Scotland: West Sands Beach

Thursday. Our final day in Scotland. It feels like the week went by so fast! There’s so much more to see in the country!

I added St. Andrew’s to the itinerary primarily because of Dad … and his desire to see the golf course.


From Rick Steves:

St. Andrews

For many, St. Andrews is synonymous with golf. But there’s more to this charming town than its famous links. Dramatically situated at the edge of a sandy bay, St. Andrews is the home of Scotland’s most important university – think of it as the Scottish Cambridge. And centuries ago, the town was the religious capital of the country.

In its long history, St. Andrews has seen two boom periods. First in the early Middle Ages, the relics of St. Andrews made the town cathedral one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Christendom. The faithful flocked here from all over Europe, leaving the town with a medieval all-roads-lead-to-the-cathedral street plan that survives today.

But after the Scottish Reformation the cathedral rotted away and the town became a forgotten backwater. A new wave of visitors arrived in the mid-19th century, when a visionary mayor named (appropriately enough) Provost Playfair began to promote the town’s connection with the newly in-vogue game of golf. Most buildings in town date from this time.

Today, St. Andrews remains a popular spot for both students and golf devotees (including professionals and celebrities such as Scotsman Sean Connery, often seen out on the links). With vast, sandy beaches, golfing opportunities for pros and novices alike, playgrounds of ruins, a fun-loving student vibe and a string of relaxing fishing villages nearby (the East Neuk), St. Andrews is an appealing place to take a vacation from your busy vacation.


We left Aberfeldy early-ish to drive about an hour and a half to the east coast to St. Andrew’s. It rained on and off the whole way there, but once we arrived the rain had stopped for a bit.

Upon arriving in town – a tiny, coastal college town – we went straight to West Sands Beach. Just off the Old Course, and the site of the filming of the opening scene of Chariots of Fire, West Sands Beach was at VERY low tide when we got there (maybe 10:30a or so).

The walk from the parking lot (of the golf course) to the beach was over a wooden boardwalk, through beachy weeds – very northeast-U.S. beachy. Definitely reminded me of the beach in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ or similar. There was even a looks-like-it-is-about-to-fall-over wooden slat fence keeping the overgrowth from the sand.

In true tiny-tourist-town fashion, as soon as we stepped on to the sand we saw a lifeguard picking up the little bit of trash that was present on the beach.

We spent maybe 45 minutes or so at West Sands Beach …

When you walk on to the beach, the town of St. Andrew’s is to the south (your right) with only coastline visible to the north (your left). We stepped on to the bright sand, and the ocean felt so far away! I just tried to imagine what the opening scene of Chariots of Fire must look like (since I’ve never seen it) … with a lone runner jogging down the beach…

We all started heading toward the water – but at different speeds. The ocean was at low tide, yes, but parts of the sand were still pretty wet and muddy. Andrew was wearing canvas boat shoes that ended up getting pretty wet. Chelsea was wearing suede boots and I don’t think she came very far out at all.

We were generally headed in the direction of what looked to be some climbable rocks … as we got farther and farther out toward the water line, we began to see something strange on the wet sand.

Andrew thought they were worms – and they certainly looked like they could be … brown, squiggly thin piled on the sand…. But then – especially as we got even closer to the water – we started to see these piles appear from the sand!

I still haven’t looked them up to see specifically what it was… but we came to the consensus that SOMETHING (crab, worm, something) was under the surface of the wet sand and expelling or regurgitating thin columns of sand up onto the surface. … just like those Play-Doh factory toys …. Squeezing out Play-Doh spaghetti.

I still tried to avoid stepping on them, but I was kind of glad to know I wasn’t surrounded by worms!

360 degree video:

Turns out the dark rocks were totally covered by slippery sea plant of some kind, smelling and not at all climbable. They must be under water once the tide comes up …

SO beautiful there :)

After visiting the beach, it was just about lunch time …. that story coming up!

Leave a Comment

  • Nancy April 24, 2012, 6:39 pm

    Great pics! I can’t believe you still haven’t seen the movie. It won best picture. It’s a sports movie. It will probably make you cry. I know you’ll really love it. Here’s a link to the opening scene. It’ll look familiar.

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