30 November 2022, Virtual
12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
Business Travel Show Europe, presented by The BTN
Simon Warburton reports
World-famous as the home of golf and currently Prince William, the first-time visitor might be mistaken into thinking that St Andrews on Scotland”s east coast, exists only to serve those whose obsession is with the game. And while that is true up to a point, the town is far, far more than a golf museum, having been involved with some of Scotland”s most momentous occasions in a history stretching back to the Bronze Age.
More of golf later, but St Andrews ” named after the apostle, St Andrew, whose relics were brought to the town ” became a prominent site for pilgrimage in the Middle Ages while its bishop became the senior bishop in Scotland. Its religious centre was the now ruined, but nonetheless imposing, Cathedral, attracting thousands of pilgrims every year, but whose prominence soon came under the microscope of the Protestant Reformation.
This was a brutal time for the town as martyrs such as Patrick Hamilton (1527), Henry Forest (1533), George Wishart (1513) and Walter Myln (1558), were burnt at the stake. All over St Andrews are inscriptions either carved into the road, such as ”PH” for Hamilton outside St Salvator”s Church or on the Martyrs Monument overlooking the Royal and Ancient (R&A) Golf Club.
Founded in 1413, and widely regarded as the Scottish Oxbridge, St Andrews University attracts students of a particularly high calibre and is well-known for subjects such as medicine and international relations. While many locals may grumble about town/gown relations, there is no doubt that the thousands of students pour vast amounts of money into the local economy ” especially the ubiquitous pubs ” and lend the town a vibrant, dynamic feel. They also retain many rituals dating back to medieval times, which, although some dismiss as student high jinks, maintain a connection with an ancient past.
These include the Kate Kennedy procession, Raisin Sunday and the traditional walk along the pier after Church on Sunday, with undergraduates sporting their bright red robes. The University Church is St Salvator”s on North Street (there are really only three in the town ” North, South and Market Street) and on Sundays, features the stunningly professional University Choir, a procession of University dignitaries, resplendent in their respective robes ” Divinity, Science, Medicine et cetera ” and all under what must be one of the most impressive Church organs in Scotland. A ”must-do” in St Salvator”s and indeed all over the town, is the succession of Christmas Carol concerts that occur during early December.
Well, there”s no getting away from it. Golf is what most people know this place for and indeed as the home of the Royal and Ancient ” blazored custodians of the game”s rules ” St Andrews is where golf aficionados come from the four quarters of the globe to tee off on either the famous Old Course or any one of numerous others ” Jubilee, Kings Barnes, St Andrews Bay Resort, that dot the surrounding area. The game is believed to have started in St Andrews during the early 15th century, although it was banned for a time after a royal decree ordered that players stop and practice archery skills instead.
Overwhelmingly, it is the Americans and the Japanese, who come in droves to tee off in front of the imposing R&A Clubhouse, although numbers of even these hardy players have fallen, following 9/11. St Andrews is due to host the British Open next year and in its Millennium event, attracted up to 40,000 people per day. Accommodation will be at a premium, but it”s a great way to watch some of the world”s top golfers and take in some of the town”s fascinating history. World number one Vijay Singh, seen here on the second, is bound to be a serious contender.
Hotels tend to be on the pricey side, but the excellent Tourist Information Office on Market Street, will happily point out good value B&Bs, as well as offer a host of cultural and social activities. From Edinburgh St Andrews is around one hour north, Dundee 30 minutes across the stunning Tay Bridge with the superb fishing villages of Crail and Anstruther, just a few miles away. Thirsty travellers can relax in numerous pubs including The Victoria, Central, (Market Street) Lafferty”s, The Gin House, (South Street) or The Whey Pat, (Bridge Street) to name but a few.
And just to give readers an idea of the worth of the place Wisconsin-based Kohler Co has within the last week or so bought the Old Course Golf Resort and for a reported ”35m. Destination Kohler, the company”s hospitality brand, will own and operate the Old Course Hotel including the spa and two restaurants, plus the nearby Dukes golf course. The American conglomerate, one of the oldest and largest privately-held companies in that country, already owns Whistling Straits in Wisconsin, home to this year”s US PGA Championship. British readers will know Kohler through its kitchen and bathroom accessories, but it also has other interests including furniture brands Baker and McGuire and makes engines and generators up to 2.5 megawatts.