scotland day 2: st. andrews

Diane and Samantha Fagan in St. Andrews, Scotland

You really only need to know two things about St. Andrews: 1. University of St. Andrews is where Prince William and Kate Middleton met. 2. Chariots of Fire was filmed here.

Another fun fact is that the University of St. Andrews was the first university in Scotland and the third in the English-speaking world (following Cambridge and Oxford)! I highly recommend a trip to St. Andrews if you’re in Scotland. It’s a beautiful seaside, college town with plenty of shops to visit, locals pubs, and a world-renowned gold course. This was a beautiful, calm day for my mom and me as we wandered from the ruins of the castle to the ruins of the church to lunch at the pub.

St. Andrews, Scotland

Oh look, another castle!

Castle in St. Andrews, Scotland

Two trees.

Church in St. Andrews Scotland

the tower of st. andrews cathedral

The tower was part of what was once the largest cathedral in Scotland. Pilgrims from all over Scotland and Europe came here to be blessed. Unfortunately, after the Scottish Reformation, the town and the cathedral fell into decay. Now, all that’s left of a once majestic cathedral is the tower and the graveyard.

For a small fee, I climbed the 156 steps (120 ft) to the top! It was legitimately scary. This wasn’t an American staircase with even steps and a nice banister. No, this was a narrow, winding, stone staircase that challenged the ego of all who dared enter. Each step was foot-sized at the wall but narrowed to practically nothing at its connection with the center post. In order to be on the foot-sized portion of each step, I kept knocking my knees into the wall. Step. Knock. Step. Knock. Additionally, since the steps had been around since 1158, they were kinda all sloped down like a slide welcoming you to your death.

In a gift of mercy, someone had installed a thick rope “banister” on the wall side to which I clung for dear life as I made my way up. And if all that wasn’t enough to manage, ascenders and descenders had to figure out how to pass each other without dying! Whoever got to the wall side first won the foot-sized stair while the loser hugged the center post and prayed for wings.

As soon as I got home, I googled to see if anyone had lived my waking nightmare and fallen down the stairs. Apparently not. They’ve only died going over the top

Tower of St. Rule's Church in the grounds of St. Andrews Cathedral, Fife

photo by Kim Traynor (

I’m glad I did it, though. I set a Fitbit personal record, and look at this view!

St. Andrews, Scotland

safely on the ground

When I found my mom, I told her I needed a beer–stat!–and we headed into town, meeting up with my roommate, Elizabeth, along the way. It was pretty cool to happen across this D. Donaldson shop, since that was my mom’s maiden name. Turns out, Donaldson is a Scottish sept of the clan MacDonald!

D Donaldson Scotland

We found a crowded pub and sat at the bar. I ordered The Clock Red Ale.

The Clock Red Ale Scotland

Samantha Fagan, Elizabeth Williams, Diane Fagan

Me, Elizabeth, my mom.

With my nerves calmed a bit, I had my first Scottish pie. It was pretty good, but I should’ve gotten the steak pie instead of the vegetable.

Scottish pie and ale

After our lunch, we hopped on the coach and headed back to Edinburgh. We had a free afternoon and evening, during which I walked around the city, tried to eat some unimpressive Italian food, felt sick, and went to bed.



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