St Andrews pulled out all the stops last weekend and proudly showed those big cities that it was more than capable of keeping up in the festival stakes.
St Andrews food and drink festival was a nine day long event and I arrived on Saturday morning armed with a list, my camera and comfy trainers, and my mum and daughter, ready to sample St Andrews finest.
The town was buzzing with tourists and locals alike, cheerily shopping for gifts and filling the cafes and restaurants. St Andrews is a beautiful historical town all year but this weekend it was truly magical. Shops were lit up with sparkly colourful lights and traditional christmas decorations hung from shelves and windows. Festive songs played inside and out and the atmosphere was fantastic.
The Visit Scotland shop had invited along some local producers with samples. Janetta’s Ice cream had a cart filled with tiny pots of creamy deliciousness and Author Richard Falconer was also there selling copies of his fantastic books, Ghosts of Fife and Ghosts of St Andrews. The town hall hosted the military wives choir and the award-winning SRUC Elmwood hospitality team of chef lecturers and students cooked up fresh Scottish meals.
The small independent shops threw open their door and warmly welcomed people with mulled wine and trays of samples, in particular I loved the Old Cheese Shop, a wonderful old fashioned shop down an alley, lit with sparkly Christmas lights and filled with every cheese you could think of. A few doors down Iain Burnett’s Chocolate shop held an evening of tasting and had samples of his fantastic artisan gourmet truffle chocolate, which I just had to try even though I’ve had it before here.
Events were held all over town, restaurants put on special festival deals and we had dinner at The Doll’s House, which I had been wanting to try forever. I had a tasty mushroom and blue cheese flan, followed by pork loin and mustard mash. The portions were small but that was more than ok considering I felt a bit like a stuffed turkey after all those samples. We all felt stuffed, so after dinner we headed down to the beach for a long chilly wintery walk to burn off the calories. Scotland’s beaches are magical during the winter, and this beach especially, the light was fading, stray tourists hung around watching the choppy water and it proved an excellent chance for some moody dark photos.
In the evening we went along to the University of St Andrews’ Observatory for an open evening, you can read about this here.
On Sunday I visited again, this time with my friend and my daughter and headed straight to the stunning Old Course Hotel for their Christmas Emporium. I could easily have spent all day here, there were two massive rooms full of craft stalls, local producers and businesses selling everything from chutneys, handmade scarfs and tablet to soap, beer and books. There was an excellent area for kids with Santa, elves and plenty games and activities and the restaurants served up hog roast and afternoon tea. The hotel was decorated beautifully in all its Christmassy finery and the entire hotel was opened up for us to look around.
We then headed into the city centre for the St Andrew Day celebrations, heading to South Street where the majority of the events were to be held. The road was closed off and a massive stage set up at one end. We wrapped up and got comfy, with a soup from one of my favourite cafes in St Andrews, Fabulous, to watch the Siamsoir Irish dance troupe on the stage. Street theatre was provided by the Byre youth theatre and they were brilliant keeping the kids amused, dancing and playing games. As light faded the street began to fill up and the atmosphere was electric as Anderson McGinty Webster Fisher, a folk rock band took to the stage. The crowd danced and sang along as the band revved them up ready for the main act. By the time Eddi Reader came on stage the street was packed, staff were hanging out their shop windows and students partied in their rooms above. Eddi was brilliant, hilariously funny and sang some proper Scottish anthems and some of her own hauntingly beautiful ballads. It was the perfect end to a hectic, busy but excellent weekend. And what’s even better is that it’s all happening again next year!