Sure the reason you’ll want to go is the golf, but here are the reasons, once you get there, you’ll want to stay
Long Summer Evenings
The hardest part of living through a winter in St. Andrews isn’t the weather: It’s the daylight, or lack thereof. In mid-December, the sun rises after 8 a.m. and sets before 4 p.m. The last tee time on the Old Course that time of year is 11:50 a.m. The part to love? In the summer, you get back all of those dark hours with glorious summer evenings that seemingly last forever. During my summers in St. Andrews, I would caddie an afternoon round, have dinner, and go play a round of my own. In June, the light lingers until just after 11 p.m.
The West & East Sands
The tale goes that Old Tom Morris started his days with a dip in the sea, no matter the temperature or weather. When you hear that story, it makes you look at the West Sands—the 1.7-mile-long beach next to the Old Course near Old Tom’s shop—and question his sanity. Locals use the West Sands, also the site of the famous Chariots of Fire running scene, and its half-mile-long sister beach across town, the East Sands, as places for recreation. The East Sands also has the town’s pier and harbor, where you can buy fresh fish straight from the boat.
Many golf clubs share the seven courses of the St. Andrews Links. The Royal & Ancient is the most famous, but there’s also the St. Andrews Golf Club, the New Club, and the two women’s clubs, St. Regulus and St. Rule. Each operates independently, but they come together a few times a year for competitions like the Gold Medal—a tournament on the Old Course for the best players from each club—and the Town Match, when many of the clubs open their doors for drinks after a day of interclub match play. Each club has its own identity, but a shared love of golf binds them together.
Luvians Bottle Shop
The commercial heart of St. Andrews is Market Street, a bustling cobblestone road that buzzes with businesses, restaurants, people, and the vitally important Tesco grocery store with its ATM machine for caddie cash. There’s also a bottle shop called Luvians, which sells wine and whisky, and sparked my love of single malts. A stop at the store (and conversation with its knowledgeable clerks) should be mandatory.
Munch Bacon Rolls
By the third or fourth morning of a St. Andrews golf trip, you’re certain to have had enough of your B&B’s “full Scottish” breakfast: beans, sausage, bacon, fried eggs, fried bread, haggis, potatoes, tomatoes, and mushrooms. That’s when it’s time for a coffee and bacon roll at Munch on South Street. A bacon roll consists of a fresh buttered bread roll and two “rashers” of British bacon. A few blocks away is another restaurant you’ll crave around day four, Little Italy. When you’ve tired of pub grub, its excellent Italian food is a welcome change. Be sure to call for reservations.
Sunday Strolls on the Old Course
On Sundays, all seven courses managed by the St. Andrews Links Trust, including the Old, close and become public parks, used to walk dogs, run, and take photos. This balance of golf and “real life” makes St. Andrews feel like a town and not a golf resort.
If you’ve been to St. Andrews, you have your favorite pub. Visiting Americans love The Dunvegan. Older locals and caddies haunt The Keys. British ale lovers sip away in The Central, and on a sunny afternoon it’s mandatory to sit outside for a pint at The Jigger Inn. You could find me in the New Club. At almost all of those places, you’ll find Belhaven Best on tap. The quintessential Scottish ale, this creamy, amber-colored brew warms on a cold day, cools on a warm day, and always goes down smooth. “Best” isn’t found only in St. Andrews, but there are few better places to enjoy it.
The University of St. Andrews
“Where’s the campus?” is a common question from visitors looking for the university that dates to 1413. Truth is, the university and the town are so intertwined that they’re almost one. The heart of campus is picturesque St. Salvator’s Quadrangle off North Street, but university buildings are everywhere, sitting between shops, restaurants, and apartments. More than its buildings and history, though, the university brings vibrancy to the town: Students make up almost half of the town’s population and they add youth, vigor, and noise, often to the irritation of locals.
The East Neuk
The East Neuk of Fife is a series of charming nearby fishing villages. Each town—Anstruther, Crail, Pittenweem, and others—seems to jump from the pages of a fairy tale, with colorful waterfront shops and restaurants, fishing boats puttering in and out of the harbors, interesting history, and other delights. The most scenic way to view the East Neuk is from the second story of a double-decker public bus: At that height you can see over stone walls and hedgerows and take in the towns, sea, and rolling fields. Buses leave from the St. Andrews station multiple times an hour.
During “move-in day” my freshman year at the University of St. Andrews, I entered my dorm room in St. Salvator’s Hall and looked out the window onto the North Sea. Just in front of the cliffs and crashing waves was a street called “The Scores.” I fell in love with the quiet lane lined with centuries-old buildings and ancient stone walls. Best yet, it led directly to the first tee of the Old Course. Also on The Scores is a charming B&B called the Russell Hotel where they make a mean sticky toffee pudding, and on a nice evening you can sit outside and soak up the Old Course in one direction and the cliffs and sea in the other.
What is your favorite thing to do in St. Andrews?