THIS summer The Open returns to St Andrews and the world of golf will descend on the picturesque Fife town. Before the mayhem (good mayhem) descends, you can get your own walking experience of the venue, as well as a touch of cinematic glamour.
This walk begins on West Sands, just next to the famous R&A Clubhouse. The long beach was used in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots Of Fire, and if you can avoid jogging along part of it and singing “Da-da-da-da da da!” you have more self-restraint than me.
After this, you reach the important nature reserve around the Eden Estuary – this is a place where birdsong fills the air before you reach the golf courses, of which there are a number. The most famous, the Old Course, leads you back to the iconic buildings surrounding the 18th green.
Access will be restricted during The Open in July so it is best to avoid this walk then.
DISTANCE 5 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible.
TIME 1∫ to 2∫ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 59.
PARK There is a car park behind the R&A Clubhouse, next to the British Golf Museum, which is currently being upgraded.
IN SUMMARY Head back out of the car park and turn right to follow the road round to the left, behind temporary stands built next to the first fairway of the Old Course. After a few hundred yards go right, down a slipway and on to West Sands.
The beach stretches ahead for a little over two miles before bearing left as the Eden Estuary is met at Out Head. Go up the dunes at this point to reach a white flagpole. Just beyond this take a path on the right which runs behind the dunes, up the estuary. With a golf course on your left, continue carefully past an eighth tee and stay next to the estuary.
Take care not to stray on to an adjacent green and fairway to reach another tee. After this you reach a track used by green-keeping vehicles. Continue along the track in the same direction and then follow it left, away from the estuary, between the Old Course and the Eden Course.
Ignore grass tracks on either side and on reaching a fork in the main track (at a pink cottage which is actually a toilet block) go left. Go left again at the next junction of tracks and continue to the Old Course Hotel. The track continues past the Jigger Inn and on to a road which takes you along the final hole of the Old Course, and back to the R&A Clubhouse with the car park beyond.
It is important to be aware of incoming tides and don’t go out into the Eden Estuary as the water can overwhelm you. If necessary, leave the beach and follow it from a path above the dunes. Also, it is polite to be respectful of golfers and be prepared to pause while they play shots.
REFRESH The Jigger Inn, passed near the end, is an iconic watering hole of golf. Otherwise, there is a superb choice in St Andrews.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA St Andrews is a great place to explore – the castle and the cathedral are the obvious places to head; both are looked after by Historic Scotland (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk).
Or try the Scottish Deer Centre just before Cupar if going west on the A91 (www.tsdc.co.uk). n