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Uncover the Mysteries of Scotland's St. Andrews

submitted on 2 August 2023 by

A Brief Introduction to the Peculiar World of St. Andrews

Behold, the coastal town of St. Andrews, perched atop the eastern shores of Scotland's Fife region! Whilst many might associate St. Andrews with golf, ecclesiastical history, and the prestigious university that counts the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge among its alumni, few are privy to the underbelly of oddities, eccentricities, and fascinating tales that lurk beneath the surface of this seemingly staid and conventional town.

Curious Cursing and the St. Andrews Sarcophagus

Within the hallowed halls of the St. Andrews Museum lies the enigmatic St. Andrews Sarcophagus, a Pictish artifact dating back to the 8th century. This sandstone relic has confounded scholars and enthusiasts alike for centuries, primarily because of the intricate carvings that adorn its exterior. If you zoom in on one particular corner of the sarcophagus, you'll discover a bizarre figure sticking its tongue out whilst grasping its own leg. This peculiar carving is believed to be the earliest recorded instance of the Scottish tradition of "cursing," which involves sticking out one's tongue and holding one's leg in order to ward off evil spirits. Next time you find yourself in a precarious situation, channel your inner ancient Scot and give it a try.

Old Tom Morris: Golf's Original Mad Hatter

St. Andrews is renowned as the "Home of Golf," so it's hardly surprising that the town is teeming with stories about the sport's colorful characters. Perhaps none are more intriguing than Old Tom Morris, a 19th-century golfer, and greenkeeper. Old Tom could often be spotted roaming the links with an entourage that included his pet rooster, which he'd carry in a custom-made bag. Legend has it that he would consult with his feathered companion before making crucial shots, and the duo became a formidable force on the golf course. Alas, the rooster met its untimely demise when it was struck by a stray golf ball, leaving Old Tom utterly bereft. Be sure to pay homage to this dynamic duo at Morris' grave in the St. Andrews Cathedral graveyard.

The Haunted Tower of St. Andrews Cathedral

No exploration of St. Andrews would be complete without delving into the ghostly tales that haunt the town's ancient ruins. The St. Andrews Cathedral, once the largest church in Scotland, is now a crumbling testament to the power of the elements and the ravages of time. But fear not, dear traveler—this formidable edifice still harbors secrets within its timeworn walls. Venture up the tight, spiral staircase of St. Rule's Tower and, if you're fortunate (or perhaps unfortunate), you may encounter the ghostly figure of a monk who is said to have leapt to his demise from its lofty heights. It's believed that his spirit has been locked in a perpetual downward spiral ever since, so keep your wits about you as you traverse those ancient steps.

The Peculiar Pends and the Mysterious Mermaid

St. Andrews is a town of many enchanting nooks and crannies, and the Pends is one such beguiling spot. This narrow, cobbled passageway was once a bustling thoroughfare but is now a quiet, atmospheric alleyway that transports you to a bygone era. At the base of the Pends, you'll discover a curious carving of a mermaid on a stone wall. Rumor has it that centuries ago, a beautiful mermaid was spotted frolicking in the waters off the coast of St. Andrews. A local fisherman was so entranced by her beauty that he made a deal with a witch to help him capture her. The witch agreed, but only if the fisherman would pay her in gold. Alas, the fisherman was unable to raise the funds, and the mermaid was never his. Instead, he immortalized her on the wall of the Pends, where she remains to this day, a poignant reminder of unrequited love and unfulfilled desires.

So, You Fancy a Tipple?

  • For those who appreciate a fine dram, a visit to the ancient and atmospheric St. Andrews Brewing Company is a must. Sample their range of craft ales and spirits, and bask in the ambience of this 17th-century building, complete with low ceilings, exposed stone walls, and a roaring fire.
  • Seek solace in the cozy confines of The Criterion, a favorite haunt of locals and students alike. This traditional Scottish pub offers an extensive selection of whiskies, ales, and gins, as well as regular live music and quiz nights.
  • Immerse yourself in the quirky surroundings of The Doll's House, a charming establishment that boasts a unique interior inspired by Scandinavian folklore. Sip on one of their imaginative cocktails as you marvel at the intricate wooden carvings that adorn the walls and ceiling.
As you can see, St. Andrews is far more than meets the eye. Peel back the layers of history, superstition, and eccentricity, and you'll discover a town teeming with intrigue, mystique, and a healthy dose of the bizarre. Embrace the peculiar and embark on a journey into the heart of Scotland's most enigmatic coastal town.
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