The Scottish seascape of St. Andrews

St. Andrews Castle
St. Andrews Castle

The Scottish seascape of St. Andrews

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

A mere 90 minutes northeast of Edinburgh sits the lovely seaside city of St. Andrews. Most notable as the birthplace of golf, evidence of a tumultuous and riveting past can be found throughout the town. Crumbing castle ruins, one of the oldest universities in the U.K. and, of course, world-renowned golf courses make St. Andrews a fabulous place to explore.

St. Andrews Castle

Perched on a small hill at the water’s edge, St. Andrews Castle leaves much to the imagination. The stately grounds were home to the bishop and archbishop of Scotland. During the Reformation in the 16th century, it became a battleground between the Catholics and Protestants. After the violence, the fortress was rebuilt. However, when the last remaining archbishop met his unfortunate end, the castle fell into disrepair and ruin. Because of its proximity to the ocean, much of the Great Hall collapsed and disappeared beneath the waves. What remains of the once-grand fortress has been protected by a seawall. Visitors can walk along the castle grounds and gardens or walk along the sandy shores below the seawall. The hollowed tunnels of the prison and dungeon are still intact, offering a glimpse into the sordid past.

A college town

Established by papal bull decree in 1413, the University of St. Andrews was built just a few blocks from the castle. It has survived almost 600 years of war, strife and time. With impressive masonry and architecture, the university is as beautiful as it is prestigious. Over the centuries, it has developed a reputation for excellence in the medical sciences and is a leading research institution. Notable scholars include “Peter Pan” author JM Barrie and their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton).

The birthplace of golf

In the 15th century in St. Andrews, a competition grew in popularity that involved hitting a pebble or rock along a predetermined path with a stick or club. As the game spread throughout Scotland, golf was banned by King James II because many players were golfing rather than completing their military training. Eventually, the ban was reversed by avid player King James IV. The game was introduced in England by King Charles I, and thanks to British imperialism, golf rapidly spread around the globe. The first 18-hole course was built at St. Andrews in 1764.

Today, players will jump at the chance to play the Old Course at St. Andrews. The original course has not changed much in the centuries since its inception. While it may seem impossible to book a tee time, if you have flexibility, there is a lottery system in place which gives those chosen a 48-hour notice to play. Greens fees can run anywhere from £98 in the low season to £195 in the peak season. However, if you’d like to say you’ve played St. Andrews without the fuss, there are six other affiliated courses just as phenomenal and considerably less expensive than the Old Course.

Even if golf isn’t your thing (I’m married to a golfer, and it’s definitely not my thing), St. Andrews provides a fun weekend getaway with a great vibe and breathtaking scenery.

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