The evenings are longer and darker, the wind has a bite to it, the trees are bare and you’re reaching for a scarf or a pair of gloves before you head out the door. Yes, it’s nearly Christmas in St Andrews, and with the chaos of Raisin delayed until March, the lead up to the second half of this semester has felt undeniably flat and, with exams and deadlines coming up, a bit stressful! So for my article, I thought I’d compile a list of some of the nicest things to do around town now that it’s getting chillier and we’re all feeling a bit cooped up indoors.
Now, this sounds like an obvious – and fairly uninspired! – suggestion, and sometimes, especially if you live in DR-Far Away, it feels like all you do is walk, but the beaches in St Andrews are some of the most beautiful in Scotland deserve to be appreciated, even in the autumnal weather. Wrap up warm and head to some of the quieter areas like Castle Sands with a friend, even bring a book or some readings for your classes if you’re feeling studious enough. Or you’re fed up of the sea, you can always explore the Botanic Gardens instead – just bring your matriculation card and enter for free!
If you’re finding yourself going stir-crazy looking at a screen all the time, reading something not remotely academic might be in order, and St Andrews has no shortage of bookshops. Toppings is arguably the most beloved of the bunch, and for good reason! With its cosy, intimate setting and endless shelves to browse from, you won’t want to leave once you set foot in the door. Even if their author events aren’t going ahead for the foreseeable, you can still pop in at any time for a peruse of your favourite genres and pick up a new read or two. Most importantly, as the temperature drops, they also offer a complimentary pot of tea or coffee to anyone who visits, so even if you’re not buying, you can always make plans for a coffee date with a friend. If you’re looking for a new read while you’ve got some spare time on your hands but aren’t sure what to choose, I’d definitely recommend checking out their ‘blind date’ section for an element of surprise. If you want to buy second-hand instead, Bouquiniste on Market Street or charity shops like Barnardo’s are equally as nice to browse in and always have a great selection to pick from. If you haven’t paid a visit yet, now is definitely the time!
If you’re tired of scrolling endlessly through Netflix for something to watch, The Byre Theatre have several online screening events planned for the weeks ahead with their Online Film Club. With a wide range of films showing, you can join online, – for free! – watch the screening live and discuss your thoughts afterwards. For those of you missing the usual new releases at New Picture House at this time of year, I’d definitely recommend! I think it’s also important to say that while their ‘Films for Students’ every Friday and Saturday evening have been postponed indefinitely due to Tier 3 restrictions, they’re planned to be up and running as soon as the situation allows!
If you’re feeling adventurous and want to go beyond the bubble, St Andrews has plenty of nearby outdoor stops for a day out. Although Falkland Palace is closed due to Covid restrictions, the palace gardens are still open and well worth the visit at this time of year. If you’re struggling for gift ideas this Christmas, their huge range of local shops put St Andrews to shame, and you’re sure to find something special. Cambo Gardens is also still welcoming visitors. It’s equally beautiful and ideal for photographers or anyone who wants a change of scenery. I’ve included both of these sites because they’re easily accessible by bus routes from St Andrews so if you don’t have a car, it doesn’t feel like a huge effort to get there!
And finally, no matter when you’re heading home, it might be a really nice idea to spend some quality time with your flatmates before the semester is over. That might involve a makeshift Christmas dinner, Secret Santa gifts, going out and buying a tree together or just going wild with the decorations. This year hasn’t had an awful lot of cheer, so now seems like the perfect time to spread some!
I hope this has given you a few ideas for things to do if you ever find you have an afternoon or two free!