If you’ve heard of St Andrews before, chances are you know of it as the birthplace of golf. But beyond the fairways and links, St Andrews offers travelers an opportunity to explore a town of tranquil beauty and history.
St Andrews is located within Fife, Scotland, and has been inhabited for thousands of years. Some of the first humans to reside in the area were nomadic tribes, dating back to about 4500 B.C. It was in late 800 A.D., that the area first came to be associated with Saint Andrew himself. It’s said that a monastery was erected to harbor some of the bones of the Saint – brought to the area by Saint Regulus.
In 1140, St. Andrews at the site as we know it was transitioning into an actual town, initiated by Bishop Robert.
Today, this picturesque and friendly town not only offers some of the best golf in the world, but a low key and excellent culinary experience, breathtaking vistas and historic charm. Below, we take a look at the top 5 reasons why you should include St. Andrews on your Scotland itinerary.
“it is said that if you walk down the street in St Andrews, you are bound to know at least one in every three people you pass; creating a unique community spirit with a real sense of belonging.”
Things to do in St Andrews Scotland
1. See St Andrews Cathedral
One of the most iconic sites in St Andrews are the ruins of the St Andrews cathedral. Built in 1158, it was once the largest church in all of Scotland and THE destination for Scottish catholic pilgrims for centuries. The cathedral ultimately fell into ruin during the late 16th century, during the Scottish reformation.
2. Visit St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle sits perched above the rocky coastline, not far from the cathedral. The views from the castle ruins are breathtaking. The castle itself is steeped in history.
Since its initial construction around 1189, it has been rebuilt several times following a number of battles. Most of which occurred during the 1300’s, during the War for Scottish Independence.
3. Drink at The Road Hole Bar
While Scotland may not be known for its wine, it’s certainly well known for its fantastic Scotch Whisky and malty brews. Luckily for us booz enthusiasts, there exists the Road Hole Bar – found on the 4th floor of the Old Course Hotel. Aside from of the Old Course (the best view in the area actually), you’ll get to sample Scotch Whisky from every distillery within Scotland.
If beer is more your thing, make sure you try my favorite ale of all time – Belhaven Best – also known as the “pint of pints.”
4. Visit The Swilcan Bridge
Golf professionals and enthusiasts a like consider taking a photo on the famous Swilcan Bridge to be one of the most necessary things to do when visiting the Old Course here at St Andrews. It connects the 1st and 18th fairways. Golfers ranging from Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson to Jack Nicklaus have all had their photos taken here. But it’s not just professional golfers who have an interest in the old bridge, actors like Bill Murray and the Monty Python squad have all posed here as well.
If at all possible, visit the Old Course on a Sunday – when it’s closed. That way you’ll be able to get a picture on the bridge without having to interrupt any rounds.
5. Visit or Play The Old Course
Golf is said to have been invented in St Andrews. The Old Course gives golf enthusiasts an opportunity to stand on hallowed ground. Golf was becoming a hit sport during the 1400s. In fact, it became to popular, James II of Scotland had it banned in 1457 because too much of his country was playing the game rather than honing their archery skills. The ban didn’t last long, though. In 1502, James II’s descendant, King James IV, fell in love with the sport himself and removed the ban.
Can the Old Course links be played, you ask?
Yes, the general public can PLAY the old course, it’s not just restricted to professionals. But there is one caveat. You can’t suck. Men who have at worst handicaps of 24 and women with handicaps of 36 or better are permitted to book tee times. Just make sure you do so at least 8 months in advance if you’re trying to play during the Spring or Summer months. Winter offers a much less restrictive season for bookings.
If you don’t feel like playing the links, or simply didn’t book in time, that’s okay. Shops and vistas dot the perimeter of the Old Course – a great way to pass the time. You can also go for a walk on West Sands beach or relax on the lawn beside the course.