Travel: Old Course Hotel, St Andrews
Scotland on Sunday, Do Not Disturb - a refurbished spa makes this five-star resort a treat for golfers and gourmands alike
This would probably be a good time to admit that I’ve never seen the film Chariots Of Fire. At the time of its release, in 1981, Raiders Of The Lost Ark was probably more my kind of thing. Still, the fact that West Sands Beach, where one of the main scenes in the film was shot, is in view of the five star Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa, is a fact that I always nod at appreciatively.
It’s always nice to imagine running through the dunes, to the tune of Vangelis, fighting against the biting winds.
That is, only while you’re safely cosseted indoors at the hotel, most specifically in their fancy new Kohler Spa, which has just been refurbished to the tune of £8 million.
It provides the perfect escape for golf widows and widowers. Choose from a huge range of therapies that utilise products from brands including Phytomer, Comfort Zone, Margaret Dabbs and Voya, or visit their new swimming pool, fitness area, mani and pedi zone, or 13 pimped-up treatment rooms.
Budget or boutique?
Boutique, of course. Hence my heavenly Lavender Rain treatment (£134 for 75 minutes), which involved being basted in a herbal-scented balm, scrubbed with marine salt crystals, then pummelled with a specially designed shower. I also experienced the Ayurvedic and aromatherapy joys of a lulling Tranquillity Pro Sleep Massage (£136 for 75 minutes).
I was in one of the Old Course King Suites, but there are 12 types of boudoir in the portfolio of 144 rooms. Top of the range is the swanky sounding Royal and Ancient King Suite, though I don’t think you have to be a king, or ancient, to stay there.
In my horseshoe shaped room there was a separate WC at the entrance, then a sofa, chairs and table, where I hung out with my pals (not really, I was solo), and a desk that overlooked the golf course. The king-sized bed and huge bathroom are round the other side.
Since this place is owned by US-based bathroom magnate Herb Kohler, expect spectacular plumbing fixtures. My shower was a walk-in number with jets firing from all angles. I’ve never felt so fresh, and I’m sure the bath would’ve be amazing too, if I’d work out which buttons to press.
Wining and dining
If you’re eating between treatments, try the bright new Spa Café where you can sit in your fluffy gown (privacy is preserved by the frosted windows). They’ve gone for a menu that focuses more on indulgence than health farm rations, so expect dishes such as prawn and watermelon salad, or topped crostini, rounded off with a passion fruit panna cotta.
Other eating options at the hotel include the three AA-rosette Road Hole Restaurant, but I tried the more low-key Sands, where there’s steak, lighter dishes, like my hake with salsa, but also sticky toffee pudding.
For burgers and the like, try The Duke’s Clubhouse or Hams Hame Pub & Grill. Alternatively, if you fancy a pre or post-prandial drink (or more food), visit the historic Jigger Inn, built in 1850. Its landlady told us about its ghosts, and the fact that its name has many meanings, including an x-rated one. Breakfast here is a dream. I stuck with the buffet option. Among many other things, it involved scrambled eggs that were just right (not sloppy or powdery), properly crispy bacon, smoked salmon, creamy Bircher muesli and a baker’s worth of pastries. I worked everything off (so I tell myself) at one of the circuits classes in the new fitness centre.
Worth getting out of bed for
It’s only a ten-minute walk into the centre of St Andrews. I visited the Tailend for their half haddock, chips and mushy peas, though Cromars is another great chipper option. For pudding I had my first visit to the brain-freeze-tastic Janettas Gelataria, where there are umpteen sorts of sorbet, fro-yo, sundaes, ice-cream and toppings. After that lot, a few lengths of the hotel’s new pool should sort you out.
I loved the spa facilities, the thermal suite and relaxing by the pool, but my favourite thing was going into the rooftop hot tub on a cold crisp day.
Room rates at start from £150 per room per night for bed and breakfast, based on two people sharing. Old Course Hotel, Old Station Road, St Andrews (01334 474 371, www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk)