St Andrews: Cathedral, Castle, Royals, and Golf!


Lovely St Andrews, Scotland 

Main Street in St Andrews. These little boys started madly waving when they saw me taking pictures of the coffee shop. They were sitting in the window luring people in.  You could see the young Wills in all their boyish British faces.

Who knew…..

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), an avid golfer, is thought to have coined the term “caddie” by calling her assistants “cadets.” Historians criticized The Queen for traveling to France to play golf and not spending enough time on Royal matters. It is during her reign that the famous golf course at St. Andrews is built.

Mary Queen of Scots Golfing

Mary Queen of Scots, an avid golfer

 Day tour to St Andrew’s from Edinburgh

Off to St Andrew’s today with a Timberbush Tour. We weren’t sure if we would be in a large bus or a 19 seater – we were relieved when the 19-seater pulled up with our tour guide/driver Graham. Graham is a jovial Scot of about 50, he loves to talk and is a wealth of information, a virtual sponge. I suspect about 60% of what he’s telling us is accurate, but regardless, he’s entertaining, and we’re learning a lot of history and fun facts about Scotland and the Scots – past, and present. Our group is social and more importantly — on time!

Crossing the Firth of Forth. 

So pleasant to let someone else do the driving. The bus has two rows, double seats on the left and singles on the right; we choose the singles, so we each have a window. Leaving Edinburgh, we cross the Firth of Forth over the Forth Road Bridge. The bridge was build in 1964 to replace the old ferry service from Edinburgh to Queensferry. Initially established in the 1100s by the Queen (hence Queensferry) the ferry carried religious pilgrims from Edinburgh to St Andrew’s.  It was in service steadily until the 1960’s, which to me is impressive.   There’s a Victorian-era railway bridge on our right, so well maintained it looks new. Graham told us the bridge is constantly being painted.  When the length is finally painted, its time to start over again!  On our left, another road bridge is being built to replace the current 1960s era bridge on its last legs.

The three bridges

Aberdour Castle 

Our first stop is the 13th century Aberdour Castle. It was originally built in the 1200s but added to substantially in subsequent centuries. It’s easy to distinguish the newer, versus the older construction. We arrived right at 9:30 for a bathroom and coffee stop and a quick walk around the grounds. Outlander (Starz series) used Aberdour Castle as the French Sainte Anne de Beaupre monastery (I have to go back and look at that episode). It’s early morning and very peaceful here. I wish we had the time to go through the castle – another reason to return to Scotland! As it was the person assigned to open up is late, so we wander around waiting for the person to arrive to open the doors to the building AND the bathrooms.  Our tour doesn’t have time to wait for tardy employees so we leave without a good look inside. Disappointing.  


Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Kathy at Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Gail at Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland


800 Years of History of Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

800 years of History, Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour, Fife, Scotland

The back wall of Aberdour Castle.

Anstruther, Scotland

Our next stop is further up the coast towards St Andrew’s. The fishing village of Anstruther is very charming and old world, there are indeed signs of the 21st century, but much of the town was built in the 1800s and feels it. We have a limited amount of time, and after walking up the street admiring the architecture and small shops, we duck into a coffee shop to have a cappuccino and scone. No paper cups, plastic stirrers, or mass produced muffins here. Strictly homemade and beautifully served. Makes me want to run home and dust off the teapot, tea strainer, cozy,  and the lovely tea cups my mother gave me when she moved out of her “big house” into her condo years ago.

Cappuccino is Anstruther Cafe

Lovely cappuccino, scone, butter, jam, and cream, Anstruther cafe

Anstruther village

Main Street, Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

The weather looks cold, and the sky menacing, but it really wasn’t a bad day.

Anstruther town

Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

 Anstruther, Fife, Scotland

The weather may be cool but summer is Scotland means flowers.


St Andrews

Our next stop is St Andrews. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the town and the golf course and was surprised. The Old Course is downtown right beside a beautiful beach (opening scene of the movie Chariots of Fire!)  The ruins of St Andrews Castle and Cathedral, as well as St Andrews University, shops, restaurants, pubs are all a short walk from one another.  It’s a very walk-friendly town.

St Andrews, Old Course

We parked in the parking area near a clubhouse.  Its an easy walk to the town from the course. Workers are busily taking down the considerable number of stands and other nonpermanent structures left from the British Open the week before. Meanwhile, the course is busy. There’s a miniature course where families with children are playing and a putting area that’s busy. Between the golfers, families, and workers, it was not the pastoral scene I expected. I pictured a course in the countryside, with gates and staid old buildings and signs saying “members only.”  Not the bustling scene we encountered.  There was more a feeling of excitement, guys finally stepping on golf’s hallowed ground and getting to play “The Old Course” they’d dreamt of since picking up their first putter.

The old course St Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews Old Course, the stands were still up from the British Open held the previous week. The course abuts the town. 

Putting at St Andrews course, Scotland

Ah…….Golf is taken seriously here in St Andrews. It took everything in me not to interrupt him to ask where he got his cool duds.

St Andrews Beach. Chariots of Fire opening scene

St Andrews Beach brrrrr! The opening scene of “Chariots of Fire” was filmed on this beach.

Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland

Old Course, you can see how close it is to the city.

St Andrews Castle ruins.

The ruins of St Andrews castle, Scotland

St Andrews Castle is in ruins but you can see how large and imposing it once was. The Castle overlooks the ocean and is walkable from the city center.

