Happiness in bitter cold

I'm biased of course, but there's nothing that can lift winter-dulled spirits better than a day of bitter cold, pure Northern skies and the wide expanse of the North Sea.   Scotland's coastline from the Moray Firth down to the Kingdom of Fife is in my blood.  My forebears fished out of the small Moray Firth ports, venturing round the tip of Scotland to the West coast, but most often following the herring down the East coast as far as Great Yarmouth in England.  Family tradition has it that on one occasion my grandfather's boat reached as far as Calais, where touching attempts at speaking French were deployed.  The crew asked for directions to the 'postie-officie' - because at a time before domestic telephones the first thing to be done on reaching any port was to send a postcard home to announce the safe arrival:  "Made the land in [insert port].  All well."  Fresh food was the next priority - with my grandfather asking in a baker's shop for 'one breada'.  My grandfather died before I reached my teens.  I like to think he would have been amazed and proud that his granddaughter became fluent in the language that he and his crew tried to negotiate.

Yesterday we were in St Andrews on just such a spirit-lifting day.  The shot above is of the cathedral ruins. Built on the site of earlier churches, the cathedral dates from 1160.  In its time it was Scotland's greatest cathedral, but tragically was left to fall into ruin during the Protestant Reformation.  You can read more about the cathedral at the Historic Scotland site. 

From the grandeur of the ruins to intimate acts of remembrance: we came across these hand-knittted poppies on the cathedral railings.

The small stone pier always draws us when we're in St Andrews.

Lobster creels were piled up on the quayside, and we watched a boat  returning from setting some out.


For all its wide horizons and medieval grandeur, St Andrews is a very intimate place.  On the pier I noticed this fragment of china set into the surface.  I'm sorry it's a blurry image - the sun was so bright that I couldn't see if my wee camera was in focus.  You'll notice some splashes of red.  We saw these all along the pier, and after the first lurid thought - "historic blood of medieval martyrs" - realised that they were candle wax.  There is a long tradition of St Andrews University students processing along the pier in their red undergraduate gowns after the Sunday service in the University chapel.  However that is in the middle of the day, and however dark it gets in Scotland in winter I doubt if these processions are candle-lit.  There is a candle-lit procession on 30 April each year, in memory of student John Honey, so perhaps the wax has endured the year since then.  Or it may be from an informal Christmas celebration.  Archaelogical mystery!

The intimate also extends to the size of some houses.

And to the decorated windows that can be found around the town.

Today the sky is flat and grey, with snow forecast.  It's good to have yesterday's brightness to look back on.


  1. What amazing ruins! And interesting stories. Thanks for sharing. Glad you some sunshine.

  2. Thank you for sharing your trip to St Andrews - I've never been there and it's fascinating to have a look around. Your photos are gorgeous, and I enjoy the history too. Looks like you had a beautiful day. We have heavy rain here today, but we did have some wonderful sunshine last week, and hopefully more to look forward to :)
    Cathy x

  3. What a beautiful place - I love that small house with the stairs going up to the front door. We're getting some winter this weekend too.

  4. I like the bit of mystery. I love the bright, crispness that a bitter cold brings.

  5. Sun in winter is such a treat but here it usually means bitter cold air! Lovely shot of this town, Linda.

  6. I have always fancied visiting St Andrews, thanks for taking me. One day I'll go for real. x

  7. Beautiful shots- particularly the ruins of the Cathedral.

  8. I completely understand "Happiness in Bitter Cold". Beautiful photos, and my favourite is the shard of china.

  9. Thank you for bringing me back to my heart's home!

  10. fabulous pictures and I also am a happy-in-bitter-cold person. a lovely post. St Andrews is a great place to visit and the times we have been there, we've experienced a great bracing wind off the sea.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts