This is what happened on our trip to St Andrews in February 2015. We had booked a local brewery tour and thought we might as well make a long weekend of it, rather than have me driving and not being able to sample any of the beer! Hell no! So we decided to book into a guest house for a romantic weekend break.
Another reason I was keen to explore St Andrews is because I was a student here from 2003 to 2005. It was ten years since I left, and I wanted to see what had changed. It was interesting just to walk around the town as it brought back so many memories for me. We had a wonderful weekend and will definitely return to St Andrews in future.
Hopefully by sharing details of my trip I will convince you that St Andrews has much more to offer than just golf!
Where we stayed
We booked into the guest house at Five Pilmour Place and were amazed at the facilities and level of service. We booked into the Master Deluxe King Size double room, with the best en-suite bathroom I’ve ever seen. We couldn’t wait to try out the roll-top bath!
The guesthouse is a family-run business, owned by Jackie and Norman, and they provided the best service I’ve ever experienced. Jackie was always able to give advice about the best places to visit in town, and they surprised us on valentines day with a bag of pink sweets in our room. These extra touches really made our stay special.
We noticed a new place had opened up on Market Street and popped in for a look. Immediately I was greeted by the sight of a million different types of olives for sale in the deli, as well as various cheeses, meats and other delights. Everything looked AMAZING!
We decided to eat in the restaurant and hoped the food was as good as what we’d already seen. To start we got a sharing platter with bread, meat and cheese – delicious, but you can’t really go wrong with that. The main course left us both a little disappointed. Andy ordered a steak pie, but it only had two pieces of meat. I had the caesar salad but was underwhelmed when I was served a plate of dry lettuce leaves.
The Grill House
The Grill House was a favourite of mine back in my student days, So I was excited to see it was still there. From what I can remember it’s hardly changed in the past ten years.
I absolutely love the decor inside the place – it has a sort of Mexican vibe, with mosaic floor tiles, bright colours, and patterned cushions. The decor also matches the menu which is based around a Tex-Mex BBQ grill theme.
We both ordered nachos then steak, and the food was just as good as I remember it to be!
Going for a pub crawl around St Andrews was one of the highlights for me as it allowed me to reminisce about my student days. Many of the pubs are completely unchanged, and some are brand new. I’ll start off by mentioning two places to avoid:
This was one of my favourite places as a student as they did cheap shots of Apple Sourz. Everything has changed now, though. Inside, it’s as though they have taken everything “trendy” or “hipster” and tried to combine it into some sort of theme – walls covered in old newspaper, drinks served in mason jars, and a display behind the bar of various pieces of broken kids toys, old biscuit tins and anything retro kitsch. I just didn’t get it.
This was a place I avoided as a student, as it was where all the posh kids with loads of money went. Ten years later and it seems little has changed: the place was ram-packed with people posing in designer outfits, it was impossible to get a seat, and it was £5 a beer. We didn’t stay long.
We did have a really great night out in St Andrews though, and here are some of the places I definitely would visit again:
Forgans is another new place since my student days, which hosts a ceilidh every Friday and Saturday, with a traditional live band. We had a brilliant night dancing the Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow!
Slightly quieter than most pubs in St Andrews as it seems to be mainly locals rather than students. Still a busy place, though, and a good selection of real ales. A great place to escape from it all and just enjoy a quiet drink, even though the decor is grim.
The Student Union
Okay, so the union is only open to actual students of the university, but I managed to blag us in as I was a former student. The union is housed in a dreadful brown 70s style building, but everything has been revamped since I was last there.
We had a few drinks in the bar and got a good laugh with some of the students. One guy who was wearing a backwards baseball cap and had “beast” written on his forehead tried to drink a blue WKD all in one go, and was nearly sick over our table; and another guy told us his dance moves were based on Daniel Sturridge’s goal celebration.
Eden Mill Brewery tour
We spent the morning at the Eden Mill Brewery and Distillery, just outside St Andrews. Tours run hourly throughout the day, and you can purchase tickets on-site, but we were able to get a voucher deal, so it only cost us £6.
The staff were very friendly and welcoming, and we started off with a pint of beer while waiting on everyone else arriving. The tour of the brewery then followed, and we learned how the different beers and spirits are made.
A tasting session then followed, where we were able to sample five of the beers produced by the brewery. My favourite was a limited edition that had been stored in sherry casks. We purchased a few bottles before heading home.
A Walk Around St Andrews
There is no ‘campus’ for St Andrews University; instead the buildings are scattered throughout the town. There are numerous quadrangles and historic buildings in the town, which are all part of the university. I enjoyed walking around pretending I was a student again!
Lade Braes Walk
Lade Braes Walk is a public footpath which leads from the town centre of St Andrews towards the outskirts, and passes through some attractive woodland and parks. I’ve no idea why I never discovered it before, as it passes close to where I lived as a student. Unfortunately my old halls at Fife Park have now been demolished.
St Andrews has only three main streets in the town centre, and most of the shops are independent family run businesses which makes a nice change from the usual chain stores in most high streets. Some of my favourite shops are the citizen bookstore and antiques, Janetta’s geletario, and the Christmas shop which is open all year round.
Castle & Cathedral
Almost everywhere in St Andrews has some sort of history, and none more so than the castle and cathedral. Both are ruins now, but you can imagine how magnificent they must have been, hundreds of years ago.
The Cathedral was originally built in the twelfth century, and was once the religious centre for the whole of Scotland.
St Andrews Harbour and Pier
The harbour is located on the Eastern edge of St Andrews, next to the East Sands beach. There is a long pier stretching out to sea, which offers a different perspective of the town. Once a week the St Andrews students walk along the pier in their traditional red gowns.
West Sands beach and Old Course
A walk along the West Sands beach is one of my favourite things to do in St Andrews. Make sure you take a warm jacket though, even in Summer!
Home via Crail and Anstruther
For those who have never visited Scotland before, or for anyone looking for a place to visit outside of Glasgow and Edinburgh, then I’d definitely recommend a drive through the East Neuk of Fife. This includes St Andrews, plus there are also numerous coastal towns and villages with plenty of rural charm and delightful scenery. The climate on the east coast tends to be much milder than the west, so you might actually get to have a picnic on one of the stretches of white sandy beach.
We stopped off at Crail and Anstruther on our drive home, which were regular holiday destinations for our family back in the 1980s. Both are traditional fishing villages, containing a harbour, boats, traditional pubs, tea rooms, and shops. The chip shop in Anstruther is reportedly the best in Scotland and has won numerous awards. There are two or three chip shops on the front of the harbour, all selling fresh fish straight from the boats. The award-winning one tends to be queued out the door for most of the day, so we went a few doors down and were more than happy as the fish was delicious!
Thanks for reading all about my adventures in St Andrews
If you’re interested in other locations in Scotland read my tale of the West Highland Way
Looking for UK city breaks? Here’s what I did in London