Road Trippin': St Andrews Aquarium

13.5.15


My work do that annoying thing that so many employers do, where every employee is asked to book up all their holiday entitlement at the very start of the year, despite the fact I'm pretty sure no normal person actually knows what's going to crop up for them in the next twelve months. Argh!

I don't have any "proper" holidays planned this year so I struggled with the exercise and decided, in the end, to slot in a few days here and there at points when I thought things might be feeling like a bit of a relentless slog. I'd blocked out three days towards the end of April and their timing couldn't have been more accurate if I'd looked into a crystal ball!

My first day off was spent adventuring up north with my parents and sister, travelling up to Elgin and back and fitting in a compulsory Baxters pancake stop.

On day two, one of my flatmates (who also happened to be off work that week - win!) and I decided to take a wee road-trip down the coast towards the ever-lovely Kingdom of Fife where St. Andrews Aquarium was first up on our itinerary. 


I visited the aquarium here on numerous occasions as a child, but don't remember much at all from those trips, save a spell when they were home to Scotland's largest seahorse display, which is memorable thanks to the fact I was obsessed with seahorses. (No, it makes no sense to me either.) 

A lot has changed since those days anyway. The seahorses are gone now, sadly, but some surprising creatures have moved into their place - so surprising that describing it as an "aquarium" almost seems like a disservice!


Perched down by the shore front, the aquarium is in an easily-accessible and attractive location, close to St Andrews Bay, the famous golf course and the West Sands beach known for that 'Chariots of Fire' running scene. The building appears small from the outside, so it comes as a bit of a surprise that they manage to fit in so many displays, as well as a gift shop and a cute beach-themed cafe. Entry tickets allow you access for the day and visitors are welcome to come and go as they please, perhaps scheduling their day around the many informative talks and interactive demonstrations.

We arrived just as the reptile and spider handling session was finishing up and I made poor Lesley race past all the displays so that we could catch the end of the talk. It meant that our visit started with me holding a pink-looking tarantula, which seems as good a way as any to kick things off!

Once I'd got that out of my system, we grabbed a quick latte in the coffee shop and went back to the beginning to make our way around the aquarium at a more leisurely pace.


The collection of water creatures is pretty eclectic, but the division between hot and cold water displays makes it easy to navigate and there is good quality information in both adult and child-friendly form, with quizzes and activity sheets available to better engage the kids.

From piranhas to octopus; puffer fish to Moray eels; tortoises to lionfish; American alligators to smooth-hound sharks; rays to poison dart frogs.. the marine life is plentiful and great fun to see and interact with.

The clownfish tank with its crawl-through tunnels and 360 degree viewing dome was a particular delight to us big kids and demanded the taking of ridiculous pictures like this..


In addition to all of this, the aquarium is home to some larger creatures as well.. most notably some penguins and meerkats and seals (oh my)!

We watched the penguins preening in the cold Scottish winds for a while and then were lucky enough to witness the mother and son Common Seals - Nelly and Togo - being fed and checked over by one of the aquarium's keepers, whose knowledge and ability to engage a group really added to our trip.


Back indoors - in a decidedly warmer viewing zone - we were able to catch feeding time for the meerkats too.

Perhaps the most surprising of all the aquarium's animals, the meerkats take a little more explaining. Thankfully our informative keeper was back on board to do just that, telling us how they had rescued three meerkats from a zoo to prevent them being destroyed and how the family has been expanding ever since.

I was really interested to learn that the only thing stopping the little critters leaving their enclosure and running riot throughout the building is the boundary drawn by papa meerkat's scent! They're definitely the most engaging of all the creatures and I loved watching them climb all over the keeper as if he was part of the scenery, taking turns to adopt the sentry position or join the snuggle puddle under the glow of the heat-lamp.  I also love that the colony's dominant pair are named Kate and Wills after a certain couple with ties to St Andrews. Genius!

This picture fills me with joy.

The aquarium here is never really going to compete with the likes of Deep Sea World, just an hour along the road. The scale is much smaller and there's presumably less to see, but the variety of creatures, the chance to encounter some of them in close proximity, and the talks from the aquarium's keeper are what really made the visit for me. I had a lot of fun!

It's probably not the attraction to rush to on your first visit to St. Andrews, but if you have a bit more time to spend in the town then it'd make for an ideal day out for the family ..Or for anyone who wants to release their inner child, like us!
I took a selfie with a meerkat. My life is basically complete.

Visit them at: 
The Scores, St. Andrews, KY16 9AS

3 comments:

  1. How did I not know St Andrews had an aquarium? I must live under a rock!
    It looks like you had a great day and dear god holding a tarantula?! I would've run away screaming and crying.

    Raise The Waves

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    1. To be fair, it is better known for one or two other things! ;)

      Aww, the tarantula was kinda cute ..in its own unique way!

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  2. That is fantastic! I didn't know about it either. So glad you had a good trip - and that selfie with meerkat is priceless.

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