Home to the University of St Andrews since 1413, this seaside town on the East Fife Coast is an eclectic mix of historic tradition and contemporary intellectualism, its ancient streets walked upon by students, locals, and golf tourists alike. Truly, St Andrews has it all. Read on for the top seven must-dos in the Auld Grey Toon.
St Andrews Courtesy of Madeleine Bazil
Climb St Rule’s Tower
Overlooking a rocky stretch of beach known as Castle Sands, the historic St Andrews Cathedral ruins are a sight to behold. Once the largest church in Scotland, the Cathedral was a destination for religious pilgrims in the medieval era, and remains impressive-looking even as a ruin. Entrance to the ruins and graveyard is free, but it’s worth shelling out a few pounds for a ticket to the Cathedral’s museum, which includes entry to St Rule’s Tower— and the view from the top of the Tower is unbeatable.
Walk or jog along West Sands
The most famous of St Andrews’ three beaches is West Sands, immortalized in the opening scene of the iconic 1981 film Chariots of Fire. The flat expanse of beach is easily accessible from the town center and runs parallel to the Old Course. Queue up the film’s famous score on your iPod and head over for an early-morning walk or run— where you’ll share the sand with dog-walkers, joggers, and the occasional riding lesson— or show up in the evening to bask in the sunset reflecting on the water and the sound of students having impromptu beach barbecues in good weather.
West Sands Courtesy of Madeleine Bazil
Sample local beer at the Brew Pub
Pub, Bar, Pub Grub, British, $$$
The St Andrews Brewing Company, a local craft brewery, is adored by both students and locals for its range of Fife-made ales, stouts, and IPAs. The Brew Pub, located on South Street, is a cozy and welcoming spot for a pint of Oatmeal Stout or a glass of Thistly Cross Cider. The beer hall upstairs gets lively on weekend evenings, with students sitting around the tables to sip their drinks and chat with friends.
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For avid golfers, playing the Old Course is the ultimate dream, and fortunately getting a tee time is easier than commonly thought; golfers with a suitable handicap can apply by contacting the Reservations Department online or by phone. Golf game not up to par? It’s still worth taking a stroll along the cart paths to see the famed course as well as the other six courses in the Links, or doing a wee round of mini-golf at the Himalayas putting green. And of course, don’t forget to stop by the famous Swilcan Bridge on the 18th fairway for a photo.
The Byre Theatre, founded in 1933 and recently purchased and renovated to its former glory by the University, offers a full calendar of theatre, dance, comedy, music, and more productions year-round, from professional touring companies to community theatre to student productions. Enjoy a glass of wine at the Café Bar, and then make your way into the 216-seat auditorium for a memorable experience.
Jannettas Gelateria has been consistently hailed as the best ice cream shop in Scotland since it was first opened by Italian immigrants in 1908. Over a century later, it is still owned by the founder’s family and the gelato is still as delicious as ever. Go full Scottish with Irn Bru gelato or Scottish tablet flavor, or keep it traditional with a chocolate-based scoop or a fruity sorbet; it’s impossible to go wrong.
Located in St Salvator’s Quad, this historic chapel was founded by Bishop Kennedy in 1450 and has a storied history: during the Scottish Reformation the Chapel tower was used by Catholic forces to fire upon the Castle in an effort to reclaim it from the Protestants, and the Chapel is also the location of the pulpit where John Knox preached his famous three-day sermon. Today, the stunning Late Gothic building is the University’s main chapel, and also hosts the St Salvator’s Chapel Choir.