All roads lead to Rome. Well, that was the plan anyway. Then a certain pandemic came along and forced a diversion to Fife.
Instead of celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary at the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum, a staycation at St Andrews was the fallback plan when international travel became a risk too far.
It might seem a deflating consolation, but the reality was far from it. The celebrations got off to a flying start, as soon as we checked in at the five-star Fairmont hotel, set on sprawling estate just a hop, skip and jump away from the coast.
After the obligatory Covid temperature checks, we were welcomed with a glass of champagne to sip while being shown to our room.
With breathtakingly beautiful views over the water and the golf course, our deluxe pad is stunning.
The room boasts two super comfy double beds – just in case we each want our own to sleep like a starfish in the absence of the kids – and a shower big enough for the whole family. The bottle of prosecco left chilling on the desk sets the mood for a well-earned weekend of rest and relaxation. After month upon month cooped up at home, juggling work and childcare, absolute chill out is the intention of this trip.
The Fairmont have taken enhanced safety measures very seriously, but having to wear masks and sanitise our hands is a small inconvenience amid the opulence of these surroundings. Dinner is certainly different, but still a delight. The waiter directs us to download an app on our phones to view the menu and we have to top up our own wine, but with food this good, we barely even notice.
The oysters, steak and fish are all sublime – and if you have room for dessert, I highly recommend the strawberry pistachio daquiose. It’s so delicious we had it two nights in a row! After sampling a few too many classic cocktails we turn in for the night and waken early next morning refreshed and ready to go.
A leisurely breakfast was followed by a trip to the hotel’s spa for a much-needed massage. As my therapist kneads out the knots in my stressed out shoulders, and relaxes every muscle from the nape of my neck to the tips of my toes, I can feel my troubles literally melting away.
Afterwards, we have a little swim in the pool, which has never been so welcome after months of leisure centres being closed. And there’s time for a quick game of golf. St Andrews is, of course, the home of golf – and the Fairmont is a key part of the furniture. Its two courses – the Torrance, which hosted last month’s Scottish Championship on the European tour, and the Kittocks – make full use of their rugged coastline setting.
Each links layout can be played all year round and the joys – or challenges – to be uncovered included holes perched on top of cliffs. A round is a must for any golf-loving visitor to the hotel. We’re supposed to be relaxing, but after realising the Fife Coastal Walk is just minutes from the hotel, we decide to take a jaunt into St Andrews.
Depending on the tide, you might need to scale a few rocks, but it’s a perfect – and most scenic way – to get into town. The path brings us right at the harbour and, with the sun shining, the beach is bustling. Queues for fish and chips and ice cream stretch for miles, so we settle for a beer and a burger in The Saint’s gorgeous garden, followed by a wander round the castle ruins, a stroll along the beach and a seat on the steps to watch golfers tee off on the famous Old Course.
Then it’s back to the hotel’s Links Champagne Bar…a new addition and a very welcome one at that. All that walking has left us parched and what better way to quench the thirst than sipping on a few glasses of fizz and couple of champagne cocktails while watching the sun set over the sea?
The outdoor bar even has its own homemade beach so we sit on the loungers and drink it all in before another sumptuous dinner and more champagne. There hasn’t been a pasta dish or piazza in sight, but the sun has shone on St Andrews all weekend and it has turned out to be a pretty amazing anniversary staycation. And there’s always next year for Rome.
P.S. The Fairmont’s Atrium lounge features a 60-metre lighting sculpture of tiny hearts by artist George Singer named Zephyr. He says it is inspired by “the rolling hills and crashing waves on the rugged coastal rocks”.
Room rates at Fairmont St Andrews start from £186 per night, based on two adults sharing a Fairmont King Room, with B&B included.
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