Interesting Facts, Things to do, Places to See and Where to Eat in St Andrews
A seaside town north east of Edinburgh St Andrews is most famous for it’s golf courses and university.
St Andrews University occupies many of the beautiful and historic villages in St Andrews, it has seen many famous students over the years including actor John Cleese, Author, Fay Weldon and most famous of all the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge who first met at University.
Founded in the early 15thcentury, St Andrews was Scotlands’ first university and the 3rdoldest university in the English-speaking world. It continues to attract students from all over the world.
The St Andrew Links Golf Course has 7 separate courses, The Old Course, The New Course, The Castle Course, The Jubilee Course, The Eden Course, The Stratyrum Course and The Balgove Course. You can pre-book all courses online except for the Balgrove Course, simply turn up for the day. The Old Course., reservations for this are hard to come by and fully booked for the majority of 2019, however, they do run a ballot system, you will be informed 2 days prior to play if you have been successful, the system requires 2 players and a specific handicap. For more information visit the clubs site, they also have some special offers so it’s not as expensive as you might think.
One of the most famous and most popular tournaments is the Alfred Dunhill Tournament, which sees professional golfers playing alongside famous amateur golfers. The 2018 tournament saw celebrities including Peter Jones from Dragons Den, Ronan Keating, Hugh Grant and Greg Kinnear so a great opportunity to do some star spotting as well a watching golf.
Alfred Dunhill Links
There are many other sporting activities to try other than golf. How about Land yachting, which is a combination of sailing and motor racing, basically a buggy with a sail on top of it! Also on offer are better known water sports such as Kayaking and surfing.
Looking for more of a thrill? Just 5 miles outside of At Andrews is a skydiving school. Tandem jumps are offered for those with no experience, a dual harness secures you to a qualified instructor. Prices from £270.00 so not a cheap day out but certainly one we think you’ll remember forever!
But there are also plenty of other things to do and see in St Andrews besides golf. A walking / food tour is a great way to learn about the historical town from a local whilst also enjoying some local food, wine, beer and whiskey on the way. Tours start at either 1pm or 5pm and with around 4 or 5 stops at different establishments.
Eat Walk St Andrews
Scotland is probably most famous for whisky but many distillers have now branched out into offering gin as well. Eden Mill is located just outside St Andrews and offers both blended and single malt whisky, including a range bottled in hip flask style bottles. There is the original Eden Mills Gin, the very popular pink gin and now a Golf Gin, made using botanicals found around the coastal golf courses in the region. They also produce 8 different craft beers, so something for everyone (except Tee totallers!). Book a tour of the distillery or why not enroll in Gin School? You can make your own gin and even have it bottled with it’s own label an ideal keepsake or a great gift to take home for a friend or relative who loves gin.
If you are visiting St Andrews at the end of July then the town has it’s own Highland Games.
St Andrews Highland Games
After all the sporting activities you might want to treat yourself to a relaxing massage or a spa day. The Kohler Water Spa at The Old Course hotel has hydrotherapy pools, an indoor pool, a roof top hot tub, a swan neck jet spray to ease those shoulder muscles, steam room, saunas and a whole range of massage options, facials and much more or simply relax on a lounger by the pool with a glass of champagne.
Looking for a chilled day, if the weather is warm (yes it is occasionally in Scotland) then why not pack a picnic and head to West Sands Beach. This 2-mile stretch of sands is were the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire was filmed. It’s about 15 minutes walk from the town and it’s dog friendly too.
West Sands Beach
A fun way to explore the city with children is to purchase a treasure trail. There are 3 different themed Treasure Trails in St Andrews, including a spy mission (for those wannabe James Bonds) and a mystery themed Trail as well as the treasure hunt. Purchase the trail for £6.99, you can either print it yourself order in advance and have a printed guide posted to you, you can even have them personalised so great for a birthday.
Children of all ages will love a visit to the Aquarium. See everything from cute seals, fluffy meerkats to sharks and reptiles. Children can also feed the animals (only the cute fluffy ones, not the reptiles or sharks!).
St Andrews Aquarium
For cold and wet weather days and a good dose of culture and education visit The St Andrews Museum. The Museum details the history of the town, with regular exhibitions throughout the year and it’s free to enter.
