A Day in St Andrews: 15 Epic Things to Do

Located on the coast of the North Sea in Fife, St Andrews is one of the most charming towns in Scotland.

This historic town is around 30 miles northeast of Edinburgh, making it a perfect place for a day trip from Edinburgh.

St Andrews is famous for its golf heritage, remarkable medieval historic sites, sprawling sandy beaches, world-renowned golf courses, century-old university, jaw-dropping coastal sceneries and a thriving student population.

St Andrews

Rightfully, St Andrews is one of the best places to visit in Scotland and should be a part of any Scotland itinerary.

This coastal town is steep in history. It is named after the St Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of Scotland. During medieval times, this town gained massive popularity as the spiritual epicentre of Scotland. Today, it is known worldwide as the home of golf.

St Andrews is not too far from Glasgow and can be visited on a day trip from Glasgow.

Best Things to Do in St Andrews, Scotland

1. Discover the History of St Andrews Cathedral

It was once the largest cathedral in Scotland. Today, it is one of the best historical landmarks of Scotland and one of the main tourist attractions in this seaside town.

The origins of St Andrews Cathedral can be traced back to the 8th century. Back then, it was a Celtic monastery. The cathedral was built in the mid-12th century.

St Andrews Cathedral

Wander around the impressive medieval ruins. Visit the cathedral museum. It houses a brilliant collection of important early and later medieval carved stones and relics, including St Andrews Sarcophagus and numerous Pictish cross-slabs.

For a stunning birds-eye view over the town rooftops, North Sea and Fife, climb to the top of St Rules Tower.

St Andrews Cathedral tower
st rule's tower

If you are an avid golf fan, look out for the tomb of Old Tom Morris, a pioneering Scottish golfer.

Opening Hours: The grounds are open daily. The museum is open on Fri-Sun 10 am to 4 pm.

Ticket: Adult £5.50 and Child £2.50.

2. Admire the Iconic Old Course & Swilcan Bridge

A sacred ground for all golf lovers, the Old Course in St Andrews is the most famous golf course in the world.

Rightfully referred to as the home of golf, the game was first played here in the early 15th century.

It is one of the oldest golf courses in the world and has hosted the eminent Open Championship many times since 1873, most recently in 2022.

Swilcan Bridge
golf in Old Course

Also, the course is open to the public. So, if you are keen on playing in this iconic location, book ahead.

Watch out for a picturesque stone bridge over a narrow burn called Swilcan Bridge. It is another iconic golf landmark in St Andrews and is over 700 years old. 

For centuries, the bridge was famously known as the Golfers’ Bridge. Many legendary golfers once stood here.

3. Soak up the sun at West Sands Beach

West Sands is the largest beach in St Andrews. The opening sequence of the historical sports drama Chariots of Fire was filmed here.

Stretching over two miles up to the estuary of the River Eden, West Sands is a perfect place to stretch your legs and enjoy a peaceful stroll in nature.

Horse riding in West Sands Beach
West Sands Beach

It is around a 15-minute walk from the town centre and is one of the best places to visit in St Andrews.

Also, this area is great for walking, running and various water sports. In hot summer days, it is possible to swim here too.

The dunes along West Sands are part of the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary Special Area for Conservation and are home to several animals and plants.

4. Explore the Captivating St Andrews Castle

Perched over a cliff by the North Sea, St Andrews Castle is a must-visit tourist attraction in this pretty town.

This impressive historic building is included in our list of best castles in Scotland.

It was built around the early 13th century and served as the residence of the bishops and archbishops. It became the main administrative centre for the medieval church of Scotland.

Over the years it has seen many battles and sieges and changed hands several times during the Scottish Wars of Independence.

St Andrews Castle

Protestant reformer, George Wishart was burnt alive here in 1546. In the aftermath, the protestants murdered the Archbishop of St Andrews, David Beaton.

Peep inside the notorious bottle dungeon. It was one of the most infamous medieval prisons in the whole of Britain.

