Getting to Know St. Andrews

Last week was my first full week of classes at the University of St. Andrews. While I’m still getting used to the different culture & school, luckily I’ve had the chance to play tourist in the town a little bit so far! So, for my first blog post about this charming place, I’ll share some of the more touristy highlights.

St. Andrews’ claim to fame is its world-class golf course. I’m lucky enough to live about 2 blocks away from it, but somehow, I didn’t end up going to see it till almost a week into my stay here. In an effort not to get hit by flying golf balls, I went in the evening, around sunset. It’s nice. As someone who knows nothing about golf besides what I watched in my grandparents’ living room as a small child, I can’t say much more about it than that. There are bleachers, which I thought was unusual for a golf course, and a lot of expensive-looking golf-supplies shops nearby. 

Unlike the great medieval cathedrals of larger cities in Europe, this one is… a bit run down. If that’s what you call no longer having a roof. Or walls. Or floors. Its ruins and graveyards are still quite impressive though, and one plus side is that this attraction is free! Its impressive façade is visible from much of town, as it stands at the end of North Street, one of the three main roads in the downtown area. 

Nearby the cathedral is the castle. I have not actually gone in yet (it too is in ruins), but it’s a neat site. My favorite beach so far, Castle Sands, is located right next to it. So far, I’ve found it to be quite a nice place to eat Sunday-night picnic dinners, relax by the sea, and go beach combing! 

There are three beaches in St. Andrews. The first one I mentioned, Castle Sands, is the smallest and most difficult to access. The next one, East Sands, is most famous for being home to the famous St. Andrews pier. Every Sunday, at noon, students don their red robes and process up and down the long pier. Why? No idea, but it’s a cute tradition. It’s also the main harbor area of St. Andrews and the only beach that has boats, fishermen, etc. 

The third beach, West Sands, is probably the most famous. It was the one featured in the running-along-the-beach scene in the movie “Chariots of Fire.” It also has the advantage of being located right next to the golf course, and is the closest one to where I live. This past Saturday morning, I took a bit of homework and a towel there to work for a little while, and it was nice to hear the waves in the background. On Friday, the St. Andrews version of the Climate Strike gathered there, too!

For the more royally-inclined, there are signs of the famous romance between Prince William and Kate Middleton (they met as students while at the University of St. Andrews!) One dinner at the end of town proudly displays a sign that says, “Where Kate Met Will for Coffee,” while the small coffee shop next to my “halls” (the St. A term for dorm) boasts that they were, “Where Kate Dumped Wills!”

The school itself is pretty impressive. The University of St. Andrews was founded in 1413 and is the oldest university in Scotland. Yes, it looks like Hogwarts. Especially the St. Salvador’s Quad. It still holds classes, but you can also see tourists taking photos in it, so I suppose it counts as a tourist site!

That’s all for now. There are a few things I didn’t mention, including the Golf Museum, Botanical Gardens, and Aquarium – I’ll let you know if I ever end up going to any of those places. The next on my list is to hike part of the Fife Coastal Path!

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