Updated: Oct 5, 2018
Unless you come to St Andrews for university or to pay homage to the home of golf, you might miss out on this pretty and historic seaside town. It’s a perfect place for a weekend getaway as it’s not too far away but still feels like a holiday as because of it’s micro climate the weather is usually better here than home. It takes about 1hour by train from Edinburgh to Leuchars (the nearest train station) or 1hr 30mins from Aberdeen by car.
Here are my top tips so you can make the most of your visit.
1. The Beaches
Picture: West Sands
The West Sands that run along side the Old Course is a great walk and the setting of the film Chariots of Fire. It can get very busy on a sunny day, with uni students playing beach volleyball or people flying kites, dog walkers and even horses galloping along the shoreline . Waves aren’t big enough for surfing, but you may see the odd kite surfer, but anyone who wants to go into the North Sea at any time of the year in my opinion is crazy, just like my husband!
Other beaches to explore are:
The Castle Sands, in the shadow of the old castle, which still has a man made outdoor swimming pool that gets filled when the tide comes in.
And The East Sands, which is next to the harbor.
Outside St Andrews head south to Kingsbarns beach where you can explore rock pools, north to Tentsmuir beach for a walk through the sand dunes and pine forest, or if you're feeling adventurous head to Elie beach to do the chain walk along the cliffs, just watch out for high tide!
2. Historic Sites
Picture: St Andrews Cathedral
The old and now ruined Cathedral is free for you to explore, but you can buy a ticket to see the museum and get to walk up the Rule’s Tower. It was once the largest church in Scotland, which was built in 1158 and fell into ruin in 1561 after the Scottish Reformation when Catholic Mass was banned in Scotland. This is a great place to get pictures and there are usually lots of tourists around trying to get their perfect shots for Instagram.
The Castle dates back to the 13th Century, and was the main residence of the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews Cathedral. It fell into disrepair by 1656 and stones from the castle were used to repair the pier at the nearby harbor. It costs £6 to go in and explore the castle and the dungeons. My husband loves pointing out a nearby man hole cover that actually conceals a hidden entrance to the castle that was used during a siege.
St Salvators Church is the chapel for St Andrews University and was founded in 1450. If you study or work at the university you can choose to get married here. The cobbles beneath the bell tower bear witness to the turbulent events of the 16th century where 24 year old Patrick Hamilton (died 1528) was burnt at the stake for his Protestant beliefs. Local tradition adds a twist to this gruesome history by suggesting that the mysterious face appeared the next day in the stonework of the college tower high above the gateway is that of the martyred Hamilton.
3. Where To Eat
Picture: Waffles from St Andrews Waffle Company
There are lots of good local independent restaurants to choose from, sourcing fresh local ingredients.
For fish and chips I would recommend Cromars on Union Street. This has got to be the poshest Fish and Chips shop I’ve been to and you can even get a glass of prosecco or a local craft beer.
For brunch or a nice sit down meal we like going to the Dolls House. On a nice day you can choose to sit outside, but you’ll probably need the cozy blankets they give you.
For a sweet treat go to St Andrews Waffle Company. OMG this place takes its waffles seriously. You need to be really hungry before attempting any of their amazing creations! We went for the tasting menu for £14 with 5 half portions with a mixture of their most popular flavours to share between two (pictured above). This was more than enough and you could share this between 3 easily! You will need a long walk down the beach afterwards!
Picture: Fish and Chips at Cromars and the queue outside Jannetta's Gelateria
If the waffles look too much for you, an ice cream from Jannetta’s Gelateria on South Street is always a popular choice. There is normally a queue down the street on a sunny day any time of year and there are so many flavours to choose from.
To quench your thirst, like many places around Scotland, St Andrews has a growing number of craft breweries and distilleries with some refreshing tipples to try. You can go on the tour at the Eden Mill Distillery which makes a wide range of beer, gin and whisky. You can even learn how to create your very own unique gin with a Gin Making Class with Eden Mill at the Rusacks Hotel.
4. Places To Visit
Picture: the Gruffalo Walk at the Botanic Gardens
I have not yet mentioned the beautiful Botanic Gardens, which has a Gruffalo Walk around the woodland area and holds a series of kids and family friendly activities which are very popular during the holidays.
There is also an Aquarium near the West Sand, where you can feed the penguins and see a wide range of animals from sharks to iguanas. Tickets are £11 per adult and £8.50 for kids. A useful back up plan if the weather doesn't cooperate (well it is Scotland after all!)
On Sundays the public are allowed to walk on the Old Golf Course as long as you don’t get in the way of someone playing, so you can get nice pictures of the famous Swilcan bridge, which is over 700 years old, and the Historic and Ancient Golf Club.
There are lots of other great places to visit in the Kingdom of Fife, but I hope this helps you start exploring.
Where are your favourite places for a weekend getaway? I would love to hear your tips and suggestions!
Nicole - Founder RelocateGuru