St Andrews, Scotland

There is much more to St Andrews than golf as Michael Edwards discovers on a stay at the Fairmont St Andrews.

St Andrews Castle

There’s a coffee shop in St Andrews with a banner proclaiming, “Where Wills met Kate”. Though the bracketed subtitle underneath, “for coffee” slightly devalues the claim. In fact, St Andrews’ has far more claims to fame than a royal coffee date.

When I took this assignment, I must confess the thought of lugging clubs and luggage up to Fife was not something I was looking forward to. As luck would have it we managed to kill two birds with one stone by bringing forward a review I was scheduled to do of 2019’s Car of the Year, the elegant Peugeot 5008. The journey up in the top trim GT-Line 5008, was a dream. They called it a Sports Utility Vehicle and there is heavy emphasis on “Utility” – this is a car for all seasons.

St Andrews with the relics of its ancient cathedral and the beach where that iconic Chariots of Fire opening scene was filmed has plenty on offer for visitors. Dating back over 600 years, St Andrews University, with its quads having a touch of Oxford and Cambridge about them, is Scotland’s oldest university. Of course, there’s the Old Course shop too, providing a wide range of golf clothing and memorabilia.

A global influx of students and their visiting parents have given St Andrews a surprisingly cosmopolitan selection of restaurants, inevitably many make the most of fresh local seafood in their menus whether Scottish, Mexican, Indian or Modern European.

Above all, set within the Kingdom of Fife – no mere county status here – St Andrews is located on a glorious coastline. Just out of town, on a beautifully scenic headland, sits Fairmont St Andrews. A bonnie welcome, from Davey in his Stewart tartan clan trousers and Tam o‘Shanter hat, reminds you that, an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh, you are firmly in Scotland.

Blending Scottish hospitality with impeccable American service, the Fairmont appropriately welcomes its guests with a wee bottle of whisky accompanying a miniature chocolate golf club and golf ball.

Fairmont welcome

The hotel gently pays tribute to the region’s Celtic past, the carpets in the bedrooms have a discrete grey tartan pattern and the Scottish themed artwork, notably the tasteful pictures of Tam o’ Shanters, is subtly presented. Breakfast can be Scottish themed too, porridge and haggis appear amongst a myriad of breakfast offerings, if you choose.

The views across the Sam Torrance and Kittocks golf courses towards the sea are one of the hotel’s main attractions. These courses pull-in golfers from all over the world eager to test their skills. Eleven holes from the Kittocks and seven from the Sam Torrance combine to create a challenging qualifier for the British Open. This year 80 golfers from around the world converged on the Fairmont for a tense, nervy battle for the final three places at Port Rush.

Torrance course

For over six centuries golf has been played at St Andrews making this elegant Scottish town the game’s spiritual home. If you are unlucky in the daily ballot to play on the Old Course, the Fairmont’s two courses channel the spirit of that historic course with babbling burns, braes, deep revetted bunkers, dry stone walls and impenetrable rough of thistles and wispy white grasses.

St Andrews clubhouse views of Fife coast

If by any chance, a squally wind should carry a golfer’s ball out to be lost at sea, his or her eyes may also spy a fishing boat. It belongs to the fisherman who provides the lobsters for the St Andrews Grill which is also part of the Clubhouse, giving superb views over the final holes of the Kittocks course. A seafood platter of oysters, lobster, crab, salmon, smoked salmon, crevettes and prawns provides a real taste of Scotland. The lobster is cooked on a closed Josper grill that seals in moisture, as are the Scottish steaks. It is a technique, with a consistent temperature, that preserves both texture and taste.

Fairmont dining

For both golfers and non-golfers the hotel’s spa has locally themed massages, body treatments, facials, manicures, pedicures and relaxation therapies too. Golfers who have had a hard day on the course look to masseurs and physiotherapists to prepare their body for the next round’s challenges. Equally, some guests who had initially sought a pampered haven are tempted by the emerald green fairways and take a novices’ golf session with the resort’s coaches. St Andrews is full of such surprises.

For more details visit Fairmont St Andrews

Last modified: May 14, 2021

Written by 4:00 pm Around The UK