Explore the medieval mine and counter-mine – underground passages built during the religious reformation of Scotland.

5. Uncover Dundee’s Industrial Past

The bustling city of Dundee is located only 10 miles from St Andrews. You can easily combine both the places in your visit.

There is an array of fascinating things to do and see in Dundee. 

This city has a rich industrial heritage. In 2014, Dundee became the first city in the UK to be named UNESCO City of Design.

dundee

One of the main tourist attractions of this vibrant city is the V&A Dundee. It is the first V&A museum in the world outside London. For a stunning view over the city rooftops, Fife and the Firth of Tay, climb the Dundee Law.

From St Andrews, it takes about half an hour by local bus to reach Dundee.

6. Build sandcastles at East Sands Beach

St Andrews is blessed with not only one but two gorgeous sandy beaches. 

East Sands Beach is located on the side of the old harbour and within a short walking distance from the town centre.

Wander along the inland path along the beach. It sits on the popular Fife Coastal Path. From the farthest end of the beach, you will get a stunning view over St Andrews.

East Sands Beach
St Andrews Harbour

East Sands is the perfect place to enjoy various water sports such as kayaking, surfing and windsurfing.

If you are with young kids, they can enjoy rock-pooling at the south end of the beach. 

Also, in summer, if the weather permits, you can go swimming. Lifeguards patrol the beach during the peak season.

7. Explore Fife’s most picturesque fishing villages

Did you know Fife has some of the most picturesque traditional fishing villages in Scotland? You can easily visit some of them.

The pretty seaside town of Anstruther lies in the south of St Andrews and takes only 15 minutes to drive there.

Anstruther

Take a ramble along the pretty harbour. From there, you can catch a ferry to the Isle of May, which is famous for puffins and other wildlife. Ferry service operates from May to September.

Also, enjoy some delicious fish and chips from the award-winning Anstruther Fish Bar.

One of our favourite East Neuk fishing villages is St Monans, which is located about 12 miles south of St Andrews. 

You can also add Crail, Pittenweem and Elie to your travel itinerary.

8. Visit The R&A World Golf Museum

The R&A World Golf Museum is a must-visit attraction for all the golf lovers visiting St Andrews. After all, this town is the birthplace of golf.

Take a walk across the various galleries of this museum. It demonstrates the fascinating tales of the past of golf, its connection with this town and how golf has evolved over the centuries.

The R&A World Golf Museum

From sporting equipment to personal memorabilia of golfers – they have a great collection of various objects related to golf. Also, you will learn about the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and its contribution to this game.

They also have a cafe upstairs overlooking the nearby beach and the Old Course.

9. Admire the beautiful St Salvator’s Chapel

This beautiful Gothic structure is the official university chapel and belongs to the University of St Andrews. 

It was founded in 1450 by Bishop James Kennedy. 

During the Scottish Reformation, it was a refuge for catholic forces. Also, John Knox preached his sermon here once.

It is open to visitors between 8 am to 5 pm throughout the year.

University of St Andrews
St Salvator’s Chapel

After visiting the chapel, ramble around the historic St Salvator’s Quadrangle. It is located at the heart of the university and dates back to the 15th century. 

Look out for the PH initials of Patric Hamilton, the Protestant martyr who was burned alive here in 1528. The students believe that stepping in the initials will bring them bad luck in their exams.

10. Take in breathtaking views on the Rock and Spindle hike

If you enjoy peaceful coastal walks with lovely scenery, take a short hike to see The Rock and Spindle, a beautiful rock formation on the Fife Coastal Path.

The walk starts from the East Sands area. Follow the path that goes over the small cliff towards the caravan park.

the Rock and Spindle hike

Don’t forget to look back. You will get an awe-inspiring view of the St Andrews skyline. 

There are many wonderful rock formations along the coast. Take a slight detour to visit the Maiden’s Rock sea stack.

