In current times, Fife is the smallest administrative region within a devolved Scottish Parliament of the United Kingdom and has a total population of about 350,000 people. There are no cities in Fife but the region lies centrally between Edinburgh, Dundee and Perth. More than a third of the population live in the four main towns of Dunfermline, Kirkcaldy, Glenrothes and St Andrews. This section describes these four communities.
It is hard to separate different aspects of the town of St Andrews ranging from golf and where the internationally popular sport began and where its ancient cathedral and castle played major parts in Scottish History. St Andrews University is one of the oldest and most respected in the United Kingdom and where Prince William met Katherine 'Kate' Middleton who were later married on April 29th 2011 amid great fanfare in London. St Andrews is where notable songsmith KT Tunstall spent her formative years despite birth in Edinburgh and adoption just eighteen days later. St Andrews has featured as background to several films and most notably in 'Chariots Of Fire'.
Although St Andrews is much smaller than the other towns listed in this section, it is described here because it has a very different history and development than most other towns in the region. It's certainly the best known town in Fife!
In sharp contrast to many other towns in Fife, St Andrews contributes to the regional economy of Fife mainly through tourism and by its University. It has never been a town reliant on agriculture, fishing, mining or industry. In these respects, St Andrews deserves special mention and fits best into this section of the web site. Starting with golf; the town is akin to a Mecca for avid followers of the sport and where many 'pilgrims' flock to each year and in the fervent hope of playing a round on these links formerly decreed as 'common land' under a license issued in 1522 and permitting local citizens to "play golf, futball, schuteing ...” and to "rear rabbits".
Although records of 1574 directly make reference to golf being played on the links of St Andrews, and if exclusively taken as a singular reference, then St Andrews might actually have been the fifth oldest golf course in the World since others in the region could be considered as older.
It is known, however, that King James IV bought golf clubs at St Andrews in 1506 suggesting existence and establishment of a course at this time and where the original course was played over a limited number of fairways out and back using the same holes. The Old Course had 12 holes, 10 of which were played both out and in, making a total of 22 holes. As play increased, the first four holes (all of which were played twice) were combined in 1764 to make two holes, leaving a total of 18 holes and thus becoming the standard for all major golf courses in the World.
Circa 1863, 'Old Tom Morris' had the 1st green separated from the 17th green, producing the current 18-hole layout with seven double greens. The unique features of the Old Course is the huge double greens. Seven greens are shared by two holes each, with hole numbers adding up to 18 (2nd paired with 16th, 3rd with 15th, all the way up to 8th and 10th). The Swilcan Bridge, spanning the first and 18th holes, has become a famous icon for golf in the World. Only the 1st, 9th, 17th and 18th holes have their own greens. Another unique feature is that the course can be played in either direction, clockwise or anti-clockwise. The general method of play today is anti-clockwise, although clockwise play has been permitted on one day each year in recent years, and since 2008 has been allowed on the Friday, Saturday and Monday of the first weekend in April.
At this time of writing in 2010, the Old Course has been the venue for twenty-nine 'Opens' and has attracted the very best of golfing sportsmen and women from across the globe. It's been described as the most challenging golf course in existence and where true devotees and addicts of the sport flock to every year. Qualification to this level often means competition on the challenging golf course at 'Lundin Links' located about twenty miles from St Andrews.
Given this exceptional standard and with limited resources, it is impossible to accommodate every desire as regards playing the old course at St Andrews but any visitor need not be disappointed. There are more than forty golf courses in Fife both coastline and inland.
The second oldest golf course is located in North Berwick in Lothian but the seventh oldest golf course is just ten miles distant to the south of St Andrews, at the village of Crail, and like the Old Course itself was designed by similar landscape and golf architects. Our advice at Fifeserve for visitors is to make bookings with the Crail Golfing Society because the location and conditions are often similar to that of St Andrews and where accessibility is better.
The Cathedral of St Andrew has played important parts in the history of Fife and Scotland especially when the town became the seat of bishops (and later archbishops) in 1158 and where the older church of St. Rule was deemed to have insufficient accommodation.
Construction of a new cathedral began in 1158 and took more than a century to complete. The structure was huge compared with many other buildings of the period being over one hundred metres long and built alongside the St Rule Tower and which was probably part of the former church on the same site. According to tradition, it was St Rule (aka St Regulus) who brought relics of St Andrew from Patras in Greece and explains how the town got its name. Originally, the tower was one of the tallest in Scotland and whose top floor was reached by a series of wooden steps but stone replaced these during the eighteenth century.
In the Middle Ages, the tower had a spire making it even taller than it is now. In current times, the tower is thirty-three metres high (108 feet) high.
The western end of the main building collapsed during a storm necessitating rebuild work between 1272 and 1279 with the cathedral dedication ceremony before King Robert I. In it's heyday, the cathedral had a central tower and six turrets, three of which rose to a height of about one hundred feet (30 metres). Fire destroyed some parts of the building in 1378 and necessitated repairs and restoration.
In the fifteenth century, it seems many monks owned property in the town and were thus richer than most but in the sixteenth century, changes concerning the establishment of an alternative church began in Europe and eventually spread to Scotland.
The break with papal rule took place in 1560 and carried major political implications as regards the core values of the Church of Scotland and thence through all other Presbyterian churches in the World. Naturally, the new theological arguments were fiercely resisted.
Around 1525, the Scottish Parliament sought to ban import of books supporting Martin Luther's viewpoint and thus 'suppress his heresies' in the Kingdom. History proves this suppression was largely unsuccessful. There is a spot upon cobbled stones where some of the first martyrs were murdered close to the entrance of St Andrews castle.
