One of my favourite road trips is a day trip to St Andrews from Edinburgh. It’s a trip I have done several times, and the good news is just one day in St Andrews is enough to experience the best of this seaside town.
So what are some of the reasons I love St Andrews?
St Andrews is jam-packed with history; it was the religious centre of Scotland prior to the 16th century and was once home to Scotland’s largest church.
Being obsessed with Scotland and its architecture, I concluded after my first visit that St Andrews is exactly how a historic Scottish town should look. Beautiful late-gothic buildings, clean streets and cosy pubs- St Andrews is guaranteed to charm the socks off visitors.
It is also renowned for being the Home of Golf, and is home to the oldest golf course- The Old Course. Pro golfers, golfing enthusiasts and even celebrities flock to St Andrews every year to play a round on The Old Course.
So without further ado, let me show you how I would spend one day in St Andrews. Throughout this article I’ve included interesting bits of history associated with each of the spots you’ll visit. I’ve also included a map of all of the locations mentioned in this article so you can find them easily. You’ll see this at the end of the article.
This article may contain links to products/services I love that I may earn a small commission from- at no extra cost to you.
How to get to St Andrews
The easiest way to get to St Andrews is by driving. There are two main routes to choose from if driving from Edinburgh- the direct route via the A92 which is quicker (1 hour, 20 minutes), or the scenic Fife coastal route which is longer (2 hours, 10 minutes). I recommend taking the Fife coastal route if you have the time- there are lots of great places to stop off along the way. If picking the coastal route, I recommend doing this the day before and experiencing a full day in St Andrews the following day.
St Andrews is a common day trip from Edinburgh, so you think there would be a direct train route. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
The most common way to get to St Andrews using public transport is by catching the train from Edinburgh Waverley to Leuchars station. You can then catch the bus to St Andrews.
I recommend using the Traveline Scotland website to plan your journey to St Andrews. As far as travel planners in Scotland go, it is the most accurate.
Getting around St Andrews
All of the main attractions in St Andrews are either in or close to the centre of the town, so the easiest way to experience St Andrews is on foot. If you are driving, the Murray Place car park offers free parking [see the map at the end of this article] so park up and enjoy St Andrews on foot.
If you’d like to travel the area around St Andrews, for example if you’d like to visit any of the distilleries, going by car is the easiest option. There are buses too- again check the Traveline Scotland website for public transport options.
There are also taxis available, I recommend St Andrews Taxis (call 01334 477272 to book).
Accommodation in St Andrews
For budget travellers, St Andrews University offers affordable dorm room accommodation. There is also a budget hostel, St Andrews Tourist Hostel, located in the centre of the town. Scooniehill Farm House is a fantastic B&B at a great price located just outside the town.
Places to eat in St Andrews
St Andrews has many great cafes and restaurants, it was hard to narrow down just a few suggestions!
North Point Cafe is a cute wee cafe with excellent marketing. As you’ll see on the sign in the window it is where Prince William would meet his future wife Kate Middleton…for coffee. Even if it wasn’t the place they officially met (they met when they were both attending St Andrews University) this cafe still has amazing food, with a mouthwatering selection of scones, tea and coffee, soups and sandwiches. I highly recommend it!
Forgans is one of my favourite spots for dinner. The restaurant was once a ‘cleek factory’ where golf clubs were made. It has a rustic, warm feel to the place with romantic mood lighting- so it’s perfect for couples. They are known for their excellent Scottish cuisine, so treat yourself and head here for lunch or dinner. On Friday and Saturday night they have a ceilidh. I highly recommend booking a table for dinner and you can either watch the dancing action from your table or join in on the fun.
The Vic is a popular student hangout and a great spot for a casual lunch or dinner, or just for a beverage. They have yummy vegan options and well-priced food for the budget conscious wanting to eat out.
Jannettas Gelateria is famous in St Andrews for its ice cream and gelato. They’ve been making gelato for over 100 years, so it’s no surprise it’s so good! They have over 100 flavours of ice cream and in 2014 were named the best ice cream shop in Scotland.
Cosy and traditional pubs and bars I recommend checking out are The Criterion, St Andrews Brewing Company, The Keys Bar, and Greyfriars Inn.
How to spend One Day in St Andrews
Exploring Ancient History
You’ll start your day in the centre of the town at the West Port– one of Scotland’s oldest surviving medieval gates. It was built in 1587 as a symbol of civil pride and is the entrance to South Street, which leads to the heart of St Andrews.