As St Andrews is the home of golf a trip to the town should really include a visit to The Golfing Museum. Learn everything there is to know about golf since the game began over 500 years ago. Despite Scotland being the home of golf it was in fact banned in 1457, by King James II of Scotland who also banned football.
British Golf Museum
St Andrews is also home to Scotland’s secret bunker, spanning the space of 2 football pitches, the bunker is located under a farmhouse and wascreated as a safe house for the government should the country get caught in a nuclear war. It housed its very own broadcasting studio, staffed by the BBC, to ensure that in the event of a nuclear strike emergency broadcasts could be transmitted. All other radio and TV channels would automatically go off-air and the emergency broadcast would inform people of the dangers. The bunker also had it’s own chapel and resident clergy throughout the cold war.
The Secret Bunker
The Botanic Gardens have events for children scheduled throughout the year called Planet Botanic; activities include planting, den building, rock pooling and outdoor art.
St Andrews Castle was the official residence of Scotland’s bishops (and later archbishops) throughout the middle Ages. They were Scotland’s leading churchmen so had to be prepared to defend themselves and the property of the Church – hence their strong castle. Its scale demonstrated the power and wealth of the bishops, and it was the setting for many important events, which determined the course of Scottish history. St Andrews Castle was a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a state prison during its 450-year history.
The Cathedral was Scotlands largest medieval church. If you can face the climbto the top of the 33m tall St Rule’s Tower it is well worth it for the views over St Andrews and out to sea.
Surprising St Andrews has some really great independent shops, and not just ones that sell jumpers with diamond patterns and long socks.
For a designer fix head to Sam Brown Boutique for a great selection of womanswear, accessories and scented candles.
If you’re looking for tartan or cashmere head to Johnstons of Elgin for mens, womans and childrens clothing as well as luxurious throws and cushions.
Johnston of Elgin
As you would imagine, a town with one of the most famous universities in the world is bound to have a good book shop, well, it has two actually.
Topping & Co is the largest independent bookshop to open in Britain in the last 30 years. Feel right at home with floor to ceiling bookshelves, a wood burning stove, free-flowing coffee and regular book signings and talks.
For a fine selection of antiquarian and second hand books visit Bouquiniste Bouquiniste
The Sky Candle shop will ensure the scents of Scotland can be enjoyed long after the holiday ends. The Scottish collection includes Heather, Pine and Gorse scents.
For those with a sweet tooth, Burns is a traditional sweet shop that has been in St Andrews for over 60 years. Step back in time with real old-fashioned favourites such as Rhubarb and Custard, Strawberry Sherberts and many more.
Burn Sweet Shop
For cheese lovers I.J Mellis has a great selection of artisan and farmhouse cheeses including locally made cheeses and very expensive French butter.
With so many historical buildings, ruins and its seaside location make St Andrews a great place for photography. Impress the folks back home with some really great Instagram shots by taking a 3 or 4 hour photography tour of the town. It’s also a great way to see places not on the tourist trail.
St Andrews Photo Tours
Food and Drink
Just outside the town, Balgrove Larder is a must for all foodies, whether you are after some local produce to take back to your holiday home to cook up a feast, a cup of tea and a freshly baked scone, a steak supper or some beautiful flowers for your dining table, Balgrove Larder has everything you might need, even some excellent homemade ready meals if you’re feeling lazy. They also offer butchery classes if you want to indulge your inner Julia Child and learn how to French trim a rack of lamb.
The former sawmill is home to the steak barn, the menus offers a selection of their 28 day matured steaks, homemade burgers and a weekly specials menu. There is a small wine list and beers and gin from local distillery Eden Mill.
Special events are held throughout the year including an evening Christmas market, flower arranging, festive menus etc.
The Seafood Restaurant is a must for a touch of luxury, amazing locally sourced seafood with stunning sea views. The restaurant is located right next to The Royal and Ancient. As well as the usual seafood platters, oysters and smoked salmon expect to find inventive dishes on the a la carte menus such as John Dory with Orkney scallop, truffle gnocchi and sweetcorn or Wild Halibut
with razor clams, coco beans and verjus. All menus have locally sourced meat options and there is also an interesting vegetarian menu as well as a very reasonably price Bollinger Sunday lunch menu at £29.50 for 2 courses with a glass of Bolly.
