A July 2002 trip
to St. Andrews by Taylor Shelby
Quote: St. Andrews is a beautiful, small, seaport town. Once the ecclestical center of Scotland, today it is a busy, elegant college town. St. Andrews is the jewel of Scotland... don't miss it!
St. Andrews has a wonderful mystery about it, heightened by the crags and ruins of the once glorious cathedral and once powerful castle. As evening approaches, the city is cloaked in fog, and you can occasionally catch the strains of pealing church bells or bagpipes that sound like they are coming from centuries past.
St. Andrews has a rich history. In its earliest days in 500 AD, it was a center of religious thought. It soon took the role of ecclesiastical and educational center of Scotland, with the cathedral and St. Andrews University representing two of the most powerful institutions in the country.
Today, it is a vibrant college town, the glamour intensified by the presence of Prince William, heir to the crown, who is studying at the university. St. Andrews has something for everyone: natural beauty, rich history, and golf! It was founded in this very city, after all.
For me, the entire town was a highlight. I suppose if I must pick a few, I would certainly include the castle and cathedral, especially the stunning view from St. Rule's Tower. I also really enjoyed the aquarium with its frolicking seals. The best thing to do would have to be just wandering around. They have excellent paths for walkers that take you around the city - make sure not to miss those.
My dad took all of these pictures. Aren't they pretty!
Getting around the actual city is very easy. There are only three main streets, and the old town is very small and compact. You can walk to just about every site, except the Botanical Gardens, and a taxi is only a few pounds. Pick up a map anywhere to get the basic layout. You will know where everything is in one day.
The B&B is located in a beautiful restored home on Murray Park (what I like to call B&B Row - literally every home on the street is a guesthouse). Burness House has a prime location on the corner of Murray and North Street, so there are lovely views out every window. It is very small - only four bedrooms - so you really get a chance to know the owners. I had the small, lovely twin room that overlooks a beautiful garden. My parents had the best room in the place, with a large living space and a wonderful corner window, so you could watch all that was going on down below. All the bedrooms have private baths.
The breakfast room is bright and sunny, with small tables and comfortable sofas. They have a big, traditional Scottish breakfast every morning, made to order. Make sure to try the potato scones. It was wonderful to wake up each morning and start the day with a nice, full stomach.
The rooms are very well-priced, especially for how nice the place is. The single room is 43 pounds a night, and the double rooms are 38 pounds per person. To check availability and see some pictures, you can check out the Burness House Website.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 14, 2005
St. Andrews, Scotland
Restaurant | "The Oak Rooms"
The restaurant has a beautiful interior with small, open rooms, wooden floors, and minimalistic furniture. The decorations are simple and beautiful. What really got me was the wonderful, roaring fire--quite a welcome sight in the wet, chilly air of St. Andrews.
I probably would have liked the place even if it wasn't that good, just because of the warm fire, but the Oak Rooms did not disappoint. We actually went back twice, once for lunch and once for dinner, if that gives you any indication of how fantastic it was.
The menu is very small, but I still had a difficult time of choosing. The best thing I had was the penne regate carbonara, penne pasta mixed with an incredible cream sauce made with bacon, mushrooms, and garlic (5.95 pounds). It was truly spectacular. I also enjoyed the stir-fried Veggies, a generous mix of Asian veggies mixed with noodles (5.75 pounds). My dad had one of the burgers and said those were good also.
The also had an excellent dessert selection. I suggest trying the sticky toffee pudding, a Scottish tradition. It is really more of a dense cake than our idea of pudding, and it is served hot, dripping with caramel sauce. Yum!
This was a great restaurant to have a quiet lunch or a romantic dinner. After all, it did keep us coming back.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 15, 2005
The Oak Room
127 North Street
St. Andrews, Scotland
From a map we were using, it looked like it was an easy walking distance. After getting lost a few times, it actually ended up taking us forever to get there. The walk was really lovely though, through some old and beautiful neighborhoods, but it would probably be easier to take a bus (#S2 or S3) or a taxi for just a few pounds.
For such a small city, I was very impressed with the size and variety of the gardens. There are many different sections to the gardens, each representing different growth areas or a special exhibit. Personally, my favorite was the glasshouse. Some of them are tropical and some are arid. The largest is alsmost like a recreated rainforest complete with bogs and streams. There were a lot of crazy, beautiful flowers blooming.
Outside of the glasshouses, there is a very interesting Order Garden. The many beds are laid out by order and classification, and represent some theories about the evolution of the plants that are in them. They run from simple to complex. I thought this was extremely creative and unusual.
They also have a large pond/water garden, a very beautiful, extensive rock garden that occupies and sloping hillside, a couple of herbaceous borders, and a heath garden, which shows the many varieties of heather that grow all over Scotland.
Admission to the gardens is 2 pounds (1 pound for ages up to 16. They are open daily from 10-4. You can very easily spend hours here, so give yourself enough time - especially if you get lost like we did.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 15, 2005
St. Andrews Botanic Garden
St. Andrews, Scotland
Attraction | "St. Andrews Museum"
The museum interprets the history of the city from the earliest days of Pict settlement to the modern 20th century. When you first walk in, there are a lot of ancient artifacts. As you advance in time, you also advance through the types of exhibits. They use a lot of life-sized models to talk about important events and eras in the history of the city.
