For all you bright eyed and bushy tailed Freshers, the September 5 is your long-awaited Day of Reckoning. It is the day on which reminiscent aunties and uncles have told you “your life will truly begin”, as you trundle nervously into your new homes, clutching a rucksack of essentials whilst your parents lug your suitcases and bedding behind them, staggering under the weight of your memory foam mattress topper. The start of your university careers has dawned and you’ll finally be able to wander round the sacrosanct three cobbled streets that thousands before you have called home. Amidst the fun and frolics of Freshers’ Week however, you will undoubtedly feel overwhelmed by all that this small Scottish town has to offer. Despite being small in stature, it packs a mighty punch in terms of restaurants, coffee shops, and social events and for all you wee Freshers, it will soon become a task of epic proportions to attempt to juggle a social life, Facetiming your mum, doing your laundry and getting a seven on all of your essays. But fear not, young grasshoppers. I am here as your personal fairy godmother, resplendent in glitter, to give you all the best bits of St Andrews, whilst you do the tricky bits, like making lifelong friends and attempting to live on your own for the first time. In my capacity as fairy godmother, I vow to give you an honest and useful guide of all the best locations and pursuits in our gorgeous Fife town. But I draw the line at getting you all glass slippers – I’ve got a student loan to pay off.
In my eyes, there shouldn’t even be any competition in this category. Much like when Dreamboat DiCaprio won his Oscar, it’s very much a one horse race. Although the eggs Benedict and hot chocolate at Mitchell’s undoubtedly pack a punch, the ONLY place to go in St Andrews for breakfast is the irrepressible Northpoint. Hailed as being the place where Will and Kate met for coffee, Northpoint boasts a prime location, lovely staff, a cosy atmosphere and an absolutely cracking menu. I’ve been there at least every other weekend and I have had no ‘ragrets’ with this life choice. Top tip: go for the Button hot chocolate and either the American brunch or pancakes with toffee sauce, banana and cream. You’ll thank me later.
Now, this is more of a tricky one for me, I won’t lie to you. St Andrews boasts some truly fantastic lunch venues and it can prove to be a real dilemma to decide which one to frequent on a Sunday afternoon. Cottage Kitchen provides a lovely homey atmosphere, replete with the mugs you use at home and a good selection of paninis and salads. On the other hand, Gorgeous on Bell Street do the world’s best scones which are so massive they’re practically a meal in themselves. They’re famous for their Prince of Cambridge scones, which are quite simply divine – filled with blueberries, raspberries and white chocolate, they will make you groan inappropriately with pleasure. The quaint 1940’s decorations and cute little smoothie glasses also add a nice touch, so despite being always packed, Gorgeous is worth it for a nice experience. Ultimately though, I’d say that Bibi’s Café is your best bet for a lovely lunch. Located on North Street, it does great paninis and milkshakes and the traybakes are to die for. But really, any of these three places are great for an enjoyable lunch experience. But for God’s sake don’t be generic and go to Prêt. You’re better than that.
Confession time friends – I have not yet fallen prey to the lures of cappuccinos, soy lattes or mochas so I cannot comment personally on the best coffee in town. However, after consultation with many coffee-lovers, they all agree that their poison of choice comes from Taste. Hailed as the spot where Kate broke up with Wills, Taste is the perfect bourgeois hideaway, with cosy lighting and what one friend called “the greatest coffee man can discover”. She also adds that “if you can find somewhere to sit once clutching your cup of steaming joy, you’re truly one of God’s chosen”. Avoid Starbucks like the plague. Costa, however, provides fab seasonal drinks and the friendliest baristas in town, so I would recommend popping in if you’ve got a lecture in Buchanan.
Again, a tricky one, as St Andrews provides a perfect mix of chain restaurants and niche eateries. Jahangir Tandoor Restaurant is definitely the best Indian in town, with beautiful garlic naan breads and live fish swimming in the floor (you have to see it to believe it). The big two, however, are definitely The Adamson and Little Italy. You don’t truly study at St Andrews unless you’ve been to The Adamson, which may be a tad pricey but does a cracking roast and 2 for 1 burgers on a Tuesday with an Adamson red card. Little Italy on the other hand is great value for money and is very atmospheric – perfect for a date night or meeting up with friends.
For all you ballers out there, St Andrews will not disappoint. Despite being the cheapest and most fun ball out there (replete with its own ceilidh), The Saint Ball is always overshadowed by the Kate Kennedy Opening ball, full of keen-bean freshers and definitely not worth the price-tag. My personal fave though has to be the Mermaids Christmas Ball. With a Hogwarts theme last year, the ball is held in Kinkel Byre and always boasts fantastic attention to detail, as well as plenty of food and great music.
For a proper club experience, I would have to say the Vic, even though it does remind me a bit of a sauna/Alpine ski resort with all its wood panelling. It can be a bit steep at £5 entry, but is normally worth it, particularly on themed nights or a Friday. Avoid the Lizard unless you’re completely smashed – normally it’s best to go there when you know you won’t remember it in the morning. Club 601 is never normally packed, but the Union bars are good – particularly Sandy’s on a Friday night for karaoke, which is always epic. Ma Bells Tuesdays are also equally fun albeit packed and I’ve heard The Rule is quite up and coming, so watch this space.
Best Drunk Food
Reminiscent of David and Goliath, the two fast-food colossuses face off once again for the ultimate accolade of best drunk food. Although both Dervish and Empire provide sublime cheesy chips, Dervish just edges it by having seats to enjoy your purchase in peace. It’s not fun to accidentally fall over and then spill hot cheese down yourself because there’s nowhere to sit. I should know. (Apparently Courtyard Café also does drunk food but they don’t do cheesy chips so they’re automatically ineligible for this award).
St Andrews boasts of three beaches so there’s plenty of places to look brooding and romantic as you read your latest English novel or try and come up with an innovative haiku. West Sands offers a fantastic opportunity to recreate the iconic Chariots of Fire scene and is generally the most stereotypically beach like of the three – overlooking the Old Course, it is wonderfully scenic and a great place to meet dogs (if dog stalking is your thing, obvs). Castle Sands offers a more secluded view of the North Sea and often feels like your very own private beach – a great place to go and think or just chat with friends. However, for me, East Sands will always be my slice of heaven. It was there, sitting on a bench with my parents and licking a Magnum Pink Raspberry, that I decided St Andrews was the place for me. It’s held a special place in my heart ever since.
So there you are sugarplums, there’s my definitive list of the best bits of St Andrews. My final piece of advice? Go out there and discover your own best bits of this gorgeous Fife town – it’s just waiting to be explored.