Let’s pick up where we left off last time – after leaving Glamis Castle (read the post here) my family hit the road for St Andrews with Hazel of I Love Edinburgh Tours. If you’re heading to Scotland, definitely give her a shout for a day (or more) private tour personalized to your interests – very family-friendly, too!
The University of St Andrews is famous as the place where William and Kate met, but there is so much history to explore in the town, and if you’re a golf fan, of course, it’s the birthplace of golf. The town is right along the coast and has some pretty amazing views. It’s just a charming place and the Cambridges are very lucky to have attended university in such an idyllic area of the world!
We took a quick drive around town and saw the Old Course – the oldest and most iconic golf course in the world where the game was first played 600 years ago! I’m not a big sports person but even I recognized the bridge on the 18th hole so it was cool to get a glimpse of the course, even though I’m fairly sure we’ll never play there (it involves a lottery system and you have to have a certain handicap).
Moving on, we found a parking spot in town right by St Salvator’s Chapel and set off on our quest to see St Andrews Castle and find a few Will and Kate landmarks. First, we headed into the stunning chapel, founded in 1450. The building is known as “the heart of the university” and the Cambridges definitely would have spent time here.
We walked around the quad afterward and spotted a photoshoot for the university’s marketing materials in session before taking a few photos ourselves. There were purple flowers everywhere, although you can’t see them in the below picture, but it must be a pleasant place to hang out and chat between classes … at least when the Scottish weather cooperates. Next stop: St Andrews Castle!
On our walk to the castle, we spotted the back of Will and Kate’s dorm, but since the main entrance was around the corner we opted to maximize our time and stick with going to the castle first.
St Andrews Castle is the former home of the Archbishops of St Andrews and was the birthplace of James III of Scotland. Sadly, the building, which in part dates back to the 13th century, is in ruins. But because of this, it’s ideal for kids to explore, as you can climb and jump around on everything and there’s even an underground mine tunnel you can crawl through (I politely passed on that one!)
It was an absolutely beautiful day so we spent a while enjoying the views of Castle Sands (the beach below) and the North Sea. We spent about an hour at the castle, mostly taking pictures, coaxing my kid off rocks, and appreciating the scenery since there aren’t really any rooms left to explore. There are some plaques around that tell you where certain rooms would have been, and the visitor’s center where you enter and buy tickets has a small exhibition telling you about the history of the castle.
Hazel had helpfully created a list of places Will and Kate used to visit, including Northpoint Cafe. Since it was approaching 5 p.m. we were quickly running out of time, so my husband and son went into the coffee shop to grab a drink and snack, and Hazel and I set off to check out St Salvator’s Hall, aka ‘Sallies.’
Sallies is definitely one of the prettiest dormitories I’ve seen and since we were there after the school year had ended, it was totally empty and quiet. St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third-oldest in the English speaking world, so as you can imagine all of the buildings on campus are stunning.
After meeting back up with my family it was time to return to Edinburgh, but I realized I hadn’t seen a single shop and I’d really wanted to buy a shirt from the university and a Christmas ornament, as I collect them from my travels.
Bless Hazel for being so accommodating because she found a parking spot on the busy high street for the van (not an easy task) and waited as we literally RAN down the street to the university bookstore, which was about to close. This was definitely a plus of having a private guide since if we were on a group tour it would have been an “oh well, we’re leaving now” situation. I grabbed a few shirts, a cashmere scarf in the St Andrews tartan, and a few other items in about 2 minutes and they locked the door behind us after we left!
In hindsight, we probably should have planned to spend a whole day in St Andrews but with limited time in our schedule for full-day trips out of Edinburgh, it made sense to combine Glamis and St Andrews into one outing. Although we were only there for a few hours, we packed in the main things I wanted to see and having someone to drive us and do the legwork made the day go very smoothly.
I am all about making life easier when traveling with a child. After having several iffy experiences getting a taxi while visiting places where the train station isn’t walkable to the town/attraction, this was a much less stressful experience.
We got a great introduction to the city and we’ll just have to go back again and spend a full day or two! Have you been to St Andrews?