HAVING charmed students, golfers, history lovers and beachcombers for generations, St Andrews doesn’t need much in the way of an introduction.

As far as visitor attractions go, the home of golf - which also happens to be home to Scotland’s oldest university and some of its most beautiful beaches – has it all.

And although the unique atmosphere of this beautiful town in north east Fife never seems to change, the shops and restaurants do move with the times, bringing new life to the cobbled streets.

Even when you know St Andrews well, it’s a place that constantly draws you back to check out new attractions and reacquaint yourself with old favourites. Happy St Andrews day, indeed.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Stornoway

Historic highlights

Named after Saint Andrew the Apostle, whose relics are said to have been taken there in 732, the town has been an important religious centre for 1,500 years.

St Andrews grew around its cathedral, built in 1158, which was the headquarters of the Scottish church in Medieval times. In 1559, during the Reformation, it was ransacked by supporters of John Knox and left to ruin.

St Andrews University was founded in 1410 and is the third oldest in the English-speaking world, after Oxford and Cambridge. Prince William graduated in 2005, having met his future wife, fellow student Kate Middleton, there.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews, formed in 1754, is the oldest and most prestigious club in the world.

These days most people who live in St Andrews work in hospitality, tourism and higher education.

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What to do

A walk from West Port to the harbour, weaving your way in and out of the three main thoroughfares, South Street, Market Street and North Street, never disappoints.

Off North Street, you’ll find the beautiful university quadrangle and the magnificent Younger Hall, which is, says Kevin Munro, “a fantastic building with wonderful gardens to the rear - always worth a visit.”

Cut through one of the ancient wynds to The Scores and you’ll reach St Andrews Castle (historicenvironment.scot), built around 1200 as a home to the town’s bishops. Laura Sturrock says: “I went to school in St Andrews and my favourite beach is the small but lovely Castle Sands below, which also contains the remnants of the old open-air swimming pool. Pupils from Madras College used to swim there – brrrrrr!”

Walk on and you will come to the Cathedral ruins (historicenvironment.scot), and from here’s it’s just a short hop to the harbour, where you’ll find boats bobbing, seagulls crying and creels piled up. Walk out to the end of the peer, then along the compact East Sands. Kids will love the playpark above, and if all this makes you peckish, pop into the wonderfully unpretentious Harbour Café for some of their famous tattie soup.

Walk back along The Scores and you’ll come out at the Aquarium (standrewsaquarium.co.uk); don’t miss the penguin feeding session at 2pm.

From there, you’ll enjoy panoramic views across the Old Course and onwards to the town’s crowning glory, the West Sands. Made famous in the closing scene of film Chariots of Fire, the beach stretches for more than two miles, providing spectacular – if windy – walking all year round, as well as a range of water and beach sports (blownaway.co.uk).

Nearby you can also try your hand at arguably the world’s best putting course, known locally as the Himalayas (standrewsputtingclub), while taking in views of the iconic 18th hole of the Old Course next door. You can even pop across the 18th on the footpath and get a selfie at the famous Swilken Bridge. The nearby British Golf Museum (britishgolfmuseum.co.uk) is also a must for fans of the game.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Stornoway

Gin lovers, meanwhile, should visit the new Eden Mill Blend Works (edenmill.com), just below the nearby Rusacks Hotel, where you learn about the history of the drink and even blend your own.

Another great walking spot can be found at the 18-acre Botanic Gardens in Cannongate (standrewsbotanic.org), which has more than 8000 native and exotic plants laid out in woodland, meadows, ponds and glass houses. There's also a wonderful butterfly house.

Where to eat

If it’s a good fish supper you’re after, you’ve come to the right place, since St Andrews has two award-winning chippies. Cromars in Union Street has both sit-in and takeaway options and a vast menu of seafood treats, as does the Tailend on Market Street.

If you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket, the Seafood Ristorante on the Bruce Embankment, just off The Scores, is “top notch” according to Ross Macdonad. “Not the cheapest, but a brilliant location by the sea, with floor to ceiling glass windows offering beautiful views over the West Sands. The John dory is phenomenal.”

Playfairs, on North Street, also serves excellent local seafood, and has a reputation with locals and visitors for its steaks.

Former St Andrews student Helen McArdle recommends North Point café, also on North Street. “Pancakes there are a post-essay/exam institution,” she says. “Delicious.” The café is also reputed to be one of the places where Prince William wooed the now Duchess of Cambridge.

Just outside the main town, Balgove Farm Shop and Larder is also winning a legion of fans from near and far. Karen Carruth says: “The evening steak barn is a tremendous night out. A huge BBQ in the middle of the barn where chefs throwing cuts of meat on all night. Dine at long benches with a cosy blanket over the legs for the chillier nights.”

The Cottage Kitchen, on Logies Lane, is great for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea, and does a great Sunday lunch.

And for many who know the town well, Janetta’s on South Street, is the only place to go for ice cream (more than 100 flavours), milkshakes and floats.

Scotland's Insider Guide: Stornoway

Where to shop

Burns on Market Street is a much-loved old-fashioned sweet shop with jars full of our favourite childhood flavours, as well as every modern candy you could think of.

J&G Innes, another local institution, has been selling newspapers and magazines, art supplies, books, gifts and maps for generations from its beautiful old building in South Street.

A more recent addition is Topping and Company booksellers, in Greyfriars Gardens. As well as a vast stock of books, it also runs a great programme of author events. The open fire is a lovely touch, too.

Aucherlonies, on Golf Place, has been golf heaven since 1895, but especially now that it has specialist ladies and “pre-owned” shops as well as the main store.

And for those looking to take home some foodie treats, the Farmer’s Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month, from 9am till 1pm, in the Argyle Street car park.

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Where to stay

Luxury: Celebrity favourite The Old Course Hotel offers an elegant resort experience and great views from £175 a night.

Best location: Situated right on The Scores, overlooking the sea, the boutique Hotel Du Vin offers great food and quirky rooms. From £115 per night.

Cosy: Braeview, a lovely modern studio in a 200-year-old converted cottage just 10 minutes outside the town, is available through Airbnb.com for £50 a night. Sleeps two.

What to do nearby

For a lovely walk or cycle you can’t beat Tentsmuir Forest, near Tayport. Excellent picnic and play areas, and fascinating Second World War history to boot.

Craigtoun Country Park has long been a favourite with Fifers of all ages for it’s boating pond, steam train, woodland walks, trampolines and play areas.

In the coming weeks I'll be visiting North Berwick and Tobermory. I'd love to hear your hints, tips and recommendations. Please send them to: marianne.taylor@heraldandtimes.co.uk