Mid-Scotland: Argyll and the Grampians Part II
Within two hours of Edinburgh, you can be amongst one of Scotland’s forgotten peninsula’s and some hidden gems.
Fife is a small area sandwiched between Edinburgh and Perth, or more accurately between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth. Before the Forth and Tay road bridges were opened, the area of Fife was a somewhat aloof region, cut off from the mainstream of north-south tourist traffic. It is now firmly on the tourist route. Nothing highlights Fife’s undiscovered charms more than the wonderfully situated St. Monan’s Church, pictured above.
While St. Andrews is by no means a hidden gem, the opening of the Forth and Tay road bridges was a blessing, especially for the growing army who follow golf and come to St. Andrews to worship at the shrine. To many people St. Andrews means one thing: golf. And golf’s capital is the Regency style club house of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club which overlooks the first tee and eighteenth green of the Old Course. The Royal and Ancient was founded in 1754 but the game has been played in Scotland at least since 1457 when it was discussed in parliament because it was interfering with the more essential practice of archery.
Being a game of the people in Scotland it is not surprising that many courses, including the four full-length ones at St. Andrews, are publicly owned and everyone is entitled to play them, though there is a daily ballot for starting times on the Old Course. This course, one of the most testing in Britain, is often the venue of the British Open Golf Championship and reputations have been made and lost at its notorious ‘Road Hole’, the seventeenth, where a shade too much ‘steam’ behind an approach shot can send the ball over the green on to a tarmac roadway from which a return chip requires delicate judgement.
But there are other attractions: beautiful sands at St. Andrew’s itself; a fascinating coast from Crail almost to Kirkcaldy – a chain of fishing ports looking over the Firth of Forth to North Berwick and the Bass Rock.
Pittenweem is one of several interesting and highly attractive small ports along a stretch of the Fife coast known as East Neuk. Although the port still sees its fair share of fishing, several of the buildings around the harbour have been converted into seaside homes or into antique shops.
Loch Leven beside the Lomond Hills, (not to be confused with Loch Leven Sea Loch, near Fort William) renowned for its trout and historically famous for the ruined castle on Castle Island. It was from here in 1568 that Mary Queen of Scots, with the help of Willy Douglas, made her dramatic escape to what she hoped would be freedom, but which turned out to be nearly 20 years of detention and ultimate execution at the hands of Elizabeth.
Culross, a small town on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, is one of the best examples of what a sixteenth century Scottish township must have looked like. The National Trust for Scotland has restored many of its beautiful, interesting and unique sixteenth and seventeenth century buildings including Culross Palace. Even the Electricity Board’s sub-station has been hidden in an old house to preserve the overall appearance of the town.
Westward from Perth the road leads through Callander to the Trossachs and Argyll.