When we had our self catering property in Edinburgh I was frequently asked, was there anywhere I would recommend for a day out. There are lots of places that spring to mind however St Andrews is my home town so I have be forgiven for being slightly bias.
There is a lot to see and do. You can easy spend a week there and still not see everything. However if you only have one day probably best if I take you on a walking tour of the town.
St Andrews is probably best known as the “Home of Golf”. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club is based there. The University of St Andrews is well respected internationally and also where William met Kate!
How to get there:
By Train from Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket to Leuchars for St Andrews. See the Scotrail timetable. There is a bus from Leuchars station every 15 minutes to St Andrews. When purchasing your return rail ticket ask for a combined day ticket for rail and bus.
By Bus Stagecoach X59 X60 from St Andrews Square to St Andrews Bus Station
By Car. Take the M90 over the Queensferry Crossing. Then at Junction 8 take the A91 to St Andrews.
Start of the Tour:
On arrival at St Andrews Bus Station take a left turn and walk down the hill toward the roundabout.
Alternatively if you arrive by car there is a free car park just at you come in to St Andrews. Take the third exit at the roundabout and you will find the car park on the left. Walk up toward the bus station.
The Old Course and the R&A
At the roundabout take a right turn and then first left into Golf Place. You will find the famous Auchterlonies Golf Shop on the corner. Walk down Golf Place until you find the Old Course and the Royal & Ancient Clubhouse on the left. Take a few minutes to soak in the atmosphere. Watch the golfers teeing off and holing out on the famous 18th green
The new building on the opposite side of the road is the British Golf Museum. If you are a golf enthusiast then this is well worth a visit. Its full of memorabilia and video content from past Open Championships.
However after making the journey from Edinburgh you must be in need of some refreshments so here is my first recommendation. The cafe at the British Golf Museum is an ideal place to stop for a coffee, cake or light lunch. The view across the West Sands Beach is spectacular. The cakes are supplied by the local baker Fisher & Donaldson.
The Martyrs Monument
After you are suitably refreshed you will be ready for the next part of the tour. Proceed up the Scores towards a large obelisk on the left. This monument was designed by William Nixon and placed there in 1842. It commemorates those Protestants executed in St Andrews for their faith in the years before the Reformation. Names listed include Patrick Hamilton and George Wishart. We will hear about them later
St Salvator’s Chapel
Continue along the Scores past St James’s Church and buildings on either side. Most house university departments. Half way along you will find a lane, Butts Wynd on the right. Walk up the lane toward St Salvator’s Quad. At the top of the lane you will find a cobbled area and in the middle you will see the initials PH. This was the site where Patrick Hamilton was burned at the stake. If you look half way up the tower you will see a face carved in the stone. This is said to be Hamilton’s face looking down on all those unsuspecting tourists!
St Andrews Castle
Proceed back down Butts Wynd and continue along the Scores toward the end where you will find the castle on the left. The castle was built by Bishop Roger De Beaumont around 1200. It changed hands many times during the wars of independence being virtually destroyed in a siege in 1337. It was rebuilt by Bishop Walter Traill in 1385. King James 1 was educated here by Bishop Wardlaw founder of the university. James 11 lived there and James 111 was born there in 1451.
The heyday of the castle occurred during the time of Archbishop James Beaton and his nephew Cardinal David Beaton. David Beaton was more of a politician than a priest. He also had a mistress and several illegitimate children. Sounds like a few of our present day politicians. Anyway this did not go down well with the Lutheran reformers and the state of the church. “A bishop must be faultless, not angry, a drunkard, a fighter or given to filthy lucre” These were the words of John Winram at the trial of George Wishart. Wishart a learned man who studied in Germany, Switzerland and Cambridge was a leading Protestant reformer. John Knox was one of his followers.
The Execution of George Wishart
He was arrested in Haddington East Lothian, imprisoned and tried for heresy. The trial took place in St Andrews Cathedral. The next day a fire was built outside the castle. The spot is marked on the roadway by the initials GW. Beaton sat in the castle and had a grandstand view of proceedings. Wishart was led out, bound and chained with bags of gunpowder tied to him. He was killed by a combination of burning, strangulation and the explosion of the gunpowder.
The Murder of Cardinal Beaton
However that is not the end of the story. Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange and a number of conspirators managed to break into the castle. They met little resistance and murdered Beaton in his bed. His body was hung from the top of the castle wall.
This protestant faction known as the Castilians including John Knox held the castle for a year with support from the English King Henry V111 until a French fleet recaptured the castle in 1547. Knox and the others were taken prisoner and spent two years as galley slaves in the French fleet.
