The Fairmont St Andrews is a colossal hotel. Originally opened in 2001 as the St Andrews Bay Golf Resort and Spa, the hotel is now managed and operated by the internationally renowned luxury hotel group, Fairmont. Just a short drive from the historic old town of St Andrews, it is a u-shaped faux Georgian vastly oversized mansion. It’s not unattractive, it’s just enormous. But you don’t come to the Fairmont St Andrews for its architectural splendour, you come for one or a combination of all of three things – firstly, its setting, secondly, its golf courses and thirdly, the luxury that lies behind its doors.
The setting is spectacular; it sits within a 520-acre estate, close to St Andrews (home to the oldest university in Scotland, a glorious stretch of golden beach sands and is the place globally renowned as the ‘Home of Golf’), right on the coast, with views out over St Andrews Bay. The best of those views are from the fairways of the Kittocks course, one of two championship golf courses at the resort, the other being the Torrance course, named after its designer, Sam Torrance, former Scottish professional golfer and winning European Ryder Cup Captain. A round on the Kittocks was to be our first activity on arrival at the Fairmont after checking in.
This was my first hotel stay in the Covid world in which we now live and the Fairmont has adapted to ensure the safety of guests and its employees as an absolute priority – we were efficiently temperature checked on arrival, the hotel operates a clearly marked one way system throughout its corridors, lifts are restricted to your immediate party only, hand sanitising dispensers are positioned throughout the hotel and you are reminded to wear your mask whilst inside. All these measures are explained on arrival through their grand entrance doors by the very friendly staff.
There’s a sense of space everywhere at the hotel and our third floor room continued that theme, generous in size, smartly decorated and with an expansive marble bathroom. However, its crowning glory was its views out to St Andrews Bay, the golf clubhouse and its courses. Indeed, given the spectacular nature of the views, it is shame that the hotel was designed with such small windows for these bedrooms.
After a quick change, we headed to the golf clubhouse for another warm welcome in the pro’s shop and to check-in for our round. The Fairmont is a perfect luxury base for those looking to play some of the best golf courses in the world. St Andrews and the surrounding area lays claim to no less than eleven courses and many golfers from around the globe make a pilgrimage to St Andrews at some point to walk the fairways of courses steeped in golfing history.
The Fairmont introduced two new additions to the historic courses of St Andrews back in 2001 and 2002. The Torrance course was the first to open, has been home to The Scottish Seniors Open between 2009 and 2014 on the European Seniors Tour and was also an Open Championship Qualifying Course for the 2010 Open Championship. The week after our visit, it was playing host to the Scottish Championship, as part of the European Tour’s ‘UK Swing’ expansion of its 2020 international schedule.
The Kittocks course was designed by Bruce Devlin, the Australian professional golfer and architect (and one of only a handful of golfers to have secured a double-eagle at the Masters Tournament, holing a four wood from 248 yards on the par five eighth hole in the 1967 Masters). Following his professional career, Devlin has gone on to design over 150 golf courses around the world, including in Japan, Australia, the US and the Bahamas. He was assisted in the Kittocks development by the legendary Gene Sarazen, a seven times major champion and one of only five players in the golfing world to have completed a Career Grand Slam, winning each of the majors (US Open, PGA Championship, Open Championship and Masters) at least once (the other four players being Ben Hogan, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods).
The first four holes are pleasant enough, but the beauty of the course starts to emerge at the fifth hole. This par five has a stunning green with a backdrop of the town of St Andrews and its long and magnificent stretch of white sandy beach. The par three sixth hole is forgettable, short again like the par three third, almost like a pitch and putt hole, but the seventh is a great hole, with the sound of the water in the background as you tee off. Be brave, take a driver and hit between the fabulous railway sleeper lined deep bunkers and the out of bounds on the left, to set up a short pitch shot into the green.
The ninth has a green framed by water, overhit your approach and you will tumble over the back into oblivion. The 10th hole has yet another breath-taking view back to the town and golden sands again. The course moves inland again until you reach the 15th. Here you need to strike your drive left to set up your second shot, which is to a magnificent green that hangs above St Andrews Bay.
