10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in St Andrews and Fife
St Andrews is probably best known as the home of golf. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club was founded here in 1754, and every two years the famous British Open is held at one of St Andrews' seven courses. The little town also boasts numerous historic buildings including Scotland's oldest university.
St Andrews is the key city on the Fife Peninsula, an area of land extending from the broad Forth Estuary in the south to the Firth of Tay in the north. Where once the Picts held sway and where trade with the Friesians, Flemings and Normans flourished in the Middle Ages, tourists - in particular, golfers - now keep the locals busy year-round.
See also: Where to Stay in St. Andrews
1 Ancient Golf Courses and Royal Golf Clubs
Thanks largely to its golfing heritage, St Andrews has for decades been one of Scotland's most important tourist and sporting destinations. The modern version of golf was in fact invented here in the 15th century, so it's not surprising that the area should also be home to the world's oldest golf club: the much revered Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, established in 1750. St Andrews is also home to the oldest golf course in the world, the famous Old Course. Although the sport has been played here since the early 1400s, it wasn't until the mid 18th century that it was established as a par-72, 18-hole course, a format that has since become the norm. The course remains open to the public, though due to its immense popularity, advance booking is advisable.
2 The British Golf Museum
Golfing enthusiasts shouldn't skip the British Golf Museum in St Andrews, which documents the history of the sport from the Middle Ages to the present day. As well as many historic exhibits, the museum shows the development of the golf ball, the club, the rules and techniques. Detailed information is also provided on famous championships and golfing celebrities, including Old Tom Morris and his son Tom Morris Jr (both of whom won the Open four times each in the 1800s) and the remarkable Lady Margaret Scott, a three-time Ladies Champion in the late 19th century.
Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5pm
Admission: Adults, £6.50; Children (5-15), £3; Families, £15.50
Address: Bruce Embankment, St Andrews
3 St Andrews Cathedral
St Andrews has long played an important part in Scottish ecclesiastical history, a fact that's evident from the wealth of churches and monuments in the city. According to legend, St Regulus landed here in the 4th century with the bones of St Andrew. By 1200 several churches had been constructed, as well as the huge cathedral and St Andrews Castle. By the 15th century St Andrews was the center of religious and spiritual power in Scotland, and in 1472 it became the seat of the archbishop.
Some 335 ft in length and 160 ft wide, the cathedral - built between 1160 and 1328 - was once the largest church in Scotland and boasted such illustrious guests as Robert I and James V. The cathedral's stonework was plundered in 1559 and now only parts of the late Romanesque east front, a section of the west front, the southern side aisle and a gatehouse remain.
Hours: Daily, 9:30am-5:30pm
Admission: Cathedral and Castle - Adults, £7.20; Children, £4.40
Address: The Pends, St Andrews
4 St Andrews University
Founded in 1411, St Andrews University is both the smallest and oldest of Scotland's seats of learning. The Colleges of St Salvator (1450) and St Leonard (1511) were combined in 1747 and are devoted to Arts and Sciences, while St Mary's College, opened by Cardinal Beaton in 1538, serves as the theology faculty. The College Chapel in St Salvator contains the pulpit from Holy Trinity Church where reformer John Knox first preached. St Leonard's Chapel houses some fine tombstones from the 16th and 17th centuries and is certainly worth a visit. A rose bush that Mary Stuart is supposed to have planted near St Mary's College still flowers, and the house in South Street where she stayed is now St Leonard's College library. Also of note are its excellent museums, including the Natural History Museum and the contemporary art exhibits in the Gateway Galleries.
Address: North St, St Andrews, Fife
5 Andrew Carnegie's Dunfermline
Dunfermline is famous as the historic capital of Scotland, and in later years derived its prosperity from coal mining and damask linen. A good starting point for a tour of the town is Malcolm Canmore's Tower in Pittencrieff Gardens, the foundation walls of which date from the 11th century. Another popular sightseeing attraction is Andrew Carnegie's Birthplace Museum, located in the small cottage in Moodie Street where Carnegie was born in 1835. A comprehensive collection of pictures and documents describes how this poor weaver's son became one of the richest industrialists - and greatest benefactors - of his time. On the ground floor of the museum stands the Jacquard loom that his father used to earn a paltry 42 pence a day.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 2-5pm (Mar-Nov)
Address: Moodie St, Dunfermline
6 Scotland's National Aquarium and Inchcolm Abbey
A highlight of any trip to North Queensferry in Fife is Deep Sea World, Scotland's National Aquarium. This superb facility allows visitors to view its coral reefs from within a 366 ft glass tunnel, while its tanks feature the largest collection of Sand tiger sharks in Europe (try to time your visit for the daily shark feedings).
