A ball, a party, a halloween pub crawl–these are all fantastic things to enjoy. But what of the other things of autumn? What about autumn here, in Fife?
As an international student, it’s easy to be excited by being abroad or going to events. Over the past three years, however, I’ve discovered that some of my favourite memories aren’t actually the ones directly related to university. It’s easy to see St Andrews as an in-the-clouds entity of cafés and beautiful Thistly Cross cider rather than as an interconnected geographical place, a place with bus services and paths with roots to trip over. Maybe it’s cheesy, but letting myself really engage with how the actual land is changing and watch different kinds of people slowly wrap up in scarves and button the last buttons on their coat makes me incredibly happy. The physical, geographical location of St Andrews excites me, fascinates me. I’d really like to share a few of my favourite ways to enjoy autumn.
One of the best moments from last year was coming downstairs into the kitchen one morning to find my flatmate stirring a big pot of stewed apples. “Have as many as you want; they’re great on porridge,” she told me. “I got them from the free orchard here in St Andrews.” Stewing apples is, as I then learned, one of the easiest things in the world. All you do is slice up some apples, add some spice cinnamon and honey if you’re feeling slightly more ambitious, add enough water just to keep them from sticking and then cook them in a big pot. Head down to Abbey Park, Abbey Walk. The orchards are just tucked behind the retirement homes and are open to the public.
As for leaving St Andrews, the Fife Coastal Path always lets you see the seasons. It’s probably easiest to head past East Sands and towards Kingsbarns, Crail and Anstruther, but if you’ve already done that, rest assured that there’s a good 118 miles of path to explore. Take a bus further north or south and walk from there. You’ll see shorelines, woods, bunkers, ruins, a broad sky full of birds and empty, empty fields. Every section of path is different. It’s not just about getting out of St Andrews without breaking the bank or taking up the whole weekend. Pure and simple, it’s a wonderful walk, especially at this time of the year.
Speaking of the coast, I’d also strongly recommend venturing out to the Isle of May this time of year. Take a bus to Anstruther, then catch the ferry to the island. This time of year you will, in all likelihood, get to see dozens of baby seals with their mums along the craggy shore. Explore the lighthouse, the cliffs, the abbey ruins. After that, go be grateful for some amazing fish and chips back in Anstruther.
Lastly, remember that St Andrews and Fife are not isolated; they are interconnected with so many other wonderful places. Whenever I feel claustrophobic as the days begin to grow darker, remembering that other towns (or hills, or munros) are only a short journey away makes all the difference in the world. Pitlochry, one of Perthshire’s beautiful towns, is a perfect place for day walks and bike rides. With Breakaway, the hiking and hillwalking society, it’s easy to jump on a day trip and go rambling in the hills for a few hours. I’ve been hiking with them for years at this point, and believe me when I say that leaving St Andrews and slowly watching the hills and the autumn colours grow up around me is a fairly magical feeling.
That being said, leaving and exploring makes coming back to St Andrews that much better. I’m a firm believer that everything is more beautiful and more meaningful in context: St Andrews is pretty big, but Fife is bigger, and Scotland bigger yet. Experience autumn as much as you can. You really are in a fantastic place to do so.
Illustrations by Emalani Artiss.