The wine list is impressive with over 35 Italian wines and 29 French Wines as well as New World Wines.
The Seafood Restaurant
Champagne and Prosecco brunch specials are also on offer at Rogue, enjoy a full Scottish Breakfast (that’s with Haggis and 2 types of sausages) with either Prosecco or the champagne of choice at this establishment is Veuve Cliquot. They also have a full a la carte menu with plenty of local seafood and steaks as well as a dedicated childrens’ menu.
For a touch of luxury why not have a Savoy Afternoon tea at The Fairmont Hotel. Served in the Atrium Lounge which features a 60m lighting sculpture that hangs gracefully above. Worth going just to see this which is quite an amazing work of art. Chose between the Savoy Afternoon tea and the Traditional Scottish Afternoon tea, both available with champagne as an option if you want to make it a truly special occasion.
The Fairmont St Andrews
The Fairmont Hotel is a luxury 5 star hotel set in 500 acres, it enjoys a hilltop position with views out to sea and over its’ two golf courses.
For a low-key relaxed place to eat, try The St Andrews Brewing Co. Offering a selection of traditional pub style food to complement their many selections of beer, they even have a Christmas Beer as well as an Espresso Beer “A beautifully balanced porter, which starts with an espresso nose and ends with a chocolate, malt led finish”
If you’re not a fan of beer they also produce three exotic sounding gins, Pink Gin, Lemongrass and Ginger and Orange, Cardamom and Tonka Bean.
Mitchells Deli is well worth a visit, whether you just want a bottle of wine and some olives, a great selection of take out meals, amazing sandwiches, afternoon tea or a relaxed meal, you will find everything here. A mixture of traditional fair mixed alongside modern day classics, such as avocado on sourdough bread or Rose Harissa spiced Chicken wraps. A childrens’ menu is available and there is live music every weekend. A short wine list is available, plus local spirits and more local ale including the Drygate Disco Forklift Truck, Mango Pale Ale apparently brewed in Scotland!
Trip Advisor quotes: The Best Haggis in St Andrews”
Eat like Royalty. The North Point Café is something of an institution in St. Andrews and supposedly the scene for the first date between Prince William and the then Kate Middleton. It has a reputation for the best pancakes in the town, as well as a great selection of cakes. It’s so well known it doesn’t even need a website.
The Saint Bar and Restaurant is the place where the young and trendy of St Andrews hang out. As with all establishments local produce is in abundance on both the menu and drinks list and they also serve Haggis. We recommend ordering the Harviestoun Schiehallion at the beginning of the evening and the far easier to pronounce, Cold Town lager towards the end!
Saint Bar & Restaurant
St Andrews isn’t the place you’d probably expect to find a traditional Italian Gelato but there has been one in the town since 1908 and still belongs to the same Italian family. Expect the usual flavours plus some with a Scottish twist including Scottish Tablet and Cranachan
Strange Scottish Foods you are likely to come across on your travels
So what is a Scottish Tablet? No it’s not an Ipad, a Scottish tablet is a medium-hard, sugary confection made from sugar, condensed milk, and butter, which is boiled to a soft-ball stage and allowed to crystallise. It is often flavoured with vanilla or whisky. Think fudge.
Cranachan is a dessert of cream and fresh raspberries mixed with Scottish oats and whisky – so slightly better for you than a tablet but not much!
Irn Bru – the Coca Cola of Scotland and a favoured hangover cure for many a Scot. Approach with caution if you spill it on the carpet it literally does not come out, don’t even ask what it does to your insides!
Haggis – the most famous food to come out of Scotland and still a mystery to many people. It is a mixture of the heart, stomach or liver of a sheep or calf; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach though now often in an artificial casing instead. Traditional served with neeps and tatties (Turnips and potatoes mashed together) and gravy.
A more sophisticated dish is Balmoral chicken, a chicken breast stuffed with haggis, wrapped in bacon and served with a whiskey sauce.
Porridge is of course another famous dish from Scotland and one that is very popular around the world as a healthy breakfast option, however, be aware, in Scotland they often make it with cream and sometimes butter so not as healthy as you might think.