St Andrews transforms drastically from the cool, dark Scottish winter to the bright, vibrant summers. That transformation is even starker in the lead up to the Open Championship, and the buzz that occurs during the event is only matched every five years. The places mentioned below were favorites of mine that I discovered during four years in St Andrews. This will offer you a different perspective from that of those who only make the pilgrimage during the Open and don’t see the town in its natural state.
After seeing the interest in a recent Q&A that I did with Geoff Shackleford ahead of the 2015 Open Championship, I was inspired to write this post on what to do and see in the town of St Andrews during the event. While it is obvious that you should watch as much golf as possible, these tips will focus on activities away from the course, touching on beautiful sites, historical spots, and favorite local areas.
Golfers should certainly experience the Dunvegan and the Jigger Inn – both legendary 19th holes next to the Old Course. However, visiting golfers should also get a taste of local St Andrews and head away from the area around the Old Course. Get the nachos and a pint at the Whey Pat or enjoy a locally brewed ale at the St Andrews Brewery Pub.
Take in local musical talent on Monday nights at the Criterion Pub or challenge a local caddie (if you dare) to a game of darts at The Keys. If you’re in the mood for a “bigger” night, go to the Central and have a half-pint at every tap, traveling “around the world (aka circular bar).” You may not be in the mood to watch golf the next morning, but you’ll have tasted some great ales!
My biggest recommendation is to explore the areas of St Andrews away from the golf courses. Walk up The Scores, which is a beautiful road running along the coastline bordering the town (seen in the photo of a road above). Halfway up the road, pop through the ancient stone wall on one side of The Scores to see the beautiful St Salvator’s Hall (my freshman dorm seen below) and St Salvator’s Quad, where the University of St Andrews was founded in 1413.
Continue walking and you will hit the castle ruins, followed by the cathedral ruins with the pier and East Sands beyond. At the cathedral ruins (seen below) you will find an ancient graveyard where Old Tom Morris is buried. After pondering the life of Old Tom, head one minute down South Street to Janetta’s Ice Cream, where a fourth generation St Andrean continues to make gelato in the shop his ancestor opened in 1908.
The first of two recommended scenic walks around St Andrews is the portion of the Fife Coastal Path that extends from St Andrews towards Kingsbarns, Crail, Elie, and the Firth of Forth beyond. You can catch the Coastal Path from St Andrews by walking to the end of East Sands towards the St Andrews Castle Course. It is a gorgeous walk, showcasing the best of the Fife coastline. The first photo in this post is taken from the Fife Coastal Path where it leaves the town.
The second scenic walk in St Andrews is the Lade Braes footpath. It is 1.5 miles long and runs through many of the most beautiful “non-tourist” parts of the town. Think beautiful stone walls, creeks, homes, and flora with this walk. The path was originally created to bring water to the Priory of St Andrews, which was founded in 1140. The first written reference to the lade didn’t occur until 1479… you’re not in Kansas anymore.
It is easy to stick around the golf courses, only taking in the happenings of the Open. However, you won’t really have experienced St Andrews. You will have seen what is displayed on the TV and social media feeds of the golf writers, but you won’t have seen what the locals experience every day. If you’re in St Andrews during the Open, try to do at least one or two of the tips mentioned above. I promise that you’ll be glad you did!