If you’re looking for something fun to do while in Edinburgh, Scotland to get out of the city for a bit, I truly can’t recommend a day trip to St. Andrews from Edinburgh enough. St. Andrews is a small Scottish seaside town with so much charm, and it makes for a great city break.
We took a day trip to St. Andrews from Edinburgh as a bit of an afterthought, and my true regret was that we didn’t spend more time there. I could have sat in the cathedral staring at the sea all day (more on that in a bit). Admittedly, we hit St. Andrews on a FANTASTIC weather day, but even in stereotypical Scottish weather, I imagine the beauty and charm is just as effective.
So let’s get going and talk about how to plan a great day trip to St. Andrews! Because it really is a gem you won’t want to miss if you’re planning a trip to Scotland.
Where is St. Andrews?
St. Andrews is located along the east coast of Scotland in Fife, north of Edinburgh. By car from Edinburgh, it’s about 50 miles (or 80 km), and it takes about an hour and half to make the drive.
St. Andrew is also about 15 miles (24 km) south of Dundee and 35 miles (56 km) east of Perth.
St. Andrews is perched right on the coast, which means it really has the most spectacular views (really, I’m sorry but I will not stop talking about them).
How to Get to St. Andrews from Edinburgh
The best way to get to St. Andrews from Edinburgh is by car. The car ride takes just about an hour and a half. When you get there, there is metered parking along the streets as well as some public parking areas, both free and at charge.
A couple parking options to look into:
- Murray Place Car Park off of North Street
- St. Andrews Public Parking on Bruce Embankment (near the golf course)
- Petheram Bridge Car Park (free, but a bit more of a walk)
There is also an option to get to St. Andrews by train and bus, but it is a bit more complicated. You can take a train from Edinburgh Waverly to Leuchars (a small town north of St. Andrews). Then from Leuchars, you can take a bus (about 8 minutes) into St. Andrews.
Why You Should Visit St. Andrews
The most obvious reasons to visit St. Andrews is the small town charm. With a population of less than 20,000, this city is easily walkable, has beautiful historic sites, and has gorgeous sea views along a beach.
But there is also a lot of history here. The cathedral in St. Andrews was built in 1160 and was an extremely important cathedral in not just Scotland, but all of Europe. (And the ruins of it are some of my favorite ruins I’ve ever been to because of the incredible views.) It’s also home to St. Andrews Castle.
And of course St. Andrews is widely popular in the golfing community. St. Andrews is known as the “home of golf,” with the oldest golf course in the world where the British Open is hosted each year.
All this makes St. Andrews a perfect place to take a day trip: there is plenty to see and do, and you can still do it all within a day!
Top 5 Things To Do on Your St. Andrews Day Trip
The best thing about a day trip to St. Andrews from Edinburgh is that St. Andrews is the perfect size to see all the highlights in just a day. (I mean, this is the best thing aside from the beauty of the town. Really…I won’t stop talking about the views. I told you.)
Here are the five things you should do on your day trip to St. Andrews.
Visit the Cathedral
Note: At the time of this post (September 2021), St. Andrews Cathedral is currently closed as the site is inspected for potential hazards. Be sure to check their website before your trip to see when they might reopen.
The St. Andrews Cathedral is the most iconic thing to see in St. Andrews. I mean, where else can you stand in the middle of cathedral ruins in a gorgeous cemetery and look out on to the sea?
The St. Andrews Cathedral was built in 1158 and was probably the largest church ever to have been built in Scotland.
Admission tickets are required to visit St. Andrews Cathedral, but are reasonably priced at £4.80 per adult.
Aside from wandering through the cemetery and admiring the gorgeous views and huge cathedral ruins, you can also climb St. Rule’s Tower for an amazing view of St. Andrews. If you want to climb St. Rule’s Tower, you can get a special token in the shop. (Note that St. Rule’s Tower is currently closed due to COVID.)
Visit St. Andrews Castle
Just about a five minute walk from St. Andrews Cathedral, the castle is another ruin that sits on the gorgeous sea. In fact, this isn’t the whole castle because some of it fell into the sea hundreds of years ago. Once the home to St. Andrews bishops, the castle was abandoned in the late 1500s.
Here you can check out what remains of the castle. Especially interesting are the dungeons and the gates that seem to lead right into the water.
Admission to St. Andrews Castle is normally £9.00 per adult (currently reduced during COVID because some parts of the castle are closed). Be sure to check their website for unexpected closures before your visit.
Check Out the Old Course
St. Andrews is perhaps most famous for the Old Course, its golf course widely known as the oldest golf course in the world. This is where they play the British Open, but even if you aren’t a golf fan you’ll want to check it out.
You can’t see the whole golf course if you aren’t playing, but there is a section where the public can see the 1st and 18th holes of the Old Course. It’s definitely worth spending some time watching the golfers and soaking up the historic importance of the course!
There are also walking tours available of the 1st, 17th, and 18th holes. (Note: This is currently unavailable because of COVID and they hope to offer them again in 2022.)
If you are a golf fan, you might also be interested in the R&A World Golf Museum. It’s located across the from Old Course (between the Old Course and the Castle and near the aquarium).
Visit the St. Andrews Aquarium
The St. Andrews Aquarium is located near the Old Course. (I told you, this whole town is SO walkable.) It’s a small aquarium, which makes it a perfect add-on to your day trip itinerary. It’s also cool because some of the animal habitats are set up right against the sea, almost seeming like a part of the sea themselves.
Here you can see penguins, seals, dwarf crocodiles, and fish as well as more unusual aquarium animals like meerkats.
You can book the date and time of your visit to the St. Andrews Aquarium in advance. Tickets are £10 for adults and £8 for kids. (Kids two and under are free.)
Stroll Through the University of St. Andrews
The University of St. Andrews is a landmark of St. Andrews, and it’s definitely worth spending some time strolling through this beautiful campus. This is a free and easy thing to do and can make for some great people watching. Some highlights include seeing the beautiful St. Salvatore’s Chapel. And if you are a Royal Family fan, you might want to stroll by St. Salvatore’s Hall, which is the residence hall Will and Kate both lived in when they met.
Tips for Visiting St. Andrews
- Look up parking options before you go. We’ve noted some above, but definitely have a game plan in mind for where you want to park.
- Wear the right clothes. St. Andrews is beautiful, but since it is on the sea it can be very windy. And since it’s in Scotland, it can also mean a lot of rain. So watch the weather and be prepared with what you wear.
- Start at the cathedral. On your day trip to St. Andrews, start your day at St. Andrews Cathedral, which is, I think, the best sight. Then work your way to the castle and the Old Course.
- Wear comfortable shoes. St. Andrews is easily walkable, but you also want your feet to be comfortable!
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