The 16th is the best of the par threes, with the right-hand side hugging the coastline and boasting great views again back to the old town. You can easily understand why the 17th is Sam Torrance’s favourite hole across the two courses, the coast runs along the right-hand side of this hole from tee to green. The second shot has to carry over a cliff edge to reach the green. Into the wind and after a decent drive, my three wood only just carried and left me with a short pitch before I could reach for the putter. Overall, a beautiful and challenging golf course.
Food and drink
The latest Covid restrictions in Scotland meant that alcohol couldn’t be consumed indoors at the Fairmont’s bars or restaurants. Once again, the hotel had ably adapted, setting up ‘The Links Champagne Bar’, a Moet and Chandon collaboration, situated on a front terrace, large heaters and oversized parasols enabling us to enjoy a glass of Moet, despite the Scottish October evening darkness and chill, as a pre-dinner drink. From there, we headed to dinner. Our menu for the evening was from the St Andrews Bar and Grill, a venue usually located in the golf clubhouse, but currently in The Squire Restaurant of the hotel, which is found within the vast atrium at the heart of the Fairmont.
Despite its size, the atrium has a homely and relaxed feel. The hotel has been extensively refurbished in recent years with the design style having been influenced by the history and landscapes of St Andrews, with upholstery and fabrics acquired from Scottish based designers.
The most stunning aspect of the atrium is the jaw dropping ‘Zephyr’ artwork which hangs the length of the atrium’s glass ceiling, a piece designed by George Singer, a multi-award winning artist. The installation, which has secured two prestigious awards (The Darc Award and the International Architecture and Design Award), at sixty metres in length, is one of the largest lighting creations in the world. This extraordinary piece is ‘designed to reflect the surrounding nature: the crashing waves, the long grasses blowing in the wind, the enormous cloud formations, the rolling hills, the murmurations of starlings, shoals of fish and the blossom trees, and the sheer energy and beauty of St Andrew’s Bay’. The installation helps to turn what could have been a very overbearing and stark space into an almost intimate one.
The menu of the St Andrews Bar and Grill promotes the best of local Scottish food, with an array of fine steaks and seafood. Beautiful and flavour rich starters of hay roasted heritage carrots and west coast hand dived scallops were followed by good Scottish rump steaks (swap the hand cut chips for the truffle and parmesan fries) and finished with a shared pistachio fudge brownie with raspberry sorbet. Good Scottish food all round.
An alternative for dinner would have been La Cucina, which offers a menu of delicious and freshly prepared Italian dishes and tends to be a favourite for families at the resort. Again, to tackle Covid restrictions, a post dinner drink was possible at ‘The Lawn Bar’, situated outside the Atrium, snugly set up with hay bale seating, fire pits and sterilised rugs to keep the cold October night air at bay.
The resort has everything you would expect of a luxury hotel in terms of services, including a large gymnasium, an indoor swimming pool and spa providing an array of treatments, although some spa treatments are restricted currently. Pulling back the curtains following a good sleep in the large and extremely comfy bed, revealed a magnificent sunrise over St Andrews Bay, an inspiring start to the day. We followed that with a swim in the pool, before heading back to the Atrium for a wonderfully relaxed breakfast.
The size and scale of the Fairmont, combined with its great facilities, makes it a perfect large scale corporate venue, although clearly such events are currently restricted. It is in fact one of the largest conference venues in Scotland and the Fairmont St Andrews has hosted the G20 Summit as well as numerous other corporate events, product launches and gala dinners.
In a nutshell
Our stay at the Fairmont was all too short. Whatever your reason for visiting St Andrews or if you are simply looking for a luxurious retreat, the Fairmont St Andrews provides the answer. I’ll certainly look forward to a chance to return.
Address: St Andrews KY16 8PN
Phone: 01334 837000
All imagery used in this article credit: Fairmont St Andrews