Heading east on South street, you will pass Blackfriars Chapel, the last remaining remnant of a church that was built by Dominican Friars during the Middle Ages. The church was destroyed by Protestant reformers and the friars were cast out. The chapel ruin is very rare as it is one of the last surviving examples of a Dominican friary.
You will continue walking east on South Street until you reach St Andrews’ main attraction, St Andrews Cathedral. You will see this listed in every single guidebook as a must-see when visiting St Andrews- for good reason. St Andrews Cathedral was once Scotland’s largest church and lead headquarters of Scottish religion; it is now a glorious ruin. It was built after St Andrew’s relics were supposedly discovered here around the time of the 8th century.
It’s free to wander through the ancient ruin, however for £6 you can climb St Rule’s Tower which offers magnificent views of St Andrews. You can check the opening dates and times here.
The Church of St Mary on the Rock is located outside the crumbling walls of the cathedral. It was built sometime during the 12th century, and during the 13th century it became the first collegiate church in Scotland and it was also a royal chapel! It’s been suggested the church survived the Scottish Reformation, but it was destroyed at some point afterwards. All that remains today are the foundations, and it is said a large burial ground surrounds the church. It can be quite hard to spot, but I’ve marked it on the map at the bottom of this article.
Your history lesson continues on to St Andrews Castle. This castle was built sometime during the 13th century for the Archbishops of St Andrews. It also served as a prison. The ‘bottle dungeon’, a 22ft deep pit, was developed in the castle where prisoners were once dropped or lowered down inside and often forgotten. You can also explore the siege mine and countermine that was dug beneath the castle when besiegers sought to break into the castle. St Andrews Castle is now a well-preserved ruin. Entry to the castle is £9 per adult.
The Old Course
After leaving St Andrews Castle you will continue down The Scores toward The Old Course. This is a lovely street with very pretty architecture, and when the street opens up to the golf course, make sure you turn around and look back at the beautiful buildings behind you!
The Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world; it is also one of the most prestigious, with celebrities flocking to play in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship each year. Even if golf isn’t your thing, the walk around the course is lovely. To the east you’ll see West Sands Beach, a white sandy beach popular with the locals. Make sure you visit the famous Swilken Bridge, a popular spot for famous golfers and celebrities to snap a photo.
Visit one of the world’s oldest universities
Founded in the 15th century, the University of St Andrews is the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. As I mentioned earlier, it’s also where William met Kate while they were both studying here. I recommend going for a walk around the Quad and exploring the Cloister and St Salvator’s Chapel.
The University has some interesting traditions among students. For example, there’s Raisin Weekend, which sees first-year students gift the third and fourth year students a pound of raisins to thank them for showing them around the grounds. It is said in the past that those who didn’t give the thanks were thrown into one of the town’s fountains! These days, Raisin Weekend has become a bit more boisterous, with students having a foam fight initiation in the Quad after parading around the town in fancy dress.
Things to do in St Andrews in the rain
The majority of my itinerary includes visiting outside attractions, however what should you do if it’s raining in St Andrews?
St Andrews Aquarium is a great option. They have many animals including fish, octopus, frogs, reptiles, penguins, seals, meerkats, marmosets and spiders! They have regular feeding times too, which is a fun activity for kids.
For golf fans there is the British Golf Museum, an award-winning museum which takes you through the development of golf through the years. You could also visit the distilleries near St Andrews; Kingsbarn Distillery and Visitor Centre for whisky fans or Eden Mill Distillery and Brewery for beer, gin and whisky lovers. St Andrews Brewing Company also have tours of their brewery in the heart of St Andrews.
You could also see if there is a show or event happening at The Byre Theatre.
Alternatively you can wait out the rain in one of the many pubs or cafes that line the main street!
Map: One Day in St Andrews
So there you have it- how to spend the perfect 24 hours in St Andrews. As you can see it’s possible to visit the majority of the main attractions in St Andrews in just one day. It’s great for those who enjoy slow travel or want to fit every sight and sound in in just one day. It’s also a great town to spend a few days reconnecting. There are plenty of pubs to hang out in if the weather is dreich, and architecture to marvel at while wandering the streets during a sunny spell. I hope you’ve found this article helpful. If you have any questions about visiting St Andrews, drop a comment below!