Nothing beats a good set of ruins! In all seriousness, sometimes what has been left to crumble away is just as important as what has been redone and rebuilt. And when it comes to castles, often the most romantic castles, the most picturesque, the most spectacular are the ones quietly deteriorating – especially in Scotland. Case in point, imagine Dunnottor Castle on its cliff-side peninsula, Stirling Castle in the rugged hills, Eilean Donan Castle (the most photographed castle in Scotland) on its beautiful loch, and of course, St Andrews castle itself on the beach. Circa 1200, the St Andrew’s Castle was sacked, destroyed, rebuilt, destroyed, rebuilt, burned, sacked, rebuilt, etc., as the Scots and the English often clashed and continually took their disagreements to the battlefield. Today, the ruins border nearby St Andrews University (the oldest university in Scotland and also the institution that educated Prince William and Kate Middleton), while overlooking the shores of the North Sea, whose waves quietly lap the base of the castle’s cliffs. The ruins are quite beautiful in a crumbly, “everything falls apart,” romantic sort of way.
No, it’s not Hogwarts (though it seems that half the universities in Britain could pass for the magical school!). This is St. Andrew’s University in St. Andrews, Scotland. It’s claim to fame is that it is the university that brought about Prince William and Kate Middleton’s relationship and eventual marriage. St Andrews has impressive statistics: It is one of the UK’s Ancient Universities (along with giants such as Cambridge and Oxford), it is the oldest ‘uni’ (to use the colloquial term) in Scotland, it is ranked the 4th best in the UK, it was established in 1410-13 meaning it recently celebrated its 600th birthday (my US university recently celebrated it’s 100th birthday and people were excited about that!), and it has produced 5 Nobel Laureates (not to mention the Royal Marriage of Kate & Will!). 30% of the university is composed of foreign students (from 100+ countries worldwide), impressive even for the UK. And the campus itself is, of course, jaw-droppingly beautiful! Located next to a ruined castle, St Andrews also happens to sport one of the oldest golf courses in the world (1552). If you can survive the high-level academics, it seems to be a pretty beautiful place to study!