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Our pilgrimage to St Andrews, by way of the beautiful Rufflets hotel

Rufflets is traditional, authentic and luxurious.
Rufflets is traditional, authentic and luxurious.

My weekend in St Andrews felt like a forage into history in more ways than one.

The childhood home of my maternal granny, it offered both a chance to reflect and a chance to escape.

Like every other family, Covid has chewed us up and spat us out again. So I leapt at the opportunity to take a road trip from Wick with my mum for a spot of R&R.

And my goodness, I can’t think of many better places for it than Rufflets.

Rufflets hotel, St Andrews.

Nestled in the countryside just outside St Andrews, Rufflets has an easy charm.

We arrived in the evening to a warm welcome and were shown up to our room. My mum – never a fan of pomp and faff – was delighted to be given a key instead of a flashy swipe card.

That’s the thing about Rufflets. It’s not too concerned with contemporary trends or modern bells and whistles. It’s about traditional, authentic, luxury and comfort.

The pretty gardens at Rufflets.

Built in 1924 as a private home, Rufflets became one of Scotland’s first country house hotels. And much of its charm probably derives from the fact that it has been run by three generations of the same family.

It feels lovingly cared for.

Fresh, seasonal food

Our twin bedroom was spacious, and decorated with antique furniture and quality fabrics. The original sash and case windows overlooked the gardens. The large bathroom featured a freestanding bath and Molten Brown toiletries.

The bedrooms are spacious and stylish.

Downstairs, it’s all thick pile carpets and original artworks.

The restaurant is more contemporary, but equally welcoming. My mum’s mushroom bruschetta starter was generous and appetising, while I opted for a delicious smoked fish with sharp pickled vegetables.

Rufflets cuisine features vegetables grown in the hotel’s own kitchen garden. Picture by Nicola Sinclair.

For the main courses, mum had venison so tender it melted in her mouth, while I had a delicious chicken dish with seasonal vegetables.

One of Rufflets’ greatest treasures is its kitchen garden, ensuring all the dishes are bursting with the finest local produce.

For pudding, a decadent cheesecake and a crisp white chocolate tart.

A delicious white chocolate tart for dessert. Picture by Nicola Sinclair.

We finished our night with a gin and a port in the hotel bar. I was delighted to see a great range of gins on offer, and the barman was happy to help me pick.

Breathtaking gardens

Next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we couldn’t wait to explore the Rufflets gardens. Even in February it was obvious how special these are.

The Rufflets team told me the gardeners are currently hard at work, getting the gardens ready for the hotel’s centenary in 2024.

We ventured outside of the more formal walled garden, and crossed a picture-perfect bridge over a stream. It was so peaceful, with only the birds and snowdrops for company.

Picture by Nicola Sinclair

Once we dragged ourselves away from Rufflets, we drove into St Andrews for a wander. A 10-minute drive took us straight into the town centre.

My golf-mad partner may never forgive me for taking my mum to the home of golf instead of him. But St Andrews has so much more to offer than golf.

The town itself dates back to 1140, and was one of the largest towns in medieval Scotland. All that history is beautifully preserved, and it made for a charming Sunday morning walk.

I was surprised to find a great range of shops, including well-kent high street names alongside quirky local stores.

History steals the show

However it’s the cathedral and university buildings that really steal the show here. The once-magnificent church was the largest in Scotland and the seat of our leading bishops.

St Andrews town centre is rich in history. Picture by Nicola Sinclair.

Even as a ruin, the towers and extensive enclosure walls of the cathedral still have an imposing presence on the town below.

Passing the cathedral, we walked along the beautiful sandy coastline and harbour. I was struck by how clean and well-preserved the streetscape and buildings are.

The various campuses of St Andrews University are dotted throughout the town, but certainly the most impressive is the main admissions building. St Andrews is the third-oldest English-speaking university in the world, and one of the most prestigious.

Certainly, it wears its reputation with pride.

University of St Andrews. Picture by Nicola Sinclair

Our afternoon was perfectly rounded off with a quick visit to Park Street. Admittedly, the unassuming little residential street isn’t in the tourist books. But it holds a special place in our hearts, because it’s where my maternal grandmother grew up.

She couldn’t remember the precise address, but did recall that it was one of the first bungalows built in the town.

As our loved ones grow older, we risk losing all their wonderful memories and stories. So it was poignant for myself and my mum to discover a little fragment of our own history, in this grandest of historic towns.

And I can only thank Rufflets for giving us the perfect resting spot on our journey.

The attractive restaurant at Rufflets.

Travel facts

Rufflets, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9TX

Tel: +44 (0) 1334 472594

Web: www.rufflets.co.uk

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