, in the 1780s, a Danish ship was wrecked on the beach at what would become Tents Muir, forcing the crew to erect a temporary camp there.

Now, this may be true or it may not but I’m highly suspicious that none of the claims for this origin ever seem to name the ship that was wrecked.  A search of shipwrecks for the period does throw up some candidates such as Copenhagen, – which was wrecked in the maddeningly imprecise position of ‘the coast of Scotland’ in the summer of 1782, while returning to Denmark from the Danish West Indies (now the US Virgin Islands) – so the story is at least plausible.  But you’d think we’d at least get a butchered version of her name when the tale is retold.

Progress map showing that I had passed the march Stone.
A location for the shipwreck would also help. Just saying ‘on Tentsmuir Sands’ gives a stretch of about four miles. But then, judging by the March Stone, it’d be anywhere in that range and a quarter mile inland, nowadays.
Clement Conditions

Fortunately, I had no shipwreck weather conditions to deal with. In fact, I realised as I ambled my way southwards, I was warm and dry and had been for some time.  It hadn’t tried to rain again since just before Tayport and was even turning into (dare I say it?) a nice day.

Forestry track through Tentsmuir Forest beneath a bluing sky.
Shush, you fool, don’t jinx it!

In fact, as I made my way south through Tentsmuir Forest, it became rather warm. I found my wishing for a nice cold drink, maybe one with ice some in it.  Not that I was going to find any ice around here!

Old Ice House

Certainly not in this old ice house, which is a  bat roost now:

Tentsmuir Ice House.
Bats are cool.

Tentsmuir’s ice house was built in 1852 as part of an effort to develop the local fishing industry, although this was ultimately unsuccessful. Today, it serves as home to a colony of Natterer’s bats.  These mid-sized bats have a widespread but low density distribution within the UK and are noted for not just catching insects in flight but also for plucking spiders and beetles off the foliage they thought they were safe on.

Education Pavilion

Between the ice house and the edge of the forest, sat the Tentsmuir ‘education pavilion,’ an open wooden shelter containing information panels. This was erected in 2019 with school groups on field trips in mind. It both gives them somewhere to shelter when the weather turns inclement, and provides a suitable spot for teachers to marshal their kids at the start or end of a trip.

For me, it provided a handy place to sit down in the shade and take a bit of a rest. Could have done with that ice, though – my water bottle was getting kind of tepid.

Progress map showing I had reached Tentsmuir Forest education pavilion.
Maybe, if I took a freshly chilled bat and–

After a moment or two of resting, I came to the conclusion that I really needed to press on to somewhere where I could buy a properly cold drink. As luck would have it, I knew I was likely to find such a place about a mile and half further south. And so, I left the bats in peace and hurried on my way…

Kinshaldy Beach

Half an hour isn’t really very long in the grand scheme of things but it can seem like forever if you’re hot and fixated on a cold drink you don’t have.

Fortunately, I was able to distract myself from such obsession by dint of determinedly enjoying what was now a stroll through sun-dappled woodland with barely a soul in sight. In fact, it was when I did start to see the occasional dog-walker or casually-shod stroller that I knew I must almost be at Kinshaldy Beach.

Progress map showing that I was approaching Kinshaldy Beach
Almost there, may the bats be thankful!

Named for the nearby farmstead of Kinshaldy, Kinshaldy Beach isn’t labelled as such on early OS maps, being then indistinguishable from any other part of Tentsmuir Sands. But today, it has the visitors’ car park right next to it and so needs a specific name. It apparently also requires both a toilet block and a refreshments van, both of which I was very happy to see, the latter especially so.

Onward Options

From Kinshaldy Beach car park, I had a choice of two ways onwards.  The Fife Coastal Path (Option ‘A’) wanted me to go by road, whereas the map indicated that a footpath (Option ‘B’) ran around the actual moor part of Tents Muir. Oh, which to do?  Option ‘B’ would be undeniably more ‘coastal,’ but Option ‘A’ would stay in Tentsmuir Forest, which I had been very much enjoying.

Progress map showing that I had reached Kinshaldy Beach. Also showing my two routes onward.
If I’m honest, I’d already decided; I was just trying to justify it to myself.
Road Running

For all that it would put me on tarmac for a while, Option ‘A’ meant more forest and I was nowhere near ready give that up just yet. And so, off I trotted down the road…

Two horses close to the roadside.
Heh, he calls that a ‘trot.’ Bloody clueless bipeds…

The road carried me past Kinshaldy farm – now a riding stables – and then past these two well-qualified critics of trotting form.

It was at this point, when I was just thinking that things could hardly get better, that I got a message from a friend confirming that she would be joining me for the following day’s walk. This was the awesome icing on top of the cake of excellence.

