Truly a unique Scottish town, quintessentially Lowland, with many themes to explore: golf, religious and academic. With its attractive setting and ambience, great shops and places to eat, St Andrews is a very popular and highly interesting Scottish experience.
St Andrews, ancient ecclesiastical capital of Scotland
Legend has it that a monk called Regulus or Rule was shipwrecked while carrying the relics of St Andrew. He founded a church and the cult of St Andrew became centred on this part of Fife. The monk’s name is recalled in the 12th-century St Rule’s Tower that still stands near the ruined cathedral today and offers visitors magnificent views from its top.
With the town already an important religious centre, Scotland’s first university was founded here 1411. The sense of ancient academia, the quadrangles and mellowed stonework of the university buildings are an integral part of the St Andrew ambience today.
With a mid-16th-century charter confirming the townsfolk’s rights to play golf over the local links, St Andrews’ claim as ‘The Home of Golf’ certainly goes far back in time. By 1754, the Society of St Andrews Golfers had been established. This later became the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Today there are seven courses associated with the town. The story of golf is told at the town’s British Golf Museum.
Accommodation in St Andrews:
Hotel accommodation in and around St Andrews is varied and certainly includes some ‘top end’ establishments serving the wealthy golf clientele. Guest house and bed and breakfast establishments may cater for the more budget conscious but also reach high standards. St Andrews also has caravan parks close to the town, inland. Self catering properties range from converted town houses to cottages with great sea views.
Gaunt and roofless, the cathedral still dominates the town skyline and its on-site museum gives a glimpse of the vanished splendour of what was once the largest church in Scotland. There is also plenty of atmosphere at St Andrews Castle nearby, once the home of the bishops of St Andrews. The impressive clifftop ruins also have a visitor centre. Council-run St Andrews Museum, as well as the St Andrews Preservation Trust Museum, cover every aspect of the S Andrews Story. Families can enjoy the St Andrews Aquarium and Craigtoun Country Park close to the town. Garden lovers should visit both the St Andrews Botanic Garden and, a little way to the south, Cambo Estate, with its walled garden and woodland.
Though golf is clearly the town’s top sporting activity, there are many other golf courses across North-East Fife. Walkers can enjoy the signposted Fife Coastal Path that runs on both sides of the town. The open spaces of St Andrews West Sands are used for a variety of sports, including such fairly uncommon activities such as land yachting and kite surfing.
A unique survival from a siege, the mine and counter-mine just outside the castle walls is open to view and electrically lit – but can still be a little claustrophobic and wet (especially the narrower counter-mine). On hearing tunnellers from outside trying to undermine the castle walls, the castle’s defenders intercepted the attempt by breaking into the main tunnel. Even the pick axe marks on the walls look fresh – though the siege dates from 1546. An essential part of the St Andrews Castle visit.
Gain access to this unspoilt area of forest dune and sandy shore via Leuchars, north of St Andrews. Good choice of sheltered and level walking and cycle trails; also interesting wildlife including seals at Tentsmuir Point.
A short excursion south from St Andrews soon reaches the string of coastal communities on the East Neuk (‘east corner’) of Fife. Red tiled roofs, white painted walls and crow-stepped gables – the architecture showing a Dutch influence from old traing links – make these very photogenic places. Picturesque Crail with its tiny harbour looks like the backdrop to some period drama. Anstruther’s Scottish Fisheries Museum tells the story of the fishing industry, while Pittenweem and St Monans are other interesting little towns with a sea-going heritage.
A spring draw in the St Andrews calendar is StAnza, Scotland's International Poetry Festival and a chance to hear world class poets in atmospheric venues. A book festival, farmers markets, theatre events, including a full programme from The Byre, are just a few of the highlights. And there is even a Highland Games in this Lowland town.