This past weekend we adventured outside of London for the first time. We went to Edinburgh, Scotland for three days with a day trip to St. Andrews. Edinburgh was one of the best small cities I have ever been to. The mixture of history and a modern city was something worth seeing. The city is full of landmarks like Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Scottish Parliament, and Arthur’s seat, not to mention the birthplace of Harry Potter. Edinburgh Castle must be one of the most scenic castles in the world as it is perched on top of a dormant volcano in the middle of the city. The Royal Mile connects the city center from the castle down to Holyrood Palace where the Queen stays when she visits Edinburgh. To get a better feel for the city, we took a walking tour. The one thing that can be taken away from the tour is that the Scottish really hate the English. Scotland basically has a history of being walked all over by the English, and despite being part of the UK, Scotland has more national pride most other countries. The two pictures below are Edinburgh Castle and the view of Edinburgh from halfway up to Arthur’s Seat which is basically a mountain overlooking the city.
On the Saturday in Edinburgh, we took a trip an hour north by train to St. Andrews. For those of you that golf, you already know that it is the birthplace of golf and home to the first golf course. Despite golf being St. Andrews main attraction, it had a lot to offer for those that don’t golf. It has a beautiful old castle and cathedral along the North Sea. It is also home to the University of St. Andrews which is one of the top schools in the UK and the alma mater to the soon to be wed royals Prince William and Kate Middleton. Besides the Old Course, my favorite part of St. Andrews was the remote location. For the first time since being in London, people in St. Andrews were genuinely surprised to see Americans. It was by no means a tourism hub. I’m guessing the only Americans they generally see are the old people that flock to Scotland in the summer to play golf, not a couple of twenty year old college students. The pictures below are of St. Andrew’s from up in St. Rules Tower and a picture of the 17th and 18th hole of the Old Course.
One of the biggest things I learned about traveling throughout the UK for the first time is the ease of the rail system compared to flying or driving. Trains generally cost less than flying, and the stations are usually in the center of the cities rather than a bus ride away. Half of our group flew to Edinburgh and half drove. Both trips took about the same time, but the group on the train saved money and avoided a Tube ride to and from Heathrow and bus rides to and from the Edinburgh airport. Driving is just a big hassle is flying. To even enter central London, cars must pay an eight pound ($13) congestion fee. On top of that gas is about three times more expensive than in America. This past Wednesday my football club took a trip to Portsmouth for a match. The drive took 1:50 minutes to get there and 3:00 to get back because of rush hour. By the way, rush hour in London last about three hours in the morning and evening. The 75 mile round trip journey cost 104 pounds in gas (roughly $160). And people in America complain when gas hits $3.00 a gallon.