Rusacks St. Andrews, Scotland

Beautifully furnished, solid service, delicious dining, and in an enviable location in the picturesque town of St. Andrews, Rusacks Hotel is sure to be a comfortable and welcoming stay. It’s a haven for golfers, overlooking the iconic Old Course, where the game has been played for over 600 years.

But even if you’re not a golfer, like myself and my partner TJ, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Movie fans will geek out seeing the beach from “Chariots of Fire” – and the soundtrack will surely repeat itself in your head. This 5-star luxury hotel is less than 1.5 hr north of Edinburgh on the east coast of Scotland.

The lobby of Rusacks St. Andrews

When we arrive for our one night stay, the lobby is bustling with excited golfers (tip: if you’re arriving by car and don’t know where to park, you’re fine. Just park slightly off the road in front of the hotel and the valet will work it out for you). We make our way to the front desk, where our concierge takes us under his wing. His name is Gordon Jackson, he says in a thick Scottish accent, “like the actor,” and we’ve never forgotten his name since.

He guides us up to our suite and graciously shows us every feature we might need to know about. As this was a partnered stay for photography, we didn’t know which room we’d be in (it’s always a bit of a surprise on these collaborations). The hotel has chosen a room in the newer extension for us, a Swilcan King with balcony (named for the Swilcan bridge on the course that you can see from the room). It’s a cosy room, long and narrow, with a lush emerald green velvet comforter and a beautiful bathroom designed in maroons and deep teals. We’re overlooking the Old Course, and have come here while the “150th” grand stands are up. For golfers, this is mesmerizing.

As a photographer, I will admit I was hoping for something a bit higher to shoot over the cars more easily on the street right below our balcony and get a better view of the course with the long, expansive West Sands Beach behind it, but alas… the stands covered that up for us (many people would argue those stands are more exciting and I can appreciate that). And, with my huge telephoto lens attracting attention from the passersby under us, I felt more like paparazzi than a travel photographer, so I didn’t end up using the balcony much. If we’re able to stay again, I would love to stay in the original 1880s building, a bit higher up, but that’s our personal preference. It was still a lovely room.

Swilcan King with Balcony

We pop into the One Under Bar, which is quiet this time of the afternoon, and we don’t mind a bit. We take a booth and split haddock and chips (because we are starving from not eating lunch during our drive over, but have a big dinner ahead of us). We giggle as the American teens next to us jabber away – they’ve been here before while their parents are golfing. The decor is proper pub, and again, very cosy. Thank you to the serving staff – who kindly put our split meal onto two separate plates without us even asking.

It’s fairly grey weather while we’re there, which sets the mood when we walk into St. Andrews. It’s a short skip a few blocks from the hotel, and if we’d had more time, would definitely love to pop into the stores when more of them were open. It’s steeped in history and charm. We wander down to the course itself, too, as it’s closed on Sundays, so you can have a walk around on it yourself. From there, we walk past the stands to the ocean expanse beyond, which is moody and windy that day.

St. Andrews
West Sands Beach (you might recognize it from “Chariots of Fire”)

The highlight of the trip is dinner at Rusacks’ rooftop restaurant 18. It’s led by award winning chef Derek Johnstone, serving the very best seasonal and locally sourced Scottish beef, seafood and game. We have a great table overlooking their mini putting green on the balcony, with a higher view of the Old Course and West Sands Beach beyond. It’s the perfect perspective. The server walks us through all their choice cuts, and is incredibly knowledgeable and patient.

Halfway through our meal, an American couple are sat next to us. We strike up a conversation (it would be weird not to), and it’s their first time here as well. Fun dinner companions: talking about our adventures on previous Scotland trips and their itinerary plans ahead.

After we eat our three course meal and are stuffed to the brim, we say farewell to our new friends, and try our hand at the putting green. It’s obvious we’re not here for the golf, but we give on-lookers inside a good laugh, enjoy the sunset for a few moments, and retreat back to our room.

The room is lit by street lanterns outside, giving it a soft orange hue in the evening. We drink a night-cap of gin, maneuver the heavy velvet curtains to block out the majority of the street light, but not enough to keep the morning sun out, and we’re off to sleep in the huge king sized bed that properly sucks you in with just the right amount of weight from the covers (for those of you who love that feeling… you’ll appreciate that).

Morning gives away to a sunnier day, and we venture down for breakfast (I do feel like our main events are all food-centered, and it’s for good reason here). This time, we’re at The Bridge. The lovely hostess asks us to take a seat in the lounge until she clears a table off for us by the window. Where it was full of teenagers the day before, the lounge is quiet and nearly empty this morning. TJ gets to play a quick game of pool with himself (I’m too busy snapping photos), and – our table is ready!

It’s worth the short wait. We settle in to a corner table looking out at the course, which is perfect for me trying to inconspicuously take photos. We’ve just missed the main breakfast rush of golfers before they head out for the day, which is ideal for us watching them play.

I choose the Buttermilk Scotch Pancakes. I’m typically gluten sensitive, but I took the risk because it sounded too delicious to pass on. I’m happy to inform you, I didn’t have much issue – which is always amazing when you decide to “cheat.” Fluffy with a hint of lavender combined with strawberries and vanilla cream: incredible combo.

The Bridge

From there, it’s time to check out and pay our bill. We have a last good chat with yet another cheerful concierge while we wait for our valet to bring our car around. Our pal Gordon wasn’t working that morning, and we missed saying thank you to him, so thank you, Gordon! You are a delight who shall not be forgotten.

Rusacks St. Andrews is a beautiful property, and if you find yourself planning a trip to the lovely town of St. Andrews, I recommend it for a comfortable and delicious stay, whether you’re a golfer or not.

You can book via Marine and Lawn: https://marineandlawn.com/rusacksstandrews/

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