St Andrews Castle, St Andrews, Scotland

The Castle is right downtown and beside the Cathedral, both on the water with lovely views.

View from St Andrews Castle, St Andrews, Scotland

View to the town from the Castle

St Andrews Castle, St Andrews, Scotland

Looking back at the Castle from the path.

Plaque, George Wishart 1513-1546, St Andrews Cathedral Scotland

Gruesome things happened here in the name of religion.

St Andrews Castle room, Scotland

One of the few intact rooms in the castle. Dark, cold, damp – can’t imagine living in this period of history.

St Andrews Cathedral

St Andrew's Cathedral, Scotland

Ruins of the St Andrews Cathedral, the castle and cathedral are easily walkable between the two.

We have three hours in St Andrews, and the others are going to lunch at a seafood place with our driver.  Gail and I decided to pass, not wanting to waste sightseeing time, and we go our separate way. There’s St Andrew’s Castle and the Cathedral, and we both want to pop into the University. Everything is walking distance and within the town – amazing! I can’t imagine living amongst these ruins from the 10th and 11th century, passing them every day on my way to work or to the grocery store, such a beautiful and interesting city. 

After seeing St Andrews Castle and Cathedral we walk through the charming city.  Clean, walkable and beautiful, I wish we had more time here.  

Located on the cliffs overlooking St Andrew’s Bay, the castle and adjacent Cathedral are in ruins, their stone having been pillaged to build the town. It’s fascinating to see the gruesome dungeons still visible at the castle, and the cemetery stones that surround the ruins of what was once the largest cathedral in Scotland. It would take all day to properly see the castle and cathedral so we take in what we can and, trying to manage our time, head to the university. Along the way we pass a small coffee shop with a sign announcing “Where Kate met Wills”. There are three young boys, probably 8 or 9,  sitting in the window hamming it with the passersby, seeing my camera they give me a big smile and a wave. Very cute.

Dog, St Andrews tourist attraction. Scotland.

Newfoundland dog, sporting a bib, waits outside a store. Tourists couldn’t resist a picture with this loveable, drooling canine.

Street signs in St Andrews, Scotland

Road signs in St Andrews, Scotland

church flowers

Walking through the small city of St Andrews is a delight. The buildings are old by American standards, but well kept and beautiful.

Gift shops featuring prince and princess mugs

Will and Kate are featured prominently in town. Their love story a draw for royal watching tourists.

St Andrews University 

We’re conscious of time, we both want to pop into the gift shop at the Old Course Clubhouse, and we need to grab something quick to eat before the long ride back to Edinburgh.  We pop into the inner courtyard and gardens of the University, no time to seek out the library or other interesting buildings. It’s old and soaked in tradition,  just as I imagined.  It’s summer, but it must be fun to be there during the school year – students taking over the pubs, coffee shops, and restaurants, laughing and full of life.


Courtyard of St Andrews University

Gardens at St Andrews University. The University is right downtown as well.

Gardens St Andrews University

More university gardens, I could spend several days in St Andrews. Alas we must hustle to see and experience as much as possible is half a day!

The Old Course Clubhouse

After that, we head back to the Old Course Clubhouse and gift shop. After a quick look around, and the purchase of some souvenirs for our golf playing sons, we were greeted as we entered the restaurant and escorted to our table. Windows surround the restaurant, and we can see the golfers teeing off.  We have enough time for soup and scone — and of course another pot of lovely Earl Gray.

Restaurant Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland

Restaurant Old Course, St Andrews, Scotland

Bar at the Old Course restaurant, St Andrews, Scotland

Bar at the Old Course restaurant, St Andrews, Scotland

St Andrews view of golfers from the restaurant, St Andrews, Scotland

Watching the players from the restaurant.

Queensferry, Fife

Our tour mates are all on time – so lovely – and we’re back on the bus headed for Edinburgh.  The driver has one more stop for us, Queensferry.

Queensferry, Scotland

Town of Queensferry, over the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh.

Pub Queensferry, Scotland

Pub, Queensferry, Scotland

Queensferry "the Black Castle" 1628 - Scotland

The sign on this building says “Black Castle 1628”

Rail Bridge Queensferry, Scotland

The Victorian era rail bridge, Queensferry, Scotland






I'm in my sixties with the world at my feet and thoughts mostly of "where to next?". I retired in 2017, sold my house in Massachusetts and most of my furniture and "stuff." When not traveling you can find me in Florida in the winter and Rhode Island in the summer. Travel has been a passion from a young age, over the years I've discovered I'm a traveler, not a tourist. I prefer traveling solo, with a travel friend, or small groups. Whenever possible I would rather spend time in one place rather than moving around. I'll never turn down an opportunity to go to France, but my travels have taken me all over the world. I've met some incredible people and had some fantastic experiences.

1 Comment

  • Gail Duffy August 18, 2015 at 7:33 pm Reply

    What a trip! St. Andrews was one of my favorite places in a long list of favorite places. What I’ve come to realize is that certain places seen to have an almost magnetic pull to them, like the places themselves are aware of their own memory-making powers. We were lucky enough to see many quaint homes and awe-inspiriting castles, but some have a “draw” more than others. The Irish in me wonders if some stones in certain castles and some doorways in other quaint cottages have been able to keep the spirit of those long gone. Words are failing me here, but you can “feel” it and, mystically, “feel” them. And it’s kind of cool that we were there, and “they” were there before us. It gives you that circle’s-closing feeling that makes some memories sharper and more forever than others.

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