THIS year, St Andrews plays host to the 150th Open Championship. After a tumultuous few years for both hospitality and sport, there’s a palpable sense in the town that this 30th hosting opportunity really matters.

The multi-million-pound renovation of the AA 5* Old Course Hotel, which overlooks the globally recognised 17th “Road Hole”, is one indication of how seriously the Fife town is taking this championship. The hotel now boasts a penthouse, refurbished events spaces, 31 additional rooms and a brand new restaurant, Swilcan Loft – on top of its five existing restaurants and luxurious Kohler Waters Spa.


ON a drizzly December weekend I headed to the resort. While the 1960s-built Old Course Hotel is fairly unremarkable from the outside, it’s the interiors that make the five-star experience. Upon arrival I was whisked to my double room overlooking the famous Old Course and West Sands. The bedroom presents sleek dark marble desks, emerald green velvet curtains and olive tiles in its huge double-sink en-suite. It was all very Instagram influencer-ready, as was the Swilcan Loft restaurant. Its floor-to-ceiling windows offer further stunning views of the much-photographed golf course.

The National: Old Course St Andrews review.

These modern settings feel at odds with their surroundings. To access Swilcan Loft diners must walk through the Road Hole Restaurant, which is heavy on wooden accents, brown tones and patterned carpets. It may be a classic aesthetic, but it clashes with the less formal, un-tableclothed spot next door. Tourism has obviously been hit by the pandemic and it’s understandable that the Old Course may want to widen its reach beyond the American tartan trews crowd it’s often associated with, but the resort’s newest offerings suggest a bit of an identity crisis. Design tweaks here and there may be required.


DESIGN concerns are insignificant when weighed up against the quality of the food and service on offer. The waiters have expert knowledge of the menu, and cannot do enough for the guests. When I heard a fellow diner complaining about a salad, the staff brought her a new meal from an entirely separate restaurant in the hotel. My partner and I enjoyed hot smoked Loch Duart salmon salad, rich truffle and wild mushroom champagne risotto, Black Isle beef rib eye, and, of course, cocktails. The Islay Air, a combination of Laphoraig, honey, fresh ginger and chocolate bitters was presented to us as a crowd pleaser, and it didn’t disappoint. The breakfast (delivered to our room on hot plates) was equally as impressive, with freshly baked pastries, high-quality Haggis and perfectly poached eggs welcomed.


IN the spa, I received a 50-minute custom massage from soothing therapist Shona. The masseuse listened carefully to my specifications and gave me one of the best massages I’ve ever experienced. Relaxation continued in the hydrotherapy pool, steam room and sauna. The facilities are excellent but could do with some plaques explaining what various features are for – I was nearly turned into an ice block jumping into what I thought was a standard shower, but turned out to be a freezing cold “experience” waterfall.


HAVING lived in Glasgow for six years, I had forgotten just how quaint and charming the university town is. Walking along the seafront on the first night felt like a spa treatment in itself. As sea haar rolled over the stone buildings and Christmas lights flooded the fog, I enjoyed the quiet.

On Sundays, when there’s no golf played on the Links, guests can take a stroll over the renowned course.

It’s only a 10-minute walk from the beach to the town, where cobblestoned streets offer few of the independent shops which once dominated St Andrews. But it’s not all chains – a huge number of independent pubs and restaurants still remain. Forgan’s, Ziggy’s and the Doll’s House are favourites among locals, and the Tailend is unbeatable for fish and chips.

Arts and cultural events have been hit hard by Covid, but when restrictions are lifted The Byre is a great spot for live performance and will even host the town’s first film festival in March. Outdoor attractions like the Botanic Garden and Cathedral remain unaffected by coronavirus rules, and are both worth a stroll on a pleasant day.


ST Andrews is small but perfectly formed, and ideal for a weekend away from the big city. It has much more to offer than golf, but if golf is your thing, you’ll be thrilled to visit.

The Old Course’s service level cannot be faulted – when I noted that I’d taken a bus from Leuchars Station on the first night, a car was immediately booked for my journey home to make life that bit easier. Despite some clashing modern and classic design choices, the Old Course remains a genuinely luxurious hotel which deserves it’s renowned five-star status after all these years.

Room rates start at £460 per night in high season (April – October) and £220 per night in low season (October – March).