25/04/2024

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11 Best Things To Do In St. Andrews, Scotland – Hand Luggage Only

8 min read
11 Best Things To Do In St. Andrews, Scotland – Hand Luggage Only

Although relatively small, St Andrews is world-renowned as the place where golf was invented and its prestigious university (which is the third oldest in the English-speaking world). That being said, beyond golf and university is a medieval history that dates back centuries. Best of all, there are heaps of the best things to do in St Andrews dotted all across this cosy little town.

After living in St Andrews for many years, and studying at St Andrews University, I’ve come to appreciate how incredible the town is. It’s one of the best places in Fife to visit for a day trip from Edinburgh or a wider Scottish road trip.

Yes, it might be small but it has so much going for it.

So, to help you get the most out of your time, I’ve jotted down some places to visit that I love. You’ll have an amazing time visiting St Andrews. Have fun!

1.) St Andrews Cathedral

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland St Andrews Cathedral

St Andrews Cathedral might be in ruins but it’s one of the oldest buildings in St Andrews. Founded back in 1158, it’s been around for nearly one thousand years.

Just shy of East Sands (on the east of the town), visiting the cathedral is one of the best things to do in St Andrews if you want to explore the region’s Medieval history. You see, this was (and still is) the largest church construction in the history of Scotland.

Without dipping into too much history, during the Reformation, Henry VIII began to split the Church of England from the Roman Catholic faith. This led St Andrews Cathedral to be ransacked and left to ruin in the 1500s.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland St Andrews Cathedral

Now, although the cathedral was left to ruin, there is still quite a bit of the grounds and the walls to see and explore. Once here, make sure to stroll around the Eastern wall and visit St. Rule’s Tower, too.

You’ll spend around 30 minutes exploring the site and it’s never too busy.

Visiting from Edinburgh? Book this St Andrews and Fife village day tour that will take you around some of the prettiest places in Fife. It’s well worth it if you’re short on time and easy as they plan all the transport and timings for you.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

2.) St Andrews University

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland University

I know, I’m biased after studying at St Andrew’s, but you have to explore some of St Andrew’s historic university buildings. After all, like I said before, it’s the third oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Founded in the 1400s, the university buildings are dotted all around St Andrews (and not in one big campus). This makes it really easy to spot some key sites and history as you’re strolling through town.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Town Centre

Make sure to visit St Mary’s Quad, which is just off South Street. Here, within the centre of the quadrangle, you will find the hawthorn tree which was planted by Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1500s.

Mary Queen of Scots lived in St Andrews for some time and it’s said she even decided to marry again whilst in St Andrews.It’s even said that Mary Queen of Scots helped (in some part) in the founding of a library for the university. She had decided to leave her wide selection of Latin books.

Oh, and don’t forget to see the historic Principals House within St Mary’s Quad, too.

Afterwards, be sure to pop into St Salvator’s Chapel which was founded in 1450. It’s so incredible to see.

Finally, if you want to learn more about the University of St Andrews (and its artefacts), make sure to visit the Museums of The Wardlaw Museum and the Bell Pettigrew Museum which are both free to enter and in the town centre.

3.) St Andrews Botanic Garden

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Beach

Okay, so don’t expect a Kew Garden-style botanic garden here – but it’s still worth a little visit nonetheless.

Established in 1889 by the University of St Andrews it is home to a large collection of exotic and local plants which is free to enter if you’re a student.

Although small, the view here is amazing there are gardens around and a small Riverside setting to see the various plants and flora that have been collected over the last few centuries. There are different ‘areas’ dedicated to different species and this can easily explored on foot as you wander around.

However, just a heads up, St Andrews Botanic Garden is small and I wouldn’t make a concerted effort to visit unless you’re passing by Canongate or really interested in Botany.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

4.) St Andrews Castle

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Castle Ruins

Right on the rugged coastline of the town, visiting the castle is one of the best things to do in St Andrews to explore the town’s long history.

Although in ruins, it’s a great wayto step back in time towards the 13th century and learn all about this medical castle that stands overlooking the shore.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Castle

Once here, make sure to see into the bottle dungeon – which is one of the oldest prisons in this area of Scotland. You’ll also get to see some of the Seige tunnels that still exist, dating back to the 1500s. They were built under St Andrews itself and, although quite claustrophobic, they are incredible to see.

There’s a small entrance fee to pay, but it’s worth it when visiting St Andrews.

