It was a beautiful day for a drive, so I took the Fife Coast Road up through Dysart, East Wemyss up to historic St. Andrews. Bit ashamed to admit this was my fourth visit to St. Andrews—I am even photographed at the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins with my grandmother when I was 18—but I felt today like it was my first visit. Maybe because I have some context for the history there and so the ruins are now, well, more than ruins. And no, my golfing friends, I did not—this trip—go to the Old Course, there just was not enough time.
Mary, Queen of Scots visited St. Andrews on her first progress through Scotland after her return on 17 August 1561. According to John Guy in Queen of Scots: The True Life of Mary Stuart (must read for Queen Mary fans), by the third week of September, Mary and the Maries amused themselves by “playing house, banishing the symbols of royalty and doing their own shopping.” It is a cute story.
More interesting is the history of the Scottish Reformation at St. Andrews, in particular the uprising participated in by, among others, Kirkcaldy of Grange in retaliation for the death of religious reformer, George Wishart.
Wishart traveled Scotland denouncing the errors of the Papacy and abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, until he was seized on the orders of Mary Beaton’s cousin, Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews and burned at the stake on 1 March 1546.
Two months later, on 29 May 1546, the conspirators, including William Kirkcaldy of Grange, murdered the cardinal in his own castle of St Andrews, mutilating the corpse and hanging it from a window (nice). The suggestion is that Henry VIII egged on the conspirators, because Cardinal Beaton was an obstacle to his Scottish policy—which was to marry Mary, Queen of Scots to his son, Prince Edward.
The murderers holed up in the castle at St. Andrews for nearly a year—until French troops sailed into the Forth and bombarded the castle. John Knox, who had joined the defenders as a preacher, was among those arrested and sentenced to work on galleys. As I stood on the wall facing the sea, I could imagine the French ships arriving and the sinking feeling of those inside the castle.
I spent more time today at the ruins of the Cathedral of St. Andrew, which in the day of Cardinal Beaton and Mary, Queen of Scots must have been magnificent. Even in ruins, the sheer size is impressive. I could understand how pilgrims looking to worship at the shrine of St. Andrews (supposedly holding relics/bones of St. Andrew) would be in awe.
On to Loch Leven Castle in Kinross, down the North Fife Road through some spectacular scenery – the Lomond Hills and Bennarty Hill in the distance to the East. I love driving through the countryside, which is so green and lush (from all that rain). Every so often a field of bright yellow rapeseed or some deep golden gorse bushes break up the landscape. Yes, it really is as picturesque as you see in the postcards.
Loch Leven Castle is the scene of a fantastic Mary, Queen of Scots story. In June 1567, Mary was imprisoned there and forced to abdicate in favor of her son by several Protestant Lords, including her brother James, Earl of Moray. The Castle was her prison, and pretty hard to escape from, being in the middle of a lake. It is small castle, but then, they brought the big stones over the water so the building might have been slim for that reason. Much of it is in ruin, but I did get the general sense of it.
Mary would have been imprisoned on the top floor. It must have been the lowest point in her life—she lost her crown, her son James, had a miscarriage and was shut away from the world. One of the few people with her in her prison was Mary Seton—and I love this story about Seton. It is not clear who formed the escape plan, but at some stage Queen Mary formed a bond with Willie Douglas, one of the young men on the island. Willie helped her escape by rowing her across Loch Leven, meanwhile Seton dressed up as Mary and walked around the upstairs window so people would think she was the Queen. Mary escaped and met Seton’s brother on the other side…but no one says much about the hell Seton must have caught when they discovered she was not the Queen.
It was a great, great sightseeing day, though not without mishaps. The Garmin GPS/SatNav Lady and I got on just fine, but my DSLR camera took it into its head to stop working (it is new, and really? now?) and I’m faced with finding a repair centre over in Edinburgh—or making do. These photos were taken by my Lumix, which is a great camera—just not a DSLR.
I did buy some souvenirs — a contemporary thistle necklace by Aldona Juska in Artery Gallery, and a 16th Century map of Scotland at Loch Leven.