A Guide to St Andrews – the Insider’s Handbook
Your personal tour guide to St Andrews.
The town of St Andrews
These boots were made were for walking …’ and St Andrews is far more suited to two feet than four wheels. The main hub of the town is formed by three thriving main streets, each with their own distinct character, set against the imposing backdrop of St Andrews Cathedral – for centuries the ecclesiastical home of Scotland.
‘Modern’ St Andrews started back in the 12th and 13th centuries, and while the same cobbled streets are now buzzing with cafes, restaurants and shops, this history is still clearly in evidence as you divert off the main thoroughfares along the web of interconnecting wynds.
Thanks to the prestigious University of St Andrews, the town is equally famed for its academic prowess as it is for its impressive golfing opportunities – particularly since the graduation of its 2 most famous modern day students , William and Kate. While you may no longer bump in to the future king and queen of England at their favourite drinking hole take a stroll to the town’s favourite 19th hole, the Dunvegan Hotel and look at the hundreds of snaps on the wall showing the array of equally famous (and infamous) folk who take to the town after a day on the Links.
Golf in St Andrews
The reputation of St Andrews as a world class golfing destination is well known and well deserved. Six wonderful courses for all levels of play plus extensive practice facilities are right on your doorstep – simply walk or use the free Links Shuttle bus that passes through the town.
With perhaps your new hybrid tucked in your bag, still freshly wrapped from Auchterlonies (the golfer’s dream retail outlet), take the free shuttle bus to the excellent practice and tuition centre just a few minutes away. Even if you are an absolute beginner the range of facilities available there can take you from your first swing to playing your first tee shot at St Andrews.
- If a round on the St Andrews Old Course is an absolute must then check out our guide to securing the most coveted tee time in golf.
- The Old Course is just one of the superb courses in St Andrews. Head over to Golf courses in St Andrews and the surrounding area to find out about the wonderful range of golf courses in the area.
St Andrews for families & non golfers
St Andrews has always been a hugely popular vacation destination even before it became a mecca of world class golf. If you are a non golfer, have members of your group that don’t play or are simply having a well-earned rest from the rigours of the fairways, then St Andrews has much to offer.
One of the nicest things about St Andrews is you can simply stroll out, no plan in mind and wander. If you like a little spice with your history then hook up with the walking tours run from the nearby University St Salvator’s quad and explore the town’s history of martyrs burnt at the stake, the witches hanged and drowned off the sea cliffs and the defenestrated bishop hung from the Castle window. And watch out for ‘jumpers oot’…
- St Andrews Aquarium
Great for the youngsters in your family.
- West Sands Beach
Just a couple of minutes further on from the Aquarium, past the Old Course you can turn on to the sweeping beach. The really low tides make this beach a perfect place for either a tranquil stroll, a turn at castle building, or you can turn the volume up a little and join the power kiters down at the far end.
It would be a shame to ignore 2 very special golf themed activities aimed very much at non golfers:
- Walk the Old Course, St Andrews
To the amazement of many first time visitors, the Old Course is open to pedestrians at all times. It is public land managed by a Trust for the benefit of the residents of the town and the wider golfing community. In fact, on Sundays it is SHUT to golfers and very much OPEN to everyone else.
- St Andrews Ladies Putting Club – ‘The Himalayas’
Do not miss the chance to play the oldest miniature golf course in the world, The Himalayas. Conceived by members of the Royal and Ancient back in 1867, it was originally built for the Ladies Putting Club (who still to this day have an active membership and use it for their competitions) as it was deemed:
“ …unacceptable for women to publicly perform such violent movements that a golf swing requires”.
Do not be fooled, it’s not just for experienced golfers, it is excellent for all standards and all generations. You get a putter and ball at the starter’s hut and kids can get a club with a cut-down shaft.
With The Himalayas, everyone gets a chance to ‘play 18 holes at St Andrews’
If a round on the Himalayas inspires anyone in your group to pick up a golf bag and walk the fairways then remember golf in St Andrews is not just for the low handicap or scratch golfers. Bear in mind:
- There are Junior rates available on all the Links courses.
- The Old Course is the only St Andrews course that requires a handicap.
- The Balgove Course offers those that want to dip a toe in to play 9 holes at St Andrews.
Check out our Guide to golf for beginners, kids & high handicaps in St Andrews for more information.
Eating & drinking in St Andrews
Having spent some time describing St Andrews as a place to employ your feet rather than your steering wheel, you may feel that the possible downside of a place that is so ‘small’ in its geographical dispersal could be a limited choice of eating and drinking establishments.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. If you took a stroll through the streets of St Andrews and totted up the bars, restaurants, cafes and take-aways, you would reach over 70 including over 15 cafes, 20 bars and 25 restaurants.
So whether you are after a coffee and ice cream, or perhaps a sundowner after a day on the Links, locally landed fish n’ chips or fine dining, St Andrews can occupy your taste buds for quite some time. If you think you’ve ‘done it all’ then there are some great restaurants to visit just a short journey away too.
Shopping in St Andrews
If you are a golfer it is a certainty that you will visit Auchterlonies, the mecca of golf merchandise in the town. There are many fine golf retail outlets nearby, including the historic Tom Morris shop overlooking the 18th green of the Old Course and the wide range of official merchandise offered at the Links Clubhouse.
Generally speaking, the main shopping area for ‘everything else’ is nearby Market and South Street where you will find a wide range of both independent as well as the more usual ‘high street’ outlets. South Street has its own flavour of art galleries and small bespoke gift and food shops while Market Street provides you with all your day-to-day necessities, such as banks, pharmacists, bookshops and supermarkets.
If you are looking for snacks or food gifts, St Andrews has 2 artisan cheese shops, 2 delicatessens as well as 2 fishmongers – but also 2 ‘high street’ supermarkets to ensure you have all the basics you require easily at hand. You can also choose your fine wines, beers and Scottish whiskys (as well as the after dinner cigars to go with them) at Luvians Bottle Shop.
Getting Around St Andrews
While St Andrews is ideally suited to walking, it isn’t compulsory. There are various other options available to you.
The complimentary Links Shuttle bus takes you and your clubs to any of the town based golf courses as well as to the Links practice facilities.
In the summer months there is a ‘hop on hop off’ open top tour bus, calling at attractions such as St Andrews Aquarium, St Andrews Cathedral and the Botanic Gardens. Passengers are free to hop off at any of the timetabled stops and complete the tour later in the day using just the one purchased ticket.
The local bus station provides links all over Fife and beyond, and can help you with which bus to catch if you wish to visit the picturesque East Neuk fishing villages of Crail Anstruther and Elie as well as taking you further afield to the nearby city of Dundee. Bus or taxi gets you to the local railway station at Leuchars where you can take a train to the capital city of Edinburgh or through to Aviemore, Inverness and the Highlands.
You may decide you want a car throughout your stay, but it is well worth considering other options that may be more suitable (and possibly less stressful). With so much on your doorstep, it is possible that a car (or van) is not quite the necessity you assumed.
If you and your group are golfing then you may wish to consult Chris at Ginger Beer Golf Travel, your Golf Travel Specialist, on the options available to you such as a chauffered golf van for your stay. You may find the need for a car ‘airport to airport’ is less pressing.