Famous for its 12th Century cathedral, 13th Century castle, 15th Century university and, of course, golf!
Like many university towns, its character changes from term-time to vacation. In summer, St Andrews bustles as a holiday resort but it has a more subdued academic centre in term time.
Golf has been popular here since the 15th century. In its early days there were calls for the playing of the game to be restricted as it was claimed to be adversely affecting church attendance and archery practice!
Although Mary Queen of Scots enjoyed the occasional game, it was her son, James VI who made the game popular south of the border. The Society of St Andrews Golfers was formed in 1754 and from the early 1800s, the popularity of the sport grew, as did the popularity of St Andrews. By the end of the 19th century, additional local courses were being constructed to meet the demand. Major tournaments now make the town extremely popular as a tourist destination.
The early growth of St Andrews was as a religious centre associated with St Andrew (now Patron Saint of Scotland).
One story claims that St Rule was told by an angel to carry relics of St Andrew to "the ends of the earth". He was shipwrecked on the coast of Scotland and the community, which became established at the place where he came ashore, was later called St Andrews. Whether or not the story is true, it is certainly a fact that relics, supposedly of St Andrew, were placed in a chapel here.
The chapel was replaced in 1160 by St Andrews Cathedral, to which pilgrims travelled to view the relics. St Andrews became the religious capital of Scotland and, although now in ruins, the Cathedral's obvious magnificence cannot fail to impress. St Rule’s Tower, also on the site, is part of the first Augustinian church built in the early 12th century. Now in the care of Historic Scotland.
The Bishops and Archbishops of St Andrews were very powerful and they built a castle in the early 1200s. Many religious reformers were imprisoned there and Cardinal Beaton burned one, George Wishart, at the stake. His initials in the pavement in front of the castle mark the spot of his gruesome death.
In revenge, a group of protestants in the guise of stonemasons, entered the castle and murdered Cardinal Beaton in 1546, displaying his body to the crowd from the castle walls. They held the castle for over a year during which time the "authorities" laid siege.
Visitors can explore a mine and counter-mine tunnelled during the siege which ended when the garrison eventually surrendered to the French fleet. The protestants, including John Knox, were taken prisoner to France.
In addition to the castle itself, there is a Visitor Centre with a fascinating exhibition of the history of the castle and cathedral. Shop features local products made in Fife. Open all year. Historic Scotland.
St. Andrews University was founded in 1410 by Henry Wardlaw, Bishop of St Andrews and tutor to James I. It was the first university in Scotland and third in Great Britain, the others being Oxford and Cambridge. Its fortunes have fluctuated but the university prospers today with a student population of over 4000. During the summer vacation, some of the halls of residence offer accommodation to tourists.
St. Andrews Museum in Kilburn Park explores the towns heritage from early times to the 20th century. In the Kaleidoscope Gallery there is a changing programme of temporary exhibitions on a wide variety of topics. The Activity Centre hosts lectures and activities for children throughout the year. The Museum café serves light meals, teas, coffees and home baking.
No visit to Fife would be complete without also visiting the British Golf Museum. Whether or not you are a golfer, you will find the museum full of surprising facts and striking feats from 500 years of golf history. There are displays and exhibits which trace the history of the game, both in Britain and abroad, from the Middle Ages to the present day.
At nearby Troywood visitors can now explore Scotland's Secret Bunker, the country’s best kept secret for over 40 years! Hidden beneath a Scottish farmhouse is a tunnel leading to the bunker. 24,000 square feet of secret accommodation on two levels, 100 feet underground to protect Government staff in the event of a nuclear attack during the Cold War.
At St Andrews Aquarium, located at The Scores, you can view numerous marine species like seals, sharks, piranha, crabs, lobsters, shrimps, rays, seahorses, sea dragons, sea urchins and octopus. Over 30 tanks where you can see and, in some cases, touch the specimens - a real hands-on experience. One of Fife's top attractions.
St Andrews Botanic Garden, The Canongate, has been described as a 'hidden gem' of Scotland. The garden is divided into sections including Water Garden, Heath Garden, Peat Garden, Rock Garden, Herbaceous, China and Chile Borders. The garden has about 8000 species of ferns, herbaceous plants, shrubs and trees, some which are native to Scotland but most grow wild in other regions of the world.