In 1580, local nobleman Patrick Hamilton returned from the Universities of Wittenburg and Marburg, and clearly influenced by Lutheran theology. He became the first Protestant martyr and burned at the stake on a charge of heresy.
The event, intended to suppress further teachings, actually prompted the reverse. The Archbishop of St Andrews was warned that the 'the reek of Maister Patrik Hammyltoun has infected as many as it blew upon”. Such wise words did not stop further executions in the twenty years afterwards. The more the government tried to suppress the 'new church'; the worse the situation became.
The old church gave way to the new and St Andrews Cathedral fell into disrepair and lost much of the prominent influence it had exerted inthe past. In the sixteenth century, the central tower collapsed and took out a substantial portion of the northern wall. By then, the old church establishment was much less influential or wealthy and could not even consider any kind of repair work. Indeed, they couldn't even stop people removing sizeable chunks of the fallen material being removed and used for the repair and restoration of other buildings. The cathedral was left to rot until 1826 and when the site was taken into care. The formerly magnificent cathedral of St Andrews is currently a ruin but is still capable of illustrating some of the incredible features of its age. Within the grounds is a small historic museum showing some of the gravestones and other features uncovered over centuries.
The ruins of St Andrew's Castle are located on a rock promontory overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands. There has been a fortification here since the twelve century and was often home to the wealthiest members of St Andrews society including powerful and influential bishops of the nearby cathedral before the Scottish Reformation. The site is now run by Historic Scotland.
There can be few castles in Scotland that has endured such violence! During the Wars of Scottish Independence, the castle suffered considerable degrees of destruction as it changed hands between the Scots and English. It was repaired several times and shortly after King Edward I took Berwick, the castle was made ready for a visit by the English King in 1303.
After the Scottish Victory at the Bannockburn in 1314, St Andrews Castle fell back into the hands of the Scots and was repaired by Bishop Lamberton.The English recaptured it again circa 1330 and reinforced it but even so, it fell to the forces of Andrew Moray after a three week long siege in 1336. It was deliberately destroyed by the Scots less than a year later and to stop the English from capturing it and using it as a commanding stronghold as they had done before.
The castle remained as a ruin until Bishop Walter Trail tried to restore it circa 1400. What remains of the castle is from this period. Trail died in 1401 but many notable Scots were subsequent residents of the castle. James I of Scotland received part of his education here and King James III was born here in 1445.
One of the interesting features of this castle is the 'bottle dungeon' so called because it was carved deep into the rock promontory on which the castle sits and where the deep pit is approximately 'bottle-shaped' with a narrow opening at the top. It's a dark, dank, damp place and probably the most secure prison ever created and where inmates endured one of the worst punishments ever induced on human souls. David Stuart, Duke of Rothesay, was an inmate here in 1402. Duke Murdoch was a 'guest' in 1425 while Archbishop Patrick Graham was judged insane and also imprisoned here in 1478. During the reformation, John Knox wrote, “Many of God's Children were imprisoned here."
In 1521, the Archbishop of Glasgow, James Beaton, took up residence in the castle after being granted control of the region. Beaton bolstered the defences to enable the castle to withstand heavy artillery attack and at a time when tensions between the Scots and English were rising once more and where the new arrival of cannons could demolish castles of older design with ease. His nephew, Cardinal James Beaton, succeeded him and is best known for his strong opposition to the marital union of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Prince Edward, son and heir to King Henry VIII and later King Edward VI. His viewpoint helped to promote further conflict with England in 1544.
In 1546, David Beaton imprisoned the Protestant preacher George Wishart (1513-1546) in the castle's Sea Tower and had him burnt at the stake in front of the castle walls on March 1. Brick lettering with his initials still marks the spot where he died. In May of that same year, Wishart's friends had their revenge. Disguised as stonemasons, they entered the castle on May 26 and murdered the Cardinal and hung his body from a window at the front of the castle.
This outrage prompted James Hamilton, 2 Earl of Arran, Regent of Scotland, to respond by attacking the castle but initially found it well defended and where he ordered a siege. In November of 1546, a mine was begun by the attackers and designed to enter the castle by cutting a route beneath the castle walls. Inside the castle, however, another mine was begun as a counter-measure and where both plans ultimately failed. The castle mine is still open to the public.
During an armistice in April 1547, Reformer John Knox entered the castle and preached for the remainder of the siege. For a brief time, John Knox, had freedom to pass to and from the castle to preach in the parish church but it ended suddenly when a French Naval fleet arrived and started a devastating artillery bombardment on the castle and where the Protestants were forced to surrender. Many prisoners were either forcibly deported or else condemned to hanging.
John Hamilton rebuilt the castle, but following his death in 1571, it was mainly occupied by a succession of constables and served as a prison.
The link between castle and cathedral was dissolved by Parliament in 1606. In 1612, the castle was returned to Archbishop George Gledstanes, but further attempts to re-establish the former estates of the Archbishop failed. By 1656, ruined stones from the castle were used to repair the local harbour. In 1689, William Of Orange made the office of bishop in Scotland redundant and thus making the castle equally without purpose.
Today, St Andrews castle ruins retains a number of features like a bottle dungeon, central well and some of the former well areas. Historic Scotland has introduced a small museum into the site and where artefacts found within the site are on show.
Photographs (top to bottom of page) by Allan Stewart, Alandon, Oliver Keenan, Alandon, Alandon, J j Haike.
Graphic from open source clipart.
Text by Alandon.