Day 3. A day in St. Andrews

From our base at the Altido Vita aparthotel in the Fountainbridge district of Edinburgh it was just a ten minute walk downhill to Haymarket station for our train to St. Andrews (Leuchars station).  We’d pre-booked our tickets (£18.50 standard off peak day return) for the one hour journey and as we were sitting on the right hand side of the train (in the direction of travel) we enjoyed splendid coastal views.  Not to be missed is experiencing the journey across the Forth Rail Bridge at Queensferry, nine miles west of Edinburgh.  When the bridge opened in 1890 it was the most prominent steel structure of the Victorian era and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Haymarket Station, Edinburgh
Haymarket Station

The rail line hugs the rugged coast for most of the journey and passengers for St. Andrews need to leave the train at Leuchars as there is no rail connection to the town.  Buses shuttle between the station and St. Andrews at approximately ten minute intervals so there is never long to wait.  The only downside is that the bus is extremely expensive at £6.50 for an adult return when the journey is only around 12 minutes.  As there were just two of us we used the bus but for larger groups it might be less expensive to take one of the waiting taxis.

St Andrews harbour
St Andrews harbour

Many people will have heard of St. Andrews even if they have not visited as it is known as the home of golf and home to Scotland’s oldest university where our future king, Prince William studied and met his wife Kate Middleton (now the Duchess of Cambridge).  We started our tour of this historic seaside town in Fife by taking a walk through old stone archways to the small harbour.  In medieval times the small town traded widely and it seems hard to believe today, that at its peak it could hold up to 300 ships.

St Andrews harbour
St Andrews harbour

The pretty harbour dates from the thirteenth century with its main pier extending into the North Sea.  A small fleet of fishing boats are based here and we spotted piles of lobster pots drying along the shore.  After our early start we were ready for a morning cup of coffee which we enjoyed out on the terrace of the Harbour Cafe overlooking the marina and the East Sands Beach.

East Beach, St Andrews
East Beach, St Andrews

Feeling refreshed after our coffee fix, we were on our way again climbing the steep slope up to the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral.  This was Scotland’s largest and most important medieval church and was once the seat of the country’s leading bishops and archbishops.

St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews Cathedral

The cathedral was built in the 12th century and for 700 years pilgrims flocked here from all over Europe.  It’s grounds are dominated by St. Rule’s Tower which is still intact but most of the cathedral was ransacked in 1559 and in the years that followed it was abandoned and fell into disrepair.  Some of the stone was used to construct local buildings and to build the harbour pier which nestles just below the cathedral grounds.

Cannons on the headland at St Andrews
Cannons on the headland

Continuing slightly further along the cliff top we strolled past cannons pointing out to sea and onto more ruins, this time of the castle.  Perched on a rocky promontory St. Andrews Castle has served as a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a state prison during its 450 year history.

So Andrews castle ruins
Castle ruins on the coast

The stronghold played a part in the darkest days of the reformation when Protestants were incarcerated in its bottle dungeon.  Visitors can explore the still intact underground mine passage to view the medieval warfare and then peer into the infamous bottle dungeon.  Standard entrance £7.20.

West Sands and St Andrews bandstand
West Sands and St Andrews bandstand

Our walk continued towards the West Sands which might be recognised as it was immortalised in the opening scenes of the famous historical drama Chariots of Fire.  This 1981 film tells the story of two British athletes who brought glory to their country in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games.  The beach extends for almost two miles with its sand dunes providing a natural defence against the sea and a habitat for plants.

Martyr's Monument, St Andrews
Martyr’s Monument, St Andrews

Our route lead us on to The Scores, a tree lined footpath which is adorned with many historic buildings occupied by the University of St. Andrews.  Along here is also to be found MUSA (The Museum of St. Andrews) for those interested in the institution’s history.  Further along the headland, the Martyr’s Monument was erected in 1842 to commemorate four leading Protestant figures who were executed by the Scottish reformation in the 16th century.

The Old Course, St Andrews
The Old Course, St Andrews

It was from this viewpoint that we caught our first glimpse of the St. Andrews Links where we were heading next.  It was here in 1754 that the world famous Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded with its famous Old Course hosting the British Open Championships every five years.

The Old Course Practice Green, St Andrews
The Old Course Practice Green, St Andrews

We recognised the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse as it is an iconic image from our television screens as players walk up to the 18th green.  Playing on the Old Course must be on every golfers wish list and surprisingly being able to do so isn’t as difficult as you might expect as any golfers with a respectable handicap can apply.  If like us, your golf doesn’t stretch further than pitch and putt you can take a stroll along the footpaths and watch the experts in action.  On Sunday’s golf is not played on the Old Course and the public are welcome to walk the famous links.

The Old Course, St Andrews Golf Links
Caddies getting ready for a competition on the Old Course

St. Andrews Links is comprised of seven golf courses which were all in use on the day we visited.  We walked past The Himalayas putting green which lies between the Old Course and West Sands Beach.

The Himalayas, St Andrews
The Himalayas, St. Andrews

This takes its name from its undulating course and many small hills providing a putting challenge whatever your skill level.  There are 9 and 18 hole options and the course is open to everyone over the age of three.  We would have loved to have played a round there as it’s only £4 for adults but with COVID restrictions it’s not possible to hire putters at present and it would have been quite an effort to have brought them up with us on the train.  (I do believe we still have some clubs that have been stored undisturbed at the back of our hall cupboard for many years).

