Edinburgh, Golf Church, and Ceilidh Madness

Weekend Recap #2

September 20, 2021

Welcome to another Weekend Recap! To catch you up on all that's been going on, I'll have to take you back in time a little before the weekend. Please don't accuse me of false advertising.

Thursday, September 16

Every Thursday night, the University holds a Compline service in St. Leonard's Chapel (for the uninitiated, Compline is the last service of the day in the monastic hours of prayer). St. Leonard's is a smaller venue than St. Salvator's Chapel, and the services are led by the St. Leonard's Chapel Choir, a smaller unauditioned group of volunteer singers. I joined the choir this Thursday and will probably continue singing with them for the rest of the semester.

The service was simple, quiet, and conducted by candlelight. The choir sang two anthems--"God be in my Head" by Walford Davies and "Locus Iste" by Anton Bruckner--as well as the Nunc Dimittis and Psalm 121. We only met to rehearse an hour and a half before the service started, so it was a bit of a rush to learn all the music. This week should be a little easier, as the service music will be familiar and only the anthems will be new. We sang in our academic gowns, and a few students in the congregation wore theirs as well. The congregation seemed to be mostly made up of residents in the town. It was delightful to sing in a choir again, especially in such a beautiful setting and for a contemplative service. I look forward to going back this Thursday!

Halfway up Arthur's Seat

Saturday, September 18

Now for the actual weekend content of the Weekend Recap! This Saturday, some friends and I went to Edinburgh to explore some of the must-see tourist attractions: Arthur's Seat, St. Giles' Cathedral, and Edinburgh Castle. We took the train into downtown Edinburgh, which was remarkably easy, then went around the city on foot, which was remarkably less easy.

Our first stop after arriving in Edinburgh was Arthur's Seat, a cliff face that overlooks the city. The only way to get to the top of Arthur's Seat is to hike, but my traveling companions and I had watched a man on YouTube complete the hike with no complaints. This was highly misleading. The hike started smoothly enough but quickly grew too steep for us to tolerate. We found a spot with a nice view about halfway up, took some pictures, and turned around. Close enough.

Now, before you think to yourself, "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades," or, "Francises never quit," I would like to bring to your attention two pieces of data: First, I was wearing a sweater, laboring under the delusion that the weather would be cloudy and cool. It was actually sunny and hot, and I was sweating rather profusely. Second, we all failed to bring water on this hike, as YouTube had highly misinformed us about the strenuous nature of the trail. So, we did not quit the hike, per se, but made a conscious decision to spare the NHS from retrieving us from the cliff and admitting us into their care for dehydration.

After our semi-successful hike at Arthur's Seat, we grabbed some paninis for lunch and stopped in St. Giles' Cathedral, which has a rich history due to its involvement in the Scottish Reformation, the National Covenant and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, the Act of Union between Scotland and England, and the Jacobite Rebellion.

The cathedral has some lovely stained-glass windows (a post-reformation restoration project), a statue of Scottish Reformer John Knox, and several memorials to great Scottish writers.

St. Giles' Cathedral

Edinburgh Castle

After wandering around Edinburgh for a little while, we headed for Edinburgh Castle, which served as the town's citadel and military stronghold since the Early Middle Ages. The views from the castle are fantastic, so we took lots of pictures before exploring the small museums on the site. Some of the highlights were the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Great Hall built by King James IV, and St. Margaret's Chapel.

After a long day of exploring, we boarded our train in Waverly Station and headed back to St. Andrews. The final kilt count of the day: 15

Sunday, September 19

On Sunday morning, I decided to try one of the local churches instead of going to St. Salvator's. The church I visited happened to be hosting the Annual Town Golf Service (which is apparently a thing), so the sermon was preached by the Royal and Ancient Golf Club's Honorary Chaplain (apparently also a thing). Somehow, he managed to relate a passage from Jeremiah to Matthew 6 (the "do not worry" passage) to golf, and finally to a plug for the congregation to donate to the University. It was seamless in the moment, but I can't remember how all those parts worked together. However, the music was nice: good hymns and a lot of them.

On Sunday evening, I attended my first Scottish Country Dance lesson with the University Celtic Society. Scottish Country Dance is a form of social dance for which the nearest American equivalent is reel dancing. Each of the dances has a prescribed order of steps that dancers repeat with a partner either in a circle or down a line. They all have quite amusing names such as "Snowdrops" (which was deceptively difficult), "the Flying Scotsman", "Ceilidh Madness", and "Strip the Willow." I had a fun evening, met several new people, and got in a good workout, so I'll probably go back next week for more!

Stained-glass window of St. Margaret at Edinburgh Castle

The Great Hall

Statue of John Knox in St. Giles' Cathedral

Edinburgh Castle, as seen from Waterstone's Bookstore on Princes Street