Aside from visiting tourist attractions and historical sites, the real flavor of a city or town can be learned and enjoyed by visiting places the locals do. Explore the town by walking not just on the major streets, but on side streets and look down alleys as well.
Because it was September, we observed the ritual of students and parents unloading their luggage prior to the start of the new year at St. Andrews University. It is a joy to look at all the quaint old stone houses oozing Scottish charm. If you pay attention, you’ll see a slice of Scottish daily life such as spotting a wee Westie dozing in a sunny window or the lady of the house seeing a table for tea.
We looked at house for sale postings in the window of a local real estate office, curious to learn what one would cost and dream of owning a charming cottage in the Scottish countryside.
We patronized several local shops (I highly recommend doing this for unusual finds and even better prices!):
- An Ironmonger – Ironmongers are interesting in the variety of goods they carry, beyond hardware and garden supplies. What drew me in were a colorful shelf full of Brown Betty teapots, which are actually cheaper to purchase here than at a souvenir shop.
- A gift shop where I purchased a pack of Christmas cards with Westies on them, that benefited a charity that helps dogs
- A pet supply to look for the perfect plaid dog collar and leash or dog coat.
- Thrift Stores – They had super clean clothing in like new condition and great prices. I saw cashmere and lambswool sweaters in excellent condition at a fraction of retail or tourist shop prices. My great find was a beautiful hand-knit cream-colored wool Fisherman’s sweater at a bargain price.
- Book Stores – You never know what treasure you might find. We dropped in at Quarto, an antiquarian book shop (now sadly closed) that carried rare and 1st edition books, including a 1st edition copy of Winnie the Pooh.
- Antique Stores, especially the ones featuring golf items. Not cheap, but the perfect place to find a unique gift for the golfer on your list who has everything. A genuine 1840 featherie golf ball for £7000, anyone?!
We did visit some shops aimed at tourists. The old St Andrews Woolen Mill was closing and having a great clearance sale. I got a sweater with a Westie on it for only $16 instead of $60 a catalog back in the states was asking for it. Also got great bargains on leather gloves and other cold weather clothing.
Because I owned two Westies at the time, I went into several gift shops including James Pirie (that has been in business for over 100 years) in search of figurines of my favorite breed.
There are lots of local eateries. Try a pub for an authentic meal. One day, we ate lunch at Playfair’s Bar located in The Pilmour Hotel. Definitely a Scottish pub setting, we had the place almost to ourselves. Husband had a McEwan’s 80 shillings, grilled tuna with chips (fries) and pea pods. I had chicken in a yummy Gorgonzola sauce. Another day, lunch was at No. 33 (South Street), a restaurant recommended by a friend of my husband’s. A charming little French Bistro with lace curtains in the windows, we had the place to ourselves owing to it being almost 2pm. (Tip: If restaurant hours allow it, eat at any time other than normal meal hour.) A tasty meal of good poached haddock, chips and veggies and homemade apple pie with cream for dessert. Sadly, No. 33 is no longer in business.