St Andrews, Scotland

October 3, 2012 by

Day Trips, Tours & Activities

View of Castle at St Andrews. Photo courtesy of Assaulted Peanut via Flickr.

View of Castle at St Andrews. Photo courtesy of Assaulted Peanut via Flickr.

These days St Andrews might best be known as the place where Prince William met Kate Middleton when they both attended university here. But it was an important Scottish town for many centuries before these two came along – for its cathedral, for golf and for the university.

St Andrews is on the east coast of Scotland 50 miles north-east of Edinburgh. The historic town was an important seat of bishops with a huge cathedral built in 1158. This is now a ruin but still one of the major attractions of the town. St Rule’s Tower in the cathedral grounds still stands and is even older than the cathedral. You can climb the stone staircase for wonderful views.

The University of St Andrews is the third oldest English-speaking university in the world, founded around 1410, and the student population makes up about a third of the town’s population during term time. It’s the UK’s third-best university after Oxford and Cambridge. Students still often wear academic gowns and if you are there on May 1st (May Day), you might be witness to the May Dip, a tradition where students run into the North Sea at dawn accompanied by madrigal singing.

The other big attraction of St Andrews is golf. History has it that golf was invented in Scotland in the 15th century, though some argue for its basis in a Roman game called paganica, but this is certainly where the rules were laid down for the game as we know it. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in St Andrews was established in the 16th century and is a place of pilgrimage for golfers worldwide. It has held The Open Tournament more than any other course. What is not widely known though is that while the clubhouse is for members only, the course is public land and you may play there. So pack those golf clubs and head for St Andrews.

There is no railway station at St Andrews. The nearest is at Leuchars, five miles away. From there take a taxi or one of the frequent buses. You can also catch a bus all the way from Edinburgh or Dundee which is 14 miles south-east.

- Philippa Burne

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