Interested in visiting the home of golf without renting a car? Check out these tip to find out the best time to visit and how to get there from Edinburgh!
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** Post updated, May 2019
St. Andrews is a must-see on a trip to Scotland. We based ourselves in Edinburgh and St. Andrews is an easy (and quick) day trip from the medieval city home base. The historic town is home to the University of the same name - the third-oldest in the English-speaking world, and, of course, the birthplace of the game of golf, invented here in the 18th century. Its stunning cathedral in was the largest in Scotland before its destruction.
Getting to St. Andrews from Edinburgh
It's quick and easy to hop on the train at Edinburgh Waverley and you’ll be off the train in approximately an hour, including just a few stops. Important note: The train stops at Leuchars Rail Station, which is not in St. Andrews. You’ll need to take a bus or a cab to St. Andrews. This is easy enough to do. However, when you get out a Leuchars, you will have a moment of panic as you gaze upon a suburban neighborhood and a field. You are not being pranked - this is the right place. We grabbed the bus on the way in and took a cab on the way back (it’s not far, so a cab is within reason).
Lunch in St. Andrews
Right after you get off the bus, walk down the ‘main drag.’ We grabbed a quick lunch at the local Pret so that we could get moving, but there are also a variety of sit down restaurants and pubs. For more information about pubs and where we at later, see the bottom of this post.
St. Andrews Cathedral
Next, head straight to St. Andrews Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is a ruin, but that makes it all the more inspiring. Walk around the enchanting grounds and examine the hundreds of graves spanning as many years. A ticket is required (it allows you to see the entire property, including climbing the tower) and is very reasonably priced. The museum is interesting, but can be skipped, in my opinion, as experiencing the place is the best part of the trip. My husband did climb the tower, which he enjoyed and which, he said, offered excellent views. Be advised, the entrance to the tower is a one-way gate that closes behind you (so that they can keep tabs on who goes in and out) and the entrance is extremely small. I would allocate at least half an hour for this portion of your trip.
Built in 1158, the Cathedral was the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland during the Middle Ages. After the Protestant Reformation, the church, like the Castle (discussed below), fell into disrepair and was abandoned.
St. Andrews Castle
Now head to St. Andrews Castle - another ruin but another cannot miss. You’re free to roam around the Castle at your leisure (which I always enjoy) and crawl around in the nooks and crannies. For those of us too afraid to climb the tower at the Cathedral, the view from the top of the smaller and more open Castle turrets are great as well. I'd allocate about half an hour. Ticket are required and can be purchased in the modern gift shop. Surprisingly, there is a restroom in the visitor's centre.
The Castle was built in originally built in the 12th century, but over the years, especially through the wars of Scottish independence, it was burned and put under siege many times. It eventually landed in the hands of the Church, but with the abolition of the bishops by William of Orange, it fell into disrepair in the 18th century.
Walking toward the Old Course will take you on a quick spin through the University. Stroll the streets where love first ignited for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and hope that they are on an alumni visit weekend. No need to take an organized tour unless you’re thinking of attending (a girl can dream).
The Old Course
Continuing along The Scores, you’ll know it when you see it - the iconic Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews looms in the distance. For those of you looking to play you actually can, but certainly plan ahead. For the rest of us, come to St. Andrews on a Sunday - the course is open for walking around (this is not a joke). You can stand on the 18th and take a picture for your dad, without getting in the way of someone who’s paid a pretty penny. (For my U.K. readers - this is particularly noteworthy to Americans. Luxury golf courses in the U.S. are almost never open to non-members, let alone random tourists. Don’t show up at Augusta with your camera thinking you can wander around the 18th). Speaking of dads, grab your dad a ball marker from the gift shop or one of the surrounding tat stores. Small, compact, and easy to carry - he’ll keep it on his dresser forever. For big golf fans, a variety of other options are certainly available.
Where to grab a pint in St. Andrews
When you’ve gotten your fill of pictures, stop by the Juniper at the Golf Inn and grab a pint Continue walking either to grab the bus or, because let’s be real, you’re just done at this point, toward the transit center (down the hill to the right) where you can grab a cab back to Leuchars.
For more information about train travel and other great options from Edinburgh, check out Visiting the U.K. by Train.
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