You don't have to pick up a golf club to be delighted by St. Andrews, Scotland.
While St. Andrews, right, is the place that golfers go on pilgrimage to play the Old Course, it is also a bustling seaside and college town, home of Scotland's first university, and a city with a violent history where religions clashed.
You could spend a day wandering the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, consecrated in 1318, and St. Andrews Castle, which stands on a rocky promontory much worn away by the sea. From a window of the castle, Cardinal David Beaton witnessed the burning of the Protestant reformer George Wishart for the crime of heresy in 1546, and in the same year a party of Reformers murdered Beaton himself inside the castle.
For a more peaceful day, consider a drive to the countryside by the sea.
A local guide, Mike Taylor, booked through the Fairmont Resort, drove me to stone ruins of forts and sanctuaries, hiking paths and old fishing villages where we walked the cobbled streets and sat on stone walls at water's edge.
Crail, left at low tide, and Pittenweem, below, are former fishing villages that today house few fishermen, as the North Sea provides little in the way of a profitable catch.
These days, Scots and English folks from larger cities are buying small townhouses for seaside vacation getaways.
The old fishing village of Anstruther, which gained its royal charter in 1587, is the most gentrified of the seaside towns near St. Andrews. Its wharf, small harbor and stores are clean and manicured, and pleasure boats bob in the water.
Skip the fish and chips
Travelers may know of Anstruther for its highly advertised restaurant in the center of town, the Fish and Chip Shop on the Shore. You will read, especially in Anstruther, that the Fish and Chip Shop is the frequent winner of the Best Chip Shop in Scotland. Says a note on the Anstruther website: "Remember if you are coming in the summer be ready for a long queue, sometimes two hours, but well worth it." You may wait for a table or line up for takeout and sit along the harbor.
My experience was different from the description on the website. Don't wait in line. It's not worth it. I've had better fish and chips (large french fries) in city diners. The hype here is significantly greater than the food: Too much batter on the fish, and the chips were mushy. Had my wife, Judi Dash, been with me, she would have sent it all back. I scraped off much of the fried fish batter and left most of the chips on my plate.
Then, I went for a long walk along the seashore on a portion of the Fife Coastal Path that covers 90 miles from the Edinburgh area to the Firth of Tay. The path is not difficult, is easy to locate and is a rewarding way to move from village to village. For information: VisitFife. Click on Guide, then Walking.
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