‘EVERYONE knows St Andrews for the golf,” smiles Bruce, manager at The Bridge restaurant, as we peer over the Old Course’s 18th hole. “But there is so much more with the beaches, brilliant restaurants, our history and the friendliness. People couldn’t be more welcoming.” I’ve just arrived and the chap I ask for directions practically walks me to my hotel – so I can attest to that. And, yes, there is far more to St Andrews than golf.

To talk up St Andrews without the golf isn’t to denigrate the Home of Golf, so let’s cover golf first, which springs a major surprise for me. I knew getting a round at the Old Course is fiendishly hard, but not that St Andrews Links actually has seven courses to suit all levels. I’m a beginner, but I still enjoy bashing around the Balgove, where everyone is welcome.

Golf dominates the hotel I’m staying at too. In a good way.

From my room at Rusacks St Andrews (marineandlawn.com) I look right over the Old Course and the Royal and Ancient. I dine superbly at their Eighteen restaurant with Derek Johnstone at the helm. Between courses I nip out for a wee go on their putting green at this rooftop restaurant. They mix a mean cocktail in their One Under Bar too.

Now let’s leave golf behind, a last hurrah coming as we carefully cross the fairway to the West Sands. This two-mile-long beach, for me, is St Andrews’s main natural draw. It is, of course, impossible not to hear the score from the film Chariots of Fire burst around as you head along the sands.

I bump into the boys behind Blown Away Adventures. They do brilliantly fun land yachting on the sands, an experience I’ve savoured that is a million miles away from the old staid St Andrews anachronisms.

Veering away from this newer face of St Andrews, I dig deeper into a town with endless historic layers. Yes, we all know that Prince William and Kate Middleton met and fell in love at Scotland’s oldest university – the ramble of Harry Potter-esque university buildings charm all around town, giving St Andrews a fairytale quality. But did you know that St Andrews sported the largest medieval church in Scotland, its legacy the ruins of the cathedral that linger today? High above soars St Rule’s Tower. Hike the 156 steps to appreciate how dramatic a setting St Andrews enjoys.

Working through the centuries eke inside St Andrews Castle. This sturdy fortress became crucial to the Church after Viking raids on Dunblane Cathedral. It is swathed in dark tales – Protestant preacher George Wishart was imprisoned in the castle’s dungeon and Cardinal Beaton’s body lay here after he was brutally murdered in the castle. His death kicked off a savage siege from 1546-47. The mine and countermine through the rock still exist and you can work through a section.

Pushing back into town, the old core is a joy to wander around with a trio of streets – North Street, Market Street and South Street – housing most of the retail action. You get a smattering of High Street names, but lots of glorious independents too. Shops selling just curtains, vegan produce and solely cheese co-exist next to Scottish icons like Johnstons of Elgin.

Shopping in St Andrews has real character, not least on the second Saturday of every month when the Rose and Thistle Makers Market attracts independent creatives.

I find the chief danger of shopping here is distraction. If you’re not careful, you’ll be seduced by the first-class gelato of Jannettas. Or maybe end up knocking back a proper heart-starting espresso at social enterprise cafe We Are Zest.

St Andrews overflows with places to eat, drink and be merry with the gloriously eclectic venues created by a mix of customers, who veer from the budget-conscious local students to well-heeled tourists.

This eclectic clientele ensures you can just snare boat-fresh fish ‘n’ chips, or fine dine in serious style. At the heart of all the foodie experiences is fresh local produce: cheese from St Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company, beer from St Andrews Brewery Co and fresh seafood from Fife. I dine superbly at Haar, where MasterChef: The Professionals finalist Dean Banks works his magic. And also at the Seafood Restaurant, whose sea views through their floor to ceiling windows are the perfect foil for St Andrews Bay lobster.

I’m back now at The Bridge restaurant saying goodbye to Bruce. He had promised me there is far more to St Andrews than golf and this East Coast charmer has more than delivered.

“Now you see why I had to return home from London,” Bruce says. I’ll take St Andrews over London any day for a relaxed break – golf and all.

LNER runs trains to Leuchars, where buses connect to St Andrews