5.) West Sands Beach

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland West Sands

St Andrews has some incredible beaches, with West Sands being my absolute favourite. Stretching all the length of the new course (golf), it follows the spit of land from the Old Course Clubhouse to the mouth of the River Eden.

It’s easily one of the best things to do in St Andrews if you’re looking to see the natural beauty around the town, too. I used to walk here every other day and loved it.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland University

Also, you might recognise some parts of West Sands. It became well-known internationally as the place where Chariots of Fire a 1981 film was made using this Beach for its opening scene.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

6.) Stroll around St Andrews

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Visit Golf

Okay, so, in my opinion, one of the best things to do in St Andrews is to take a stroll around town. Anywhere between, The Scores and South Street are typically considered the ‘old town centre’ with lots of little cafes, shops, pubs and restaurants, too.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland shops Bibis Cafe

As you wander around, make sure to pop into Central Bar(which was my old watering hole when I studied here). It’s a proper pub, if that’s your thing and they serve up a good fish and chips, too.

Another spot for dinner is Forgan’s that’s on Market Street. It’s just shy of Central Bar and well worth eating in the evening. Their shepherd’s pie is so delicious.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

7.) St Rule’s Tower

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland St Andrews Cathedral

In St Andrew’s Cathedral, heading to the top of St Rule’s Tower is one of the best things to do in St Andrews when you’re exploring the east of the town.

St Rule’s Tower stands over the Castle and St Andrews Cathedral ruins, which you can’t miss. It predates the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and was built in the early 1100s; nearly 1,000 years ago!

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland cathedral

There is also a great span of graveyards inside the tower ground and it is a sight to behold even as ruins. Standing at 33 meters high, the view from this tower is spectacular; though be prepared for a few steps to get to the top. Well, 168 for that matter.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

8.) St Andrews Golf Course

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Golf Course

Nestled on the western fringes of St Andrews, you can’t miss the world-famous golf course. You’ll easily spot the new course and the old course if you’re heading to West Sands for a stroll.

Now, if you fancy a game, green fees range from £150-£250 (approximately). It’s a little steep but the course is incredible. After all, this is where golf started… on this very course! Which, incidentally makes it the oldest golf course in the world.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Old Course Golf

Now, I can’t say my handicap is very low… meaning I’m not great at golf! But it’s well worth a round whilst you’re here and you can easily rent golf clubs in town, too.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Old Course Golf Clubhouse

Best of all, St Andrew’s Old Course is public and open to all and is easily one of the best things to do in St Andrews when you visit.

To make things easier, book this guided tour of St Andrews that’s run by a local pro caddie that used to walk these courses every day. It’s so much fun and well worth booking to get a good history of the town.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

9.) PH Sign

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland PH Sign

As you stroll North Street, be sure to look out for the PH cobblestones (at this point on Google Maps). You see, these cobbles are the site where Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake in 1528. He refused to renounce his protestant beliefs and paid with his life at only 24.

Hamilton’s initials were then set into the cobbles and can still be seen today, with the cobbles depicting ‘PH’. Also, if you look up, above the college gateway, you might even spot an eerie face in one brick. Local legend states this is the face of Hamilton, but make of that what you will.

Now, there’s also said to be a curse where if any student walks over the PH sign, they will fail their degree. I wholeheartedly never stepped on it for that very reason!

Read more: Best places in Fife to visit

10.) Butts Wynd

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Butts Wynd

After viewing the PH cobbles, make sure to wander down the fondly named, Butts Wynd. It’s a small alley that takes you from North Street to The Scores.

It might be a short 2-minute walk but it’s well worth going. After all, you will easily find the Wardlaw Museum at the end.

Read more: Best places to visit in Scotland

11.) St Andrews Harbour

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Harbour

Yes, St Andrews Harbour is tiny but it is right at the start of East Sands. Which, is another great beach to visit, especially around sunrise. If you’re an early riser, head over to the pier and stroll the area and beachfront itself.

The views are stunning as the sun rises over the North Sea.

Best Things To Do In St Andrews Scotland Harbour

Plus, you can grab a bite from The Cheesy Toast Shack for breakfast. Hands-down, they make a mac and cheese toast which is equally gluttonous and delicious.

Trust me, grab a bite here! It’s one of the best things to do in St Andrews, which is something of a local institution.

Read more: Best places in Fife to visit

11 Best Things To Do In Fife, Scotland


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