About St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle is a ruin located in Fife, Scotland. The castle sits on a rocky promontory overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands and the adjoining North Sea.
Similar to the ruined Cathedral which stands a few hundred metres away, St Andrews Castle dates back to the mid-12th century.
St Andrews Castle history
One of the most historic and scenically beautiful castles in Scotland, St Andrews Castle was first fortified around 1100. The ground upon which the fortress was built on, defended by sheer cliffs on the seaward side, and by rock-cut ditches to the landward, made the castle an easily defended site.
It was initially built by Bishop Roger, son of the Earl of Leicester to act as sanctuary and safe haven for wealthy and powerful bishops while St Andrews served as the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland during the years before the Protestant Reformation.
During the Scottish Wars of Independence, the castle changed hands several times between the English and Scottish armies and was a fiercely contested fortress after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
After the Wars of Independence, the castle was left to decay and had to be rebuilt by Bishop Walter Trail. The remains seen today are mostly part of this rebuilding project at the end of the 14th century.
During the Scottish Reformation, the castle became a centre of religious persecution and controversy and was besieged in 1546 at the orders of the Scottish Regent to Mary Queen of Scots, James Hamilton, when a protestant congregation formed and took refuge in fort. Attempts were made by both sides to create mine tunnels in order to break the siege, all of which can still be viewed today.
The Castle today
With the eventual success of the Reformation in Scotland, the office of the bishop was increasingly eroded until it was finally abolished by William of Orange in 1689.
Deprived of any function, the castle fell rapidly into ruin by 1656, it had fallen into such disrepair that the burgh council ordered the use of its materials in repairing the pier.
The principal remains are a portion of the south wall enclosing a square tower, the “bottle dungeon,” the kitchen tower, and the underground mine and counter-mine.
The castle’s grounds are now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument. The site is entered through a visitor centre with displays on its history. Some of the best surviving carved fragments from the castle are displayed in the centre, which also has a shop.
Getting to St Andrews Castle
Just north of the Cathedral, St Andrews Castle is located on the seafront along The Scores which can be followed all the way up from the Old Course by West Sands Beach.
When driving eastbound along The Scores, once visitors pass the University Halls of Residence on the right, the Castle will shortly appear in sight at the end of the road on the left-hand side.