The Ultimate Guide to St Andrews, Scotland

On my friend, Dayna’s, last day in Scotland we all made the short trip from Edinburgh to St Andrews for the day and boy, was it great! I’ll give some great tourist tips at the bottom of the post, but first let me tell you a little but about what St Andrews has to offer and our experience there.

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As you can see from the pictures, it was a typical overcast Scottish day when we visited in mid May. As someone who has dealt with terrible, blistering sunburns her entire life in Texas, my extremely fair skin welcomes the usual cloud cover in Scotland.

My skin is happy to be back in it’s homeland.

I’ve given up on being a tanned southern bell and have come to grips with the reality that for the rest of my life I’ll be struggling not only to apply enough sunscreen, but even to find makeup that is light enough for my translucent skin tone.

Makeup companies, pale people want to buy makeup too!

I’ve gotten off topic. Back to the beautiful St Andrews!

When we arrived, we checked out a few of the university buildings first. It’s clear that the university is well loved and has been for centuries. It lives up to its prestige.

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Our next stop was the ruins of St Andrews castle. The castle was lived in by dignitaries for centuries before it fell into ruin. It’s not very big so it only takes about an hour to go through, but it’s totally worth the stop.

There’s a mining tunnel, dungeons, and several other intact rooms to see. There is a long history of sieges and a brutal murder in the castle which, to me, makes the site incredibly interesting.

If you have the Historic Scotland pass, the castle is included. If not, it’s just a few pounds to go through. Check out The Complete Edinburgh Travel Guide for more details on this pass.

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After the castle, we went for a quick lunch at a little bakery in the center of town. Silly me, I didn’t get a picture of the bakery or of our food… Probably because I was so excited about the shop that I looked around rather than taking pictures and so excited about the food that I ate it before I could take a picture!

Here’s a picture of a cafe that we did not eat at to fill the place of the picture I should have taken.

For those that don’t know, Prince William met Kate at St Andrews where they were both going to school. In St Andrews, they refer to them as Kate and Wills.

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There are many cafes around town, but if you, like us, are in the market for a quick lunch you should search out the bakery we ate at. It’s right across the street from the Doll’s House cafe. They serve all kinds of pies so you can eat a filling lunch for just a few pounds. Best of all, you can pick a delicious dessert from their wide array of baked goods!

I believe that the point of eating any meal is to get to the dessert at the end. This little bakery’s sweets do not disappoint. (They’re famous for their fudge donuts. Yum!)

After lunch, we continued on the tourist trail to the St Andrews Cathedral ruins. For nearly 600 years this cathedral was the largest building in Scotland and it served as a religious mecca for the country. Now in ruins, it’s still a really neat site to visit.

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Walking around the ruins is free, but if you want to climb the tower or visit the museum (pictured below), there is a small fee. Again, if you have the Historic Scotland pass all of this is included. If not, there is a package deal on tickets to the castle and cathedral that gives you a slight discount.

You only need to budget about an hour for the cathedral and its museum.

The museum holds some really interesting artifacts, including the original sketch of the cathedral building plans made by the builder on a stone. It is certainly worth taking a look at.

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Even though it’s in ruins, the size of this seaside cathedral is still staggering. I can’t imagine how impressive it must have been in its heyday. I really can’t imagine how massive it would have seemed to the people visiting hundreds of years ago that would have never seen a building even close to that size.

This is my 6’3″ husband straddling what’s left of a pillar. Most of the time we say he’s too tall for buildings in Scotland (normally after he hits his head on them), but this cathedral dwarfs him.

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After the cathedral tour, I figured we all deserved an ice cream break.

Well, I wanted an ice cream break.

Have I mentioned that I love ice cream?

If you also find yourself in need of an ice cream break while in St Andrews I highly recommend the little ice cream parlor in the town center.

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Our last stop in St Andrews was the Old Course golf course. Both the oldest and most famous golf course in the world, anyone who knows anything about golf undoubtedly recognizes this view.

Heck, I don’t know anything about golf and I recognize this view!

The Scots invented golf and hold the sport with great reverence. In spite of this, or maybe because of this, they share their most prestigious course with the world by keeping it a public course.

We didn’t play on the course (we would have made fools of ourselves), but we did get pictures of the Swilcan Bridge and watched other people golf!

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This entire day adventure happened in less than 5 hours. Scotland is small. St Andrews is small. You can see the sites and enjoy the town easily in a day.

That said, Blythe and I are definitely planning on going back for a weekend trip so we can hang out and enjoy the cute town for longer.

If you have an extra day in Scotland and are wondering what to see, you should definitely take St Andrews into consideration.

Tourist Tips:

  1. St Andrews is walkable. No need to worry about how you will get around the city, everything is within easy reach by foot. The town is lovely and safe. You shouldn’t be concerned about going the wrong way and ending up in a bad part of town. Feel free to explore anywhere!
  2. The bus is the best option, in my opinion, to get to St Andrews. The bus drops you off right in town, while the train stops about a 10 minute drive away. You then have to take a bus from the train station to get into town. For us the best, and cheapest, option was to take the Stagecoach bus from Edinburgh.
  3. Ask for a map at the castle or cathedral to help you get around town. The town is small and you can definitely find your way without one, but the little tourist map they give includes restaurants and such so it’s really helpful throughout the day!

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