Afterwards, take a boat trip to lovely Inchcolm Abbey, a well-preserved Augustinian monastery on the island of Inchcolm that was founded by Alexander I in 1123 for monks from Scone. An example of early Gothic ribbed vaulting can be seen in the octagonal chapterhouse, while 13th century frescoes in the chancel depict a funeral. The island is also popular with nature lovers, not just for the bird sanctuary but also for its colony of seals.
Hours: Daily, 10am-6pm
Admission: Adults, £13.50; Children (3-12), £9.50; Families, £44 (Online discounts available)
Address: Battery Quarry, North Queensferry
7 St Monans, Pittenweem and the Isle of May
The many pretty little villages on the southeastern corner of the Fife Peninsula include St Monans, with its interesting Gothic parish church and charming little cottages, and Pittenweem, where rows of attractive houses encircle the old harbor and a 16th century parish church features a huge tower. Just 3 mi north of Pittenweem is 14th century Kellie Castle with its superb interiors, landscape paintings, and Jakob de Witt's ceiling paintings showing Greek gods. It's also noted for its late Victorian garden with its fine display of roses. The Isle of May, just a few miles off the southwest coast, is an excellent nature reserve with the second oldest bird-watching station in Britain, and includes such species as puffins, razorbills, guillemots and kittiwakes.
8 Falkland Palace
Falkland Palace was first mentioned as far back as 1160 when the estate was the seat of the MacDuffs. James V died here in 1542, a week after the birth of his daughter, Mary Stuart, who became a frequent visitor to the palace. Of the three original wings that Cromwell's army set fire to in 1654, only the east and south wings with their royal chambers remain. The early Renaissance courtyard façade, reminiscent of the French Loire Valley châteaux, pays tribute to the "Auld Alliance" between Scotland and France. The facades overlooking the inner court are decorated with busts of figures from antiquity, while the external facade of the south wing retains its Late Gothic features. The Royal Chapel with a frieze around its walls, screen and 16th century oak paneling are highlights, as are its superb wooden ceiling painted with the heraldic emblems of Scotland, France and England. In the beautiful gardens you'll find Britain's first tennis court, laid out at the behest of James V in 1539 and still in use.
Hours: Mon-Sat, 11am-5pm; Sun, noon-5pm (Mar-Oct)
Admission: Adults, £12.50; Families, £29.50
Address: Falkland, Cupar, Fife
9 Hill of Tarvit Mansion House and Garden
The mansion at Tarvit, once the home of a wealthy art collector, was built around an older building dating from 1696. Inside, visitors are rewarded with superb displays of fine furniture, tapestries, Chinese porcelain, works by Dutch masters and paintings by Raeburn and Ramsay. The Edwardian south side of the country house overlooks terraced gardens and contains 17th century Flemish tapestries, while Scottish and English oak furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries adorn the wood-paneled hall. French furniture in the Lounge displays hints of Roccoco, while the Georgian Dining Room has a distinctly Palladian atmosphere. Be sure to visit nearby Scotstarvit Tower, a splendid 16th century tower located just a mile away.
Hours: Thurs-Mon, 1-5pm (Apr-Oct)
Admission: Adults, £10.50; Families, £24.50
Address: Hill of Tarvit, Fife
10 The Quaint Wee Village of Crail
It's said that, in a fit of anger, the Devil threw a piece of the Isle of May at the church in Crail, but fortunately missed. What other explanation could there be for the huge stone in the graveyard? Picturesque Crail may well be at the center of many legends, but there's always a pleasant atmosphere in the village, especially when the fishing boats land their catches of prawns and lobsters and the fishermen prepare them on the quayside. The whitewashed houses with their stepped gables and red pantile roofs are favorite subjects for painters and photographers. Crail Museum and Heritage Centre housed in an 18th century cottage documents the full story of Crail's past.
Hours: Weekends only (May); Daily, 11am-4pm (June-Sept)
Address: 62/64 Marketgate, Crail
Where to Stay in St. Andrews for Sightseeing
We recommend these wonderful resorts and cozy hotels near the famous golf courses of St. Andrews:
- Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa: 5-star luxury resort, golf course views, multiple restaurants, rooftop spa garden, indoor pool.
- Albany Hotel: 3-star hotel, central location, traditional room decor, lovely lounge, tasty breakfast.
- Ardgowan Hotel: mid-range pricing, Georgian townhouses, great location, comfortable rooms, free hot breakfast.
- Premier Inn St. Andrews Hotel: budget-friendly hotel, modern decor, comfy bed, free parking.