Literary City Guide | ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND

The rose of all the world is not for me.
I want for my part
Only the little white rose of Scotland
That smells sharp and sweet—and breaks the heart.
— Hugh MacDiarmid

Tour Guide: Kelsey Swintek

Kelsey loves black coffee and postcards in her mailbox. She resides in New York City, writing and ordering office supplies. She’s sometimes elsewhere, taking photos with her late grandfather’s 35mm Nikon. Find more of her work on her website and on Instagram. (Photos by Kelsey Swintek)



Relationship to St. Andrews: 4-year resident from 2011-2015

Writer you’d like to invite to dinner: Chloe Caldwell

Chef you’d like to prepare the meal: Ina Garten

Writing soundtrack:  The sounds of the seaside

Pen or Pencil: Pen (Blue BIC)

Coffee or Tea? Coffee

Paperback or Hardback? Either, as long as the pages aren’t textured


Good Reads


Bouquiniste. Located past the bustle of the high street shops, at the quiet end of the road, the only invitation is a weathered sign—“BOOKS.” When you walk in to the shop, you are enveloped by the scent of old books. You wear it for the remainder of the day. Go in, get lost in the stacks.

Topping & Co. This space on Greyfriar’s is what bookworm dreams are made of. Floor to ceiling shelves of colorful spines, rolling ladders, leather couches and the staff even brings you a complimentary pot of tea while you browse.

Barnardos. A charity bookshop in a student town—find any literary classic second-hand and it won’t cost more than the change you have in your coat pocket.


King James Library. Dating from the 17th century, the library houses two stories of books and manuscripts, cased in glass. The only audible sound is the creak of the wooden door; muted light cascades from south wall of windows. If you’re early (or lucky), you’ll get an oversized oak desk—a private 2- by 3-foot depository for your stacks of textbooks, laptop, water bottle and thoughts.

Richardson Research Library at Martyr’s Kirk. I always thought this place was just a myth—it seems so perfect that I’ve considered returning for a graduate degree. Each desk has an individual heater, double-sockets and touch-sensitive dimmable poise lamps. If you can sneak past the swipe entry (access to grad students and professors only), you’re golden.


Topping & Co. The bookstore hosts authors frequently for readings, talks and always snacks.

StAnza. Scotland’s international poetry festival takes place in St Andrews each year. The spring event features some of the U.K’s well-established poets and emerging voices, and draws poets, editors, translators and poetry-lovers from all over the world.


University of St Andrews. The School of English hosts research events through its four research groups (Medieval and Renaissance, 18th century, Romantic and Victorian, and Creative Writing.) Events are open to members of the School and to the public and are usually free of charge unless otherwise stated.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club. The foundations of the postcard Clubhouse were first laid in 1853, a century after the founding of the globally-renowned golf institution.  St Andrews is recognized as the ‘home of golf,’ as the rules of the game were first written in the stone walls of this structure.

Good Eats


Taste. Warm up with a latte at the windowsill in Taste, where you can peek at the North Sea just up the road.

Cottage Kitchen. Perfect for tea-drinkers. The friendly staff lets you sniff and whiff from the selection of loose tea canisters behind the counter, before choosing your perfect pot.

Northpoint. “Where Kate met Wills!….for coffee”—the banner hangs in the window and off-the-bus tourists stop in the middle of the road to snap a photo, while you’re just enjoying the scone of the day. If you’re a sweet tooth, try “the Malteaser.”


Balgove Larder. Home grown, home reared, local produce served in a converted barn filled with wooden crates. Be sure to give your regards to the iconic Highland cows and sheep on your way out.

Blackhorn. Best burger in town—go here if you’re hungry.

Little Italy. Red wax drips down the candle stem at the center of your gingham-clad table and the walls are crowded with tacky artwork—a portrait of the Godfather, an Italian sports car, a panorama of Venice. This is where you find authentic, food-coma-inducing Italian cuisine in the Scottish countryside.

The Adamson. Slightly upscale, award-winning local favorite. Top off your meal with a cocktail at the trendy adjoining bar.