Monday, January 14, 2013
There is more to St Andrews than just golf. In fact, nine out of 10 people that travel to the home of the sport don’t even play. I am one of them. So what is there to do there if you don’t tee off on the Old Course? A lot.
As a Californian in awe of any architectural feat that predates 1950, one of the highlights of my time in the city was exploring the ruins of St Andrews’ cathedral and castle.
The cathedral—or what’s left of it—consists of a few stone walls and towers with gravestones in between. Despite its incompleteness, the place retains a haunting beauty.
The castle is similarly a relic, with its golden walls rising up out of the sea. It even has secret tunnels beneath it that were dug in an attempt (and counter-attempt) to blow up the building during the Reformation.
The cathedral and castle aren’t the only feats of non-golf history in St Andrews, either. The university, which was founded in 1413 and is the third oldest in the United Kingdom after Oxford and Cambridge, is sprinkled throughout the town in a series of beautiful stone buildings that date back centuries.
On the newer end of the spectrum, St Andrews has an abundance of cafes and restaurants that kept my inner foodie happy throughout my stay. From the adorable Bibi’s Bakery to the wonderfully cozy Mitchell restaurant and the new St Andrews Wine Company, there was no shortage of options for food and drink.
I also enjoyed a light lunch compliments of the Scores Hotel, which overlooked the beach, and a dinner compliments of the The Doll’s House restaurant, where Will and Kate used to go on date nights when they were students at the university.
Add to that a meal at Nahm-Jim, a Thai-Japanese restaurant that has been voted the top Thai in the country several times, and my culinary cravings were satisfied.
When I wasn’t eating or exploring, I was staying in the comfort of the Fairmont Hotel in St Andrews. The five-star property offered me a two-night stay during my trip to Scotland, and I was able to take advantage of everything from the excellent breakfast buffet (best haggis I’ve ever had!) to walks with Smudge, the resident yellow lab. Although the hotel was located a 10-minute drive from the city, there was an hourly shuttle between 9am and 6pm that helped cover the distance.
But back to golf. That is what St Andrews is known for, after all, and on Sundays the Old Course is closed to golfers and open to the rest of us. Taking advice from the locals, I went for a walk with some others in my group and visited the famous Swilcan Bridge, where many a golfing legend has posed for a photo after winning an open.
Near there was the unofficial 19th hole, the historic Jigger Inn pub. The interior was perfectly pub-like, with dark wood booths accented by tartan pillows. If this was golf, I was happy to be playing.
But I was really happy just exploring the city, with its beautiful streets and historic atmosphere. It’s no wonder that 90% of people that travel to St Andrews don’t golf. There are too many other things to do.