Fife, St Andrews & Anstruther – Travel Review
By Richard Jones, July 2022
The 18th fairway was like a who’s who of golf, as, one by one, the likes of Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Viktor Hovland made their way across the iconic Swilcan Bridge to the red flag at the centre of the sun-soaked green.
My wife Rachel was amused at her starstuck husband as I proudly named-checked each of the players stood just a few feet away on the Old Course’s famous links.
This weekend, the eyes of the sporting world will be on St Andrews, with the ‘Home of Golf’ hosting the 150th Open Championship.
And although the two of us were happy to get swept up in the pre-tournament excitement, we were looking for more than golf in the town and the Kingdom of Fife.
We started our long weekend across the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh, checking into Malmaison Edinburgh City, (fittingly) on St Andrew Square.
Arriving by train late on a Friday evening, we decided to make the most of our stay at the boutique hotel.
After freshening up in our room, which, typical of the iconic hotel chain, was decked out in deep reds and dark purples, we headed down to the hotel’s restaurant, Chez Mal.
I had a succulent rump steak with fries drizzled in curry sauce, while Rachel opted for the pan-fried salmon fillet.
The next morning, fuelled with a full cooked breakfast, we checked out of Malmaison and picked up a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, before driving across the Queensferry Crossing and into Fife.
Once the capital of Scotland, and the resting place of some of Scotland’s greatest medieval monarchs, Dunfermline was recently awarded city status as part of The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
We walked around the impressive Dunfermline Palace & Abbey – which includes the tomb of Robert the Bruce and the ruins of a palace built by King James VI in the 16th century.
Then, we headed up the A92 to Kirkcaldy Galleries, which is currently home to very special exhibition.
Jack Vettriano: The Early Years is a celebration of the Fife artist’s extraordinary career and brings together works he painted in his 20s until he moved to London in 2000
It is his first retrospective since 2013, and includes 12 of his early works, as well as all the showstoppers, including Billy Boys and Bluebird at Bonneville.
Our base for the next two days was the town of St Andrews, and after an hour on the road, we were ready to sample afternoon tea at The Bridge in one of the buildings closely associated with the Old Course, Rusacks St Andrews.
Surrounded by a portrait gallery of swingers, Rachel and I enjoyed artisan finger sandwiches, Highland venison sausage rolls, and warm cranberry and orange scones, with clotted cream and jams.
On the table next to us was current US PGA Champion Justin Thomas, relaxing ahead of his latest challenge for the Claret Jug, while Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter and two-time St Andrews Open winner, Tiger Woods, were walking the famous links.
Our fully serviced luxury apartment for the next two days, No 1 St Andrews St Mary’s Place, was perfectly situated to explore all that is on offer in Fife.
The sign outside claims it is a ‘Home from Home’ for travellers, and with its fully kitted-out kitchen, beautifully decorated living area with corner sofa, bathroom with rain shower, and bedroom with ample storage, it’s hard to disagree.
Food and drink-wise, the kitchen was stocked with tea and coffee, while there was a hamper with croissants jam, butter, olives and cold meats in the fridge.
If you don’t fancy cooking, the nearby Mitchell’s Deli offers breakfast to apartment guests for £15 per person.
As well as being the undisputed ‘Home of Golf’, St Andrews also claims to be the ‘Home of Gelato’, and Jannettas Gelateria have been selling the frozen desserts in the town for over a century.
Meanwhile, across in Kinburn Park, St Andrews Museum is also worth a visit if you fancy exploring the town’s fascinating past.
By night, the seaside town was buzzing with visitors arriving ahead of the Open – 500,000 are anticipated over the weekend – and for dinner, we were fortunate to get a table at one of its most popular eateries, Ziggy’s.
Since opening in 1983, they have been serving up delicious American-style cuisine, using local produce, against a backdrop of rock memorabilia.
After potato skins loaded with cheese and haggis, Rachel had sizzling chicken fajitas, while I had devoured their buffalo ribs and wings. Both were delicious and came in ‘US-sized’ portions.
The following day, Rachel and I jumped in the car and set about exploring the quaint coastal towns across the East Neuk of Fife.
Our first destination was Anstruther, the largest of the string of pretty, old-fashioned fishing villages along the Fife Coastal Path, and home to the world-famous Anstruther Fish Bar.
From there, we moved onto the charming former royal burgh of Crail and stopped off for tea and scones at Crail Gallery, a delightful little shop and cafe with stunning views of the sea out towards North Berwick.
Back towards St Andrews is the village of Kingsbarns and, after battling our way through the fields of thunder bugs, we felt the sand between our toes and relaxed in between the grassy dunes.
Then, after a sandwich and ice-cold lemonade from The Cheesy Toast Shack, we drove to our final destination – Kingsbarns Distillery.
Our guided tour included learning about the ‘Dream to Dram’ creation of whisky and being led up to the tasting room to collect drivers’ samples of the award-winning single malts.
Our guide explained how the unique geography of the area had influenced the production of whisky, pointing out that Fife is shaped like the head of a Scottie dog (with St Andrews and Kingsbarns around the eye area).
Much like the popular canine, we found Fife to be bold, independent, loveable and friendly.
Sure, golf is going to be the headline attraction for this weekend and beyond, and understandably so.
But there is so much more to see and do in this little Kingdom of heaven.