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Situated on a lovely stretch of the Fife coast, St Andrews has made good use of its excellent location over the centuries. The beautiful and green countryside is home to castles, golf courses, and the prestigious St Andrews University. In the summertime, this coastal town enjoys up to 19 hours of daylight, perfect for travellers trying to fit in a full day of golf! St Andrews is accessible by rail and car, with the Edinburgh airport located just over an hour away.
One cannot even start discussing St Andrews without bringing up the game of golf. The modern game is very much a Scottish creation, with the area around St Andrews generally thought to be where the game and its rules were refined. Today, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club presides over a lovely links course and also has a major influence on the rules of the game worldwide. The adjacent Old Course is, unsurprisingly, one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. Aside from being incredibly popular with amateur golfers the world over, who relish the chance to be granted tee time, it is also the most often used course for the Open Championship. The course has its own hotel; though hotels in the town centre are nearby, so staying on the course is not absolutely necessary. Unfortunately, many visitors are unable to secure tee time at the Old Course. They shouldn’t despair, however, as the surrounding Fife coast has a number of other links courses. While not as famous as the Old Course, they are just as lovely. The Castle Course - St. Andrews Links is a particular favourite and is just 2.5 miles from the town centre.
The town is quite compact, easily walkable and contains a number of historic buildings along its narrow streets and alleys. Market Street is perhaps the best place to start, which contains many of the town’s best pubs, shops and restaurants. This area also has most of the town’s hotels, which range from budget chains to luxury guest houses. Some offer spa deals and even late deals for those travelling at the last minute. St Andrews was once the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland and has a number of ancient churches. Most evocative of these is St Andrews Cathedral. Completed in the early 14th century, it fell into disuse and was abandoned in 1561, with its stones plundered and used to build other churches. St Rules Tower remains standing and visitors can ascend its spiral staircase for some of the best views in town. Another not to be missed ruin is St Andrews Castle. It is right on the coast and so also affords great views over the North Sea. Tours can be arranged. The bottle dungeon, one of the most notorious castle prisons in the UK, is also a must see.
The University of St. Andrews is said to dominate the town – accounting for almost a third of the population. The campus is very much incorporated into the town centre itself, so it’s difficult to tell were the university ends and the town begins. In recent times it is best known for being the university Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge attended, but has a rich history dating back to the early 15th century and a reputation as one of the best universities in the UK. Much of the campus grounds are accessible to visitors. St Mary’s and Salvator’s Quads are historical quadrangles that have seen many notable events over the ages, including hosting Mary Queen of Scots and burning martyrs at the stake. Visitors not interested in staying in a standard hotel room will be pleased to learn that the university rents out rooms in its residences to tourists over the summer months.
Visitors travelling in the warmer months could do worse than head to one of the three local beaches. Castle Sands Beach is small, overlooked by St. Andrews Castle and is perhaps the most visited of the three beaches. It also has a sea pool. West Sands and East sands beaches are quieter, with West Sands allowing visitors to walk for a couple of miles and really get away from the crowds. West Sands was also the film location of the famous opening sequence of the Oscar winning movie Chariots of Fire. East Sands Beach has more facilities, including a leisure centre and a couple of hotels and pubs with rooms. While the weather is surprisingly dry, the North Sea is notoriously chilly - so swimming at the beaches is not widespread. Sunbathing and long walks are quite popular, and kitesurfing has really taken off in recent years.