The Fife Coastal Path
St Andrews

Prior to the 4th C there was a Pictish community in this area then known as Kinrymont. This may have derived it name from St Kenny an Irish missionary. Close by there also existed a pre-Christian swine cult that is thought to have given rise to the unusual name of Boarhill.

Mercat Cross Inverkeithing In the 4th C St Rule / Regulus is believed to have been charged with taking the remains of St Andrew from Patras where he was crucified to “a region towards the west situated in the utmost part of the world” and that he was shipwrecked and came ashore at Kinrymont with St Andrew’s remains. Another version says that St Andrew’s remains were brought from Northumberland by the Pictish King Angus in the mid 8th C. Whichever one is accepted by the 8th C a Church of St Mary on the Rock was established close to the sea and St Andrew’s remains are said to have been laid there, and the community become know thereafter as St Andrews and became the ecclesiastical Capital of Scotland.

In the early 11th C Queen / Saint Margaret escaped across the River Forth, from forces of William the Conqueror. In gratitude she thereafter granted free passage by "Queensferry" to pilgrims to St. Andrews.

About 1130 close to the Church of St Mary a new Church was built, this the Church of St Rule. There are still remains of this next to the Cathedral ruins and it is likely that this church remained active during some of the live of the Cathedral.

In 1140 King David I (son of Saint Margaret) granted a charter to St Andrews and construction of St. Andrews Cathedral and the Priory was begun. This was not fully consecrated until 1318 in the presence of Robert the Bruce. The building continued to see ongoing building as this largest of Cathedral in Britain experienced destruction by fire and storm.



This being such an important ecclesiastical centre for the Catholic Church, in 1203 the castle was constructed by Bishop Roger as a fortress and ecclesiastical residence. Its later destruction was due to religious differences, some of the stone being used to re-build the harbour wall destroyed by force of the sea.

The church also was the driving force behind the establishment of St Andrews second major institution that of the university. This is Scotland’s Most Ancient University founded in 1412 by Bishop Wardlaw. The university was then added to in 1450 by Bishop James Kennedy endowing St Salvator’s College, Prior Hepburn founding St Leonard’s College in 1512, and Archbishop James Beaton founding St Mary’s College in 1538. A further addition was Blackfriars’ established in 1516.



The University was so important that King James I places the University under his personal protection, exempting its members from taxation. Church and University continued to thrive up until the time of the reformation. The challenge of the Protestant faith on the Catholic faith resulted in martyrs for the respective faiths and the destruction of many of the buildings then associated with the Catholic Church. The first martyr burned at the stake in Market Street, St Andrews was Paul Craw in 1433. This was followed a century latter with Patrick Hamilton burned at the stake outside St. Salvator’s in 1528 and George Wishart burned at the stake outside the Castle in 1546.
Wishart Plaque
CW marking on road
During this time St Andrews had become Scotland’s first Archbishopric and the Castle became the location of a siege that ended in a bombardment from the French fleet. John Knox and the other defenders were sent to France as prisoners. This did not stop the Protestant cause and in 1558 Walter Myln was martyred in St. Andrews. Finally in 1559 St. Andrews Cathedral was ransacked by protestant mobs, incited by the preaching of John Knox.

For the next 2 centuries despite King James VI confirming St. Andrews as a Royal Burgh in 1620, St Andrews and its university were in decline with a threat to move the latter to Perth. The streets were known for their filth and rubbish and it was not until the development of the third institution of Golf and the planning and belief of Provost Hugh Playfair that fortunes started to turn.

Mercat Cross Inverkeithing The first signs of golf being played on the links are recorded in the 15th C and an act of the Scottish Parliament (1457) prohibits the playing of golf on Sunday in favour of archery and church attendance. By 1754 the Society of St. Andrews Golfers, the predecessor of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was established. By 1834 William IV conferred on the Society of St. Andrews Golfers the title “The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews”. By 1897 The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews was recognized as the governing body for the rules of golf.

The 19th C also saw the development of St Andrews’ New Town under the direction of Hugh Playfair and this new found optimism resulted in St Andrews gaining its current position as a key academic centre, a centre of history and culture as well as a tourism and golf mecca. Other dates worthy of mention are:

  • 1832: Madras College was founded by Dr. Andrew Bell, using principles he derived while in Madras, India. The school opened in 1833 and is still the secondary school for the city.
  • 1842: Martyrs Monument on the Scores was erected to commemorate the Protestant martyrs Paul Craw (1433), Patrick Hamilton (1528), Henry Forrest (1533) George Wishart (1546) and Walter Myln (1558).
  • 1877: St. Leonard's School for Girls was founded by Miss Louisa Lumsden who became the first headmistress.
  • 1933: The first Byre Theatre is established in an old cow shed (byre).

The sections accessed from this page are as follows:

Area interest |  Area history |  St Andrews


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