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A fun family day out whatever the weather

We all know that the Scottish weather is unpredictable but don’t let a bit of rain put a damper on your St Andrews holiday fun. Whether it is rain, shine or snow here’s a suggested day out in St Andrews which should keep both kids and adults happy:

1. FISHY FUN

Your first port of call is The St Andrews Aquarium, The Scores, St Andrews.

We went there for the first time recently in very wet and wild weather, the sort of day when the sea seems intent on invading the land. After a short dash across the Bruce Embankment car park and past The Seafood Restaurant we took welcome shelter in the aquarium which, luckily on this horrid day, is almost entirely indoors.

Aquarium

We arrived just in time for the meerkat show. Any questions about why there are meerkats in an aquarium in Scotland were quickly dispelled when we saw the adorable little creatures. They were busy darting about their enclosure at high speed, with one or two on sentry duty, while we learned all about them. The crowd of kids gathered round the enclosure was enthralled, asking question after question. One boy tested the zoo-keeper by asking her to list the names of each member of the aquarium’s large meerkat family, which she duly did. She told us that “Wills” and “Kate” are the public names for the meerkat parents who are really called “Itchy” and “Scratchy” (I think I prefer their Royal names!).

Why is it we’re so obsessed with meerkats in the UK? As someone who watched every episode ever made of “Meerkat Manor” and once got up at 4am to try and meerkat-spot in the wild in South Africa (a failed mission: the meerkats were keeping a low profile that morning) I was already a fan. When you see them in real life it’s easy to see why. The meerkats at the aquarium are truly charming, especially the cheeky, inquisitive one that was climbing all over the patient zoo-keeper and stealing a handkerchief from her pockets!

The meerkat show takes place twice a day (12.30 and 15.20) and to keep the kids entertained and educated it’s also worth catching the outdoor seal-feeding shows (12.00 and 15.00) and indoor rockpool rambles (11.30 and 14.30). The shows are timed so you can catch all three if you want to (best to arrive around 11.00 or 14.00) and are included in the entry fee of £10 adult / £7 child above 3 / £8 concession  / from £29 for family ticket. You can also book to feed the meerkats or seals yourself (£30/£25 including entry fee for one).

After the meerkat show we explored the rest of the aquarium, peeking outside to see the harbour seals: Laurel, Togo, Nelly and baby Leif (three of whom have their own Twitter accounts!). Did you know that seals can live for as long as 46 years?

Other highlights were the baby African spurred tortoises, deadly piranha fish and grumpy blue lobster. There are plenty of educational boards and hands-on learning exhibits. My favourite of the 100 plus species of fish in the aquarium were the gorgeous, tiny clown fish: “Nemo” and his friends. There is a black tip reef shark there too. He’s still a baby so not yet as big as sharks in some other aquariums but he’ll grow bigger (up to 1.6 metres) and already casts a threatening shadow in the water, providing a source of scary fascination for children.

Before leaving the aquarium we popped into the shop and purchased a soft seal key-ring to bring home as a little memento.

2. I SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

After the fun and facts of the aquarium what better place for the second and final port of call on this day out than Jannetta’s, 31 South Street, St Andrews. Jannetta’s is the famous, award-winning ice cream emporium of St Andrews. If the sun hasn’t come out yet then ice cream might not be the first thing on your mind but don’t worry because you can eat it inside and you probably won’t have to queue.

janettas

I would not recommend going to Jannetta’s if you’re an indecisive person as there are a mind-boggling 52 flavours of ice cream to choose from! Add to that infinite combinations of toppings and sauces and you have some pretty tricky decision-making on your hands. Flavours like “Sky Blue”, “Hokey Pokey” and “Irn Bru Sorbet” caught my eye but I settled on a cone with “Nutella” and “Coconut” and my chum went for the “Creamy Caramel Fudge”. The Nutella in particular was to die for! What’s your favourite flavour?

After tasting their ice cream it’s easy to see why after being in business for four generations of the Jannetta family (since 1908), Jannetta’s still attracts queues along the street of eager ice cream eaters the minute the sun comes out in St Andrews. Young or old, rain or shine, you’ll love it! You can also buy tubs of their ice cream to take home, ice cream cakes, sweets and drinks or sit in at their cafe next door for something warmer and more substantial.

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These are just two great all-weather things to do for families in St Andrews. More helpful tips can be found on the St Andrews for Kids page on this site. How do your kids like to spend a day in St Andrews?

Sara Scott aka The East Neuk Blogger at Rose Cottage

For more tips from Sara on things to do in St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife see her Rose Cottage East Neuk blog.    

To follow Sara on Twitter: @RoseCottageFife