St Andrews, Scotland

A Highland Fling: Things to do in St Andrews for non-golfers and golfers alike!

After a weekend in a cottage in Devon, a week in rural Portugal, and a day wine tasting on the South Downs of England, my Ramadan holiday continued with a long weekend in St Andrews, Scotland.

We flew to Edinburgh from Birmingham with Flybe – it was pretty straightforward, no frills but great customer service and we were there in no time at all (thankfully as it was only a little propeller plane and the turbulence was horrendous!)
The golf season was in full swing (see what I did there) as the town was preparing for the start of The Open. An army of lawn mowers were making the most of the couple of bright sunny days on The Old Course, crisscrossing the expanse of green and deftly avoiding the obstructive huddles of selfie-taking tourists along the course. Not being a huge golfing fan myself we didn’t go into the British Golf Museum itself, however we did have some food and drink in the cafe, which has great views of the course – and makes fantastic Arbroath smokie (a local delight – hot smoked haddock) fish cakes!
Even for non-golfers like us, there was plenty to do in the pretty little seaside town. Luckily we had fantastic weather, only having one morning’s downpour during our two-day visit. The coastline is beautiful and whether at West or East Sands, the beach stretches as far as the eye can see, and if the tide’s out you can walk for miles across the flats towards the horizon. (West Sands is famous as being the opening scene for the film Chariots of Fire). Closer to the city itself, the coast is littered with exposed rocks, creating a multitude of rock pools to explore, and making for some great sunset photos.
The diet took a turn for the worst here I have to admit – it’s hard to ignore the obligatory piece of tablet (a Scottish sweet which is like a brittle, grainy fudge) that comes with every cup of tea, or the innumerable tea houses, ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops scattered throughout the tiny town. Our favourites included the appropriately named Gorgeous, with its charismatic owner proffering row upon row of freshly baked scones in all manner of unique variations (we tried the raspberry mojito and blackberry appletini varieties and were not disappointed!) Cromars chip shop was popular for its fish suppers, although I was more than happy with my whitebait and chips – just watch those pesky seagulls if you choose to take your chips to the cliff tops or sea wall for an alfresco sunset dinner overlooking the quaint little harbour and cathedral ruins (highly recommended)! I also couldn’t leave the country without having the Scottish staple of haggis, neaps and tatties – for those who don’t know, haggis is a savoury pudding of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs minced with onion, oatmeal, suet and spices traditionally encased in the sheep’s stomach lining, this is served with potatoes and turnips – and is delicious!  I indulged in this delicacy during a delightful dinner at The Dolls House (also recommended for its friendly service and fantastic lemon meringue cocktails!) We had been recommended the renowned ice cream from Jannetta’s Galleria (although if the queues are large for the parlour itself, it’s worth noting that a lot of the cafes in the town offer Jannetta’s ice cream, delivered fresh to them every day.
The final foodie recommendations in St Andrews have to include quirky little Mitchell deli and cafe – we took refuge here on our last day when the rains broke, and wish we’d found it sooner! And of course our guest house, Burness House, run by the friendly and efficient Hazel and Laurie. The location was fantastic, the rooms clean and bright, and breakfast was fantastic (although be warned that if you want the smoked haddock for breakfast – and you do want the smoked haddock for breakfast – you have to order the day before).
It’s a great time of year to be visiting St Andrews, whether you’re a golfer or not, the tournament gives the town a festive air and the weather is glorious. I’d certainly like to go back and explore more of the surrounding area, so if anyone has any recommendations to add, please do let me know!