Things to See and Do around St Andrews
There are dozens of shops around the centre of town and the Castle, the Cathedral, and the oldest part of the University are a mere 5 minute stroll up the road, as is the New Byre Theatre where you can enjoy live entertainment.
In the Kingdom of Fife you are spoiled for choice with 49 golf courses all within easy reach. Great Links golf courses such as Leven, Lundin Links, Elie, Crail and Scotscraig are all nearby and the new Kingsbarns course is only 4 miles out of town.
Touring around the area you can visit such places as Falkland Palace (home of our 1st Lady golfer, 'Mary Queen of Scots') or look in at the attractive little fishing villages scattered along the Fife coastline.
There is a superb variety of golf and attractions in St Andrews and the surrounding area and the town centre is not far from the East Neuk of Fife, renowned for its un-crowded beaches and picturesque coastal villages. Within a short drive are activities for all ages and interests, and a wide selection of shops, restaurants and country inns.
St Andrews is steeped in history with its cobbled streets, cathedral, castle and university. Whatever the weather, you will always find something interesting to do in St. Andrews. Stroll round the beautiful historic buildings of St. Andrews University (the Gatty Marine Laboratory is a particular favourite), or visit the 16th century castle set high on the cliffs. Throughout history, the castle has been used as a palace, a fortress and a prison and is now a visitor centre with its own fascinating exhibition.
For a great view out across the North Sea you could visit the ruins of the cathedral and climb the St. Rule Tower where you will also get a panoramic view of St. Andrews town and the surrounding Fife countryside.
The Preservation Trust was founded in 1937 to preserve the buildings the character of the local environment and the history of St Andrews in order to leave a lasting legacy for future generations.
Built as a private residence in 1855, St Andrews Museum, Kinburn Park, run by Fife Council, portrays life in old St. Andrews and has many varied exhibitions and events throughout the year in the Arrival Gallery, The Kaleidoscope Gallery and The Activity Centre. It also boasts a very good tea-room for light refreshments. For the more active visitor, Kinburn Park has a bowling green, tennis courts and putting greens.
A visit to the high tech British Golf Museum is a must for any visitor to St Andrews, ' the home of golf '. Here you can follow the history of golf and its development across the world, from the middle ages to modern times. There are features on the great golfing champions, the history of golf Championships and the expansion of famous St Andrews golf club makers.
But for something completely different and only two minutes walk from the Old Course on the north facing cliffs of The Scores, the St. Andrews Aquarium will transfix adults and children alike with their fascinating selection of native sharks, seals, seahorses, lobsters, piranhas, poison dart frogs and other dramatic marine life forms.
St Andrews Botanic Garden, established in 1889 and thoughtfully laid out over 7 hectares of sheltered ground, has a fascinating display of exotic plants and flowers collected from around the world.
Within a short drive of the town is Craigtoun Country Park, established in 1947, and managed by Fife Council. There is something for all ages of children to enjoy, including an adventure playground, a miniature railway, trampolines and a bouncy castle. Adults can meander through the beautiful formal gardens and glasshouses or try their hand on the bowling green. Other fun things for the whole family to share are picnic areas, a boating pond, a putting green, crazy golf, a pets' corner and a colourful selection of birds in the aviaries.
The East Neuk of Fife has many delightful fishing villages such as Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem and St. Monans, each with its own distinctive charm and character. For example at Crail, only 6 miles from St Andrews, you will find the Crail Pottery where a fine range of hand-crafted gifts are available.
The Fife Coastal Path, completed in 2002, starts at the Forth Bridge, runs eastward through the many and varied Fife coastal towns and picturesque villages on its way to St Andrews. It then turns north eastwards past the Royal Air Force air base at Leuchars, and continues through the Tentsmuir Forrest to the Tay Bridge. Many people make the cycle journey in two stages - which can be covered in 2 days - with a good night's rest in between.
The Elie Chain Walk, is a unique experience to be found on the Fife coast and is one of only a few 'via ferratas' in the UK. It offers a reasonable challenge to the adventurous, where you traverse a magnificent and varied selection of steep rocks.
Close to St Andrews are two other visitor attractions - The Secret Bunker, which was to be home to Britain's leaders in the event of a nuclear war, and the award-winning Scottish Fisheries Museum - located at the picturesque Anstruther harbour. The museum chronicles the history of the fishing industry in the East Neuk of Fife. While in Anstruther you could also take a boat trip from the harbour to the Isle of May Nature Reserve out in the Firth of Forth.
Not far from St Andrews is the Royal Burgh of Pittenweem which holds an annual Arts Festival in August and the list of Events, Visiting Artists, Exhibitions and the Children’s Festival is well worth a visit.
Around the Fife coast are many excellent sandy beaches, for example the East and West Sands in St. Andrews, Elie, Roome Bay in Crail or Kinshaldy (NE of Leuchars), each one having its own particular attractions.
The Kingdom of Fife is bounded by two main rivers - to the south is the River Forth and to the north is the River Tay.
South to the Forth Bridge
- Nestling in the hills by the shores of Loch Leven, near Kinross - is the RSPB's Vane Farm Conservation Centre.
- Under the Forth Railway Bridge at North Queensferry you will find Deep Sea World where Europe's largest collection of Sand Tiger sharks are on view.
- Crossing the Forth Bridge will bring you to either Edinburgh Castle or Edinburgh Zoo.
- To the west of Edinburgh, near Stirling lies Blair Drummond Safari Park.
- While in the vicinity of Stirling you could: -
- Visit historic Stirling Castle - home to the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum, one of Scotland's finest Infantry Regiments
- Soak in the atmosphere of the haunting battlefield of Bannockburn
- Climb the Wallace Monument and admire the view of the meandering River Forth wending its gentle path through the Carse of Stirling.
