St Andrews is a beautiful Scottish town on the coast of Fife. Most of all, it’s famous for its University (with alumni like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), its golf links and absolutely stunning coastline.
Oh, and then there’s the architecture here which is worth visiting in and of itself!
This being said, St Andrews does seem to be one of those places in Scotland where every visit is almost purpose laden.
You go to attend a graduation, to maybe visit a friend who’s living there and most likely, to play golf instead of just being a place where people go exploring in Scotland with no plans whatsoever, as it can (and like should) be.
Having lived in St Andrews for several years, I’ve put together a few things you need to know before you visit St Andrews in Scotland.
1.) There’s no direct train into St Andrews
Yup, there’s no direct train to St Andrew’s. You need to get as far as Leuchars station and from there, catch the bus or a taxi to the town.
2.) It’s a university town
St Andrews is very heavily defined by its University.
The town numbers almost double when the students arrive back in town and so a visit in term-time and outside of term time vary rather different in terms of population size.
3.) It has lots of history in teaching
Speaking of the University, it’s also the 3rd oldest University in the English speaking part of the world and the oldest in Scotland.
It’s also consistently ranked as one of the best in the UK – right behind Oxford and Cambridge.
4.) Golf is a huge thing in St Andrews
You heard that right, golf is a big deal here!
This is considered as the home of golf and it’s also home to one of the oldest golf championships in the world (which attracts a lot of celebrities to the town.
5.) You’ll struggle to find big clubs
There are no “clubs” (as in dance/disco/night) in St Andrews.
The best you can hope for is the student union and even then, people than to just have house parties instead. What it lacks in night clubs however, it makes up for in bars and cafes.
6.) Don’t visit during graduation ceremonies
The worst times to visit are during the graduation ceremonies in June and November (see the University website for specific dates).
For about a week either side of these dates, you’ll find it a struggle to find a place to rent, let alone finding an affordable one.
7.) It’s an easy day trip from Edinburgh
St Andrews is just slightly over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh so a trip to St Andrew’s can always be worked into a trip to Edinburgh (the train is also about an hour and the bus about 2 hours).
8.) Visit the castle for free
If you plan your trip properly, you can visit around the days when monuments across Scotland are completely open to the public and absolutely free (visit the official Scottish Civic Trust website for more details).
9.) There’s a secret tunnel to find
In St Andrews Castle, there’s a tunnel that used to link into the town (an escape route for the castle’s inhabitants).
To this day, you still walk through the tunnel these days and although it doesn’t exist in the town anymore, it’s still worth checking out. (If you’re claustrophobic, perhaps give this one a miss).
10.) You can explore by foot
Yes, you can explore everywhere in St Andrews on foot so skip on the car and invest in some walking shoes.
The further parts of the town are, at most, a 30-minute walk and that’s for slow walkers like myself.