My favorite part was the use of the city as a major Victorian resort. Near the castle and aquarium, you can see pools that form as the tides go out. I learned that these were built as swimming pools for the Victorian beach-goers. Personally, I think they were crazy. I was there in June, and the water was freezing! They also start to use recordings, photographs, and videos as you move into the 20th century.
The best thing about the museum is that it's free! Hooray! It certainly wasn't the Louvre, but for a free municipal museum, I thought it did a fine job. Around the grounds there are a couple of tennis courts and bowling greens. Keep your eyes out for bunnies - we saw a lot in this small area.
St Andrews Preservation Museum
St. Andrews, Scotland
After leaving the welcome center, you can cross the moat and go into the actual ruins of the castle. The castle was the residence for the Archbishop of St. Andrews, the most powerful clergyman in the Country. It was built here sometime around 1200. It was at this castle, in 1306, that the Archbishop crowned Robert the Bruce, declaring Scots' independence from England and defying the powerful Edward I.
This castle was also home to the grisly murder of Cardinal Beaton, the powerful leader who went head-to-head with the Protestant Reformation in Scotland. The conspirators disguised themselves as bilders and sneaked into the castle early in the morning, surprising the prelate asleep in bed. His body was burned, hung from the walls for a few days, then pickled and thrown into the chilling bottle dungeon.
The castle was taken over by the Protestants, led by John Knox, and was eventually retaken by the Scottish Queen, Marie de Guise. Knox was imprisoned and sentenced to spend some time rowing in the French Galleys. During this seige, there was a network of mines and counter-mines dug to try and get into the castle. You can actually crawl down into them, which is quite memorable (read: terrifying!).
Today, the castle is very much in ruins. You can make out the shape and, in a few instances, climb up to the upper floors, but it is hard to get a sense of what it actually looked like. You can, however, imagine how terrible it must have been to spend a cold, howling, Scottish winter cooped up in that place. No, thanks!
Admission to the castle is 4 pounds, and you can get a joint ticket with the cathedral to save a few pounds.
St Andrews Castle
St. Andrews, Scotland
Attraction | "St. Andrews Cathedral and St. Rule's Tower"
Worship first began on this site around 800, when the Celtic Cudees build a makeshift church here. It was quickly replaced by St. Mary on the Crag, which you can see just north of the cathedral walls. The relics of St. Andrews, patron saint of Scotland, were probably kept at this site.
In 1159, the construction of the cathedral began. It wasn't consecrated until 1318, when the archbishop crowned Robert the Bruce King of Scotland. Supposedly, he even rode his horse up the aisle. The cathedral began its demise in 1409, when part of the building was destroyed by a terrible storm. Already weakened, it stood no chance against the zeal of the Protestants, who destroyed the cathedral in the later 1500s. Under the leadership of John Knox, most of the Catholic cathedrals were ruthlessly destroyed. I guess they weren't thinking about people really wanting to see them 400 years later.
Entrance to the grounds of the cathedral is free, so you can wander around all you want taking pictures. DO NOT forget your camera. Even a child could take incredible pictures here. For entrance into the museum, which has some interesting exhibits on the history of the site, and to climb St. Rule' Tower costs £3. It is totally worth it. The views from the tower are breathtaking – and would be even if you didn't have to climb a steep, spiral staircase for what seems like ages.
Even in all of its ruined glory, it is still easy to see the beauty that must have been St. Andrews cathedral. It was the largest and most important cathedral in all of Scotland, and today, it is still a sight that should not be missed.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 17, 2005
St. Andrews Cathedral
St. Andrews, Scotland
The aquarium is small, but it managed to pack a lot of information into a small space. It takes about 1.5 hours to see the whole thing, give or take, and you get to see quite a variety of sea creatures. They have over 30 tanks with about 100 types of animals. Everything from sea urchins to sharks has a home at the aquarium, and there is a good exhibit on the local fish in the area.
One of the exhbits that I found the most interesting was the seahorses. I have always thought they were interesting, but it was wonderful to actually see them up close and observe their behavior. They are very small and almost translucent. As they pass by seaweed, they wrap their little tails around the stalks to anchor themselves in the current. They only have tiny fins, so they probably can't move around very easily. I also learned that the male seahorse is the one who gets pregnant. Isn't that strange?
After what seemed like hours (very fun hours, but still...), we finally emerged on a platform outside overlooking the large tank that I had been eyeing for days. The large animals I saw were seals! There are two, Laurel and Hardy. They haven't been trained, so they just swim around a play all day. They had a few balls in the pool with them that they were playing with, and it was adorable. Everyone outside on the platform was laughing and smiling at how happy they were. The person feeding them told us that when the tide is unusually high, the sea will rise and flow into the tanks. Once, it was so high that the seals just swam right out into the North Sea! The people at the aquarium thought they were gone forever, but a few hours later, they came swimming back in. I guess that means they are happy!
On-site, they also have a cafe/restaurant called Catch. Their gift shop had a lot of wonderful gifts and books that I looked at for quite a while. They have family passes for different sizes that will save you a few pounds, so be sure to ask about those. Even if you don't have kids, you will still really enjoy the aquarium. I learned a lot, not just about the local fish and sea creatures, but about many others that aren't from around Scotland. Make sure to check it out.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 19, 2005
St. Andrews Aquarium
The Scores Central Waterfront
St. Andrews, Fife, Scotland KY16 9AS
Charleston, South Carolina