A BA Student’s Guide to Walks around St Andrews and William & Mary

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Isla is a third year International Relations student in the BA (International Honours) Programme. Read more to hear her advice about getting out into the nature surrounding both campuses. 

As a BA (International Honours) student you get the privilege and hassle of having to learn two campuses and two towns.  Throughout my transitions from school to school I have prioritized getting acquainted with the beautiful outdoors surrounding both campuses. I am a huge advocate for ensuring you spend time outdoors in nature, whether on a walk or just laying outside in either the Sunken Gardens or St Mary’s Quad. 

William and Mary: 

I began my four years in the BA Programme at William & Mary. My freshman year hallmates and I loved going to the free yoga classes at the Martha Wren Briggs Amphitheatre in the warmer months and at the Wellness Center once it got cold outside. Unlike at St Andrews, where you need to purchase a gym membership to go to the gym and attend workout classes, this is all included in tuition at William & Mary. The Amphitheatre is also right by the Matoaka Boat House, where students can rent kayaks and paddleboards for free. To get to the Amphitheatre and Boat House, take the beautiful bridge path through the woods beside the Parking Deck. 

An autumn walk to the Amphitheater.

Trails wrap all around Lake Matoaka, and exploring them to see where you end up is a perfect sunny day adventure. You are almost guaranteed to see a few dogs, another perk, and keep an eye out for turtles relaxing on logs in the lake. Make sure to stop at the Botedock (Dock behind Botetourt Complex and the Keck Environmental Field Lab) to have a seat, chat with friends, and maybe even jump into the lake if you dare. These woods are also a great spot to set up a hammock, especially if the most popular trees around the Sunken Gardens are already taken. Hammocking at William and Mary is super popular and is a great way to relax throughout the day, while also spending time outside.

Turtles in Lake Matoaka.
Hammocking off the trails surrounding Lake Matoaka.

If instead, you want a walk a little bit off campus, you can head over to Colonial Williamsburg (CW). Look out for the lambs in the springtime, and if you head to the far end of CW, pastures of horses. If you are interested in going into any of the buildings on your walk through CW, you can get a free Colonial Williamsburg Membership with your William & Mary ID. The lawn of Governors Palace is a popular spot for a picnic in CW. The Williamsburg Farmers Market, open on Saturdays, is the perfect stop between campus and CW to pick up some treats for a Governors Palace lawn picnic.

CW lambs in the spring.
A historic building to check out in CW.

St Andrews: 

St Andrews has opportunities for shorter and longer walks right around town depending on what you are looking for. A favorite for a quick walk in town is West Sands, which spans for around two miles, so it is perfect for a shorter walk, or a longer 4-mile trek to the end and back into town. Lade Braes is also a great shorter walk, with the option for an extension. It is about 1.5 miles long and starts right in the middle of St Andrews on South Street, and follows the Kinness Burn through the woods. If you are a plant lover, you can take a detour on Lade Braes onto the Viaduct Walk, which takes you right to the St Andrews Botanic Garden, which is surprisingly beautiful year round.  

A winter walk along West Sands.
The St Andrews Botanic Garden in January.

My favorite St Andrews walk, perfect for a weekend day trip is the Fife Coastal Path. This path wraps all around Fife, going right through St Andrews. From St Andrews, the most popular direction to walk along the path is accessing it from East Sands and following it south towards Kingsbarns. This section right by St Andrews has some of the most elevation changes, so be ready for a bit of a challenge, but is also arguably one of the most beautiful parts of the coastal path. If you have more time allocated to the trip, you can choose to walk as far as you can, St Andrews to Crail being a popular distance, and then take the 95 bus right back to the center of St Andrews.  

Check out the blooming gorse throughout the springtime.
Head down to the beaches along the path to look at sea shells.

My message to all St Andrews students is to take advantage of the outdoors, for the sake of your mental health! Especially in November and December in St Andrews, it is important to make the most of the short daylight hours and get outside for at least a little while every day. Going on walks is the perfect solo-adventure, a great way to relax, and recharge your social battery before returning to the chaos of university. 

If you want to learn more about the BA (International Honours) Programme check out the website or contact [email protected].  

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