St. Andrews, Scotland. The Home of Golf, and So Much More.
Updated: Nov 22, 2021
St. Andrews is most likely on the bucket list of every avid golfer, and it should be. There are seven public links courses just in St. Andrews, and more than 230,000 rounds of golf are played each year, with 45,000 of those being played on the Old Course alone. Considered the oldest course in the world, golfers have been teeing up for over 600 years.
You will need a certificate showing your handicap in order to play the Old Course, so if you're not in the mood to have the entire class know your shortcomings, you can opt to walk the course alongside your skilled partner. There is no shame in being moral support and documenting the events with a camera in tow. Like most links courses, it navigates its way along the ocean shore, in this case, the North Sea. The word "links" comes from an old Scottish word, "hlinc", meaning rising ground. These courses are built on special soil, usually sandy and dry, and set along the sea. This makes for poor farmland, but great for golf greens. Most of the holes and bunkers were designed from the natural layout of the land.
Hiring a caddie is not only highly recommended, unless you've played this course many times before, but also highly enjoyable. These experts will save you a day of heartache and lost balls, plus they're really good at yelling, "fore!" The bunkers on the Old Course are like nothing you've ever seen before, and having a guide who can hopefully keep you out of them is essential. They're so notorious, they've been given nicknames. There's the "cottage" bunker, and I think it's fair to say this is a large one, "hill" bunker, "coffins" and the ominous "hell". This last one is known as a decent into hell. Isn't golf fun?
There are many lovely accommodations in St. Andrews, and we chose a bit of luxury at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa. The rooms exude vintage elegance with dark wood, ornate wallpaper, black and white framed photos on the walls and large plush furniture in the main sitting room. It's a beautiful reminder of Scotland's heritage in the textile industry. The rooms overlook the Old Course and it's fun to watch the early birds playing a round while drinking your morning coffee.
The entire staff was attentive and friendly, and went above and beyond to make sure our stay was exemplary. The head concierge was so helpful, and made sure all details were in place for the perfect golf experience. If you're a single golfer, your name will be put into a lottery in order to find an existing group to play with. In the busy season, this can be quite difficult, and as luck would have it, we had no issues securing a time slot. Whether you're playing a round of golf or just taking in the sights, be sure to grab a photo of the renowned Swilcan Bridge on the 18th green.
In 2004, American billionaire Herb Kohler bought the property and has spent a pretty penny to refurbish it. As you can also imagine with a name like Kohler, the spa and leisure center is something to behold. I highly recommend spending a day or two, or three, relaxing and getting pampered with a massage, facial or mani-pedi. That is of course if you're not already handing out loads of moral support to your spouse on the golf course.
Now as much history as St. Andrews has in the golf world, it has even more with its university, castle, cathedral and St. Mary's Church. The university was founded in 1413 and is the third oldest university in the English-speaking world. It's so historic that one story tells the tale of several masters and students being expelled for trying to take the Dean out with bows and arrows. Quite a different scenario from the modern day prank call or sticky note on your teacher's chair. It is a grand combination of old and modern architecture, and like most European universities, has a stunning courtyard that's definitely worth a visit.
The ruins of St. Andrews Castle is displayed along rocky cliffs overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands. It was built around 120o to serve as a posh residence for the Bishops of Scotland. In 1592, it was officially left without residents or a purpose, and much of the structure collapsed and fell into the sea, or simply fell into ruin. A sea wall was eventually built in 1886 preventing further loss. Guided tours are available and offer a wealth of history and knowledge. You may also choose to experience the past coming to life with one of their many live events.
St. Mary on the Rock, or St. Mary's Collegiate Church was built around 1123 and later used as a secular college of priests that thrived for over 300 years. St. Andrews Cathedral was founded in 1158 and was the center of the Medieval Catholic Church in Scotland. During the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century, Catholic mass was outlawed, and it didn't take long before Protestants raided and destroyed these churches. Thankfully, the remains have been tended to with extreme care and attention since the late 1800's.
St. Andrews is made even more glorious due to its location by the sea. The salty air, cool sea breeze, sound of crashing waves and the cry of countless seagulls, will have you feeling relaxed in no time. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your food when these scavengers are overhead. We witnessed one of these feathered friends snatch an ice-cream, cone and all, from the clutches of an unsuspecting lass.
Take an afternoon to explore the main shopping and dining areas of South St. & Market St. Cashmere and lambswool, tartan and tweed, whisky and cider. There are plenty of eateries serving classic Scottish meals, complete with haggis, smoked salmon or a Scotch egg. The Doll's House was a vibrant little bistro on Church Square with outdoor seating and a delightful staff. They serve up locally sourced options and have a wide range of both traditional Scottish and modern French fare.
No visit to St. Andrews would be complete without a wee dram at the Jigger Inn. It's attached to the Old Course Hotel, and is known as the most famous 19th hole in golf. It dates back to the 1850's when it was the stationmaster's lodge, and is now home to an abundance of golfing memorabilia, great food, whisky and the pub's own Jigger Ale. It has welcomed many Open champions over the decades, and you're sure to feel the energy and passion for this sport once inside.
St. Andrews exudes pride and ease of living, as does the whole of Scotland it seems.
This seaside town provides breathtaking views, a variety of recreational activities, peaceful landscapes, cultural and culinary diversity, and the opportunity to take steps back in time, while also appreciating the contemporary steps forward.
Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa
St. Andrews Links Golf
The Doll's House
St. Andrews Castle Tours & Other Events
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