St. Andrews Cathedral Visitor Guide

By Craig Neil
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Table of Contents


Summary

The medieval ruin of Saint Andrews Cathedral is located in the historic coastal town of St. Andrews. The cathedral is best known for the thirty-three-metre tall St. Rules Tower which dominates the coastline in this picturesque region of Fife.

Discover St. Andrews Cathedral with this guide which includes an overview and helpful visiting advice.

st andrews cathedral
Address:The Pends,
St Andrews,
Fife,
KY16 9QL
Opening Hours:1 April to 30 September Daily 9.30 am to 5.30 pm (last entry 5 pm)
1 October to 31 March, Daily 10 am to 4 pm (last entry 3:30 pm)
Closed 25th, 26th December and 1st, 2nd January
Admission Price:Adult (16-64yrs) £6.00
Concession (65yrs+ and unemployed) £4.80
Child (5-15yrs) £3.60
Family (1 adult, 2 children) £9.50
Family (2 adults, 2 children) £14.00
Family (2 adults, 3 children) £16.00
Parking:No on-site parking. Car parks in St. Andrews.
Contact:01334 472 563
Facilities:Gift shop, water refill

The highlights

1: St. Andrew’s cathedral is set in a great location next to St. Andrews beach and harbour. There are paths that lead onto East Sands beach which is a short walk across The Shore road.

2: It’s also a huge ruin that’s fun to explore and the wee museum is quite interesting. Maybe not for children though.

3: There are fantastic views from the top of St. Rules tower where you’ll have unparalleled views of the coastline. Binoculars (my recommended pairs on Amazon) are well worth taking up there.

st andrews cathedral

Visiting tips

1: Have a look around Saint Andrews after you’ve visited the cathedral. It’s a lovely town (especially if you’re a golfer) that’s full of artisan cafes and gift shops.

2: If you want to visit a nearby family attraction take a look at St. Andrews Aquarium which offers a wonderful day out for all ages.

Another animal-themed attraction that’s a bit further to the west of St. Andrews is the Scottish Deer Centre which is one of the best child-friendly places to take kids in the east of Scotland.

3: Visitors often forget that the city of Dundee is a mere 30 minutes away on the A91. While you’re there I recommend you check out the V&A Museum and the McManus Museum – both of which are free to enter and offer a good few hours of exploring.


Overview

If you ever find yourself in the picturesque coastal town of Saint Andrews you really should take the short walk over to the ruins of the medieval cathedral located close to the town centre.

This enormous complex of derelict walls, gravestones and foundation stones was once the heart of the Catholic church in Scotland, but it’s now more famous for St. Rules tower, the 33-metre landmark that can be seen for miles around which offers glorious views across St. Andrews and the Fife countryside.

st andrews cathedral

The site is cared for by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) which maintains the ruins and provides ticketed visitor access.

Families can enjoy exploring the medieval nooks and crannies hidden away amongst the church walls and graveyard as well as learning about the history of the cathedral thanks to the small museum installed on the site.

The fact that this attraction lies so close to the town centre also means you’ll have plenty of time to explore St. Andrews after your visit and you can let the kids run riot on the sandy beaches that run all the way along this lovely part of the Fife coastline.

st andrews cathedral

Tourist information

The town of St. Andrews has become increasingly popular with tourists in recent years, and for good reason.

First, there’s the world-class golf course which overlooks the seafront and is believed to be the oldest in the world. It’s at this course where historians believe golf was invented and it’s known that the game has been played at St. Andrews links for at least 600 years.

The second top-rated tourist attraction is the charming town centre itself which is not only home to more quaint restaurants and craft shops than you can shake a stick at, but it’s also home to St. Andrews University where Prince William and Kate Middleton met.

And the third-best reason to visit the town is St. Andrews Cathedral, the enormous set of ruins that was at one time one of the most important buildings in Scotland.

Walking through the enormous graveyard you begin to get an idea of how big the main church building must have been in its prime, which is easier to understand if you trace the route along the 119-metre length of the remaining foundation stones.

st andrews cathedral

This huge cathedral was obviously built to impress and it still does – even if most of the walls have been demolished – but there’s another more intact religious feature that’s even more impressive.

