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St. Andrews


Basic Info


Name: St. Andrews
Location: Fife
Country: Scotland

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This interesting fortress stands on a rock promontory to the north-east of the ancient city. The first stonework was erected in the late twelfth century and was the inner part of the Fore-Tower on the south (inland) side of the promontory. The Fore-Tower cannot have stood alone because it was too small to serve any purpose other than as a gateway, and it may be presumed that the tower was flanked on either side by wooden palisading that might have followed the lines of the present ruins of the late stonework enclosure. Timber buildings were doubtless raised inside. The castle was protected by a deep ditch on the south side.

In c.1336, the Fore-Tower was enlarged, but was demolished a year later when Andrew Moray slighted the castle. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, a major building program was started; this included erecting a substantial curtain round the whole enclosure with two new towers (the Sea Tower at north-west and the Kitchen Tower at north-east), and re-building the ForeTower. Much of the west and south-west curtain is still standing. The castle later became a favorite residence of the Crown: James III was probably born there in 1451.

The next building phase was in the first half of the sixteenth century, when the southeast and south-west corners were given cylindrical towers; these were destroyed in the 1546-7 siege. This siege resulted when Cardinal Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews, was murdered in the castle by Protestant infiltrators during the religious strife of the mid-sixteenth century in Scotland. The Protestants captured the castle and held it for a year against Catholic forces under Mary of Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Catholic siege was fierce and sustained, and extensive damage was done to the stonework. It was during this siege that the attackers sank a mine through the rock on which the castle stood, tunelling towards the Fore-Tower. The defenders got to know of the attempt, calculated the direction the tunnel was taking, and sank a counter-mine, just outside the Fore-Tower, hoping to join up with the besiegers' tunnel and fight them off. The mine and the counter-mine, cut in the living rock, have survived to this day. The former is about 2.1 metres (7 ft) high and about 1.8 metres (6 ft) wide and slants downwards to pass under the ditch. The counter-mine is much the same size, and it reached the head of the besiegers' mine nearly 12.2 metres (40 ft) out from the Fore-Tower. Today, visitors can walk (or crawl) through the tunnels which are lit and are provided with railings.

The castle fell after nearly a year, and among the Protestant prisoners taken was John Knox, later to become the champion of the Scottish Reformation. He was set to serve as a galley slave in the French fleet' and spent two years chained to an oar.

Scotland's national game, GOLF, was pioneered on the sandy links around St. Andrew's. The earliest record of the game being played dates from 1457, when golf was banned by James II because it was interfering with his subjects archery practice. Mary Queen of Scots was berated in 1568 for playing golf immediately after her husband, Darnley, had been murdered.


Click here to learn about the ghost that haunts St. Andrews.