Tents Muir

Less than half a mile onward from those horses, I came to the point where the Fife Coastal Path left the road. Initially, it took a left-hand turn down a broad forestry track, flanked on both sides by trees.  This came to an end at the southern edge of Tentsmuir Forest, where the path passed through a gate and out onto Tents Muir itself.

Now, the path turned into a twisty, narrow, unpaved footpath across a grassy meadow, which was quite muddy in places.  This headed south (on average) until it reached a wire fence, where it turned right by ninety degrees and quickly dialled the bogginess up to eleven.

Thereafter, it formed a series of boardwalks over grimly boggy pools. And the boardwalks were not in entirely the best of condition, so that you often felt them shift slightly beneath your feet, which was disconcerting. There were five boardwalks of varying lengths, which, despite their threatening behaviour, did not collapse or tip me into the mire but brought me safely to a gate. A sharp left-hand turn and a grassy path between fences then spat me out onto a farm track of comparable width to forestry track at the start.

Left: forestry path at start. Centre: windy path across meadow.  Right: boardwalk of uncertain solidity.
Left: forestry path at start. Centre: winding path across meadow.  Right: boardwalk of uncertain solidity.

Leuchars

Track to Comerton

A fingerpost on the farm track directed me northwest, but another sharp turn soon turned me to head southwest in front of a small wooded area.  Half a mile after I first joined the farm track, it came to a gate beside the farmstead of Comerton

Beyond the gate, the track gained a tarmac surface, along with a name – Earlshall Road – for I had now reached the periphery of Leuchars (Luachar, meaning ‘rushes’).

Progress map showing that I had reached Comerton Farm.
You rush if you like, I’m taking it easy.
Leuchars Airfield

A radar tower peeking over a hedge gave away that I was also next to Leuchars Airfield. Occupying the site of the former farm of Reres, this was built for the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in 1916.  It became RAF Leuchars in 1918 – when the RFC merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force – and remained an RAF station until 2015, when it passed back to the British Army as Leuchars Station.

Although the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards have no need of its runways, it is nonetheless maintained as an operating airfield and serves as a diversion airfield for RAF Lossiemouth.

Earlshall Castle

A couple of hundred metres further on, I passed the gatehouse of Earlshall Castle. This was built in 1546 by Sir William Bruce (1486-1584), who had fought at the 1513 Battle of Flodden and survived the massacre that entailed. His bloodline then held it until 1708, when they died out and it was inherited through marriage by the Hendersons of Fordell.

Earlshall Castle gatehouse
How foolish of Sir William to build it right next to an airbase; I hope he had earplugs!

The Hendersons were forced by financial circumstances to sell it in 1824, after which it slipped into dereliction until bought in in 1890 by a Perth bleach merchant named Robert Mackenzie. He employed the then up-and-coming architect Robert Lorimer (1864-1929) to restore it, which he did.  It was Lorimer’s first big commission, and he got it because Mackenzie was a friend of his parents; it made his career.

The castle has since passed through several owners and I’m not certain who owns it now. It was up for sale in 2022, though, and the asking price was £8 million.

Arms of Bruce of Earlshall and Henderson of Fordell.

The Bruce of Earlshall arms were the usual arms of Bruce (i.e., a red chief and saltire on gold), differenced by the addition of a gold fleur-de-lys.  Also shown are the arms of Henderson of Fordell with their dancettée division of a gold and black field plus a silver chief showing two ermine spots and a blue crescent. The Hendersons of Fordell are the chiefs of Clan Henderson.

Main Street

I followed the road into Leuchars until it connected with Main Street, but if I thought I was going to see the town centre, I was very mistaken.  The centre of the actual civilian town lies to the north of that junction but I was heading south instead. In this direction, both sides of the street were flanked by chain-link fences and dire warnings not to trespass on MOD property.

After about half a mile, I came to the southern edge of the buildings, though the fences continued down the left-hand side as I was now passing the airfield runway.  On my right, a footpath ran off towards Leuchars railway station.  I would be needing that later – it’s the closest station to St Andrews – but not just yet.

Another quarter mile later, I ran out of Main Street, as it merged with the A919.

Progress map showing that I had reached the A919 south of Leuchars.
I mean that Main Street ran out. I wasn’t doing any running.

Guardbridge

Inner Bridge

I wasn’t entirely keen on walking alongside the busy A-road, so I was pleasantly surprised when I only had to do about 100 m of it. This brought me to Guardbridge, a village named for the bridge that Bishop Henry Wardlaw (d. 1440) built in 1419 to carry students to the University of St Andrews, which he had founded six years earlier.

Upon reaching the northern limit of Guardbridge, the Fife Coastal Path immediately abandoned the A-road and veered off into residential streets. From there, it followed a path through a park and over the old Inner Bridge.

