Nothing is more romantic (to me) than the idea of studying English literature at St. Andrews University. Which is funny considering I was a flaky student. Regardless, this small Scottish town is incredibly special. Not only is it home to an acclaimed university, but it also boasts some incredible ruins, as well as one of the most famous golf courses in the world.
If you’re visiting Scotland, then St. Andrews is definitely worth your time. I personally think you could spend one or two days in the town and surrounding area of Fife. However, a day trip to St. Andrews from Edinburgh is very manageable for most travelers to fit into their itineraries.
Off we go!!
How to reach St. Andrews
You can easily visit St. Andrews from Edinburgh. One way is to rent a car. Driving to St. Andrews will take roughly an hour and a half, depending on traffic and believe me, Edinburgh’s peak period traffic is quite wicked. I’m from New Jersey, so I know bad traffic when I see it! Make sure to time your visit if you choose to drive.
However, personally, I aim to use public transportation whenever possible, because driving makes me see red. I have zero patience on the road, haha. Zero. Put me on the left side of the road and … Shudders.
If you’re like me and want to avoid using a car, then book your train tickets in advance with ScotRail. St. Andrews itself doesn’t have its own train station. But this isn’t a problem. Board at Edinburgh Waverley or Haymarket and stay on the train until you reach Leuchars. At Leuchars, you’ll board a bus for St. Andrews. The busses are timed to arrive with the trains. Once on the bus, it only takes 10 minutes to reach the center of town. Simple.
Tip: When booking your train ticket, make sure to include the bus fare in the initial costs. This way you won’t have to dig around for spare change when you’re at Leuchars station.
Another Tip: Book your tickets in advance to save money. Trains in the UK are notoriously expensive. Avoid peak period if possible.
Explore the Town
From the bus station, it’s a quick walk to the St. Andrews’s town center. Believe or not, despite all its fame, St. Andrews isn’t very big. The town itself consists of three streets.
Still, there are plenty of cute cafes, pubs, and shops for you to check out! I personally love the St. Andrews college shop! I have an adorable pink sweatshirt from there. Save shopping for the end of your visit so you’re not carrying bags to the Golf Course and cathedral.
In addition, St. Andrews is a spa town, so it may be worth receiving a massage on your trip!
Plan on staying longer? Check out these hotels in St. Andrews.
Check out the ruined Cathedral and Castle
Both times I visited this town, St. Andrews medieval Cathedral took my breath away. The ruins, delicately overlooking the expansive North Sea, are nothing short of magnificent. Like many European churches, St. Andrews Cathedral has an interesting history. Construction started in the tenth century, although the Cathedral itself wasn’t completed until many years later. Then, in 1559, during the Scottish reformation, the cathedral’s possessions were seized, and the building itself was left to fall into disrepair and ruin.
If you’re on a budget, you don’t have to pay the admissions fee to appreciate this site. St. Andrews Cathedral is glorious enough from the outside, in my opinion. If you choose the pay the fee, climb the tower and take some photos! I bet the view is amazing!
After exploring St. Andrews Cathedral, take a short walk along the sea wall to reach the castle. Like the cathedral, the castle is largely ruined, but still worth a visit. You need to pay an admission fee, but I hear the dungeon is totally worth it.
Re-connect with your “Inner Student” at St. Andrews University
I have a soft spot for old universities. Again, it’s weird since I hated sitting in class, but I digress.
Explore St. Andrews University and take plenty of photos if it’s a sunny day. The campus is so, so, so picturesque. Since I visited in the summer, the atmosphere was quiet with bikes parked in the lanes and purple flowers blooming everywhere. And the architecture, oh the architecture. Can we say adorable?
St. Andrews is the oldest university is Scotland. It’s also quite a prestigious establishment (I believe the 3rd best in the UK, right behind Oxford and Cambridge) and has a list of impressive alumni (and not only William and Kate!). Definitely worth exploring.
Take a tour at St. Andrews Old Course
Lots of people visit St. Andrews for its famous golf course. And can you blame them? If you love golf, this place is a practically a pilgrimage. Sadly, my golfing experience is limited to Mario Golf and mini golf games at the Jersey Shore. I still loved the courses, though, especially the Old Course. If you’re unfamiliar with St. Andrews and the history of golf, then it’s worth booking a guided walk of the Old Course. Your guide will give you a deeper appreciation and understanding of the course. For example, I had no idea that the Old Course is technically public land. Locals and visitors are free to stroll through it whenever they please!
Plenty of options are available if you want to play golf. Keep in mind that it’s much more expensive to play in “high season.”
If it’s pouring rain or you have additional time, the British Golf Museum is nearby the course, and while I haven’t visited, I’ve heard good things about the quality of the museum. Worth checking out, especially for golf fans.
Do you plan to visit St. Andrews from Edinburgh? Would you ever stay in St. Andrews? What are some of your favorite Scottish towns?
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