St Andrews is admired around the world for its golf and golf courses, but when it comes to family fun, there’s so much more on offer. Janice Hopper and her kids from Scots2Travel.com share their St Andrews highlights.
Hit the Beach - West Sands Beach
One of the biggest draws at St Andrews is the stunning West Sands beach. Iconic as the scenic backdrop in Chariots of Fire, kids can also run free here. We explored the rock formations, climbing to the top of several, and played in the water and the sand. FREE
[West Sands also offers St Andrews West Beach Wheelchairs. The chairs’ chunky wheels make it easier for everyone to enjoy a day by the seaside.]
Spot Sealife - St Andrews Aquarium
From the shoreline, the next logical stop is stepping inside the local aquarium to appreciate the sealife. The aquarium’s outdoor areas showcase Humboldt penguins and grey seals. Indoors there’s an array of creatures including moon jellyfish, cute meerkats, chilled iguanas and serene seahorses. My kids were drawn to the more deadly creatures (typical!) such as dwarf crocodiles, snapping turtles, tarantulas and piranhas.
Try to catch a feeding time to make the most of your visit. And remember that tickets can be used all day - we visited twice!
Price: £42 for a family ticket
R&A World Golf Museum
In the home of golf this is one place to put on your itinerary. This five star, modern and hugely interactive museum is a slick enterprise and wonderful for kids whether you’re interested in golf or not. It deserves to have lots more mini-visitors walking through the door!
Fancy dress, a putting area, designing their own golf course, plus attempting to get a ‘hole in one’ with a bagatelle style course, my kids were truly occupied. They also attempted the children’s activity sheet but were having too much fun to concentrate.
The craft room is a real bonus too. As my boys coloured in golfing trophies and completed mazes, parents could either chill out or take the opportunity to read more of the golf history while the kids were occupied.
History is told through characters (such as the old man of golf, Old Tom Morris) plus there are lots of lovely golfing details shared. I loved the delicate craft of creating golf balls, which were historically made from feathers. More than a top hat full of feathers was required to fill a ball, and an expert ball maker could only make three or four balls in a day. This museum is a hidden gem when it comes to hands on family fun. A café and gift shop are available too. The location near West Sands beach is excellent, and it’s an obvious rainy day option.
Price: Adults £12, children 5-15 £6, children 4 and under - free
Food and drink is part of any good holiday. St Andrews has rich pickings to satisfy most kids’ favourite food groups.
The Tailend on Market Street is the perfect family dining spot for a relaxed break, dishing up fish and chips and seafood, and takeaway is available too. As well as traditional haddock and chips, savour freshly caught scallops with chorizo and capers. I then plumped for an Arbroath Smokie and lemon butter with chips - exquisite. An extensive Eden Mill gin menu hits the spot. And the highlight? Kids eat for free in the restaurant every Sunday. What’s not to love?
For doughnuts and gingerbread men make a beeline for the famous Fife bakery, Fisher & Donaldson. If it’s ice cream you fancy, then the hugely popular Janetta’s on South Street offers over fifty flavours. There are often queues here so also consider Luvian’s ice cream parlour on Market Street and Sprinkles Gelateria and Coffee Shop on Bell Street - all three parlours are within a short walk of each other. If you’re wondering where ‘Will & Kate’ met, then head to the informal Northpoint Café on North Street - drop by for some regal scran. And, for a more all round foodie experience, head slightly out of town to Balgove Larder. Browse the extensive farm shop or sit down for a meal at the café, Steak Barn or Pizza Box.
St Andrews is rich in eye-widening ‘horrible history’. St Andrews Castle is the site where Protestant reformer George Wishart was burned at the stake upon the instruction of Cardinal Beaton. If that wasn’t enough, Wishart’s angry friends sought revenge, capturing the cardinal, executing him and hanging his corpse from the castle battlements. The castle ruins feature dark dungeons, but while the castle is currently closed for maintenance, it’s easy to view from the roadside.
The visitor centre, toilets and exhibition are open and free to visit. When the castle reopens it’s free to Historic Scotland members.
Another key historic stop is the ruined but strangely beautiful St Andrews Cathedral. This vast building must have been awe-inspiring in its hey day, and the atmospheric ruins are full of stories, space and history for children to uncover. Climbing to the top of the cathedral tower is another challenge for active youngsters.
Currently closed for site inspections, you can still admire from a distance.
Green Fingered St Andrews
A calming experience is a wander around St Andrews Botanic Gardens. It’s a relatively compact 18-acre botanical garden, but with plenty of room for little legs to run around. Explore the rock garden, head into the glass house to see the latest blooms and the Tufa limestone rockery and search for Gruffalo figures, but the highlight for our boys was the natural play area - again, quite compact but they were hanging out in the twig wigwam, pretending to start campfires and role playing in the woodland.
Price: on the first Friday of every month entry is free // Adult (18+)- £5.45 // Under 18s - FREE
See the Sights - Localmotion Land Train
This fab wee train is as popular with adults as it is with children, plus it’s a fun way to explore the town. My boys actually enjoyed trying to follow the wee map and shout out the destinations we reached.
The Localmotion team hasn’t decided if it’s able to open for the 2022 season so check their website or Facebook page for updates. The train takes in sights such as St Andrews Cathedral, the castle, the harbour and the town’s renowned university, with commentary shared along the route. The train can also be used as a hop on/hop off option, but we were quite indulgent and let the train take the strain.
Departure points start at the Bruce Embankment near the Golf Museum. Seasonal Attraction.
Price: Adults £7.50, Under 16s £3.50, Under 2 - Free.
Play Time - Craigtoun Country Park
Five minutes inland from St Andrews is the expansive Craigtoun Country Park. Our boys enjoyed the playground and the huge trampolines. In the summer, a wee train operates too. A lovely space for kids to let off some steam. Free
Where to Stay
I’m recommending Rufflets hotel for several reasons. Firstly, its family rooms are genius. Not only are they smart and comfortable, but the master bedroom is separated from the children’s twin room by the bathroom. I love hotels where the family rooms actually work well for families! I was also keen on the indulgent Molton Brown toiletries.
Secondly, the grounds are beautiful. We strolled down to the Walled Garden to meet the chickens. My son swang on the swing chair that hangs from a tree, resembling a character from a romantic novel. Two bridges cross a weaving burn that flows at the bottom of the garden so we also spent time looking for trolls! Plus much of this garden’s fresh produce graces guests’ plates at dinner.
The food is served in a smart two AA Rosette restaurant, with a quality children’s menu.
We started with pan-fried scallops, followed by venison loin, finishing with a cheeseboard that included rich Elrick Log goats cheese and Morangie brie. Lastly, Rufflets offers one of the best breakfasts - even a simply bowl of traditional porridge is beautifully presented.
Other things to try that we weren’t able to fit in…
Book a golf lesson in the home of golf - children’s classes are also available. Visit St Andrews Museum to discover more about the town’s story. Take a hike on the Fife Pilgrim Way that starts at St Andrews, and research the Fife Coastal Path that runs from Kincardine to Newburgh, via St Andrews.
As you can see St Andrews offers so much for families in a picturesque, walkable town. Plus you have the rest of Fife at your disposable if you wish to venture further afield. Happy travels.
Thanks to Scots2Travel for this blog.