Continue along the path until you reach the Rock and Spindle rock formations. They are the remnants of an eroded volcanic plug, similar to the rock on which Edinburgh Castle sits.

The hike takes only an hour and a half. 

11. Dig into delicious gelato at Jannettas Gelateria

You can’t visit St Andrews and not try ice cream from the famous Jannettas Gelateria

Established in 1908, this family-run ice cream shop is a firm favourite of locals and visitors alike. 

The long queue outside their shop on sunny days will attest to their popularity.

They had a wide variety of flavours to choose from. We tried the chocolate fudge brownie and pistachio. They were incredible.

Other than ice cream, they also serve frozen yoghurts, sorbets and cakes. There are lots of seating options, both indoors and outdoors.

They have also opened a shop in Dundee.

12. Explore Wardlaw Museum

Situated only a few minutes from the castle, Wardlaw Museum houses an impressive collection of a variety of objects showcasing the history of the university.

It is also known as the Museum of the University of St Andrews or simply MUSA. The vast collection has been gathered over six hundred years and tells the story of this historic institution.

The museum holds over 115,000 artefacts – from medieval maces and artworks to medals. They are displayed across four galleries.

Also, from the viewing terrace, you will get a beautiful panoramic view over the coast. Entry to the museum is free.

13. Discover St Andrews Museum

Housed inside a gorgeous Victorian mansion in Kilburn Park, St Andrews Museum has an intriguing collection related to the town’s history.

There are various artefacts and memorabilia on display. They tell fascinating tales of the growth and importance of this town from as early as the 12th century to the present time.

Some of its prized possessions include medieval coins found in this area, an embroidered banner created in 1823 and many more.

Also, they host several temporary exhibitions. Entry to St Andrews Museum is free of charge. It is open every day except Sunday.

14. Tuck into some fresh seafood at the Tailend Restaurant

If you fancy some delicious fresh seafood, pop inside the Tailend Restaurant at Market Street in the town centre.

They offer both takeaway and sit-in options. During our visit, we tried their Cullen skink, Arbroath smokies and traditional fish and chips with mushy peas and tartare sauce on the side. The food was tasty, and the service was spot-on.

fish and chips

If you are not a seafood lover, you can visit the nearby Forgan’s. They offer an extensive menu of European dishes, grill and classic Scottish dishes. For a wee drink, visit The Criterion.

15. Discover local history at St Andrews Heritage Museum & Garden

This small museum is a hidden gem of St Andrews and is located a stone’s throw away from the castle and the cathedral.

It showcases the colourful stories of this town and its people from the 19th century and paints a picture of their social, working and domestic life.

Take a look inside the recreated Victorian shops and Great-Granny’s wash-house. You will find a wealth of historical objects including fine arts, costumes, furniture and many others related to local history.

Also, there is a beautiful tranquil garden at the back. 

Map of the Attractions

Here’s a map of all the wonderful tourist attractions St Andrews has to offer. Save this Google Map to your phone for later use. It can be accessed when you are offline. We have also marked a few cafes and restaurants you might want to check out.

How to Reach St Andrews from Edinburgh & Glasgow

This town is well connected to nearby cities by public transport.

The nearest railway station to St Andrews is Leuchars, which sits on the main train line between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. 

Leuchars is around six miles from the town. From the train station, catch local bus service 99. Buses run very frequently, and the journey from Leuchars takes around 12 minutes.

If you are driving from Edinburgh, it takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to reach here. From Glasgow, it takes around 1 hour and 40 minutes.

If you are exploring the nearby areas of Fife, then catch local buses from St Andrews bus station.

It is a delight to explore this vibrant old university town on the east coast of Scotland. History, nature, museums, beach, good places to eat – this town has all the ingredients for a perfect holiday. Over the year, we have visited St Andrews quite a few times. 

Also, be sure to explore the nearby attractions of Fife. 

We hope this guide has inspired you to add this picturesque town to your next vacation in Scotland.

With love, Moumita & Sankha.

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