Great Places to Stay
- Old Course Golf Resort and Spa, St Andrews
Travel writer Vivien Devlin and her partner experience the delights of the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews and demonstrate that you don't have to play golf to enjoy a visit to the "home of golf."
St Andrews and Golf
The ancient and charming town of St. Andrews located on the Fife coastline, with its castle and cathedral on the steep cliffs overlooking the sea, is world famous due to its significant place in the history of religion, its 15th century University and, of course - Golf. St. Andrews, with the Royal and Ancient golf club, is the undisputed international Mecca for golfers as the Home of Golf. The game has been played on the sandy links by the seashore for over 500 years and today there are four championship courses including the famous Old Course which has hosted no less than 26 Open championships including the Millennium year.
We drove to St Andrews in style, in a Saab 9-3 convertible from Guy Salmon - you can read an account of our experiences with the Saab here.
The Old Course Hotel
With uninterrupted views out to sea over the 17th hole on the outskirts of the town, the 5-star Old Course Hotel is a very comfortable place to stay for the keen golfer as well as for a relaxing and healthy holiday for everyone. The bracing fresh North Sea air provides a naturally beneficial and refreshing environment. The Old Course Hotel is not actually "old" as it was built in 1968, but whenever you walk into the spacious marble pillared lobby with its sumptuous furnishings and beautiful flower displays, the ambience is one of a grand and elegant residence. The hotel is part of the prestigious Kosaido Golf and Resort Management and a member of the Leading Hotels of the World. A recent £5 million refurbishment plan has developed a complete new wing of 21 ultra-contemporary bedrooms and suites with cool, clean minimalist designs in keeping with the overall Japanese style.
My partner and I were given a fabulous suite in this new wing, with French windows and small balcony overlooking the Old Course and the North Sea beyond. Everything about the decoration and style exudes relaxation and serenity. The colour scheme in delicate shades of grey, sand, coffee and cinnamon is just perfect with soft natural fabrics in suede, wool and cotton for cushions, fabrics and bed linen. The suite comprises a huge living room, with TV, large sofa, armchairs, glass coffee table, dining table and dotted here and there green plants, bamboo shoots and oriental works of art. A small kitchen, with mini bar, and tea and coffee facilities is in a separate closet. Through double doors is the bedroom with a huge king size bed, two spacious wardrobes, armchair and dressing table. Then there's the bathroom - a vast black and white marble temple of ablutions - with a long low bath, separate power shower, and (such bliss) his and her wash-basins. As one might expect, the bathroom provides a bundle of soft towels, bathrobes, slippers and luxury toiletries to pamper yourself in a relaxing hot soak in the tub.
Golf at St Andrews
You don't have to play golf to enjoy a visit to the Old Course hotel, but it probably helps! There are 7 golf courses in and around St. Andrews, and a Golf Practice centre offering golfers every kind of challenge and facility according to their experience and handicap. The hotel has created its own private golf course, the Duke's, a few minutes' drive away, which is described as the longest inland golf course in Scotland. This has been meticulously designed by Peter Thomson, five times Open Champion, within beautiful parkland against a backdrop of stunning views over to the coastline and the spires of the old town. The Duke's Course offers hotel guests guaranteed tee times and a comfortable Club house with changing rooms, Pro shop, bar and dining room.
The Old Course itself is claimed to be the world's oldest course, dating back to 1400AD, and features the infamous Road Hole on the 17th green, described as the toughest par 4. Four further 18 hole links golf courses and one nine-hole course stretch along the open expanse of St. Andrews' sandy dunes.
The resort also provides state-of-the-art conference facilities for corporate guests with a choice of board and meeting rooms, function suites and hospitality to suit your needs. And at the end of the business day what better way to entertain your clients than with a round of golf on a world-class championship course.
As a 5 star world class resort, the Spa is an essential aspect of the excellent golf, sport and leisure facilities at the Old Course hotel. There is a small yet attractive 15-metre lap pool, whirlpool and loungers offering guests a quiet oasis-type environment with natural daylight shining in through the glass roof. Keep fit in the gymnasium or relax in the sauna and steam rooms. There are six treatment rooms for a wide range of face and body treatments using a selection of different, quality products all with natural ingredients - E'SPA, Clarins and La Prairie, the only Spa in Scotland to feature this exclusive beauty range. The list of specialist therapies is impressive, from a Swedish massage to a detoxifying algae wrap to exfoliate the skin and eliminate all toxins. The perfect holiday treatment to refresh and purify body and soul.
