ST. ANDREWS is probably second only to Edinburgh as the most visited town in Scotland. Most come to visit The Home of Golf as it is the headquarters of the sport's governing body and the site of the world's most famous course, the Old Course. There is much more to the town than golf. It is the seat of Scotland's oldest university and was once the ecclesiastical capital of the nation.
It is also a popular seaside resort.
St.Andrews is 13 miles south of Dundee and 55 miles north of Edinburgh. The nearest train station is at Leuchars, 5 miles away, on the main Edinburgh to Aberdeen line.
There are frequent bus services from Stirling, Dundee and Edinburgh.
If you are driving, parking can be difficult.
The Cathedral was founded in 1160 and was the largest ecclesiastical building ever built in Scotland, and the second largest in Britain. It is in ruins now but is still impressive. The Cathedral was not destroyed by the English (for a change), the Scots managed this one by themselves during the Reformation in the 16th century.
Nearby is St. Rule's Tower which affords excellent views although it is a bit of a climb.
St. Rule, legend has it, brought some of the bones of the apostle Andrew here in the 4th century and they were enshrined where the cathedral was built. This led to the town attracting pilgrims from far and wide.
The Castle was built in the 12th century as the stronghold of the bishops of St. Andrews and has been the scene of many blood-stained incidents. Not much of the castle remains but there is an excellent exhibition in the visitor centre which brings the history of the castle to life.
The University was founded in 1410 and is the third oldest in Britain after Oxford and Cambridge. Many of the buildings of the university date from the 15th and 16th century.
Three streets; North St., Market St. and South St. fan out from the Cathedral maintaining the medieval street plan. These are the main shopping streets and are linked by narrow alleyways, or "closes".
The best way to explore the town is by getting a map and a guide at the tourist office and simply wander around. There are interesting and historic sites around every corner.
As you would expect from a town that is popular with tourists and has a large student population there is no shortage of restaurants, cafes and bars.
The best restaurant in the area, and indeed, one of the best in Britain, the Peat Inn is located 7 miles south of the town.It is VERY expensive but exceptionally good. More of that another day.
Many of the hotels have good restaurants and there are many cafes such as Brambles, The Merchant's House and The Victorian. These are good for lunches and light snacks. Littlejohn's is good for steaks and burgers. The New Balaka Bangladeshi is one of the best curry houses in Scotland.
The best pubs, particularly for bar meals, are; The central Bar, Featherie and Firkin, Ma Belle's and the Dunvegan. These pubs are always busy and have the best atmospheres.
My personal favourite is the 400 year old Castle Tavern. It is a traditional pub that is located between the castle and the cathedral. Cheap and cheerful, the regulars are very friendly and it's very welcoming. The food is mainly snacks so the ales, whiskies and atmosphere are the attractions here.
St.Andrews has plenty of accommodation in all grades, from horrendously expensive luxury hotels to simple, inexpensive B&B's. The university rents rooms from June to September and there are also caravan parks and campsites. Holiday flats and houses are also available.
During the summer booking should be made in advance. If you plan to visit when the Open is on you may have to book YEARS in advance and prices go through the roof !
Although St.Andrews is a major tourist resort it still has the feel of a small town and is worth visiting even if you hate golf.
If you like golf, this is heaven. If you don't like golf there is still plenty to do.