As a child and teenager I was lucky enough to travel all over the world. I come from an adventurous family and we were up for anything. We scaled Machu Picchu, drove across the Serengeti, trekked through Thailand and Vietnam and took in the museums, palaces and 3-starred restaurants of Europe. The more I saw, the more I wanted to experience and so when it came time to go to college I set my sights abroad and found myself at St. Andrews University in Scotland. Famous for being the birthplace of golf - and now for former students, the Duke and Duchess and Cambridge - the town of St. Andrews means so much to me and will always hold a special place in my heart.
Scotland is beautiful beyond belief; steeped in history and culture. It has a long, rich tradition of agriculture, hunting and fishing that influences the cuisine and its chefs to this day. Pair this with some of the world's finest whisky, and you have a town with a full gastronomic tradition and an amazing place to explore a country's culinary history.
An ancient town with only three main streets running East to West along the North Sea on Scotland's east coat, St Andrews has more watering holes, shops and cafes than you could shake a nine iron at. If you're lucky enough to spend a few days there, take a trip down memory lane for me and check out these spots below, some of my favorite places to eat, drink, sleep, shop, and take in the sights in the entire world.
Closer to the center of town than the sprawling and opulent Old Course Hotel, the Rusacks Hotel is relaxed Scottish elegance. A mansion in the 19th century New Town style, the hotel is situated right on the Old Course, overlooking the 18th hole. It's a postcard-worthy view to take in over breakfast in the hotel's main dining room.
The Oak Rooms At Ogstons
This cozy, comfortable bar and restaurant was my go-to spot for a post-lecture glass of wine or a light lunch with friends. The large, rustic wooden tables and comfy banquettes make it feel like you're relaxing in your own living room. If you've just finished a round on the Links, it's the perfect spot to tuck into for an overflowing plate of fish and chips with a pint.
This stunning, Jacobean style quad was the site of the original St. Salvator's College founded in 1450. I used to have my Art History lectures here and couldn't help but feel that I was truly immersed in the things I was reading about. Take a stroll around the perimeter and admire the perfectly manicured lawn. Don't miss the Late Gothic style chapel.
St. Andrews Cathedral And Castle
Built around 1200, St Andrews Castle is the real deal, an eerie and truly awe-inspiring sight. This former home to Scotland's prominent bishops seems to barely balance itself on a majestic cliff overlooking the North Sea. If you walk east from the castle you'll head right into the Cathedral ruins, which were built in 1158 as the center of the Scottish Catholic Church. Although it fell into obsolescence and ruin after the Reformation, you can stroll through the grounds and historic tomb stones and check out the ancient stones - but beware, some say the site is haunted!
This cozy cafe at the far end of North Street was where my friends and I would rendezvous for a quick pick-me-up. They have great hot cocoa and house-made scones, but my favorite has always been the daily crumble. Served hot with a dollop of fresh cream that melts into the bubbling oats and fruit, it's the ultimate comfort. If you're lucky enough to visit in the springtime, they make one with local rhubarb that is perfectly tart and sweet at the same time.
Luvians Bottle Shop And Ice Cream Parlour
Nobody does Whisky like the Scots, and Luvian's is the place to go to pick up all your single malt souvenirs. The staff at this shop is friendly and knowledgeable and will guide you through a wide selection from every region of the country. There are some really special bottles here - small batches of whisky that typically don't make it out of the countryside. I love some of the peaty varieties that are so unique to Scotland.
Just a few doors down is their ice cream parlour and cigar shop. Take it from a pastry chef who loves making ice cream perhaps more than anything - this stuff is delicious. Made with Scottish cream, it is rich and luxurious. My favorite flavor was local honey. While you're there, pick up a few Cuban cigars to enjoy with your whisky.
Just around the corner from Luvian's you'll find this mouthwatering bakery. It's been in business for five generations and now has a few locations in the area with a staff as sweet as the pastries. Keep a lookout for things like tablet (Scottish fudge) and millionaire's shortbread (chocolate and caramel layered butter cookies with the perfect amount of salt) - traditional Scottish treats that will satisfy any discerning sweet tooth. To this day, shortbread is my favorite kind of cookie because of this place. At Maysville, I make sure all diners are treated to one at the end of their meal - the buttery, crumbly squares just melt in your mouth. It's the perfect last bite.
The British Isles have some of the best dairy and cheeses in the world. IJ Mellis carries a beautifully curated selection of local, British and continental cheeses as well as essential accoutrements like Scottish honey. Don't miss the Isle Of Mull Scottish Cheddar. Made in the rugged Hebrides Islands, it pairs perfectly with single malt and makes one of the finest grilled cheese sandwiches you could ever have.
Just past the medieval West Port Gate at the start of South Street is the Whey Pay Tavern. It's a little off the beaten path so it doesn't get the posh student crowds that the main drag establishments attract, but if you want authentic Scottish Ale, this is the place. Ales, made from malted barley and brewers yeast, are sweet and full bodied. They are robust and complex, being fermented at higher temperatures than beer. The Tavern has seven different brews on tap at any given time, typically from local places that create some really unique flavors.
Photo Credits: Pointsmilesandmartinis, The Saint, Scotline Tours, Owleyes Magazine, WoodingsoftheSinghtury / Wordpress, 10Best,