Visiting St Andrews from Edinburgh: My Top Things to Do
I love St Andrews, and its location in the East Neuk of Fife is easily accessible on public transport from Edinburgh and Dundee. I travelled to Leuchars on the train, then onwards to St Andrews with Stagecoach East Scotland. Here are my favourite things to do when I visit.
St Andrews is the wee sweetheart of Fife. It’s small, it’s adorable, and it’s known around the world. The town exudes cuteness around every corner, and is perfect for pottering, sightseeing and taste-bud-tickling. There are historic hotspots, independent shops, cute cafes, and glorious beaches.
While I won’t pretend to be the slightest bit interested in golf, it simply cannot go unmentioned when talking about St Andrews. Known as the ‘home of golf’, the town boasts no less than ten golf courses, including the aptly named – and world famous – Old Course; one of the oldest courses in the world. Golf enthusiasts can also check out the nearby British Golf Museum.
St Andrews is renowned for its prestigious university, which is where Will famously met Kate. The town is also where you can typically find me stuffing my face, dodging rain showers, and eagerly admiring the adorable residences on Castle Street. I never tire of visiting St Andrews, and I discover new gems each time. Here are some suggestions for things to do, where to eat and places to stay. A few of my favourite things!
Things to Do in St Andrews.
Roam around at: St Andrews Cathedral. Looking at the picturesque remnants of St Andrew’s Cathedral, one can only imagine how spectacular it was in its former glory. Once the largest church in all of Scotland, it was a super-significant religious centre, attracting pilgrims from far and wide in centuries past. Today the vast and impressive ruins inspire many an iconic photographic, most popularly capturing the east tower through the arch of St Rule’s Tower. If you don’t have this photo, have you even been to St Andrews?!
- Entrance to the cathedral ruins is free
- You can pay £5 to visit the Cathedral Museum and climb St Rule’s Tower
Get cosy in: Gorgeous Café. This café is gorgeous and she knows it. Passers-by are drawn to the piles of pimped-up scones in the window, with pretty handwriting on the glass to reveal the fruity fillings. I usually just grab a scone to go, but decided this time to stop in for lunch and sanctuary from the rain. The narrow staircase leads to a super-cute dining room. Charming and kitsch, with random memorabilia and furnishings, it’s like sitting in someone’s house in years gone by. The lentil soup, served in a vintage bowl with a white buttered roll, kept the old-school vibes coming. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that surprise you, and this wee soup stop was an absolute winner.
- My bowl of lentil soup cost £4
Indulge at: Fisher and Donaldson. Everyone loves a small-town bakery, and Fisher and Donaldson is the crème de la crème. With pies aplenty, and sweet treats that give you a sugar rush from just looking at them, there’s something to satisfy all naughty food cravings. The winner of the popularity contest, however, is the bakery’s famous fudge doughnut.
Huddled in the doorway under the pretty canopy, munching on my doughnut, the miserable weather I’d been subjected to suddenly didn’t feel so bad after all. The creamy, custardy innards are complemented by the fantastically fudgy icing. The secret recipe is split into two parts and hidden across five locations!
Don’t get splashed at: St Andrews Harbour. The town’s picturesque harbour has facilitated travel and trade in St Andrews for hundreds of years, and small fishing boats still bring in highly sought-after local shellfish. The harbour provides a wee escape from the bustle of the busy town, and the splash of colour from the boats and buildings brighten up even the dreichest of days. The rain had finally ceased so I seized the opportunity to sit on the harbour wall to dry off, take a selfie, and enjoy the fresh air with my hood down. What happened next? I got soaked by the spray of a rogue wave. Brilliant.
- The harbour is maintained by the St Andrews Harbour Trust. You can read more about it here.
Have a drink in: The Criterion. My fear for the future is that all pubs will become too contemporary and hipster for their own good. In the meantime, I can take comfort in the fact that traditional pubs do exist in busy tourist towns, and this one is called The Criterion.
Established in 1874 and crowned Scottish Pub of the Year in 2018, the family run bar is cosy and friendly with lots of character (they even have their own tartan). Oh, and did I mention the locally sourced food and 160+ single malt whiskies? Absolutely everything I could possibly need. I’d already eaten so opted for a pint of the St Andrews Brewing Company Crail Ale. Next time I will most definitely be trying a famous ‘Cri Pie’! Which one do you fancy?
- For more information and to view the menu, check out The Criterion website.
Enjoy dinner at: Forgan’s. To put it simply, Forgan’s is exactly the type of restaurant I seek out on my travels. Entrance is through a leafy lane adjacent to Mitchell’s Deli, and you’re welcomed inside by large lanterns overhead. The menu is focused around local produce, the service is super-friendly, and the interior is a quirky kind of pretty. I was intrigued by the duck shepherd’s pie, and it was simple but tasty. I can highly recommend the mussels as a starter!
