St Andrews has long been on my travel list, and finally I can tick it off (but with the thought of return!) It’s named after one of the apostles and famous for its history, university and, of course, golf.
Now it’s still one of the most beautiful and significant cities in Scotland – scroll down to learn everything about it! And don’t forget to check my blog about Edinburgh too.
Besides that, read about our stay at the Old Course Hotel and Spa which offers one of the most authentic experiences in this area!
The Cathedral of St Andrew
St Andrews Cathedral once was a religious centre for Catholics of the entire Scotland! According to one legend, Greek monk St Regulus (St Rule) transported the relics of St Andrew from Greece to the area of modern St Andrews, then called Kilrymont (another legend names St Wilfred the one who transported the relics).
St Rule’s church and, soon after that, the Cathedral’s construction began in the 11th century as the number of pilgrims increased with time. New cathedral was splendid and about 120 meters long – the largest in Scotland – and became the seat of the bishops of the Scottish Church. Sadly, it was left in ruins after the Scottish Reformation, and locals even took the stones from this area for their own use. Now Its ruins – and the remaining St Rule’s tower built before the Cathedral – are strictly preserved and became one of the main symbols of St Andrews.
You can also pop into the Cathedral Museum to explore more!
Interesting: The most historic church of St Andrews is actually the Holy Trinity church.
St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Cathedral and Castle’s story are strongly interconnected. It was originally built for the bishops: bishop Roger de Beaumont constructed it for himself in 1189-1202. During the war of Independence it was taken by English and won back by Scots several times. The ruins you see today mostly date back to the 15-16th centuries.
The most significant event that took place in there was a siege of 1547-1548 – if you take an audio guide you’ll learn about it in detail! Don’t forget to have a glance at the mine and bottle dungeon that reflect it the best. Later, in the 1550s, the castle was rebuilt by John Hamilton, and the facade now carries his name.
All these who have visited St Andrews at least once know that unofficial mascot of the city was Hamish McHamish, a fluffy ginger cat who was loved by everyone and sadly passed away a few years ago. But you can still buy a book with photos of him 🙂
While you’re exploring St Andrews, don’t focus just on human built landmarks – the nature there is incredible! Cliff walk – for instance, between St Andrews Cathedral and St Andrews Castle – would infuse your day with incredible views of the North Sea!
St Andrews Aquarium
If you’re in the mood to explore even more of nature, head to St Andrews Aquarium – it’s small but charming! Apart from about 100 species of fish you meet there seals, ants, spiders, frogs, lobsters, penguins, meerkats and so on.
St Andrews Aquarium is located in the cliffs – and you can watch seals playing in swimming pool, edging with the real sea! Looks really authentic. Don’t forget to check the feeding times in advance.
The remaining city gate is always worth exploring in any ancient city – and especially if this is the best preserved city gate in Scotland built in 1587!
University of St Andrews
It would be strange not to mention University of St Andrews, the oldest University of Scotland founded in the 15th century. Don’t be surprised to see so many students there. By the way, Prince William, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Alex Salmond, Michael Fallon and several Nobel Laureates are among its alumni!
Botanic Garden is a charming place presenting hundreds species of plants of various geographical zones!
I adored the pond and the benches on its sides and the greenhouses. You can also explore tropical butterflies there too!
West Sands Beach
If you like the tranquil walks along the sea, West Sands Beach is a place for you. Starting right from the behind of the Old Course, two miles of pure serenity are awaiting for you! Btw, it was also featured in Hugh Hudson’s movie ‘Chariots of Fire’ (1981).
British Golf Museum
Welcome to the Home of Golf! That’s the St Andrews’ unofficial name – actually golf most probably was invented there! Learn about the history of it through over 17,000 objects showcased in the British Golf Museum.
Every single aspect of it is tracked and illustrated: first ball and stick games of Middles ages, development of the rules from being written down for the first time in 1744 in Scotland, equipment including unusual club designs and balls of various materials, personalities (girl’s golf too!), competitions, and so much more. I bet that even if you hadn’t love playing golf before your visit, you will afterwards!
The most hilarious part waits for you at the end: the quotes and specific rules related to golf. For instance,
‘If a reindeer eats your ball, drop another whether the incident occurred’, Bjorkliden Golf Club,
‘If a ball comes to rest in dangerous proximity to hippopotamus or crocodile, another ball may be dropped at safe distance … without penalty’, Nyanza Golf Club, Kenya, 1950
Did you know that St Andrews is not only the Home of Golf but also has one of the largest public golf complexes in Europe?
The Old Course is named so for a reason: it’s believed to be the oldest in the world! The St Andrews Links Trust holds it in trust as directed by a separate act of Parliament.
Interesting: House of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews is located nearby.
Old Course Hotel and Spa
We were kindly hosted by AA Five Red Star-awarded Old Course Hotel and Spa during our stay in St Andrews. The hotel is conveniently located: it overlooks The Old Course and West Sands Beach, and just imagine waking up to the view like this!
No doubts that the main theme of this hotel is golf. Pop into the Pro-shop, try Golf simulator, explore the photos on the walls – that actually look more like museum exhibits – and I bet you’ll adore it even if you’re a non-golfer. Main St Andrews historical attractions are an easily walkable distance away too.
Breakfasts are served at the Road Hole, the 3 AA awarded restaurant, – for a Scottish twist look for salmon, haggis and Scottish porridge! Their evening menu was great too – we focused at the crustacea section as it would be almost a crime to ignore the proximity of the North Sea! Desserts looked like a piece of art.
Of course, such a gorgeous and prestigious hotel has a space for relaxation too – Kohler Waters Spa at the Old Course Hotel is highly recommended. Mine combined tranquility treatment for body and face was really amazing – and super relaxing! At the end I was given a leaflet with recommendations tailored to my skin type and some skincare samples too!
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