The small town of St Andrews is located on the North East Fife coastline and is the last place I lived in Scotland, before moving to Canada in 1980. Most people have probably heard St Andrews referred to as “The Home of Golf”, but in reality, St Andrews is so much more, with abundant history, renowned university, commerce and a thriving tourist industry.
Although Judi is struggling with a back injury, we set off for a walking tour, taking in most of the key areas in St. Andrews. If driving towards St Andrews, especially in the summer months, don’t even consider taking the car into downtown, as parking is at a premium and the streets are normally gridlocked. I always get free parking off Doubledykes Road below the bus station, where the railway station used to be. If busy, you may have to head down to the University area.
Our tour started by walking back up to the bus station along the paved path that was the old train tracks. Entering City Road, our first viewing stop was Hope Park & Martyrs Church. This church has origins dating back to 1738 and since 2010 is a union of 2 churches.
Continuing along City Road we arrived at one of the main reasons for not driving into the town centre, specifically The West Port, which is the western entrance to South Street. The West Port Gate was originally built in 1589, renovated in 1843, and is one of the last remaining city gates in Scotland. One way traffic has alleviated some of the congestion.
Passing through one of the pedestrian side arches we walked up South Street. Judi checked out the shops while I noted almost all of them have changed since I lived in town. Our next stop was Madras College, which I attended for 3 years. Founded by Rev. Dr. Andrew Bell in 1833, although pre-cursor schools date back to the 1500 or 1600’s. When I attended the school, Madras was a split campus school, with the South Street campus focussing on academics and sports for years 3 to 6, which are the last 4 years of high school.
Located directly in front of Madras College is the ruins of Blackfiars or the Dominican Friary of St Mary, which dates from the 15th Century.
A short distance along South Street is the building still known as the Town Hall, although St Andrews is now part of Fife District Council, with offices in Glenrothes. The town hall is used for local meetings, social events and hosts the Masonic Lodge, St Andrew # 25, of which I am a member. This Lodge dates back to the 1500’s.
Continuing with checking out the changes to various shops, we turned into Church Street, passing a St Andrews institution – Fisher & Donaldson, bakers extraordinaire. Their cream cakes are simply to die for.
From Church Street we walked along Market Street, which is still cobblestones and also contains the Mercat Cross, which is a Scottish term for Market Cross. A couple of pubs are existing, but most, if not all the shops have changed.
Having already worked up an appetite, it was time for lunch. With the exception of a couple of pubs, none of the restaurants or even chippies from my days are still in operation, so I checked Tripadvisor and found BlackHorn Restaurant on Church Street. It is highly recommended with a menu of burgers, wraps and chips, but everything is made fresh and is tasty.
With full tummies we returned to South Street and headed East towards the Cathedral.
The 2nd stone gate, The Pends, dates from the 14th Century and is located at the East end of South Street. Passing through the gate leads down to the harbour. Immediately on passing through the arch, on the right is Nun’s Walk, which is an entrance to the very exclusive private school St. Leonards.
The bottom of The Pends opens to the vistas of St Andrews Harbour and the East Sands.
From the harbour we entered the graveyards, Cathedral, and St Rule’s Tower, which dates from the12th Century.
You can climb a circular staircase inside St Rule’s Tower, which I have completed on previous visits. Being a grey overcast day I wouldn’t get good photos, so we continued our walk out the rear door onto E Scores Road.
Continuing along to Scores Road the next attraction is the remnants of St. Andrews Castle, which dates from the late 1100’s.
We didn’t stop in at the Castle, as other than the ruins the other points of interest are the dungeon and mine, neither of which Judi would visit, as they are both underground. I’ve been many times, so we continued our walk down the Scores.
St Andrews University, founded in the 1400’s is Scotland’s oldest university and the 3rd oldest in the English speaking world. Notable graduates include Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge our future King and Queen of United Kingdom and the Commonwealth. The university is one of the largest property owners in St Andrews, if not the largest. In addition to the main campus at the edge of town, they also have numerous buildings throughout downtown, as per the photograph above.
Further down The Scores, overlooking the Aquarium and ocean is what I refer to as hotel row.
The next photograph shows the original swimming pool from when I lived in St Andrews. At least it was cleaned twice a day when the tide came in.
Overlooking the old swimming pool also affords and excellent view of one of my favourite beaches, the West Sands. Gently sloping, fine, golden sand. If the water was only considerably warmer it would rank up there with the best beaches on Hawaii.
From this point we concluded our tour of St Andrews and headed back to the car.