The Inner Bridge was the bridge over Motray Water and was a three-arch affair constructed in the 18th century and widened in the 19th, replacing an older Bridge of Motray, that dated back to Wardlaw’s day. Today, it is reserved for pedestrians and cyclists, while the motor traffic crosses beside it on a relatively modern concrete bridge that was built in (I think) the early 1950s.

The new and old Inner Bridges.
The old Inner Bridge is upstream from the new one, which must surely make it the innest.
Paper Mill

Absolutely dominating Guardbridge was a complex of buildings that used to be a paper mill.  This had been established in 1873 as the Guardbridge Paper Company and had repurposed the site of a whisky distillery (established in 1810). The paper mill was Guardbridge’s principal employer and remained in business (under various owners) right up until 2008. 

Today, the site is mostly being turned into a satellite campus for the University of St Andrews – which is thematically appropriate given Guardbridge’s origins –  except for one part which is leased to a brewery and distillery and that is appropriate to the mill site’s origins instead.

Old mill building, Guardbridge
I can’t see any way that housing a brewery & distillery on the same site as a bunch of students could possibly go at all wrong.
The Guardbridge

The actual Guardbridge crosses the River Eden (which is not to be confused with another river of the same name).

Exactly why the 1418 Guardbridge is called that remains uncertain, with the most popular theory being that it’s gare not ‘guard,’ which was French for ‘station’ in the sense of a pilgrims’ staging point, long before it trains were a thing. 

Regardless of why it was called that, the bridge is still there, sandwiched between its 1938 replacement and the now bridgeless pillars that supported the railway between 1852 and 1969.

Pillars formerly supporting the railway bridge over the Eden.
Your train may be held at the station to smooth out gaps in the service.
Progress map showing that I had crossed the River Eden
Except, of course, it won’t be held at the station, because that’s gone too.
Old Tollhouse & Milestone

It had been the opening of the Tay Road Bridge that had done for the St Andrews Railway line, with everyone now going by road instead. With the choice long removed, I too would be following the road, though at a somewhat slower pace than most traffic.

Milestone: 'To St Ands 3'
Right. This should take about an hour…

The milestone above was outside a cottage whose turret-like bay of windows could only have been built to spot toll-dodging road-users. I know an early 19th-century tollhouse when I see one. Well, okay, I knew that one when I saw it.  There’s no real way of knowing how many I’ve failed to recognise, on account my never having recognised them.

St Andrews

A91

Since crossing the Eden, the road I was walking alongside had been the A91

As a general rule with A-roads, the fewer digits in its number, the larger and busier it is. Fortunately, there was a pedestrian pavement & cycle path the whole way to St Andrews and, for most of the way, it wasn’t right next to the road either, but had a hedge or low stone wall between me and the traffic to provide a bit of a screen.  Even so, this was the least fun part of the day’s walk.

Spires of St Andrews visible on the horizon.
‘Peekaboo!’ teased St Andrews from the safety of the horizon, trying to liven things up.
Progress map showing that I was approaching halfway between Guardbridge and St Andrews
This could have been annoying, but actually, it was helpful. It kept me distracted when the fields gave way to golf links.
Home of Golf

St Andrews is the golfiest place on Earth, with its links dating back to a charter of 1552. It regards itself as the home of golf and thousands flock to it yearly for that exact reason. And good luck to them, I say. I am well aware that my loathing for golf courses is irrational. Though just because I’m unreasonable, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m wrong…

Coming on Strong

Suddenly, almost before I knew it, I was gazing upon a sign that welcomed me to St Andrews.  Although, that isn’t strictly true, as it didn’t say ‘welcome’ on it anywhere.  But it was flanked by two tubs of red tulips and, in the Victorian language of flowers, those meant ‘perfect and everlasting love.

Royal Burgh of St Andrews sign, flanked by tubs of red tulips
Steady on, St Andrews, we’ve not even been introduced!

The arms of St Andrews are divided vertically.  On the left side, as we see it, against a blue field, it displays St Andrew himself. He bears his saltire in silver and stands upon a green mount. The other side also shows a green mount, but against a silver field. On the mount stands an oak tree with golden acorns and in front of that stands a black boar. The latter is a reference to the area’s original name of Muckross, meaning ‘the headland of the boars.’

Old Course Hotel

Perhaps St Andrews was just trying to soften the blow of its incredible golfiness. In which case I appreciate the effort, though I fear it was in vain. I left the A91 at that sign and followed a road past the Old Course Hotel, an enormous five star affair that caters almost entirely to golfers.

The hotel was built on the site of the old railway station immediately the line closed. There didn’t even need to be any delays buying up the land – the company that built it was British Transport Hotels, which was a British Rail subsidiary.  Of course, British Rail has been defunct for years and the hotel’s current owner is the American manufacturing group Kohler Company (est. 1873), which bought it in 2004.