- My two-course dinner (without drinks) cost £22.90
- To view the full menu, visit the Forgan’s website
Step back in time at: St Andrews Castle. The ruined coastal castle dates back to the 13th century, and with waves crashing into the sea wall beneath, it’s all very atmospheric. The former fortress was both a palace and a prison, and if you were a bit of a medieval menace, there’s every chance you’d have been thrown in the fearsome bottle dungeon. Today you can look down inside and try not to get the shivers, before braving the castle’s mine. If you choose not to venture inside, you can capture some cool photos from further along the coast.
- Entrance to the castle is £6 or you can buy a joint ticket for the castle and cathedral for £9
Get your foodie fix at: Balgove Larder. I LOVE a farm shop, and Balgove Larder is up there with the best. I will know I’ve succeeded in life if I can afford to fully stock up my flat each week with the fresh produce, deli-delights and sweet treats on offer in this place. Located just off the A91 just outside the town, Balgove Larder pays tribute to all the fantastic local food that Scotland has to offer. It’s a butcher, a café, and a farm shop. Basically, it is foodie heaven and you will want to buy everything. To top it off, there’s also an on-site Steak Barn!
- You can view the menu for the Steak Barn here
Take a walk on: The West Sands. When the tide is out, there is no better place to stretch your legs in St Andrews. Two whole miles of scenic sandiness is at your feet, and those who have seen Chariots of Fire will recognise the beach from the opening scenes. Close to the Old Course and British Golf Museum, the walk is easily accessible from the town, yet feels like you’re really ‘getting away from it all’. Brisk walking in the fresh air with my earphones in and music on, is my favourite form of exercise, and means to clear my head. This was the perfect end to my trip.
Treat yourself at: Jannetta’s Gelateria. This is not your average ice-cream parlour; it is an absolute institution. No one ever talks about a visit to St Andrews without mentioning Jannetta’s and there’s good reason for that. The business has been in the Jannetta family since 1908, and it’s evident that they really know what they’re doing. Multi-award winning and loved by locals and tourists alike, a trip to St Andrews – rain or shine – would be incomplete without a visit. Prepare to be overwhelmed by the immense choice of unbelievable flavours. You’ll inevitably wish you could have a wee taste of every single one!
Where to Stay in St Andrews.
Spa, stay and brunch at: The Fairmont Hotel. St Andrews’ iconic Fairmont Hotel is a true resort-style destination which lives up to its reputation. The site features multiple bars and eateries, two championship golf courses and a spa. Vast and perfectly preened, the hotel gets it just right when it comes to luxury and hospitality. All hotel staff were super-attentive, yet refreshingly down to earth.
My room was MASSIVE; complete with a desk to work from, a bed I could comfortably lie width-ways on, and a huge walk-in shower. The hotel sits by the water in St Andrews Bay, however the dreich cloak of mist which encircled the hotel meant the seaside vistas from my room were non-existent on this occasion!
My stay was perfectly timed for the International Sunday Brunch, which was epically indulgent. There was fresh seafood, a carvery, every side dish imaginable, a salad bar (which even I got excited about), a variety of international dishes, and a ridiculously good dessert station. I loved the sweet potato and chickpea korma, and tempura monkfish. The raspberry cake and handmade chocolates also went down a treat.
I rarely relax when I’m on an adventure, so the outrageously bad weather during my stay offered the perfect excuse to do exactly that. There is no better place to seek refuge from Scottish mist and rain, that in a misty and wet… SPA. I blissfully lost a couple of hours in the beautiful pool, sauna and steam room.
- The International Sunday Brunch is £32.50 per adult and £16 per child. For more information visit The Fairmont website
- Check out prices and availability for the Fairmont Hotel on Booking.com
- Tempt yourself with a look at the Fairmont Spa Treatment Brochure
Stay central at: Ardgowan Hotel. Located at the west end of Market Street, close to the West Sands, Old Course and bus station, the Ardgowan Hotel is a super-convenient base for getting out and about in St Andrews. I stepped inside the charming Georgian townhouse and was warmly greeted by the lovely, helpful staff. My loft-style room was decorated in a tasteful, traditional fashion, and was super-cosy and comfortable. The WiFi was good, the shower was powerful, and I really appreciated the posh toiletries and made-to-order smoked salmon and eggs for breakfast.
- Check out prices and availability on Booking.com
How to get to St Andrews on Public Transport.
- Take the train from Edinburgh to Leuchars – journey time is approx. 1 hour. There are regular departures and the standard fare is £9.30 (single) or £17.7o return. Buy tickets at the station or on Trainline.com
- Take the Stagecoach Taylink 99 bus service from Leuchars to St Andrews – journey time is approx. 10 minutes. The best value ticket is the North East Fife Dayrider £8. You can also take this service between Dundee and St Andrews, which takes approx. 40 minutes. View the timetable here.
- Take an express coach with Stagecoach from Edinburgh straight into St Andrews on the X59. View the timetable here
- Enjoy the picturesque views of the super-cute East Neuk with a journey on the Stagecoach X60. View the timetable here