Monday, 30 November 2015

How To Spend St. Andrew's Day in St. Andrews

What could be better than spending a cold Nov. 30th in the town named after the patron saint of Scotland?  I know, nothing, right?   Unless you like the sun, that is, and then you should possibly just stay home.  Otherwise, get your thermals on and find out why St. Andrews is such a popular tourist destination.

St Andrews is located in the Fife region, on the east coast of Scotland and has a long  and distinguished history.   Most people, these days, have at least heard of it as being the town where Prince William met Kate, when they both studied at the University there, which was the first in the nation, founded in 1413 and remains the third oldest English speaking Uni on the planet.  St Andrews is also famous as being the home of golf and boasts several high quality courses, including the outstanding Royal and Ancient Golf Club at The Old Course,  and the world class, 5 star, Old Course Hotel.     

As well as the town’s impressive history, it has a real old world charm and is a fantastic place to explore the historic buildings, eat and drink, and do a spot of shopping in some of the wonderful independent boutique stores.   Also, it has golden, sandy beaches, although November maybe isn't the best time to be visiting them.    If you're looking for ideas of what to do around town, look no further:


St Andrews Cathedral
So, if you lived here you wouldn't be warm, but you would have an amazing view.

st andrews cathedral

St Andrews Cathedral:
Although largely ruined, you do get a sense of just how imposing the Cathedral must have been, when you walk within the walls. At one time, it was Scotland’s largest church.   The ruins of the Cathedral are free to enter, but you will require a ticket to enter the Museum and St Rule's Tower; both located within the boundaries.  The Cathedral sits on the edge of a cliff (sounds scarier than it actually is) and the view over the water from St Rule's Tower is quite spectacular.    You can also walk around the outer perimeter of the boundary walls and check out coastline for yourself without having to climb any steps.   You're welcome.


st andrews coast
view of the coast from behind the Cathedral
Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery:
I'm not much of a gin lover, which is weird because all the other women in family swear by it, but even I don't mind a drop of Eden Mill.    Not only do they produce awesome gin in St Andrews, they also produce a range of craft beers AND whisky.    Well, it is in Scotland and we have laws that force every distillery to make whisky to ensure a steady supply for our good people.*

Tour tickets include a peek inside the workings of the brewery and distillery (obviously...) but also allow you the opportunity to do a little tasting. When you come to Scotland, we try to incorporate a wee drink into everything you do.  We're friendly like that.   Adult tickets are priced at £7.50.  

*That's absolutely not true.   
  
St Andrews University - St Salvator's Chapel:
The Uni has two Chapels in the town, of which one is St Salvator's.    The Chapel dates back to the 15th Century is seats around 320 people.  It is used by the University and many students who have graduated from St Andrews return to get married under its roof.    LT and I were recently invited to our friends wedding in St Salvator's, which was the first time I had visited.   It is really spectacular inside and out.    The Chapel is open 7 days a week and has various worship services on throughout the year.   You can also pop in for a look or get dressed up and crash someone's wedding.    Actually, probably don't do that.  


St Salvator's Chapel
St Salvator's stained glass windows.
St Andrews University @ St Salvator's
St Andrews University at St Salvator's

British Golf Museum:
No visit to the home of golf could be complete without a visit to the golf museum, which is ideally situated a short distance from the 18th hole on The Old Course.   The Museum has recently undergone a major refurbishment and offers visitors the chance to take in 500 years of golfing history. The new Cafe offers an unparallelled view of the famous first tee at The Old Course and serves a mean afternoon tea.   Entry to the Cafe is free and you don't need to have bought a ticket for the Museum to gain access.   Adult tickets for the Museum and exhibits are priced at £5 each.   

St Andrews Castle:
This 450 year old ruin, perched on the shore, is managed by Historic Scotland and adult tickets are priced at £5.50.  The Castle was the main residence of Scotland's highest Bishop and played a pivotal role in some of the biggest events in the history of the nation; not least during The Reformation.   After Scotland banished Bishops, unfortunately, the Castle fell into a state of disrepair and the Great Hall eventually slipped in the sea below.   Clearly, that's not a positive thing for any house to experience.   A sea wall was then  built, so no more of the Castle can now escape.   

Shopping:
St Andrews has a great range of boutique stores, mixed in with a selection of high street brands.  Given its status as a University town, it also has a great selection of book stores and bars, because it clearly knows its market.   Lord knows I couldn't have lived without those two staples when I was at Uni.   If shopping, drinking and reading isn't good enough reason to visit, St Andrews is also home to The Highland Chocolatier.    I defy you to visit the store and come out at the same weight.   It's simply not possible.   I swear I've put on an extra pound or two from the smell alone.    It. Is. Amazing.   

What you may want to do is visit the sights in reverse order.   That way, you can stuff your chops with chocolate and THEN go walking around the town in a vain attempt to burn off some of the calories.


Have you visited St Andrews?   What are your favourite sights?