by Rick Steves, December 12, 2019
Tiny St. Andrews has a huge reputation, known around the world as the birthplace and royal seat of golf. The chance to play on the world’s oldest course — or at least take in the iconic view of its 18th hole — keeps the town perennially popular among golfing pilgrims. But any visitor to Scotland should consider at least a short stop in this scenic, intriguingly historic university town.
Located about a one-and-a-half-hour drive north of Edinburgh, and dramatically crowning the cliffs at the tip of a peninsula jutting into the North Sea, St. Andrews has been a tourist destination for centuries — in part because of its important role in Scottish history.
During the religious turbulence between the Great Schism and the Reformation, St. Andrews was the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, and its cathedral was its showpiece church. The relics of its namesake saint first put the town on the medieval map, drawing pilgrims from around Europe…until it was ransacked by Protestants, and its stones repurposed for newer buildings in town. Just a few blocks away from the cathedral ruins is St. Andrews Castle, which had also been largely destroyed during the Reformation. What little is left makes a fun…