When I was studying at the University of St Andrews, one of my professors happened to mention that there was such a town as Abernethy, Scotland. I decided I had to go there. I knew my dad’s family originally came from Scotland, clan Leslie near Perth, but I had no idea that my grandmother’s maiden name of Abernathy was connected to an actual place. (Some of the Abernethys changed the spelling of their name to Abernathy when they came over to the U.S.) Two of my friends agreed to go with me, and we set off on a little daytrip into the Scottish countryside.
As an American, something that always amazed me about public transportation is that you can get to pretty much any tiny town on the bus or train; there really is not a huge need for a car. So we took advantage of this and hopped on the bus for the fairly short ride to Abernethy. The bus wound through narrow country roads, shaded with trees. It was spring, and everything was blaringly green. There was still a little nip in the air from winter, but the sun was shining, and the Scottish countryside was lovely.
There’s not a lot to do in Abernethy. The key attraction is the Abernethy tower.
It is one of only two surviving towers of this type, the Irish round tower, in Scotland. It was built nearly a thousand years ago, in the 1100s. It is free to walk up the stairs to the top of the tower, where you are greeted with a remarkable view.
We saw a sign saying there were some Roman ruins fairly nearby, but we decided not to go hunting for them and walked around the town instead. It didn’t take very long, but it was well worth it. This view of the churchyard is one of my favorites:
Instead, we sat in a little cafe and had some tea and shortbread, a wonderful way to pass a relaxing Scottish afternoon. And then we went home. I didn’t find out anything specific about my ancestors here, but it still felt special somehow to be there where they had lived.
Abernethy is in Perthshire, one county over from Fife, where St Andrews is located. We didn’t realize this the morning we set out, and promptly purchased three Fife day passes. We had no trouble getting there, but when we boarded the bus to get home, the bus driver told us the passes were only valid for Fife. We protested that we were able to get there with those passes. “I know,” he said, “I drove you here.” Oops. I guess he had time to complete his route and double back while we were enjoying the sites of Abernethy. Fortunately he was kind and took pity on us poor, confused Americans and let us on anyway. But if you plan on visiting Scotland, pay attention to your day passes to see if their only good for one county.
It’s been years since I visited Abernethy, and though I enjoyed it, it’s not a place I remember as one of the best places I visited in Scotland. Unlike many places in Scotland that I’ve visited two or three times, I only went to Abernethy once. But when I went back to write this post I was amazed at how beautiful the pictures of it are. It kind of makes me sad that maybe I didn’t appreciate it the first time, and I would love to go back again. But at least, for now, I can live vicariously through the internet.