For More than Golf, St. Andrews in Scotland is the Place
World-famous as the home of golf and currently Prince William, the first-time visitor might be mistaken into thinking that St. Andrews on Scotland's east coast, exists only to serve those whose obsession is with the game. And while that is true up to a point, the town is far, far more than a golf museum, having been involved with some of Scotland's most momentous occasions in a history stretching back to the Bronze Age.
More of golf later, but St. Andrews - named after the apostle, St. Andrew, whose relics were brought to the town - became a prominent site for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages while its bishop became the senior bishop in Scotland. Its religious center was the now ruined, but nonetheless imposing, Cathedral, attracting thousands of pilgrims every year, but whose prominence soon came under the microscope of the Protestant Reformation.
This was a brutal time for the town as martyrs such as Patrick Hamilton (1527), Henry Forest (1533), George Wishart (1513) and Walter Myln (1558), were burnt at the stake. All over St. Andrews are inscriptions either carved into the road, such as "PH" for Hamilton outside St. Salvator's Church or on the Martyrs Monument overlooking the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club.
Founded in 1413, and widely regarded as the Scottish Oxbridge, St. Andrews University attracts students of a particularly high caliber and is well-known for subjects such as medicine and international relations. While many locals may grumble about town/gown relations, there is no doubt that the thousands of students pour vast amounts of money into the local economy - especially the ubiquitous pubs - and lend the town a vibrant, dynamic feel. They also retain many rituals dating back to medieval times, which, although some dismiss as student high jinx, maintain a connection with an ancient past.
These include the Kate Kennedy procession, Raisin Sunday and the traditional walk along the pier after Church on Sunday, with undergraduates sporting their bright red robes. The University Church is St. Salvator's on North Street (there are really only three in the town - North, South and Market Street) and on Sundays, features the stunningly professional University Choir, a procession of University dignitaries, resplendent in their respective robes - Divinity, Science, Medicine et cetera - and all under what must be one of the most impressive Church organs in Scotland. A "must-do" in...