Reasons to visit St Andrews
They don't call it the Home of Golf for nothing. St Andrews is steeped in golfing history with stunning coastal views to match. Never been? Read on to see why it's somewhere not to be missed.
It is no surprise that St Andrews in Scotland, the spiritual home of golf, has become something equivalent to the Vatican or Holy Land. It is a golfing Mecca, and continues to draw countless thousands of pilgrims from around the world each year.
They all relish the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Old Tom Morris, or to play the holes that have defined generations of Open Championships. Merely inhaling the atmosphere of the Auld Grey Toon is intoxicating enough. St Andrews is a unique coastal town in Scotland. Its stunning location and beautiful architecture are notable qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily make it distinctive from other coastal towns. Those other places, however, don’t possess an internationally renowned royal seal of approval. More pertinently, they’re also not the Home of Golf. The Auld Grey Toon is.
St Andrews Cathedral, standing tall since 1158
That tangible energy and vibrancy most likely comes from the town’s uniquely cosmopolitan feel, with international tourists sharing the streets and pubs with the youthful students and characterful locals.
Despite it's prestigious label, playing golf isn’t the only activity on offer inside these historic walls. There is a richness and sense of vibrancy to the town that makes it a draw for visitors; including numerous restaurants and bars - for a wee place in Fife, there’s a lot of drinking and eating to be had.
On your first day in the town, it would naturally be a perfect time to explore and gain a feeling of the surroundings. Being a relatively small place, walking through the historic streets and lanes of St. Andrews would not take particularly long, and there are a number of notable attractions to keep the most ardent of explorers contented.
St Andrews Castle and Cathedral
This striking old castle ruin that overlooks the North Sea, providing stunning views of the coast, is a monument to a dark and murky history that touches back centuries in both the town and the whole of Scotland. First built during 12th century, the structure was dismantled during the Wars of Independence. It later became home to Kings, with James III being born there in 1445.
As the years moved on, the castle took on a more sinister life, becoming a fearsome prison and site of religious persecution and murder during the Scottish Reformation, which led to a lengthy siege between Protestant and Catholic forces. Both sides cut deep into the rock to create underground tunnels. These remain open to the public today, and serve as a reminder of a bloody past that hangs over the town. It’s a must-visit for anyone with an interest in medieval history.
The ruins of St Andrews castle overlooking the North Sea
The Cathedral of St. Andrews dates back to the 12th century and was the centre of the Catholic Church during the medieval age in Scotland. Covering an expansive area and incredibly atmospheric, the graveyard is home to the final resting place of both Old and Young Tom Morris. That will count as something of a pilgrimage for golf historians, and compliments the sense of period.
Situated just a few miles outside of the town in the village of Guardbridge, the Eden Mill is an active and thriving distillery, producing beer, whisky and gin. The various tours of the facility have proven to be extremely popular for the many visitors looking to gain an insight into how these drinks are created, or to even sample some for themselves.
Tours are available for each of three main offerings, from the distilling of whisky to the brewing of the finest beer, meaning there is something for everyone. We also recommend that you book them in advance to ensure that you secure your place. If you don’t take a tour, you can always pop into their store alongside the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, which looks across the 18th fairway of the Old Course.
West Sands is famously where the iconic beach running scenes from the Academy Award-winning Film Chariots of Fire were shot. This impressive beach stretches out for more than two miles from the edge of town and provides majestic views across the North Sea and back towards St. Andrews itself.
Contemporary building of the British Golf Museum
Always busy and vibrant, there is a wonderful atmosphere to it, with the combination of families, students, tourists and dog walkers creating a mood that reflects its beautiful surroundings. It’s comfortably among the finest beaches in the UK and is the perfect location for a stroll, particularly in the evening, when the low sunlight transforms it into something truly breath-taking and magical.
British Golf Museum
Considering St. Andrews can make the claim of being the cradle of golf as we know it today, it’s no surprise that the British Golf Museum is to be found here. Sat across the road from the R&A Clubhouse, the facilities were renovated ahead of the 2015 Open Championship, which led to the opening of an upstairs café and restaurant that boasts striking views in all directions.
West Sands beach at sunset
New Picture House
If you are fortunate enough to be in town when there is a decent movie on show, then the New Picture House is an appealing opportunity to be transported back to an era when cinemas were less cynically commercialised and more intimate in nature.
Being the absolute antitheses of the huge multiplex theatres that you see across major cities today, this old building oozes character and charm throughout its modest three screens (which regularly show the major releases) and is a treat for anyone who misses the old days.
Scotland & Ireland Team Leader