Old Course Hotel, St Andrews
It might indeed be 5-star but it looks like it’s made out of Lego.
Beyond the Gold Course

From the hotel, I had another quarter mile of golf course to mutter and mumble my way past like a madman and then I was finally entering St Andrews proper:

Entering St Andrews proper
From here on in, only every other building would be golf-themed, instead of everything in sight.
New Golf Club

Actually, there was one golf-related building I saw that made me chuckle to myself, though for quite the wrong reasons. One of the first buildings I passed as I entered the town’s streets was the New Golf Club, which proudly  displayed its Latin motto: semper nova.

Semper nova – ‘always new.’ I mean, that has to be a contradiction in terms. How can anything be ‘new’ if it’s ‘always.’ It has to be one or the other. Nothing new has had time to be always and anything that has, is no longer new.  It’s as bad as ‘new and improved,’ which no product can be, ever. New, certainly. Or existing and improved. Or even newly improved. But new and improved at the same time? Don’t be ridiculous!

Ahem, now where was I?

Progress map showing that I had entered the town of St Andrews
You were in St Andrews. Pay attention, mammal.
St Salvator’s Chapel

As I got further into St Andrews, I found the streets lined with the sort of splendid stone frontages that one comes to expect from historic Scottish towns. These stepped up their game as I reached the university and encountered the late Gothic splendour of the Chapel of St Salvator, which was founded in 1450.

St Salvator's chapel, St Andrews
Peekaboo me now, I dare you. I’m right here.
University of St Andrews

As mentioned earlier, the university itself was founded by Bishop Henry Wardlaw in 1413. This makes it the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world , after Oxford (1096) and Cambridge (1209). It is a collegiate university, currently comprising three colleges – United, St Mary’s and St Leonard’s. And, as mentioned last time, the University of Dundee used to be part of it too.

Bishop Wardlaw may have been the driving force behind its creation, but he would never have established it without permission and patronage. Perhaps most important was the papal bull of Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII (there were two rival Popes at the time), which is what gave it university status, and the royal confirmation of its charter by King James I in 1432.

Scottish Royal Arms, arms of Antipope Benedict XIII, arms of Bishop Henry Wardlaw and arms of the University of St Andrews
The arms granted to the university have various elements from those of each. The basic design shows a blue and white division per saltire, representing St Andrew, and a book of knowledge to denote its educational nature. Benedict XIII’s arms are referenced by a red chief and the inverted crescent of his family (the De Lunas), while the crescent is flanked by two mascles (voided diamonds) from Bishop Wardlaw’s arms. The royal lion of Scotland sits in the base of the shield.
St Andrews’ Cathedral

It won’t have done Henry Wardlaw’s case any harm that, at the time, St Andrews was the centre of the Catholic church in Scotland and thus an important and prestigious burgh, So much so, in fact, that in 1472, it was elevated to the status of archdiocese. Admittedly, that didn’t go especially well in to begin with – the first archbishop, Patrick Graham (d. 1478) was deposed for corruption and insanity!

While things went kind of okay in the medium term, in the long term, the cathedral was doomed. Scotland enthusiastically embraced the Protestant Reformation and Presbytarianism, which led to bishops being abolished twice, firstly from 1638 to 1661 (it didn’t stick) and then again in 1689.  This time, the situation was permanent and all the dour Protestants had no use for a grand cathedral.

Ruins of St Andrews Cathedral
It went from holy to holey in a big way.
More ruins of St Andrews Cathedral
Protestants and Catholics were arch-enemies back in the day.
Journey’s End

The dramatic end met by the cathedral was nicely symbolic as reaching the cathedral also spelt the end of my day’s walk.

In theory, when I’d planned it, I had thought I’d have a short break then walk back to Leuchars railway station but there was, I now realised, absolutely no way I was willing to do that.

Map showing that I had reached my destination, St Andrews Cathedral.
I think Leuchars is marginally more likely to get up and walk to me.

Having ruled that out as insanity worthy of an archbishop, I instead took a leisurely stroll through the centre of St Andrews, acquiring snacks on the way to my finding a taxi rank.  From there it was just a quick ride back to Leuchars, from where a train returned me to my hotel in Dundee. But I would be back the next morning. Eventually.


Hasteful MammalThis time: 19½ miles
Total since Gravesend: 4,471½ miles


Combined map showing the whole route

2 thoughts on “CCXLIX – Dundee to St Andrews”

    1. Yep, scary mannequins successfully avoided! Although, completely by accident as I hadn’t known they were there. In fact, I still don’t know where they were although I know where they weren’t, which is on my route! Where were they?

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