Welcome to the University of St Andrews! As you are soon to discover, St Andrews has a plethora of drinking establishments for you to discover and enjoy. Each location has its own particular flavour, so it is highly encouraged that you venture out to experience them all personally. But for your first formative steps out into the Bubble, here is a nifty little guide to assist you in quenching your thirst.
But first, a word of warning: there is no shame in getting bombed on a budget. Speaking from experience, pre-gaming is cost-effective and Tesco store brand vod is your best friend. Whether you worked your hands raw to set aside a little university spending money or Dad stained his pants signing you a blank cheque, someone put in effort to get that money in your account and you will find that the bars are black holes for both cash and credit.
The tendency to spend only gets worse as the night progresses, of course. Once you have transcended “pleasantly buzzed”, you will cross a precipice that can and will only result in waking to discover a hundred-pound charge on your card. Here is a rundown of some of the likely culprits.
The St Andrews student union has the potential to be your ground zero during freshers’ week. It is a central congregation point for a great number of students, and with the number of events happening there you can always expect to find it packed on a popular night out. Expect a long wait for drinks, however, as the bar staff is limited and the crowds are large. Additionally, it’s not the most creative place for a night out, but it will get things started.
The VIC is conveniently located right in the centre of town. With a décor that perfectly matches your thick-rimmed glasses, it is one of the trendier bars in St Andrews. The VIC features a dance floor, occasional live music and, for when your thirst leaves you gasping, a generously sized smoking area in addition to bar seating and plenty of table space. The VIC’s food is of high quality if you’re just stopping in (check out their 2-for-1 burgers) and their drinks are reasonably priced. A favourite at the VIC is the Punch Bowl, a lethal chamberpot concoction of spirits that comes highly recommended. Beware the weekends: on Monday through Thursday, the VIC prices their drinks normally (Thursday night is student night), but on Friday and Saturday nights the bill can be frightening. My £70 charge from a 2.5 hour period is a testament to this.
This small and intimately furnished bar is the go-to evening venue for locals and indie kids alike. Featuring occasional live music and a variety of board games (drunk Scrabble, anyone?), Aikman’s also holds many live poetry nights. Its oak interior is conducive to creative thought and lively conversation, and on weekend nights there is nary a seat to be found – especially in the more popular basement room. The owner and bartender is a hilarious, grey-haired man with an incredibly wide knowledge of beers that he is always willing to impart. Conveniently located on Bell Street, it’s close enough to the main drag to be relevant but removed enough to remain an island of thoughtfulness in the debauchery of St Andrews nightlife.
A bit outside of the town centre, Westport is located on South Street, right by the South Street arch. Ideal for more intimate gatherings, plump leather couches in the downstairs area allow you to sip cocktails or a pint while comfortably reclining, though standing up then becomes a challenge. Best known for their modestly priced cocktail pitchers, it’s a great way to spend an afternoon or evening catching up with old friends. The food is good as well, and a plate of their fries beside a pitcher of Long Island Ice Tea is heaven on earth. When the weather is warm – as warm as St Andrews gets, anyway – it has a lovely beer garden where you can sit and enjoy the fresh air.
Situated right next to the movie theatre, Rascal’s is best known for its meat-eating challenges that have given some St Andrews students a place of fame (or shame) on its wall. Besides a good place for a burger, however, Rascals serves as a pub popular among both students and the local St Andrews population. Many sports teams have their weekly meetings and socials there, though I have never seen it so full that you’d have to wait ages for a drink. The bar / eating area is spacious, and there is a pool table. Warning: if you do try your hand at pool, make sure you are at least a decent shot, as there will be people watching.
Tucked into a corner on South Street, this lovely locale is largely underrated among the St Andrews student population. A spacious, comfortable interior draws many societies to hold weekly meetings there, and it is known for its fun but surprisingly challenging trivia nights and friendly, buzzing ambiance. It is no place to get ‘shwasted’; go instead for a nice chat and a strong, middle-priced drink, or get a group of friends together and dominate at trivia.
This small, hole-in-the-wall bar on the Scores is famous for its bustling Tuesday nights when many a sports team have their socials. Drinks are pricey and somewhat diluted, but the dance floor – albeit small – is always full and the place usually has a line outside the door. Owing to property restrictions only a few people are allowed in the smoking area at a time (six, at last count), so watch for that. As a fresher, Ma Bells will probably feature heavily on your social calendar at least once a week.
Near Ma Bells, nestled into the back of the Golf Hotel, this rather pricey bar is famous for its attractive bartenders and strong, well-made drinks. Not for the student on a budget, but good for a quiet start to an evening or the occasional indulgence.
So, you’ve had a long night of drinking and frankly, even if you could speak coherently, you really aren’t in the mood for conversation. You’re more partial to flailing your limbs about in tune to cacophonous house music in a crowded, sweaty mess. Ideally, you want to hook up with at least three people. All of them you want to regret, or not remember; and by the grace of God will you be carried home by your also semi-conscious friends. There is no better place for this than The Lizard. It is the only club in St Andrews and a rite of passage for all Freshers. Godspeed.