St. Rules tower is named after Saint Rule, the saint who’s believed to have brought the relics of Saint Andrew from Greece to Scotland in the 4th century, and the tower built in his honour offers visitors some of the best views in the area.

A climb up the narrow steps of the sandstone landmark gives you amazing views across the town, sea, and surrounding countryside, and if you’re a bit of a photo-fanatic like me it’s a must-visit attraction.

The final highlight of Saint Andrews Cathedral is the graveyard which is absolutely enormous and is definitely worth taking a walk through.

Part of the graveyard looks out onto St. Andrews harbour and pier, and there’s a gate at the bottom so you can head down to east sands beach with its many rockpools to explore.

The beach is great fun for kids and it’s a perfect way to round off your day at the many interesting tourist attractions in St. Andrews.

st andrews cathedral

History

Built in 1158, the cathedral was the centre of Catholicism in Scotland for over 400 years until it was ransacked by a Protestant mob in 1559.

From then on it slowly fell into disrepair and was further damaged by locals looking for building material for the growing town nearby.

Then at the end of the 16th century the main tower collapsed, and what was once the biggest church in Scotland was left to fall into ruin.

Fortunately by the mid-1800s local historians had begun to recognise that the site should be preserved for future generations and this preservation has been carried through to modern times thanks to the management of the site by Historic Environment Scotland.


Tourist map of Scotland

The Pends,
St Andrews,
Fife,
KY16 9QL

Filter by

Explore this area with a detailed paper map from Ordnance Survey:

St Andrews & East Fife – 371 Explorer.

St Andrews – 59 Landranger.

OS Explorer Maps: Best for walking, mountain biking, and finding footpaths. 1:25,000 scale (4cm = 1km in real world). Buy OS Explorer maps direct from Ordnance Survey.

OS Landranger Maps: Best for road cycling, touring by car, and finding attractions. 1:50 000 scale (2 cm = 1 km in real world). Buy OS Landranger maps direct from Ordnance Survey.


Things to do nearby

St. Andrews Links. W Sands Rd, St Andrews KY16 9XL. 14-minute walk. The world’s oldest golf course. St. Andrews course was founded in the early 15th century. It is possible to walk alongside the course via West Sands Road. The clubhouse has a snack bar and a café.

St. Andrews Castle. The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AR. 4-minute walk. Ruined castle atop cliffs that overlook the North Sea. During the course of the 450 years that it was in use it acted as a bishop’s palace, a prison and a fortress. There is a museum inside the recently-constructed visitor centre.

St. Andrews Aquarium. The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AS. 12-minute walk. An aquarium that faces the North Sea near West Sands beach. The aquarium has a variety of enclosures on display that hold more than 100 different species of fish as well as sharks, seals and penguins.

West Sands Beach. W Sands Rd, St Andrews KY16 9XL. 13-minute walk. An exceptionally large beach that is backed by St. Andrews Links. The beach juts out into the area where the River Eden flows into the North Sea at Out Head. Car parking and public toilets are located close to the beach.

St. Andrews Botanic Garden. Canongate, St Andrews KY16 8RT. 20-minute walk. A large botanic garden and greenhouses that cover 18 acres in the heart of St. Andrews.

There are more than 8,000 plant species to view, many of which are exotics that are rarely seen in Scotland. There are woodland walks, a play area and a gift shop on-site.


Frequently asked questions

How do I get to St. Andrews Cathedral?

Address: The Pends, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 9QL

Directions map: Google Maps

Is St. Andrews a city or town?

St. Andrews, located on the east coast of Scotland in Fife, is a town. It was designated as a royal burgh in 1620 by James VI.

Why is St. Andrews Cathedral a ruin?

St. Andrew’s Cathedral fell into ruin after it was abandoned when Catholic mass was outlawed during the 16th century Reformation.

What is St. Andrew the patron saint of?

St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland and Russia.