Postcards From Scotland: West Sands Beach/St. Andrews
A day by the sea
I am newly home from a lovely week spent in Scotland, conducting research for my forthcoming book project on Canon A. E. Laurie and the church of Old St. Paul’s in Edinburgh. (Have a little read here or here if you’d like to learn more about this forgotten minister and his remarkable legacy, which I hope to bring to a new audience soon.) A superlatively hospitable family graciously offered to put me up at their cottage in Clackmannan, and I filled my too-brief days with as much sight-seeing as I could comfortably fit at my kind hosts’ convenience. I took in far more than I can adequately capture after the fact in writing, but I took pictures and notes as I went. This post will be one in a short series of “postcards” sharing what impressions I can preserve.
Staying in the country meant that even before I made any excursions, I was overwhelmed with a feast for the eyes in the landscape around me. My visit seemed to bring good weather luck, as the sun kept breaking through gloomy forecasts of rain and clouds. As it turned out, last Friday was a rare perfect day to go to the beach in Scotland. I had chosen West Sands, suddenly realizing that this was where the iconic opening titles of Chariots of Fire were shot. It so happened that it was within striking distance, although my host friend had never driven there before. Generously, she agreed to chauffeur me in this new adventure for both of us, and off we went with GPS to see the town with no apostrophe.
We drove through Fife (or, as the road sign says, “the kingdom of Fife”), passing through little towns with names like Auchtermuchty, Yetts o’Muckhart, and Strathmiglo. The hills that had looked like folds of a quilt as I flew over them now rose gently behind rolling fields. The wheat and barley were on the edge of that season when they are cut down and summer fades into autumn. Their gold alternated with lush green squares of potatoes and cabbage. Some fields were dotted with bales of straw, others with sheep. Randomly, in the middle of one field I caught a glimpse of crumbled castle wall, a stone mini-monument, looking ancient and forlorn. Road signs periodically prompted us with friendly reminders to drive carefully and be safe—not a Thing in the states.
We were fortunate to snag a parking spot very close to the beach and made our way down to the shore. We soon realized that not only had the sun broken through just for my visit, the temperature was also perfect for swimming—except we had brought no trunks, expecting wind and a temperature peaking somewhere in the 60s. So we contented ourselves with barefoot strolling and wading, then left our pants at the mercy of the sand when we sat down to rest and people-watch.
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