Located in the East Coast of Scotland, in Fife County, St Andrews is one of the ancient and historically important towns of this country, despite its small size (less than 20,000 people). Today there’s nothing grey about St Andrews: the town centre today is full of life and colour, thanks to a mix of shops, restaurants and art galleries, all set within a medieval Royal Burgh…
The University of St. Andrews probably helps in creating this atmosphere, and its 6000 students make up nearly 40% of the town’s population. This University is the first one established Scotland and one of the oldest in the UK. It is also one of the most prestigious in Great Britain, and it is often compared with Oxford and Cambridge because of the reason I mentioned before: its defining presence in the town and the collegiate feel it gives to the town.
St Andrews cathedral is also worth visiting and a must-see if you decide to go to this beautiful town. Built in the year 742, when the relics of Saint Andrews (who would later become the patron saint of Scotland) were brought to this town. It was once the biggest cathedral in Scotland until it was destroyed in the 16th century during the Protestant Reformation of John Knox. In the centuries to follow, its stones were used for different constructions in the town and so from this once-biggest cathedral of Scotland, there remains only one esplanade with some walls and 1 tower on each side as well as part of what was the Gothic-style cloister. Although today there are only ruins from this masterpiece of architecture, you can still get a feel for how big this building must have been.
St Andrews is also perfect if you are a fan of golf. It is known worldwide as the home of golf, mainly because of The Old Course of St Andrews is one of the oldest golf courses in the world and most probably the oldest in Scotland. The course was first used to play golf approximately in the 15th century, and today it is the most famous of the town’s eight championship courses, and welcomes some of the best golfers in the world at the British Open Championship.
The fact that St Andrews is located on the coast makes it very attractive, since the castle and the cathedral are very close to the sea. St Andrews has also 2 great beaches, one of which is called West Sands, where the opening scene of Chariots of Fire was filmed. So, if you visit St Andrews you could also take a swim (but I would only recommend it in summer!).
The castle of St Andrews is now a picturesque ruin of what it once was. It is located on a rocky promontory, offering great views of the sea. Under it lies a small beach called Castle Sands. It was built in the late 12th century during the time of Bishop Roger was designed to show the wealth of the Burgh (a Burgh was an autonomous corporate entity, normally a town). It was also the residence of the bishops while St Andrews was the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland. It was destroyed and rebuilt several times during the Scottish War of Independence as it changed hands between the Scottish and the English army. It was also the home of Kings, one of them being James I of Scotland, and was also used as a prison for local degenerates as well as more notorious people, like dukes and an Archbishop.