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The Harbour and St Regulus

St Andrews harbour provides an opportunity to reflect on the origins of the town and on the development of a key symbol of Scottish national identity. According to legend, the relics of St Andrew were brought to the area from Patras in Greece by St Regulus, also known as St Rule, in the 4th century either by design or due to a shipwreck nearby.

Statue of St Andrew in Wardlaw Museum

Although St Regulus and his Greek origins may have been the product of medieval monkish imagination – an alternative legend claims that the relics came from Hexham in Northumberland – the cult of St Andrew was well established by the 11th century, when a church housing the sacred relics was constructed on the headland above the present harbour. Its striking rectangular tower, known as St Rule’s, remains in existence. The relics were subsequently transferred to the cathedral and lost in the Reformation but the name of St Regulus is preserved in the town – designating a student hall of residence and a ladies’ golf club.

The diagonal cross on which St Andrew is believed to have been martyred became prominent in Scottish heraldry, giving rise to the blue and white saltire of today. But Scotland is not alone in claiming the patronage of St Andrew. He is similarly recognised in Greece, Romania, Russia, Ukraine and elsewhere.

The harbour and St Rule’s tower

Today St Andrews harbour is used mainly for crab and lobster fishing and by a few pleasure craft. In earlier periods, though never a major centre of activity, the harbour was used for exporting agricultural produce and importing coal, timber and other building material. The shipping was mostly coastal but some was conducted with parts of northern Europe. However, not all the maritime trading in the area was entirely legitimate. Valuable commodities, such as spirits and tobacco, were also smuggled in from the nearby continent.

From The Shore turn through the archway into The Pends. Follow the road uphill until reaching a road sign warning of ARCH BRIDGE. Immediately before the sign, branch off to the left and pass through a gateway into the grounds of St Leonard’s School. The building on the right is St Leonard’s Chapel, elements of its structure possibly dating from the 12th century. It became the chapel of the historic St Leonard’s College, founded in 1511, and remains part of St Andrews University. (The interior of the chapel is closed to the public.) St Leonard was the abbot of Noblac near Limoges in France in the 6th century, noted for his concern for prisoners, and whose cult spread very widely across medieval Europe. Return to The Pends and, on reaching the ruined gateway, emerge through a narrow opening on the left into South Street. (Entry to the Cathedral Museum and St Rule’s tower, 100ft or 33 metres high with 156 steps, is via the visitor centre in the cathedral grounds to the right.)


Statue of St Andrew image © University of St Andrews
Harbour image © Paul Vyšný, CC BY-SA 4.0