North to the Tay Bridge
Dundee boasts an interesting variety of attractions, such as:-
- The Discovery Centre
- Captain Scott's ship, the Discovery
- The Verdant Works which portrays the old city of Dundee, the story of jute, and the lifestyle of the jute workers who lived 100 years ago.
- Camperdown Park
- The Wildlife Centre
- The Mills Observatory
- The magnificent Law (hill) in the centre of Dundee
- Shaw's Sweet Factory in Mains Loan, Dundee
Further west from Dundee
Here are some other attractions which are well worth a visit.
- Scone Palace - and its connections with the Stone of Destiny
- Glamis Castle (childhood home of the Queen Mother)
- Angus Folk Museum (administered by the National Trust for Scotland)
- J M Barrie's Birthplace also (National Trust for Scotland).
St. Andrews Early History
Evidence found in ancient archaeological sites in and around St Andrews, dating back to the Bronze Age, indicates that there was early human settlement in the area. This leads us to believe that people inhabited the St Andrews area some 8000 years ago. These people were Celtic-speaking as can be established from their graves, cremation urns and ancient burial grounds.
A Roman camp was established near St Andrews in 52 AD. From that date the Romans were continually in conflict with the local Picts until they left Scotland at the end of the third century.
At the beginning of the ninth century, Celtic speaking holy men known as Culdees, affiliated to the Roman Church, arrived in St Andrews. Around the year 870, Constantine II built a church for the Culdees (now known as Blessed Mary of the Rock) and later Constantine III became their Abbot until his death in St Andrews in 952. For many years the Culdees had a significant impact on St Andrews society. However, their influence subsided as the power of the monarchy in feudal Scotland began to align itself against the church.
The bringing of the relics of the Apostle St Andrew to Kilrymont is attributed to a religious figure known as St Rule, or St Regulus, a Greek monk. As a result, the place became known as St Andrews, and during the Middle Ages, developed into a prominent religious centre for pilgrims.
The land around the monastery of Kilrymont stretching south from St Andrews to Boarhills was known as "the run of the royal wild boar", and to this day the Coat of Arms of the Community Council contains a wild boar.
By the year 975 the diocese of St Andrews was expanded and the Bishop of St Andrews was appointed the senior bishop in Scotland.
During the reign of King Malcolm III (aka 'Great Chief') (reigned 1058 - 93) a new church was built at St Andrews the remnants of which are known as St Rule's Tower.
Around the year 1160, St Andrews Cathedral (the largest ever built in Scotland; it took nearly 150 years to complete) was founded. The Cathedral was consecrated with King Robert the Bruce (aka 'The Good') (reigned 1306-1229) in attendance on 5th July 1318. Sadly, the Cathedral suffered the ravages of a great fire in 1378, then in 1409 it suffered sever damage in a violent storm. For hundreds of years, St Andrews Cathedral remained a centre of pilgrimage. Pilgrims came in search of a cure for illness, atonement for their sins, or to worship at the shrine of the Apostle and Martyr. It was inevitable that St Andrew should then become Patron Saint of Scotland.
The Protestant Reformation in Scotland found a focus in St Andrews and the Cathedral saw; much desecration and vandalism; burning at the stake of martyrs by its outer walls; and ultimately serious dilapidation. A memorial to these martyrs can be seen at the Martyrs Monument on the Scores on the east side of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club.
On the 14th June 1559, at the end of a public speech by John Knox (1510-1572) a mob descended on the Cathedral "to purge the kirk and break down the altars and images and all kind of idolatrie..." This calamitous event ended four hundred years of worship and saw the Cathedral degenerate into a ruinous state. However, the ruins of the Cathedral have remained to this day, as a consecrated site of the medieval church.
The Bishops of St Andrews now required a new place of residence and to this end; St Andrews Castle was built on the Cathedral site in 1200. The Castle also was subjected to many sieges and deeds of notoriety. During one such siege the Castle was severely damaged by cannon fire directed from the towers of the Cathedral and St Salvator's church. However, although the Castle was rebuilt, it was later seized in 1559 by the Protestant reformers.
During this period of unrest, the peripheral streets and wynds of the town were blocked by ports or gates. An example can still be seen at the West Port on South Street.
On 28 August 1413, the University of St Andrews was established when a series of Papal Bulls issued by Pope Benedict XIII conferred full University status. Sometime later, the three colleges of St Salvator's (1450), St Leonard's (1512) and St Mary's (1537) were included to create the collegiate form we recognise today.
Around 1150, Bishop Robert with the permission of King David I, (aka 'The Saint') (reigned 1124-1153) conferred the status of burgh on St Andrews. Then in 1614 it was made a Burgh of Regality and later, in 1620 James VI pronounced it a Royal Burgh.
St. Andrews Today
The Lammas Fair, held in the town on the 2nd Monday and Tuesday in August is the last remaining annual fair of five fairs which were held in medieval times.
Mary Queen of Scots visited St Andrews in 1562 when she stayed in a house on South Street. That house, now known as Queen Mary's House, was later converted for use as a library by St Leonard's School.
Nowadays, tourists flock to St Andrews to glimpse the inheritance bequeathed by the Culdees, the Archbishops, the Kings and Queens of Scotland and by Provost Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair (1786 - 1861) the renowned town planner, who left an indelible imprint on the town’s landscape. They are also attracted by the impressive University buildings, quadrangles and chapels of Scotland's oldest University.
But perhaps they mainly come to soak up the atmosphere of St Andrews, the Home of Golf, and to play on the ‘hallowed turf’ of the famous old links of the Old Course where many a famous golfer has trod.