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Travel: St Andrews is well above par as Home of Golf has travel wow factor

© Alexander BaxterThe view from the balcony at Rusacks
The view from the balcony at Rusacks

You know that “Wow!” moment when you swing open a hotel room door– well, at Rusacks in St Andrews, you get this. And more.

The world-famous Fife town is known as the Home of Golf. However, but St Andrews has more to it than golf which is just as well as I am a non-golfer.

Overlooking the 18th hole of The Old Course, the famous Swilcan Bridge, West Sands beach and the original clubhouse, Rusacks has recently been taken over by Marine & Lawn.

After walking through the grand entrance of the 1887 building, kilted concierge Gordon Jackson, shares interesting facts about the town and the hotel (including that its Bridge restaurant featured in the 1981 film, Chariots Of Fire). He also insists: “If you leave St Andrews stressed, you really must have a problem and need to go to your doctor” thanks to its laidback and relaxing vibe.

The room

When Gordon opens the door of room 603, it is a “Wow” moment as my gaze is drawn to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the balcony with a panoramic view over that world-famous golf course. The carpet, the paintings, the cushion covers – everything has a nod to the 18-hole sport.

I am almost too distracted by the view to properly notice the opulent styling of the room. It has a king-size bed, mirrored wardrobes, plush seating area with Chesterfield-style sofa and armchair and a gorgeous bathroom, complete with double rainshower, Jack and Jill sinks, and heated flooring.

On closer inspection, I spot a Nespresso coffee machine, a vanity mirror, bath robes and slippers, a traditional-style telephone, and beautifully-scented Floris toiletries.

Now, having heard good things about 18 at Rusacks, the hotel’s top-floor restaurant with outdoor terrace, I was excited about dining here. After a quick drink in the aptly-named One Under Bar, we head up to 18.

© Rebecca Hope
Superb food in the restaurant

Executive chef Derek Johnstone, former MasterChef: The Professionals winner, and his team of talented staff offer diners “beef, game and seafood-focussed cooking”.

I opt for the baked hand-caught diver scallop with Jerusalem artichoke, apple and truffle to start followed by a 280g ribeye Aberdeen Angus steak, dry-aged on the bone for 32 days, served with sides of crispy Anna potatoes and fine green beans. A light chocolate mousse adorned with chocolate shard is the perfect dessert.

Next morning, we walked off our dinner and breakfast in the Bridge restaurant with a beach stroll. What’s unique about St Andrews is that all the attractions are located within walking distance but be prepared to clock up a few thousand steps as you take in the breathtaking beaches, golf courses and Fife Coastal Path.

You may wonder why everyone is queuing outside St Andrews Sailing Club on East Sands beach.

This is the location of the award-winning Cheesy Toast Shack and if you order one of their specials, all will become clear. Look out for the Raclette next door, in winter months, also run by The Shack’s Kate and Sam.

As St Andrews is steeped in history, you will want to explore the ruins of the cathedral and the 13th Century castle and visit the R&A Golf Museum. Directly outside the museum sits the Royal and Ancient (R&A) clubhouse, which was constructed in 1853.

It is currently undergoing major refurbishment and during the plans it will, for the first time, introduce a locker room and showers for female players, a fundamental development for Scottish golf. Interestingly, I am told that the original Claret Jug is permanently housed in the clubhouse (a replica is handed over to winners of The Open).

The famous university town – where Prince William courted Kate – also benefits from a fantastic museum dedicated to the history of St Andrews University, called the Wardlaw.

The Old Course

Pop in to discover more about the iconic red graduate gowns before heading up to the viewing terrace which boasts another spectacular view of the rugged, picturesque coastline.

If you enjoy a walk, you can retrace the university students’ steps from St Salvators to the pier or why not go to Martyr’s Monument next to the bandstand at 11am each day and take advantage of the free walking tour.

P.S.

Tom Morris was the first winner of The Open in 1861 (he went on to win a further three times) and his home is a stone’s throw the front door of Rusacks. Paintings around the hotel pay homage to this local hero.

Factfile: 

Book at marineandlawn.com/rusacksstandrews for up to 20% off and receive a hotel credit of £75 to spend at its restaurants. Stay three nights or more and receive a credit of £150.