St Andrews, a lot more than just golf

Kat Calvin of BAP World spent time as a student in St Andrews in Scotland and she describes the many other attractions of St Andrews apart from golf.

St Andrews harbour

St Andrews harbour

Watching Chariots of Fire always reminds me of how wonderful it was to live in St. Andrews, Scotland, where the famous “running on the beach” scene in the film took place.

During my junior year of college I was fortunate to study abroad at the University of St. Andrews, the oldest university in Scotland. The school is set in the ancient town where golf was invented, which makes St. A’s famous among the game’s fans. While there I was sure to take golf lessons from a women’s only golf school and purchased a couple of clubs from Forgan, the oldest golf club factory in the world and the last one left in St. Andrews. If you want to play at the Old Course you can only get a tee-time by lottery and you should plan your trip years in advance. However, there are five other courses there that are easier to get times on and each is just as beautiful as the first. Luckily for my handicap, and those who are not fans of the game, there is much more to do in St. Andrews than curse at the wind and walk across the famous bridge on the Old Course!

Kat on the Bridge

Kat on the Old Course Bridge

A coastal town, St. Andrews is set on the North Sea, which is always cold. It is also known to be windier than Chicago so bring all-weather clothing, even in July. Other than golf, the town is best known for its university, which itself is known as much for its excellent academics as it is for having more pubs per square inch than any other university in Scotland, possibly in the entire UK. The three best in my opinion are Ma Bells, where they have great food, comfy couches, and a wonderful fire place; The Westport, which is a little swankier and has higher-end food and a chic Euro crowd; and The Cellar Bar which is tiny and in a cellar but has great beer. If you’re lucky, you may run into a uni student who will introduce you to the wonders of pub golf, but I warn you, any third- or fourth-year can and will drink you under the table!

The Cathedral, St Andrews

The Cathedral, St Andrews

St. Andrews is also known for the beautiful ruins throughout the town, including St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral. The castles and museums are full of the history of an amazing and proud people and it is incredible to see just how long the people of Scotland were working, surviving, and innovating long before the English came around! The cobblestone streets running through the center of St. Andrews will take you to ancient cemeteries, beautiful stone buildings, and delicious bakeries! The shops, salons, incredible restaurants, and adorable library lend the ancient town a bit of a modern feel.

Although I lived here in a flat five feet from the beach, when my mother came to visit I got to know a few of the beautiful little B&Bs in town, many of them at a pretty reasonable price (in pounds though, so watch out for the exchange rate). There are also a slew of magnificent hotels and resorts of course, you would expect nothing less from a world-class golfing destination! For ultimate luxury, the Old Course Hotel is definitely the top of the line but there are a few very nice and more reasonable hotels around town, including the St. Andrews Golf Hotel, home of Ma Bells! The people in St. Andrews (as in all of Scotland) are so friendly and the golf courses, beaches, parks, and ancient architecture so beautiful, this town is a definite “must-do” on anyone’s travel list.