Weekend travel

Travel: Exploring the attractions along the Fife coast

The 18 fairway was like a who’s who of golf. One by one, Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Viktor Hovland crossed the iconic Swilcan Bridge to the red flag in the center of the sunny green.

My wife Rachel was amused by her starstuck husband as I proudly named each of the players standing a few yards away on the famous links of the Old Course.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Richard and Rachel on the Swilcan Bridge Richard and Rachel on the Swilcan Bridge

Last weekend, the eyes of the sporting world were on St Andrews, the ‘home of golf’ hosting the 150th Open Championship. And while we were both happy to get carried away with the pre-tournament excitement, we were looking for more than golf in the city and kingdom of Fife.

We started our long weekend across the Firth of Forth in Edinburgh, checking into Malmaison Edinburgh City, (appropriately) on St Andrew Square. Arriving by train late on Friday evening, we decided to make the most of our stay at the boutique hotel. After freshening up in our room, decked out in deep reds and deep purples, we headed to the restaurant, Chez Mal. I had a succulent rump steak with fries drizzled with curry sauce, while Rachel opted for the seared salmon fillet.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: House at Malmaison Edinburgh House at Malmaison Edinburgh

The next morning, fueled by a cooked breakfast, we set off and collected a vehicle from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, crossing the Queensferry Crossing and on to Fife. Once the capital of Scotland and the resting place of some of Scotland’s greatest medieval monarchs, Dunfermline was recently granted city status as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. We wandered around the impressive Dunfermline Palace and Abbey – which includes the tomb of Robert the Bruce and the ruins of a palace built by King James VI in the 16th century. Then we headed down the A92 to the Kirkcaldy Galleries, which currently houses a very special exhibition. Jack Vettriano: The Early Years is a celebration of the extraordinary career of artist Fife and brings together works he painted in his twenties until he moved to London in 2000. This is his first retrospective since 2013 and includes 12 of his early works, as well as all the showstoppers, including Billy Boys and Bluebird in Bonneville.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Old St Andrews Golf CourseOld St Andrews Golf Course

Our base for the next two days was the town of St Andrews, and after an hour’s drive we were ready to sample afternoon tea at The Bridge in one of the buildings closely associated with the Old Course, Rusacks St. Andrews.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The Bridge Restaurant at the Rusacks Hotel The Bridge Restaurant at the Rusacks Hotel

Rachel and I enjoyed artisan finger sandwiches, Highland venison sausage rolls and hot cranberry orange scones with clotted cream and jams. On the table next to us was current US PGA Champion Justin Thomas, relaxing before his final challenge for the Claret Jug, while Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter and two-time Open winner of St Andrews, Tiger Woods, roamed the famous links.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: View from Rusacks Hotel View from Rusacks Hotel

Our fully equipped luxury apartment for the next two days, No 1 St Andrews St Mary’s Place, was perfectly located to explore all that Fife has to offer. The sign outside claims it is a “Home from Home” for travellers, and with its fully equipped kitchen, beautifully decorated living room with corner sofa, bathroom with walk-in shower rain effect and its bedroom with plenty of storage, it’s hard to disagree. As for food and drinks, the kitchen was stocked with tea and coffee, while there was a basket with croissant jam, butter, olives and cold cuts in the fridge.

If you don’t feel like cooking, the nearby Mitchell’s Deli offers breakfast to apartment guests for £15 pp.

As well as being the undisputed ‘home of golf’, St Andrews also claims to be the ‘home of gelato’, and Jannettas Gelateria has been selling frozen desserts in the town for over a century. Across Kinburn Park, St Andrews Museum is also worth a visit if you fancy exploring the city’s fascinating past.

At night the seaside town was buzzing with visitors arriving ahead of the Open – 500,000 were expected this weekend – and for dinner we were lucky enough to get a table at one of its most popular restaurants, Ziggy’s. Since its opening in 1983, it has been serving delicious American cuisine, based on local products, with a backdrop of rock memorabilia. After the cheese-laden potato skins and haggis, Rachel had sizzling chicken fajitas, while I devoured the bison ribs and wings. Both were delicious and came in “American sized” portions.

The next day we hopped in the car to explore the quaint coastal towns of the East Neuk of Fife. Our first destination was Anstruther, the largest of the pretty fishing villages along Fife’s Coastal Path, and home to the famous Anstruther Fish Bar. We moved to the charming former royal market town of Crail, stopping for tea and scones at Crail Gallery, with stunning views across the sea towards North Berwick. Back towards St Andrews is the village of Kingsbarns and after battling through fields of thunder bugs we felt the sand between our toes and relaxed between the grassy dunes.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Anstruther, the largest of the towns along the Coastal Path Anstruther, the largest of the towns along the Coastal Path

After a sandwich and an ice cold lemonade from The Cheesy Toast Shack, we headed to Kingsbarns Distillery. Our guided tour included learning about the creation of ‘Dream to Dram’ whiskey and visiting the tasting room to collect samples of award-winning single malts. Our guide explained how the region’s geography influenced whiskey production, pointing out that Fife is shaped like the head of a Scottie dog. Just like the popular dog, we found the Fife to be bold, independent, lovable and friendly. Of course, golf was the main attraction. But there is so much more to see and do in this little kingdom of heaven.

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