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Travelling to the ancient Kingdom of Fife this relaxing day trip has a little bit of everything – castles, countryside, cathedrals and coast. The tour explores many royal connections and includes the historic seaside town of St Andrews.
- Forth Rail Bridge
- Dunfermline Abbey and Palace
- St Andrews Castle and Cathedral
- The Old Course
- St Andrews beaches
- Fishing villages and harbours
Our first stop is only a few minutes outside Edinburgh for photos of the Forth Rail Bridge at South Queensferry. There has been a crossing here since the 11th century when Queen Margaret established a ferry service to transport pilgrims from Edinburgh to Dunfermline Abbey and St Andrews.
Upon opening in 1890 the rail bridge was the largest steel structure in the world and is one of the major engineering achievements of the Victorian age. A new third bridge is currently being built alongside the existing Forth Road Bridge, opened in 1964 by Queen Elizabeth.
Our first royal stop is Dunfermline Abbey (Apr-Oct, free of charge), final resting place of Scotland’s great hero King Robert the Bruce, victorious leader of the Scottish army at the Battle of Bannockburn celebrating its 700th anniversary in 2014.
Seven other Kings of Scotland are also buried in the Abbey. Alongside is Dunfermline Palace (birthplace of Charles I) and five minutes walk from here is the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, the famous 19th century Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist whose ‘rags to riches’ story made him, at one stage, the richest man in the world.
As we drive to St Andrews we follow the scenic route through pretty Falkland (Outlander filming location) and alongside Loch Leven where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned on an island between 1567-8 prior to her dramatic escape and bloody execution.
We continue around the Lomond Hills whose prominent peaks dominate the skyline of Fife. We arrive in St Andrews at lunchtime and after a short familiarisation tour you will have a minimum of two-and-a-half hours to explore this compact historic town. St Andrews is internationally renowned as the ‘Home of Golf’ and you will have plenty of time to see the famous Old Course – a place of pilgrimage for golfers of all abilities.
St Andrews was one of the most important religious sites in medieval Europe and the ruins of the massive Cathedral are only 5 mins walk from the Castle, perched on cliffs above the North Sea.
These two historic buildings played key roles during the Scottish Reformation. There are three beaches in St Andrews – the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire were filmed on the West Sands.
The oldest University in Scotland (established 1411) is located here and its architectural legacy can be seen all over town. Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, studied and met his wife Kate Middleton here (they are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn in Scotland). Mary Queen of Scots was educated here and was probably one of the first women in the world to play golf.
Our route home takes us via the charming fishing villages of the East Neuk. We stop at Anstruther and admire its 16th century harbour, one of the most photographed in Scotland.
Once at the heart of Scotland’s 19th century herring industry, Anstruther is now a popular weekend retreat with a very pleasant mixture of boats, historic streets and visitors strolling around the harbour enjoying the famous fish and chips.