I adore St Andrews, it’s a town I have visited loads of times over the years. My family have lived and worked around the city centre and we have spent time every summer there on the beaches. My Aunt Ella, who I named my blog after, owned a flower shop on South Street for many years before it became a Cheese shop (who happen to do fab cheeses).
I’ve enjoyed spending time these past few weeks exploring more of St Andrews while I’m following The Open preparations. With the town ready to be bombarded with golf fans from around the world here is my top ten things to do in St Andrews when your not watching the golf.
Explore the history of St Andrews
St Andrews Cathedral sits at the end of South Street and is the remains of what was Scotland’s largest and most magnificent Church. St Rule’s Tower offers stunning views if your willing to climb the 156 steps, up a tight metal spiral staircase. A tip here is to listen out for anyone heading down before you commence, a meeting on your trip up can be awkward at best! The views from the top though are outstanding. The whole of St Andrews is laid out before you, including the golf course and harbour. You can also see a lot more including, on a clear day, all the way to Arbroath! The gravestones themselves are fascinating, with the most important now undercover in the museum, including the famous golfer, Mr Tom Morris.
There is several historic sights around St Andrews worth looking out for. The Castle is fascinating and has great views over the water. Also Blackfriars Chapel which is just off South Street and is extremely photogenic at night when it is lit up. If you are driving into St Andrews from the west, or if you walk to the west side of South Street you will find West Port, a large imposing brick city gate, a medieval welcome to the town centre.
Jannetta’s have been making their artisan gelato for four generations, since Bennett Jannetta left Italy in 1908. Having won many awards this cafe is popular with not only the students from the nearby university but with visiting tourists and locals alike. They have just had a renovation too and the place looks fantastic. I also got a taste of their seaweed ice cream at Crail Food Festival, it was strangely tasty! I urge you not to leave St Andrews without one of these ice creams.
Set in 18 acres of land this hidden gem is perfect to escape to when you fancy a bit of quiet time. With over 8000 plants, some from Scotland but most grown in the wild around the world, in the summer it’s a treat for the eyes. With glasshouses, a herb garden, a 17th century garden and the recent addition of a veg garden you could easily wile away a few hours here.
Kingsbarn Distillery is located 6 miles outside St Andrews. A brand new distillery and visitor centre it’s in the ideal location for all the golf fans wanting a dram after the game. The building, the cafe and the areas of the tour are all brilliantly designed and this is a must do for any whisky lovers visiting St Andrews.
West Sands Beach
West Sands beach is a two mile stretch of coast, with fine white sand backed by dunes and the world famous Old Course. The South side was used in the opening scenes of the film “Chariots of Fire” and is perfect for a swim in the summer. The north side is famous for kite-surfing, and also looks onto the Eden Estuary with it’s array of birds and seals. The beach is a quick ten minute walk from the centre of town and has ample parking (not so much during the Open though) Locals love to walk this beach and it’s also very popular with visitors who picnic and BBQ along the dunes.
St Andrews may not be a shopping mecca like Glasgow or Edinburgh but offers a different style of shopping, allowing you a massive array of independent retailers, boutiques and shops you simply can’t find anywhere else. Bonkers, established in 1983, sells beautiful gifts, a brilliant range of cards, books, notepads, soft toys, and things for the home. Moshulu is a footwear store selling brightly coloured funky sandals, trainers and boots. Of course there are several golf stores, including Auchterlonies, and also delis like Rocca’s Italian Deli and wine stores like the famous Luvians.
Fisher and Donaldson
Fisher and Donaldson is another institution in St Andrews, famous for their sweet treats and in particular their fudge doughnuts. They now have 7 stores in Scotland, including one in Cupar where you can watch them make their delicious chocolates. The St Andrews store was the first, opening in 1919, and is now in it’s fifth generation of family, who bake almost 400 different types of Scottish and continental treats. Their fudge doughnut is award winning and the recipe is a highly guarded secret, so much so that it is split in two and hidden in five different locations! This bakery also has the Royal seal of approval – apparently Will and Kate are big fans.
Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery
Eden Mill sits in the outskirts of St Andrews in Guardbridge. They offer tours where you can learn about the history and making processes of their unashamedly small but perfectly formed brewery and distillery where they use local ingredients to make craft beers and limited edition whiskies and gins.
If all the golf talk makes you want to join in you can have a go at the massively popular Himalayas putting green. Sitting alongside the famous Old Course but open to anyone and everyone this is tricky but great fun. Named because of the crazy hills and slopes even the proffessionals have a go. You are provided with a putter and a ball and off you go, 18 holes for a measly £2!
Another way to soak up the atmosphere is to visit the newly renovated and now state of the art Golf Museum. Situated across the road from the R+A building the museum looks fantastic. See how golf started, how the first clubs were made, how golf balls changed designs over time. Hear tales about famous golfers such as Tom Morris and Willie Park. Learn about the history of women’s golf and how fashion has changed. The decor of the museum is slick and modern and the interactive screens, indoor putting area and dress up area for the kids means the whole family can enjoy a couple of hours learning about golf, in the home of golf! Afterwards you can have a cuppa and bite to eat in the roof top cafe which has panoramic views, views of the first tee and over to West sands beach. It is also run by Ampersand Catering, whose prestigious portfolio includes the Palace of Holyrood House, London Zoo and Kensington Palace.