Despite having lived in Scotland for my entire life, I had never visited St. Andrews until I moved there to study at the university in the late summer of 2014. Apart from Edinburgh, I was largely unfamiliar with the opposite coast and so when I started exploring St. Andrews, its beaches and its historical buildings I was blown away.
The beaches in St. Andrews are plentiful and, for Scotland, really lovely. East Sands is the furthest beach from the town; boasting the St. Andrews harbour, pier and some of the greatest sunrises I’ve seen in my entire life. The path along the beach is lined with benches, and if you walk far enough you’re able to climb atop a cliff that overlooks the entire town and gives you an unbelievable view of the North Sea. Castle Sands, the beach nearest town, is a small corner of sand below the ruins of St. Andrews Castle. West Sands is the beach for sunsets. It seems to go on forever, and runs alongside the Old Course Hotel. The beach is lined with sand dunes and long grass on one side and on the other the North Sea.
For me, although I may be entirely biased as a student of the university and more specifically a student of Art History, the several hundred year old university buildings around town are my favourite part about St. Andrews. The University of St Andrews is over six centuries old and so the range and number of building styles is vast. Off South Street, discreetly disguised behind a wrought iron archway is St Mary’s Quadrangle. The buildings in the quad were built in the sixteenth century and are built around a stunning green (see photos). A quiet, idyllic quad, it is much overlooked by people visiting the town and so if you do get the opportunity to visit St. Andrews make sure you see it! On the opposite end of town – which for the town that consists of three main streets, isn’t too far at all – St Salvator’s Quadrangle stands behind St Salvator’s Chapel on North Street. The chapel itself is Neo Gothic and decorated with stunning stained glass. Behind the chapel are vast cloisters that make you feel like you’re in a Harry Potter movie when walking to and from classes, and these overlook the quad itself. Recently renovated, and much bigger than St Mary’s, Sallies is a vast quad surrounded by Arts buildings which themselves are beautifully built, embellished and decorated internally. As you walk through the town you can see that an extensive number of the buildings are owned by the university, and that they have been preserved to the style they were originally built in. There is a wonderful balance between seaside, architecture and greenery in the town and each one compliments the other.
Other buildings to visit in the town that aren’t university affiliated are the St Andrews Cathedral, which now is a ruin and graveyard. The remains are vast, and on a foggy Scottish day even more beautiful than others. You’re also able to buy a ticket to the top of one of the remaining towers, which allows you an impressive view of the town and coastline. The Castle ruins a few hundred metres away can also be explored. Apart from these landmarks, just walking through the town and turning down the side streets are what gives you the best experience of St Andrews. It is an incredibly well put together town and is always in pristine condition. All around the town on houses there are dates; 1856, 1790. he town is so richly imbued with history it is tangible. On the north end of North Street still stands a house in front of which one of the first photographs ever taken was created, or the scenes that were splattered across the news in 2004 when Prince William attended the university can be seen with your own eyes.
Lastly, I’ll talk about the food. Whenever I had visitors in St Andrews and they asked me where we should go to eat my response was always “there’s not a bad restaurant in St Andrews, it would go out of business” and it’s true. Northpoint, on North Street, serves all day brunch and has the best chai tea latte I have ever drank as well as home baking, breakfasts, sandwiches and bagels. Little Italy on Logie’s Lane serves extraordinary pizza and pasta and my personal favourite is the crab and lobster ravioli topped with king prawns. Blackhorn on Church Street serves local beef and chicken and their burgers are undoubtedly the best in town, despite the increasing attempts at competition. Rendez-Vous on Market Street is a hidden gem with a make your own style menu of baguettes and paninis. The Adamson on South Street is a Michelin star restaurant with a pretty price tag but absolutely worth the splurge. The Vic on Market Street has a 2-for-1 deal from Monday to Thursday on burgers and hot dogs and the choices of both are endless and my favourite St Andrean restaurants don’t even begin to make a dent in the choices available.
Only a bus ride away from Dundee, Glasgow and Edinburgh, St Andrews is perfect for a day trip or overnight stay. If you’re a golfer (which I wholeheartedly am not) then where better to spend your time than in the home of golf? The history of the town is its best seller and Its stunning beaches, friendly locals and delicious pubs and restaurants make it all the more worth visiting!