On the outskirts of St Andrews, the historic home of golf and a town that is drowning in prestige and fame, stands a modest but charming family-run hotel where visitors can enjoy the hospitality of Scots in humble but enchanting surroundings.
Hotel and gardens
Rufflets – meaning ‘rough flat lands’ in old Scots tongue – was built as a private home in 1924 for the widow of a wealthy cloth merchant (whose initials are still engraved on the stone above the door today) before it was bought by sisters, Anna and Margaret, and their husbands in 1952. The foursome invested a lot of time, money and passion into launching one of Scotland’s first country house hotels and, today, 70 years later, it remains within the same family. A rare gem nestled in the Fife countryside.
The heart of the four-star hotel comes from these family roots and Rufflets is, therefore, welcoming to all guests including families and those furry, four-legged members too! Guests are greeted like old friends and encouraged to treat the pretty near-100-year-old building as a home away from home.
The team is proud to grow much of their own produce in the kitchen garden (which guests are encouraged to explore and peruse) with lines of beds brimming with homegrown vegetables and aromatic herbs. The garden is also home to 36 happy hens who lay eggs for guests to enjoy at breakfast each morning.
The 10-acre plot boasts mature flower beds, formal gardens, pretty pathways and wild areas. Gravel paths follow straight lines through the formal garden, which is decorated with topiary, down stone steps onto the lawns. Pretty spring flowers were sprouting along the banks of the idyllic stream babbling through the shady woodland and under the ancient trees.
The team is currently busy with Rufflets’ Centenary Garden Project to celebrate the milestone anniversary in 2024, restoring and reimagining the original formal gardens that were originally designed by John Donald Mills, who created the gardens at Balmoral. They are also opening a new garden farm shop to celebrate their homegrown plants, vegetables and creations.
We were staying in a large and spacious suite overlooking the beautiful formal gardens which, during our visit in April, were springing to life with carpets of bright yellow daffodils and pretty purple blooms. Classic furniture is complemented with bright, modern colours and, although some finishes made it feel a little dated and tired, the space was comfortable and relaxing.
The room was light and bright thanks to its double aspect; with a large sash window looking out over the lawn and a side door onto a sunny balcony. And there’s plenty of space to unwind after a busy day; a step up into the curved turret offers a cosy lounge space with armchairs gazing out over the pretty gardens (although, in my opinion, you could lose the small TV that looks out of place here balanced on the windowsill and blocking the wonderful vista).
The king-size bed offered a comfortable night’s sleep and a flatscreen TV meant we could watch Killing Eve as we drifted off to sleep following a big dinner. Through the door there’s a large bathroom with a hot and powerful shower as well as a large, contemporary-style free-standing bath.
Food and drink
Seasons is a fresh, contemporary restaurant that’s all about showcasing Scotland’s finest dishes and best local ingredients. The dining space is elegantly designed with cosy booths, intimate tables for two, and large socialising tables standing in large bay windows that are framed by the beautiful outdoor light. The team wanted to create a space and a menu that celebrated nature, so guests are also welcome to enjoy al fresco dining out in the gardens (where much of the produce in the dishes comes from) when the weather allows.
We settled into an intimate booth as we perused the menu. I chose the sweet and warm sweetcorn and wild garlic soup to start, which was accompanied by crunchy sourdough bread, while my husband had the delicious scallops which were juicy and soft, like butter.
I continued the local theme next with the Scottish salmon which came on a thick, creamy mash and swimming in a leek and mussel sauce. The salmon was beautifully cooked and the skin was perfectly crisp, contrasting with the smooth potato. My husband chose the steak with garlic butter and hand-cut chips (which was excellent!), while we also shared a side of golden carrots dripping in honey and mustard.
I was a little disappointed in the dessert menu which could have done with a little more variety (and possibly even fewer cheese options!) but decided to give in to my sweet tooth and sample some of their local ice creams.
There are plenty of communal spaces and areas to relax both indoors and outdoors at Rufflets. You can relax in the lounge with a book and a coffee, enjoy afternoon tea on the terrace, or relax in front of a roaring fire in the bar with a nightcap (choose from over 100 malt whiskies and 40 gins!)
We had an early start and a long drive so we skipped the whisky and headed to bed early. Breakfast hours were a little late for us but the friendly team helpfully arranged for us to have a spread of yoghurt, berries and granola, toast and pastries before we departed, ensuring we were hitting the road well-fed and content.
Rufflets sits in the lush green Scottish countryside of Fife, surrounded by undulating fields, grand country estates and golf courses; lots of them! This is a wonderful setting whether you’re looking to get away from it all, whether you want a convenient and cosy base to explore the coastal county, or whether you want to follow in the footsteps of some of the world’s most-famous names in golf and test out your handicap at one of the many local courses.
Rufflets is ideally located just a few miles outside of the bustling university town of St Andrews, a charming and historic destination that is perched on the seaside overlooking the brisk North Sea. The small but world-renowned town is steeped in history; home to a crumbling 12th century cathedral, the ruins of a once-magnificent castle, a prestigious university, and what is widely considered the oldest golf course, and the birthplace of modern day golf.
We arrived on a sunny but windy day (I think it may always be windy on these easterly shores!) to enjoy a stroll around the pretty town, a pub lunch, and a guided walking tour of the Old Course, one of the world’s most iconic places to play.
St Andrews Links, in the heart of the town, is home to seven golf courses and hosts The Open Championship every summer. They were setting up in preparation for the influx of pro-golfers, sporting media and fans from around the globe as we hit the course with our kilt-wearing guide who took us to explore the clubhouse, the infamous Swilcan Bridge, and the historic buildings that surround the manicured greens.
Rufflets is just a short drive from the Links and is an excellent base for exploring St Andrews and the dramatic Fife coastline and beautiful beaches. The hotel is less than an hour from Perth and a picturesque 90-minute drive from Edinburgh to the south.
In a nutshell
Rufflets is a charming and wholesome country house hotel that is born, shaped and thriving out of the beautiful Scottish countryside in which it stands and the love, passion and family focus that has made it what it is today.
Rooms are available from £285 for a classic double room based on two people sharing.
Address: Rufflets, Strathkinness Low Road, St Andrews KY16 9TX
Phone: 01334 472594