St Andrews


Old Course, St Andrews
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Old Course, St Andrews

The ancient university city of St. Andrews, once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland and now a golfing and tourist mecca, lies at the eastern extremity of the Fife peninsula where the North Sea coastline is characterised by sweeping sandy bays on either side of a rocky headland.

The city grew from a small religious settlement founded on the headland of Kinrimund ('Head of the King's Mount') where, around AD 345, St. Rule is said to have landed with the bones of St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland. By the mid-8th Century the site had become a place of pilgrimage and had soon taken over from Iona as Scotland's leading religious centre. In the 12th Century a cathedral was built, in 1411 a University was founded and in the 15th Century Pope Sixtus IV erected the see of St. Andrews into an archbishopric.

First granted a royal charter c.1140 by King David I, the town developed as a centre of trade, its merchant burgesses building for themselves fine houses with elegant forestairs, crow-stepped gables and pantiled roofs. Pilgrims stopped coming after the Reformation and the town's importance and prosperity declined. By the 17th century, both the castle and cathedral had fallen into ruin. But with the development of fishing, agriculture and tourism in the 19th century the town's harbour once more came alive with herring-boats, boats exporting coal and iron as well as grain and potatoes from the farms of Fife, and ferries linking St. Andrews with ports such as Dundee and Leith.

St. Andrews is internationally famous as the 'home of golf' and the frequent venue of championship events. The game has been played here at least since 1553 when the Archbishop allowed its townsfolk to play golf and other games on the links and in 1754 the Royal and Ancient Society of St. Andrews Golfers was set up to organise an annual competition. There are now six public 18-hole courses (Old, New, Strathtyrum, Jubilee, Eden and Castle) and one 9-hole course (Balgove) as well as many golf shops, manufacturers of golf clubs and a British Golf Museum.

Notable individuals born in St Andrews include medical reformer Andrew Duncan (1744 - 1828), educationalist Andrew Bell (1753 - 1832), golfers Allan Robertson (1815-59), Old Tom Morris (1821 - 1908), Jamie Anderson (1842 - 1905), Young Tom Morris (1851-75), Willie Fernie (1857 - 1924) and Andra Kirkaldy (1860 - 1934), photographer Robert Adamson (1821-48), garden designer William Saunders (1822 - 1900), painter Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912 - 2004), politician Jo Grimond (1913-93), journalist Nina Myskow (b.1946), sports presenter Hazel Irvine (b. 1965), curler Tom Brewster (b. 1974) and singer KT Tunstall (b. 1975).

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