St Andrews

The historic home of Golf, a University, Castle and Cathedral

St Andrews

St Andrews can make some impressive claims. Not only is it home to Scotland's oldest University, St Andrews, it was also a pioneer in developing the game of Golf. It was also the site of the largest Cathedral in Scotland and was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland. 

A medieval town, located on a bay on the northeast coast of Scotland in the county of Fife, is situated some fifty miles from Edinburgh. Not only does the town feature a host of attractions, but is also an ideal base from which to explore the surrounding countryside.

Make the home of Golf, your home for but a short time, enjoy the coast play one of the many golf courses and tour the surrounding countryside on a private driver-guided tour of Scotland.

The Story of Saint Andrews
Legend has it that it was a shipwreck that resulted in St Andrews being where it is today. St Regulus (also referred to as St Rules) as custodian of five of Saint Andrew's bones had a vision directing him to take them to the western edge of the world and establish a city to honour St Andrew. He set off from the Greek island of Patras but was shipwrecked and, having struggled ashore, built a shrine at that spot. It became the site of the largest cathedral in Scotland.

The town was to become the birthplace for both Scotland's oldest university, St Andrews, and Golf. Both remain defining institutions for the town to this day.

Brief history of St Andrews
Evidence suggests that the area was inhabited as early as the middle stone age. However, with the establishment of a monastery by St Regulus around the mid-eighth century, the present town's foundations started to take shape. The castle built around 1200, which, with subsequent extensions and alterations, became the palace for the Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews. Its connections with the church resulted in it becoming damaged during the reformation and became a ruin in the seventeenth century. 

A similar fare was to befall St Andrews Cathedral. It had been 150 years in the building (founded 1160, finished 1318) and consecrated in Robert Bruce's presence. The largest Cathedral in Scotland became an important centre of pilgrimage for both Scottish pilgrims and European pilgrims. It became the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, wielding enormous political and economic influence - all ended by the Scottish Reformation of 1559.

Today the town retains its medieval street pattern with narrow alleys and cobbled streets. The entire centre of the city consists of original or listed buildings and is a joy to visit. 

What to see; 

St Andrews Castle
The castle  erected around 1200 on a clifftop to the north of the town. It has the sea around three sides and a moat on the fourth. Along with its defensive role, it became the residence of the bishops of the diocese. Badly damaged in the Wars of the Scottish Independence (late 13th and early 14th centuries) and again because of the reformation (1543 – 1551), rebuilding work followed. Still, over time, the building deteriorated became a ruin. Today it is a scheduled monument. 

St Andrews Old Course
The oldest golf course in the world and regarded as Golf's home has played here since the 15th century. St Andrews Royal and Ancient Golf Club were, from its inception in 1754 for 250 years, the governing body for Golf, a position it relinquished only in 2004. Its role was taken over by the 'R & A,' who, in conjunction with the United States Golf Association (USGA), now perform governance for the game worldwide.

Such was the popularity of the game in Scotland; it was banned in 1457 by James II, concerned that young men were playing Golf at the expense of developing their archery skills. James III upheld the ban, which remained in place until 1502 when James IV removed it, becoming a golfer himself!

The Old course has been central to the development of rules for the game and methods of play. For instance, in the early days, the French game required players to hit the ball to an object above ground, whereas the English game's objective was to get the ball into a hole.

The first British Open Championship was held here in 1873 and has been a regular event since attracting huge crowds worldwide. 

St Andrews Cathedral
Once the largest cathedral in Scotland, it started in 1160, but almost 160 years were to pass until it was completed and consecrated in 1318. It stood for some 240 years, becoming the centre of religious activity throughout Scotland and a place of pilgrimage. It remained that way until June 5, 1559 - when a sermon by a notorious reformist firebrand preacher, John Knox, incited such hatred that the Protestant mob ransacked the building destroying the interior. The building rapidly declined and became a ruin after stone from its walls was used for other town buildings. It continued as a source for materials right into the 1820s.

Today, all that remains is a slab in front of the high altar that held St Andrew's relics. Next to the cathedral is St Rules Tower. Enjoy marvellous views of the town and its surroundings by climbing the 157 steps.

The British Golf Museum
Learn the definitive story of Golf at the British Golf Museum. There are 17,000 objects at the museum, including; Seve Ballesteros's shoes, an original cane golf ball, and see the handwritten 1744 Articles and Laws of Golf. Make a pilgrimage and to the museum and be enlightened. 

St Andrews University
For many people, St Andrews University is St Andrews. Founded in 1410, it is the oldest in Scotland. Its library dated back to the 17th century and was the Scottish parliament's meeting place in 1645. Three of the colleges date back to the middle ages; St Salvators (1450), St Leonards (1512), and St Marys (1538).  

Touring and accommodation
Our Scotland Adventure Tour and Golf, Whisky and Culture Tour both include a visit to St Andrews, and we recommend staying in the prestigious Old Course Hotel. If you are golf fanatic and prefer to stay in the countryside, check into the Gleneagles Hotel and Spa. The golf and huge array of activities will keep you busy, and you can take a driver-guided day tour to St Andrews from Gleneagles. 

It is possible to take a day tour from Edinburgh to St Andrews, include a stop at Stirling Castle one of Scotland's great strategic strongholds.

The Home of Golf

City of learning and culture

  • Visit The British Golf Museum
  • See the Cathedral Ruins
  • Explore the Castle
  • Play Golf on the Coast
  • Tee times on the Old Course