Fairmont, St Andrews – Hotel Review
By Richard Jones
St Andrews will always be synonymous with golf.
The Fife town’s legendary Old Course has hosted the Open Championship 29 times, and the world’s best players will be descending on the ‘Home of Golf’ again next July as it hosts the 150th edition of the Major.
But what is there to do in St Andrews in between rounds, if you are giving the sport a miss, or if you are a non golfer?
During a long weekend, my wife Rachel and I, along with our two daughters Isla, 14, and Evelyn 10, found luxury, adventure and no shortage of east-coast hospitality at the magnificent five-star Fairmont St Andrews resort.
Perched on a cliff top, the Fairmont St Andrews’ sprawling 520-acre coastal estate offers a stylish and relaxing escape for golfers, girls’ weekends, romantic couples or families.
The property is one of only three Fairmont resorts in the UK (along with The Savoy in London and Windsor Park).
And having been lucky enough to stay in a couple of the luxury brand’s hotels in North America, I was excited to see how the Scottish addition compared.
It’s safe to say that it didn’t disappoint. From the moment we rolled up the spectacular driveway and set foot in the awe-inspiring Zephyr atrium, the Fairmont St Andrews’ perfect mix of glamorous facilities and that special personal touch made us feel relaxed and at home.
The small army of friendly staff were welcoming without being overbearing, and many were keen to find out where we were from and what our plans were, as well as sharing a joke about the forthcoming football matches.
On Sunday, which happened to be Rachel’s birthday, we returned to our room to find a bottle of champagne chilling and a card signed by all the people who had served us during the weekend. A special touch in a hotel that is littered with them.
Design-wise, the Fairmont’s public spaces allude to its coastal location – there is the odd fishing net, as well as fish-scale tiles, shell shapes, and green, grey and blue velvet curtains awash with seaweed designs.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned atrium, with its light installation by George Singer featuring 20,000 steel discs, is the main focal point, but there are plenty of other areas, inside and out, that have the wow factor.
The Fairmont’s 200-plus modern rooms and suites are decorated in calming shades of taupe with abstract coastal images on the walls, dark wooden furniture, brown carpets with hints of tartan, and state-of-the-art tech, including ample USB points.
Each guest is provided with refreshments from Jing Teas, shortbread biscuits, and an Nespresso coffee machine.
The spacious bathrooms feature floor-to-ceiling marble, while complimentary robes and slippers, and toiletries from Le Labo’s floral and musky scented Rose 31 collection come as standard.
Due to Covid restrictions, we were instructed at check-in that housekeeping was being done on a request-only basis, but when we did ask for our room to be cleaned and restocked, it was done almost immediately.
FOOD AND DRINK
During our weekend, we had dinner at two fabulous but very different restaurants on the property.
First of all, we dined at the clifftop clubhouse’s elegant St Andrews Bar & Grill.
Unbelievably fresh crab salad and prawns for starters was followed by steak, lamb loin and St Andrews Bay lobster.
Then on the Sunday night, we booked a table at La Cucina, the resort’s warm and homely Italian restaurant which specialises in prawns and buffalo mozzarella antipasti, gourmet pizza and pasta dishes.
It also does a fine line in desserts as we sampled their tiramisu, semifreddo and baked ricotta.
To start the day, an extensive breakfast buffet selection is served in the Squire Restaurant – the full Scottish breakfast with haggis and black pudding is a must, as is the smoked salmon.
The Fairmont afternoon tea, prepared by the hotel’s executive pastry chef, is a popular choice, while the Zephyr Sports Bar and Kittocks Den offer more informal pub grub.
Finally, there are outdoor bars, where you can sip on a chilled glass of Moët or a hot toddy while watching the sun set and listening to the distant sounds of breaking waves.
However, best of all is the luxury picnic hamper.
We picked up two backpacks containing blankets, plates, cutlery and glasses and headed down to the edge of the golf course by the sea for an al fresco lunch made up of delicious sandwiches, fresh fruit, pastries and cakes.
Despite not playing during the weekend, I am in fact a keen golfer, and watched on enviously at the small groups of excited players heading out into the warm sunshine to play on the world-class links.
I’ll hopefully be back soon – but next time, I’ll be taking my clubs!
Nevertheless, away from the world-class Kittocks and Torrance golf courses, the Fairmont is still all about the great outdoors, and there is also a whole host of family activities on offer, especially during the school holidays.
Kids can have a game of French boules, a kick around in the football nets or try a spot of archery and clay pigeon shooting.
We opted a Segway tour, which, after a beginners’ lesson in controlling and operating the transporters, we zoomed around the Fairmont grounds, making the most of the sprawling resort and scenery, before joining in a time trial.
Should the weather prevent outdoors activities, children can head to the hotel’s games room or cinema, while the swimming pool, sauna, steam room, hot tub, relaxation room and spa offer indulgence for adults.
The smart university town of St Andrews is just three miles from the Fairmont and is a great day out for those wishing to explore its cathedral, castle, aquarium and the British Golf Museum.
However, if you’re fit and able, which we thankfully are, a stretch of the Fife Coastal Path takes you from the Fairmont, past the Castle Course golf club and St Andrews Holiday Park, and down to the East Sands beach.
As well as the golf, the university town (the oldest in Scotland) has become even more popular in recent years, with tourists keen to visit the place where Prince William met Kate Middleton while they were were studying.
After a stroll along the beach and a nosey around campus, head to the Johnstons of Elgin store on Pilmour Links, where you’ll find the softest cashmere imaginable, and Eden Mill, the town’s independent microbrewery and distillery which is great to pick up a few bottles of beer, gin or whisky.
Richard Jones and his family were guests at the five-star Fairmont St Andrews in Fife who offer bed and breakfast from £356 per night for a double room in July.
For more information, go to fairmont.com or call 01334 837000