The passion of St Andrews
The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral. (Tyson Senway)
Situated on Scotland’s east coast, St Andrews has long been celebrated as the birthplace of golf. But with London’s royal wedding only days away, the gothic town has been gaining fame as the origin of regal romance as well. Prince William and Kate Middleton met as art history majors at the University of St Andrews, and recently returned to kick off the three-year celebration that leads up to the university’s 600th anniversary in 2013.
Beyond admiring the Old Course and seeing where the soon-to-be-newlyweds canoodled, you can make a day of pursuing any passion in this iconic Scottish town.
For the historian
The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral still hover over the east part of town and serve as a constant reminder of the town's medieval history. Dedicated in 1312, it remained the largest church in the country until a sermon by protestant reformer John Knox invoked a riot that damaged the building in 1559. The cathedral stones were then gradually removed and used in local construction.
See some of the old stones at the Cathedral Museum, including an 8th-century Pictish sculpture in the sarcophagus of Scotland's patron saint, St Andrews. If you are in good shape, hike the 151 spiral steps of the surviving St Rule's Tower, a 12th Century relic that continues to provide a panoramic view over the town and North Sea.
For the nature lover
Start at the Botanic Gardens on South Street, which showcases more than 8,000 species of plants and trees. If the weather is nice (and it usually is), walk northwest to the West Sands Beach, rated one of the world's cleanest beaches and famous for its role in the opening credits of the film Chariots of Fire. Just a short walk along the coast is the St Andrews Aquarium, which recently added meerkats to its family-friendly fish offerings.
For the foodie
Skip the traditional Scottish breakfast of blood pudding and start the day at North Point Café (24 North Street, 01-334-47-3997) with Kate Middleton's favourite yoghurt topped with muesli. Locals also love the Chai and "Button" hot chocolate (made with Cadbury chocolate buttons).
With menu options like fried risotto or goat's cheese quiche, Vine Leaf remains a favourite of vegetarians. But any epicurean will appreciate the hand-picked wine list and comfort food desserts like sticky toffee pudding.
If you are looking for a romantic dinner, reserve a table at the St Andrews Seafood Restaurant. Ceiling-to-floor windows provide views of the sea, the golf course and the beach, while the open kitchen showcases chefs preparing an ever-changing menu, featuring locally grown foods and sustainably sourced fish and meats.
For the golf enthusiast
Try your chances at playing the original Old Course by entering the daily ballot before 2:30 pm the day before you wish to play. Chances of being drawn are about one in seven, but if you do not get lucky, try the new Castle Course, extra challenging thanks to its windy location on the southeast cliffs. If you must play the original course, make reservations the first week of September for the following year. Reservations fill up by January.