Continue along Kirk Hill with the sea on your left, the Cathedral on your right and the harbour and pier ahead. Time to stop and just take in the views out to sea.
St Andrews Cathedral and St Rules Tower
A gate in the wall will take you into the cathedral grounds. There are a number of number of gravestones. One to look out for is that of Tom Morris. Morris was the youngest golfer ever to win the Open Championship at the age of 17. The story is the subject of a book and film called Tommy’s Honour. Click this link if you want to find out more.
The Haunted Tower
As you enter the cathedral grounds on the left you will find a burial chamber built into the wall known as the haunted tower. This is the resting place of the ghost of the White Lady. According to W. T. Linskill St Andrews Ghost Stories Mr Smith the local watchmaker, Mr Walker university librarian and Mr Jesse Hall opened the vault in 1868. They found several cofins including the body of a young girl dressed in white. When Linskill himself reopened the tower in 1888 he found nothing but a few bones. Several locals to this day claim to have spotted a white lady roaming the cathedral grounds at night.
St Rules Tower
This brings me to my next recommendation. If you are feeling fit then I recommend you climb St Rules Tower. You can buy tickets in the shop within the cathedral museum which is worth spending some time in if you want to know a bit about the history of the cathedral.
It is a steep climb but very rewarding. From the top of the tower there is a superb panoramic view of the town
Leave the cathedral by the main entrance. On the left you will see a ruined archway known as the Pends which leads down to the harbour. However you want to walk into South Street which is one of the main streets in the town.
Janetta’s Ice Cream
After all the tales of executions, sieges, hanging cardinals out of castle windows,ghosts and scaling the heights of St Rules Tower it’s time for my next recommendation. You have earned your ice cream stop. This is the best ice cream you will taste and you can have the choice to take away or sit in. Don’t be discouraged by the queue outside the shop it is worth the wait.
St Mary’s College
After you have enjoyed your ice cream continue walking along South Street with shops on the right and residential houses on the left. Just before you arrive at a small mini roundabout you will see an archway on the left. This is the entrance to St Mary’s College one of the oldest parts of the university. This is where the Divinity Department is based. To the right of the tower is a thorn tree which replaced a tree reputed to have been planted by Mary Queen of Scots in 1560. The present tree was planted in the 1940’s. The sundial dates from 1664. The overgrown gateway dates from the 17th century
On the opposite side of the road also in South Street is Holy Trinity Church which dates from the 12th century. Referred to by the locals as the town church. John Knox preached there in 1547.
The tour continues into Church Street where you will find Fisher & Donaldson’s bakery. If you followed my recommendation and stopped at the British Golf Museum Cafe. This is an opportunity to buy some of these excellent cakes to take home with you. I recommend the fudge doughnuts or the hand made chocolates.
Continue into Market Street where you will find a fountain in the middle of a cobbled street. This is the Whyte Melville fountain erected in 1880 in memory of George Whyte Melville who was killed in a riding accident. Market Street has a number of shops so you may want to browse along the way.
At the end of Market Street turn left into Bell Street and continue down the street to the end. On the opposite side you will see Blackfriars Chapel and Madras College. Cardinal David Beaton may be buried in the chapel.
Madras College & Blackfriars Chapel
This is the main secondary school for St Andrews. The present building dates from 1833. The schools founder Andrew Bell studied at the university before going to India. He became chaplain to the East India Company and invented an education system known as the Madras System, while in charge of a military orphanage in Madras. On his return to Britain Bell promoted this system. On his death Bell left £50000 to found a school in St Andrews.
At the end of South Street you will find the West Port. Built in 1589 on the site of an earlier gate. It was modelled on the Netherbow Port in Edinburgh.
Continue through the West Port and take a right following the road back to the bus station and the end of the tour.
Places to Eat
If you would like to stay on for dinner here are some recommendations. It is advisable to book in advance.
Dolls House Church Square Varied Dinner Menu
Tailend Fish Restaurant – Market Street Traditional Fish & Chips
Mitchells Deli – Market Street – Bistro Style Menu
Forgan’s – Market Street (next to Mitchell’s up the lane) – Bistro Style Menu
Books you might like to read before your visit:
I hope you enjoy this tour and your trip to my home town. If you are planning to go on this tour; if you have downloaded the tour on to your smartphone; or visited St Andrews as a result of reading this blog, then I would be grateful if you can show your appreciation by clicking the Ko-fi button at the foot of this page.
For more ideas of what to see and do on a trip to St Andrews read my other blog A Day Trip to St Andrews and Day to Remember
This pays for my travel expenses and may even buy me a coffee while I am doing my research for my next blog.
You may like to check out one of my other walking tours entitled Edinburgh Walk for First Time Visitors.