St Andrews – The Town of a Saint

Scottish Saltire flag (St. Andrew's Cross) blowing in the wind

The 30th of November is St. Andrew’s Day in Scotland. The feast day of Saint Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. Many Scots recognise this Christian holiday by celebrating Scottish culture and cuisine.

Long before he became a saint, Andrew was born in Bethesda on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the younger brother of Peter (who also became a saint); they were both fisherman and disciples of Jesus.

It is said that Saint Andrew died in Greece by crucifixion bound to an “X” shaped cross, which later became the cross on the Scottish flag known as the Saltire.

There are several tales offering explanations of how Saint Andrew came to be associated with Scotland, according to legend he became the patron saint of Scotland in 832 AD when the Scottish king prayed to St Andrew for help when his army were facing battle against the English army. Seeing a cloud in the shape of the saltire against a clear blue sky, the king vowed that if the Scots were victorious, St. Andrew would be made the patron saint of Scotland. The Scots won, the king followed through on his word and the intervention of St. Andrew has been represented on the Scottish flag ever since.

Legend has it that the relics of Saint Andrew were brought to Scotland by Bishop Acca of Hexham in 732 AD to the town of Kilrimont. Kilrimont was later renamed St. Andrews.

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This stunning coastal town is a delightful destination and offers a plethora of visitor attractions including St. Andrews Castle which became a ruin in the late 17th century; it stands on the coast overlooking Castle Sands beach. What was once the focal point of several battles between the Scots and the English, and later between secular and religious ideologies, now serves as a museum for visitors to explore at their leisure.                        

The extensive ruins of St. Andrews Cathedral and St Rule’s tower are located just east of the centre of town. St. Andrews was once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and in 1160 work began to create the largest cathedral in Scotland to reflect this. It took nearly 150 years to complete and was an important centre of pilgrimage in Europe. The Scottish reformation initiated the decline of the cathedral and it had fallen into ruin by 1560.

The town is also home to the oldest university in Scotland, St Andrews university, founded between 1410 and 1413. After Oxford and Cambridge, it is the third oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Today St. Andrews offers a wide selection of first class hotels and guesthouses, museums, stores, fine dining restaurants, great pubs and local fish ‘n’ chip shops. The west sands beach which featured in the movie “Chariots of fire” is a great place for a stroll and to take in the townscape.

Modern day pilgrims to this part of the world are those with an appreciation for golf as St. Andrews is the birthplace of this ancient game.

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If every golfer has a wish list of courses they would like to play soon, (and most of us do!) it is likely that St. Andrews Old Course was, or still is sitting at the top of such a list, and rightly so. Golf is deeply ingrained in the fabric of the town and although the Old Course remains the most popular, a trip to St. Andrews offers far more golf than a round on the most iconic course of them all. In total there are seven courses in St. Andrews; all of which are public courses and available to everyone. These seven courses combine to make St. Andrews Links the biggest public golf destination in Europe.

The three oldest Courses in St. Andrews are all located on the same stretch of land; the Old, the New and the Jubilee.

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The Old Course is the Open Championship flagship course and the holy grail for golfers worldwide. Now a par 72 measuring 6,721 yards, golf has been played here for more than 600 years.

The New Course, designed by Old Tom Morris in 1895 offers a 6,625 yard par 71 and lies wedged between the Old and the Jubilee.

The Jubilee Course, a 6,742 yard par 72 opened for play two years later in 1897 and is considered to be the tightest and most challenging test of golf in St. Andrews.

The Castle Course, a recent addition to the St. Andrews Links portfolio was opened for play in 2008. A cliff top, modern championship links, the Castle Course is located on the south side of St. Andrews and as well as providing a 6,759 yard par 71, provides stunning panoramic views of St. Andrews and the North Sea.

The Eden Course offers a 6,250 yard par 70 and is located to the west side of the Old course. The Eden was designed by the great Harry Colt and opened for play in 1914. Although a slightly shorter and more forgiving course, it provides a fun day for golfers of all ability.

The Strathtyrum and Balgove courses each provide a shorter test than the challenging championship courses. The par 69 Strathtyrum measures only 5,620 but encourages  precise iron play throughout. The Balgove is the only 9-hole course in St. Andrews and is the perfect course for children and beginners alike to learn to play links golf.

In addition to seven golf courses, St Andrews also provides a state of the art practice range, golf academy and golf club fitting facilities as well as the oldest golf shop in the world – the Tom Morris Shop.

As a golf destination, St. Andrews has it all; history, culture, tradition, and Scottish hospitality. St. Andrews is far more than one golf course – it is a golfer’s paradise, fit for a Saint.

 

 

 

 

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