Approximately one-half mile walking distance from St. Andrews Cathedral is St. Andrews Castle. Due to the poor weather, we opted to drive over and hope to find parking nearby. We lucked out, getting to park on the side street that runs along side the castle grounds. The admission here was also around £4 or free with the British Heritage Pass.
Once you take care of your admission ticket, there is a short (10-15 minute) walking tour telling the history of St. Andrews and the importance of this castle to the evolution of religion in Scotland. It has been said that St. Andrews was the most religious place in all of Scotland for several hundred years. Pilgrimages during medieval times saw thousands make the trip to this location. St. Andrews Castle is more known about religion than royalty as it was built to serve as the residence of the Archbishops of St. Andrews. The first castle of St. Andrews dates back to approximately 1200. In that time, religious figures played very significant political roles in medieval times. It was the Archbishop of St. Andrews who took part in the coronation of Robert the Bruce in 1306 at Scone Palace, an act that later resulted in his imprisonment.
This castle was also the site of many acts of historical significance including the murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546. Shortly thereafter, the castle was besieged and later destroyed during the Reformation, leaving it in the ruinous state visitors find today.
As you walk around the grounds and perimeter of the castle wall, you can get a great perspective of the strategic location of St. Andrews Castle. Several of the towers and other areas can be explored. David was especially interested in the bottle dungeon, a deep “hole” where prisoners were thrown down until their death. According to historical accounts, Beaton’s dead body was thrown down there and stored in salt. There is also an interesting siege mine and counter-mine where rooms were dug deep into the rock beneath the castle as hiding places.
There is a lot to see and do in and around St. Andrews. If you are going to be there for any amount of time, we would highly recommend setting aside an hour or so to tour and learn more about St. Andrews Castle and its place in Scotland’s religious history.