5 Things You Must Do and See in St Andrews

…when you are not playing golf!

St. Andrews is a unique coastal town in Scotland. Its stunning location and beautiful architecture are notable qualities, but that doesn’t necessarily make it distinctive from other coastal towns. Those other places, however, don’t possess an internationally renowned university that has a royal seal of approval. And, more pertinently, they’re also not the Home of Golf. The Auld Grey Toon is.

Despite that prestigious label, playing golf isn’t the only activity on offer inside these historic walls. There is a richness and sense of vibrancy to the town that makes it a draw for visitors; including numerous restaurants and bars and, not to mention, these other attractions….

1. St. Andrews Castle
This striking old ruin that overlooks the North Sea, providing stunning views of the coast, is a monument to a dark and murky history that touches back centuries in both the town and the whole of Scotland. First built during 12th century, the structure was dismantled during the Wars of Independence. It later became home to Kings, with James III being born there in 1445.

As the years moved on, the castle took on a more sinister life, becoming a fearsome prison and site of religious persecution and murder during the Scottish Reformation, which led to a lengthy siege between Protestant and Catholic forces. Both sides cut deep into the rock to create underground tunnels. These remain open to the public today, and serve as a reminder of a bloody past that hangs over the town. It’s a must-visit for anyone with an interest in medieval history.

2. Eden Mill
Situated just a few miles outside of the town in the village of Guardbridge, the Eden Mill is an active and thriving distillery, producing beer, whisky and gin. The various tours of the facility have proven to be extremely popular for the many visitors looking to gain an insight into how these drinks are created, or to even sample some for themselves.

Tours are available for each of three main offerings, from the distilling of whisky to the brewing of the finest beer, meaning there is something for everyone. We also recommend that you book them in advance to ensure that you secure your place. If you don’t take a tour, you can always pop into their store alongside the Macdonald Rusacks Hotel, which looks across the 18th fairway of the Old Course.

3. British Golf Museum
Considering St. Andrews can make the claim of being the cradle of golf as we know it today, it’s no surprise that the British Golf Museum is to be found here. Sat across the road from the R&A Clubhouse, the facilities were renovated ahead of the 2015 Open Championship, which led to the opening of an upstairs café and restaurant that boasts striking views in all directions.

Featuring more than 17,000 items and golfing artefacts, the museum takes you through 500 years of the game’s history, from its origins during the Middle Ages in Scotland to the historic majors that have been played just yards away on the Old Course. It’s time well spent for lovers of golf.

4. New Picture House
If you are fortunate enough to be in town when there is a decent movie on show, then the New Picture House is an appealing opportunity to be transported back to an era when cinemas were less cynically commercialised and more intimate in nature.

Being the absolute antitheses of the huge multiplex theatres that you see across major cities today, this old building oozes character and charm throughout its modest three screens (which regularly show the major releases) and is a treat for anyone who misses the old days.

5. West Sands
West Sands is famously where the iconic beach running scenes from the Academy Award-winning Film Chariots of Fire were shot. This impressive beach stretches out for more than two miles from the edge of town and provides majestic views across the North Sea and back towards St. Andrews itself.

Always busy and vibrant, there is a wonderful atmosphere to it, with the combination of families, students, tourists and dog walkers creating a mood that reflects its beautiful surroundings. It’s comfortably among the finest beaches in the UK and is the perfect location for a stroll, particularly in the evening, when the low sunlight transforms it into something truly breath-taking and magical.

For many St Andrews is all about the golf, but to others it’s about their student days, Scottish heritage, the beach or just home. Therefore when you come to play its historic links courses, remember to look up, absorb the scenery and take a break… to enjoy some of the other sights and sounds of this marvellous old town.

If you’d like to experience the wonders of a golf vacation in St Andrews then please contact Golfbreaks.com. We have been booking trips to Scotland since 1998 and have a wealth of knowledge on St Andrews and the surrounding areas. And as always, our aim is to save you time and money!

 

Kieran Clark

Author, Kieran Clark.

I began playing golf at the age of five on the Isle of Bute in Scotland. It was the start of a relationship that hasn’t waned, with it becoming a mission to tick off as many courses as possible, with the Old Course at St. Andrews being my favourite. I love everything that it represents. After securing a degree in history at the University of Stirling, I have attempted to establish a career as a freelance golf journalist to express my love for the game and Scotland. And I relish any opportunity to share that adoration with anyone willing enough to read.