West Sands (photo by Christopher Davy)

St Andrews’ beaches are a major draw for visitors and add to the town’s visual spendour. But what is not widely recognised is that they are also important environmentally; they are habitats for a wide range of flora and fauna and it is important to preserve this biodiversity.

West Sands is the town’s largest and most spectacular beach. It has been a frequent winner of Blue Flag Awards and Seaside Awards. For many years it has been raked mechanically in the summer months, and seaweed has been removed – creating a cosmetically attractive, but environmentally damaging, beach. Studies have shown that up to 75% of strandline animals and plants can be lost by carrying out such practices.

Dunes at the southern end of West Sands

After a successful year-long trial throughout 2010, West Sands no longer has mechanical beach cleaning or the removal of seaweed taking place (unless it is contaminated with a toxic substance such as oil or effluent). Litter is now collected manually.

Seaweed is a natural component of the coastal environment and St Andrews in Bloom supports its retention on West Sands. This wonderful beach should be viewed not just as a recreational asset, but as part of St Andrews’ natural glories.

Dune stabilisation works have been going on at the southern end of West Sands for three years, and the results are now apparent – a restoration of these fine dunes, once again benefiting biodiversity and adding to the area’s visual appeal.

East Sands

East Sands is another Seaside Award winning beach, and its more sheltered location and proximity to St Andrews Harbour makes it an especially popular beach for families. It is the access point for walkers heading southwards on the Fife Coastal Path.

Castle Sands

Castle Sands is the town’s least-known beach, a small but lovely spot sited beneath the cliffs next to St Andrews Castle. Access to Castle Sands was restricted in 2011 and 2012 because of landslips, but steps were taken to stabilise the cliffs and public access has been restored once again.