St Andrews, the home of golf
St Andrews, the home of golf

We might not have been playing golf but we were on our way to something golf related.  I’d booked a table for lunch at the Tom Morris Bar and Grill located in the Links Clubhouse to celebrate my husband’s birthday.  The modern clubhouse offers facilities for golfers playing on the Old, New and Jubilee courses, with a large golf shop and a casual dining restaurant which is open to the public.

Photos and maps inside the St Andrews Links Clubhouse
Photos and maps inside the St Andrews Links Clubhouse

We were shown to a window table overlooking the links and we studied the menu over a glass of Tom Morris Scottish Ale for the birthday boy and a glass of wine for me.  The restaurant re-opened last month after a major refurbishment timed perfectly to celebrate the life and legacy of the grand old man of golf two hundred years after his birth.

Tom Morris & Bar & Grill, St Andrews
Tables overlooking the golf links

Tom Morris was a four time champion golfer who helped to shape the modern game.  Dining in the restaurant were a mix of golfers and people like us, all enjoying a delicious meal in relaxing surroundings.  I opted for the Scotch rump steak on sourdough topped with caramelised onions and a free range egg (£13) whilst across the table the roast hake fillet served in a curried mussel, carrot and leek stew (£18) was a popular choice.

My steak sandwich at the Tom Morris Bar & Grill
My steak sandwich at the Tom Morris Bar & Grill
Hake in a curried mussel stew at the Tom Morris Bar & Grill
My husband’s Hake in a curried mussel and leek stew

Awhile later we sauntered back beside the links before heading into town.  The centre is very pleasant and has a good range of high quality independent shops, with Scottish tartans, whisky, gifts, books and golfing equipment amongst the items on offer.  As we were a little early for our bus connection back to Edinburgh we popped into a cafe for a pot of tea before returning to the bus station.

Attractive shops and cafes in St. Andrews
Attractive shops, bars and cafes in the town centre

It had been a lovely day out in St. Andrews and we hadn’t felt rushed at all so I would definitely recommended adding a visit to this part of Fife to your Scottish itinerary.

 

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Spending a day in St. Andrews, Scotland

 

57 thoughts on “Day 3. A day in St. Andrews

  1. ThingsHelenLoves

    What a lovely spot for a birthday lunch! St Andrews has a lot going on for a relatively small place it seems. I didn’t realise it was so close to Edinburgh, I’ve missed a trick there! Bit of a long journey for me now but I have enjoyed a little visit via your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Day 3. A day in St. Andrews – World Era

  3. What a beautiful place! I’ve heard of St Andrews many times before (mostly because of its famous golf course) and your post brought now pictures to the town of which I’ve read so much about. Great picture of the St Andrews Cathedral and may I say … your food looks absolutely delicious!
    Thank you for taking us on a walkabout in St Andrews (and hope your husband had a great birthday celebration 🎉).

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great post and amazing photos, Marion! With its roots stretching back to medieval times, you won’t be short of things to do in St Andrews. There is a host of brilliant attractions to choose from, from family-friendly spots to historic wonders, as well as an abundance of stunning beaches, parks and fantastic walks to explore. I am glad to hear you had a great time. Thanks for sharing and have a nice day 🙂 Aiva xx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I had no idea that such a beautiful place like St. Andrews existed, especially being such a convenient day trip from Edinburgh! The coast certainly looks picturesque in its Scottish gloom, which makes the ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral especially somber and atmospheric. Looks to be a worthwhile short trip over!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. St Andrews looks so charming. That’s too bad that the cathedral was ransacked, but it’s pretty impressive that the foundations and some ruins still exist. It’s pretty neat that they’ve used some of the stone to construct the harbour pier and other buildings. Thanks for sharing. Linda

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Thank you very much for all the St Andrews info. We have been there several time, actually, it was our Master’s first time to the island that he visited the Mecca of golfers. He was send with 14 to South Queensferry to Aunt Mary to improve his English. She asked her sons to show me around. So he came to St Andrews.
    Wishing you all the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Daydreaming of Scotland and visiting this beautiful place… It was so fun to read through your post of all there is to do there. St. Andrew’s is somewhere I knew of by name but knew so little about it. I especially loved the cathedral and I’m so glad when buildings like that are preserved enough to see them. Wonderful post Marion 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  9. I was offered a university place at St. Andrews way back when, and went up in January to have a look to see if I wanted to take it as my second choice if I didn’t get into Oxford. It seemed like a lovely town, but it was so damn cold I think I’d have died of frostbite if I’d gone there. Really must go back (not in January) and take a good look round.

    Liked by 6 people

  10. A very informative guide Marion, with a pleasingly moody set of accompanying photos. Here’s another one for Scotland list, as I have never been. From the beach, the harbour and the ruins of the castle and the cathedral, St. Andrew’s looks utterly charming. And both dishes at the Tom Morris Bar & Grill looks fantastic, kinda hard to choose between them.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Spent 10 days on an in-house course staying in St Andrews many, many years ago. I was fortunate to have a large room overlooking the golf-course. Your photos brought back memories. Thanks Marion

    Liked by 4 people

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