A book lovers guide to…St Andrews

Welcome to the first in a new series of book lovers guides to various places around Scotland! This is kind of an elaboration to the #SpotlightOnSix instagram series we did a couple of months back where we shared six books from various locations around Scotland. But with the blog there’s obviously loads more room for havering from me (wooo). So, without any further ado here’s all you need to know as a book lover ahead of a visit to St Andrews.

Read before you go…

First we have to start with sharing some books set in St Andrews. If you’re a crime or historical fiction fan then St Andrews has you well covered. The Hew Cullan Mysteries series is a bit of both, set in the 16th Century and also to do with, well, mysteries. Rose Nicolson, the latest from Andrew Greig, is a stunning novel, also set in the 16th Century and follows Will Fowler as he navigates one of the most dramatic times in the nation’s history, while also being besotted with his best pal’s sister.

It’s never explicitly stated in Ever Fallen in Love by Zoë Strachan that the university depicted in the story is St Andrews, but it’s kinda obviously St Andrews. This is a character driven novel that would probably appeal to fans of The Secret History by Donna Tartt – that kinda dark academia vibe.

Then you’ve got the straight up crime novels. See Them Run by Marion Todd is the first in a series of novels following DI Clare MacKay while Eye for an Eye by T. F. Muir is the first DCI Andy Gilchrist novel. There’s not really getting away from golf in St Andrews so if you’d like a crime centred around it, Angus MacVicar has you covered with Murder at the Open. Sea of Suspicion by Toni Anderson is more marine biology based.


A visit to St Andrews definitely requires a stop at Topping & Company. If you’ve never been imagine a indie book utopia with shelves packed so high and so full of books you’ll need a ladder to reach the top. The front of the shop has all your fiction needs covered including a Scottish and local selection, while the back is full to the brim with non-fiction. There’s coffee and comfy seats, and events are back on the agenda. Plus the staff are brilliant.

There’s a local branch of Waterstones! It’s just a wee one but well stocked with strong emphasis on Scottish books. Again, the staff are ever so lovely and helpful.

There’s also a WHSmith

The charity secondhand bookshops are absolute belters in St Andrews. Number one recommendation is Barnardo’s which has a brilliant selection, the Oxfam also has a decent spread.

Bouquiniste is another small but mighty wee secondhand shop that’s worth a browse.

Best places to stop and read for awhile…

If it’s a sunny day, or preferably a moody, cloudy day, the ruined Cathedral is a great place to stop for awhile. This is a historical, atmospheric location absolutely bursting with history so it’s worth a visit in and of itself anyway. There’s benches all over the site, some more secluded and peaceful than others.

There are also some wee places to stop around the harbour but it can be windy, slippery and seaweedy to pick a spot carefully!

Anything else?

There’s no getting around it, St Andrews can be a really expensive place to stay for awhile, or even for a day trip, especially if something golfy’s going on. But here’s some suggestions…

Where to eat/drink…Jannettas Gelateria is an institution and a must visit; serving light lunches, snacks and desserts all the food is gorgeous and it’s reasonably priced. For American-style burgers and fajitas you can’t go far wrong with Ziggy’s which is a bit of a hidden gem. If you’re after a traditional chippy then The Tailend seems to be pretty popular. Playfair’s is another stalwart in the town if you’re after something a bit fancy.

What else is there to do?…the Cathedral has already been mentioned, but if history is what you’re after you should also pay a visit to the castle or just wander around and soak up the atmosphere, it’s a really beautiful wee place. Oh, and the town’s pretty well known for golf…

Have you read any books set in St Andrews? Or if you have any other tips for a visit to the town drop us a comment.

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