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Refreshing and relaxing (My Hometown choice for Holidays)
St Andrews in General
Member Name: Kukana
St Andrews in General
Date: 04/11/03, updated on 04/11/03 (121 review reads)
Advantages: restful and rejuvenating, historical buildings, and plenty for all the family, gorgeous beaches and selection of shops
Disadvantages: can be cold, wet and windy
* Climate *
Situated in a bay on the East coast of Scotland, St Andrews has some of the loveliest stretches of beach in the country. The West Sands were the scene of the opening shots of the film "Chariots of Fire", with coastline stretching for miles, the water clear and inviting, the sand perfect for children to make sandcastles and channels to the sea.
Being on the coast, the weather is temperate - it rarely freezes in winter, but equally the warmest summer days are cooled by a breeze, and the air can be bracing. It is not the place to go to guarantee a suntan, but during July and August there will probably be some days when you can lie on the beach and relax.
* Passing reference to golf *
Despite my grandparents' best intentions, I'm no golfer. Perhaps just as well, since this is not a cheap hobby! Casual visitors may be shocked by the price of a round of golf at the famous 'Old Course', although I'm told it's the equivalent to Mecca for a serious golfer. Bookings are already being taken for 2005. There are other golf courses in St Andrews, although in high season they can all be popular too and it's important to book in advance via the tourist office, or one of the many web-sites advertising golf.
* Cathedral, castle and pier *
For anyone even remotely interested in history, St Andrews has a superb ruined cathedral right on the coast. The immense size of the foundations of the original building never fail to leave me speechless for a few minutes, imagining the effort and d
edication involved in creating such a monument, back in the 12th century long before the advent of modern weight-moving equipment. The castle, just up the road from the cathedral, charges admission but has rather more remains, and frequently hosts summer entertainment. There is a gift shop and an interesting display explaining some of the history of the sites.
Next to the cathedral, the harbour is small but usually full of a wide variety of boats. Fishermen can be seen at all times of day and even a novice can usually catch something! Many children scramble over the rocks to collect mussels as bait, and sit, precariously balanced, waiting for their first bite. The pier is unspoilt, with no entertainment other than a pleasant walk providing excellent views of the beaches and the town.
* Scottish country dancing *
Scottish country dancers, from complete beginners to experienced teachers, can have an energetic holiday at the St Andrews International Summer school, which usually takes place for two weeks in July. This is something I joined in as a non-resident (staying with my grandparents) for three or four years during my late teens.
The University provides halls of residence, since people come from all over the world to this; classes are taught every morning in Church halls around the town. In the evenings there are social dances, and once a week there is a Ceilidh, with entertainment provided by the teachers and some of the students. Miss Jean Milligan, founder of the Royal Scottish Country Dance Society, presided over the Summer Schools for many years until her death. During Summer School weeks, people of all nationalities can be found in the streets of St Andrews, the men attired in kilts, no matter what the weather.
* Craigtoun park *
As a place for a family holiday, St Andrews offers plenty of entertainment for children. Apart from the excellent beaches, there is a park called Craigtoun Co
ry Park a few miles out, which has a steam train, rowing boats, crazy golf, a bouncing castle and an adventure playground. There's an admission fee in high season, but it's not high, and - like expensive theme parks - entrance to Craigtoun includes almost everything inside. As an afternoon's entertainment for children of any age it is excellent value. We used to clamour to go every year, and when I took my own children to stay in St Andrews a few years ago, they too were enchanted with this park. See http://www.visit-standrews.co.uk/pages/craigtoun.h tm
* Sea-life centre *
The sea-life centre - or St Andrews aquarium, as it's now known - is a bit more expensive, but well worth a family visit on a wet day. For two adults and two children, expect to pay about £16.50. £5.50 for one adult, less for a child, concessions available. Exhibits show sea creatures from the local coastline, with an outdoor pool for seals. It looks out over the East Sands. The display in the entrance shows the length of a huge sea-snake once discovered on the beaches of St Andrews; fortunately such a discovery is not common! See http://www.standrewsaquarium.co.uk
* Shopping *
No visit to St Andrews is complete without at least one morning spent shopping. Even as children we enjoyed this. Exploring the town is straightforward - maps are easily available, but even someone as geographically challenged as me cannot easily get lost. There are three main streets which run parallel from East to West: North Street, Market Street and South Street. Several smaller roads link them. There are charity shops galore, supermarkets and well-known stores such as Woolworths, as well as old-fashioned hardware shops, and a plethora of tourist shops.
The town manages to retain its old-world feel, with modern shops in old stone settings. The second-hand bookshops are particularly enjoyable, and there are many stores sel
tartans, although none to beat the Woollen Mill, which has a coffee shop as well as every imaginable colour and size of knitted and tartan clothes.
My favourite shop was always the 'St Andrews Citizen', not unlike WH Smiths in what it sells (such as stationery, magazines, games, and books), but with a wonderful sense of history and plenty of time to browse without anyone minding. When the weather is good, it's also vital to visit Janetta's, possibly the best ice-cream shop in the world, with more flavours than more people could eat in a month.
* Hotels and guest houses *
While hotels can be expensive, particularly during the summer season, there are plenty of guest houses with friendly Scottish hospitality and home-cooked food. See http://www.4hotels.co.uk/uk/st-andrews.html or contact the St Andrews tourist board for further details - they will be delighted to help. They can let you know prices, and also times when the place will not be swarming with other tourists!
* Conclusion *
Whatever your interest, you should be able to find something to enjoy at St Andrews. The pace of life is somehow slower than that of much of the rest of the UK. While the weather isn't anything like the Mediterranean, the hospitality and relaxed atmosphere is reminiscent of small resorts in Greek islands.
Even if it's pouring with rain, there are cinemas and theatres as well as the shops to enjoy. Nobody goes to St Andrews for the weather, after all, but many people go back, year after year, for a break in the middle of their busy lives. I don't know if it's the sea air, or the pace of life, or simply something that's unique to this town - but somehow every time I've been there, I return home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
* Sites with up-to-date information and prices *
As with many tourist resorts, prices of hotels and various attractions d
ry somewhat from season t
o season. It's always worth checking one of the online local information sites before making any plans. For instance:
http://www.standrews.com/ - St Andrews net portal
http://www.standrews.co.uk/ - Kingdom of Fife official tourist site
** This review is part of the HOMETOWN challenge where members are asked to write about any aspect of their home town - or a town they'd like/not like to be their home town. You can find all the participants by going to: http://www.dooyoo.co.uk/internet/internet_sites/do oyoo_co_uk_in_general/_review/42 6988/