Jonathan Stapleton, the General Manager of the hotel, is a passionate believer of the need today for an excellent Spa and Health and fitness facilities to be part of a luxury hotel. He is committed to "rejuvenating" and extending the facilities to create a luxurious, 5 star Spa complex. Further treatment rooms will be designed on the first floor immediately above the Spa, within a quiet, restful space, away from the fitness centre and activity around the pool area. The changing rooms will be refurbished and altered to allow direct, private access to the pool, rather than the current communal corridor.
To complement the improved fitness and treatment area, additional leisure activities will be on offer including popular spinning classes, yoga and pilates. With the beauty of the natural landscape, beach and golf links just outside, it makes sense to incorporate the environment to be part of the Spa experience at the Old Course hotel. One idea is to encourage guests to join in a jogging circuit or a session of the ancient and elegant art of Tai Chi out of doors, down on the beach - fresh air, a sea breeze and an enjoyable way to exercise. Scenes from the Academy award winning film, Chariots of Fire, starring Ian Charleson were filmed on the West Sands beach at St. Andrews. As you persevere on that treadmill, looking out to sea, this might perhaps inspire you to push that little bit harder.
Dining and Wining
At the Old Course you can eat very well indeed with a choice of two contrasting restaurants. The Road Hole Grill Restaurant on the top floor, with its glistening chandeliers and traditional wood panelling, presents a very classic setting for dinner. Maitre Chef de cuisine David Kinnes specialises in the finest of Scottish meat, game and seafood with a four course menu featuring dishes such as veloute of artichoke with poached quail egg lobster with caviar noodles, and Escoffier's original Peach Melba. The Road Hole Grill is a member of Taste of Scotland and has two AA rosettes.
For a very relaxed and informal lunch or supper at extremely reasonable prices then head for the new Sands Seafood bar and restaurant. The cool, dark wood design, with a long sweeping bar at its centre, marine-inspired mosaics and soft lighting, this is all in keeping with the modern Japanese style of the hotel. The menu devised by executive chef Stuart Muir is a wonderful appetising fusion of Scottish, Mediterranean and Asian dishes.
For instance, deep-fried calamari with smoked paprika aioli or Mussel Broth, a soup in the form of a thick fish stew with egg noodles, broad beans. Local fish from around the East Neuk of Fife is very much a speciality in this seafood restaurant. A couple can order the Sands Seafood platter of langoustines, lobster tails, clams, oysters and crab. Instead it was a huge portion of Red Snapper with Thai style dressing for me and Baked Halibut with Arbroath Smokie Potato Cake for him. The latter should become their signature dish and win a Michelin star all by itself. A delicate texture and fabulous blend of sweet salt fish flavours. After this feast there was no room for pudding but you could indulge in a raspberry crème brulée, lemon rice pudding or cheese board.
Overall the menu of appetisers, luscious salads, mains and deserts is quite outstanding and original. For a lighter snack you can enjoy a plate of oysters and sushi, perhaps with a glass of chilled champagne. Sands also offers a range of classic cocktails including Absinthe, the aniseed-flavoured spirit that was a favourite tipple of French poets and artists a century ago. The wine list is compact but varied, from which we selected a superb fruity Spanish Vina Tinto de Toro.
For golfers, romantic couples and families this is the ideal place to stay. Children - and the family dog - are welcome with holiday activities, special menus and a babysitting service. If you can blend a luxurious resort where you may play golf, enjoy walks in the fresh air, hire bicycles, fly a kite on the beach, swim, relax and pamper your body in the Spa, as well as sample the very best of Scottish cuisine and fine wines, amongst natural landscape beside the seaside, then that must be the perfect combination for a great get-away-from-it-all destination in Scotland. From my experience you'll find it at all and more at the Old Course Hotel, St. Andrews.
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