What is the best pub in St Andrews?

Lewis Frain tackles the difficult job of ranking all the great pubs of St Andrews.

St Andrews is truly blessed. Often derided for its nightlife and lack of clubs what St Andrews can boast above most other places in the UK is a great number and huge variety of different pubs. A staple of any proper town we have a mix of dance-y bars, Scottish inns and Wetherspoon style pub and grub places (though curiously still no Wetherspoons).

Surely, it is time to rank them in a wholly unscientific and entirely subjective way. All aspects of pubs have been considered, particularly atmosphere, quality of drink, events and price. The union and VIC are excluded as are several bars that are in hotels etc. because honestly this list has taken up a lot of my time and thoroughly damaged my liver. There should also be a tribute to our dearly departed Drouthy Neebors, it was a classic Scottish pub that I wish I’d been too just a few more times.

If I were you I wouldn’t read too much into the order here. Whilst I have attempted to be balanced and take in other people’s opinions this is largely my list. Everyone has their own preferences and each pub has something different to offer so let’s use this as a celebration of all the great drinking establishments of St Andrews. Either that or you can abuse me incessantly for taking myself too seriously or getting this list horribly wrong:

18th Golf Inn:

Nothing necessarily wrong with this place but honestly how many of you have been in for a drink? Didn’t think so.

17th Innis and Gunn:

This is actually a nice place but the problem is that it’s just so small, you can never get a seat. Also, as much as Innis and Gunn is great beer it’s also a tad expensive and there isn’t much variety. Props must be given to the giant beer steins though

16th Dunvegan:

I’m actually a fan of this pub, it’s often busy with golfers and has some really great golfing memorabilia. For this exact reason is probably why a lot of you didn’t even know this pub existed and why I’m the sort of guy that loves pubs enough to put them in order. I’m basically an old man so Dunvegan gets a tick from me though really don’t know how many other students ever go in there.

15th West Port:

Very fancy bar with some quality cocktails. Said fanciness indicates that the West Port can be pricey and combine that with how it functions as a nice restaurant as well is perhaps why I really haven’t found myself going there that much.

14th Greyfriars:

Recently given a slightly new look, I feel this is a somewhat underrated pub. It has a fine selection of drinks available and is great for watching sport.

13th Ma Bells:

This is where the controversy really comes in. For years Ma Bells held some of the best and certainly the sweatiest nights out in town. Any kind of music would blare out at ridiculous volume and a packed crowd would struggle to dance without standing on their friend’s feet. I couldn’t tell you how much a drink was cause you’d no chance of getting served. It was grim, it was beautiful. A few fire alarms later though and Ma Bells is not what it once was. Rumours of the return of Ma Bells Tuesdays are welcome but I struggle to believe it will ever relive its former glory.

12th Hams Hame:

This basement pub is frequently used by the St Andrews men’s golf club, whether or not that’s appealing is entirely up to you but this pub is surely a candidate for the best located pub in town, right next to the Old Course’s 18th green.

11th Rascals:

It seems like Rascals is St Andrews’ best kept food secret. Specialists in comfort food the extensive menu offers its grub in great servings also. It may not be too busy once food service is finished but recently more and more events have been popping up at the North Street bar, definitely one to watch.

10th Keys:

This historic Market Street pub has been unfairly labelled as “the locals bar” by some. Whilst the majority of its customers are local residents, students are more than welcome and a mixed group makes for a buzzing atmosphere. The Keys is also notable for its excellent and extensive collection of whisky, the best place if you want a taste of Scotland’s finest.

9th The Rule:

In its latest iteration (seriously how many refurbishments has it had?) The Rule presents itself no longer as a Wetherpoons clone but now as one of St Andrews’ best event venues. Tunes courtesy of DJ Ian, formerly of Lizzard, is always going to be a major plus and the beer garden out the back also makes The Rule one of the best spots for drinking on a warm day.

8th The Adamson:

The classiest bar in town, The Adamson certainly comes with a reputation. There may be a long wait for the impressive cocktails but it’s worth it for some of the best drinks you can get anywhere in St Andrews. A student’s wallet may not mean frequent visits but we also know how much St Andrews loves to be extravagant, this is definitely the best place for that.

7th The Jigger Inn:

Along with The Keys and Criterion, The Jigger Inn is one of the most historic pubs in St Andrews. Right alongside the famous golf links it offers an unrivalled and iconic view of the townscape. With a large fire and great food and drink the Jigger is definitely the closest to a traditional Scottish inn St Andrews has. Well worth the walk up the links to get there.

6th Whey Pat Tavern:

Some may be surprised that the Whey Pat is so high up this list (I really wouldn’t read too much into my placements though). A major reason it has to be said are the famous Whey Pat nachos. They are well worthy of the hype and crucially are served right up until 11pm. Beyond that though the Whey Pat is frequented by a great variety of students, locals and tourists which consistently results in one of the best atmospheres in town.

5th Central:

A candidate for the nicest looking pub in St Andrews The Central’s classic aesthetic and island bar are definitely its most appealing aspects. The only real drawback being its higher prices. Its extensive selection of drinks and outdoor seating make it a gem of a pub that’s probably the perfect spot in town for a nice chilled drink.

4th The Criterion:

A proper traditional boozer, but in all the best ways. The Criterion is an absolutely gorgeous historical pub adorned with a great selection of photos of St Andrews’ past. With perhaps the finest collection of draught and bottled beers of any of the pubs on this list The Criterion is also home to the famous Cri-Pies. If you haven’t tried them do yourself a favour and have one soon, absolutely delightful.

3rd The Blue Stane:

For me, the Stane has a bit of everything. Its food menu means it fills the Wetherspoons shaped hole in the town, it’s always rammed full whenever a big football or rugby match is on, it has a great collection of drinks at some of the best prices and has jukebox and pool table as well. The Blue Stane is one of the few pubs it seems everybody enjoys to some degree and that alone makes it worthy of the high placing.

2nd St Andrews Brewing Company:

An absolute favourite of St Andrews. Possibly the most unique bar in the whole town, Brewco boasts an incredible selection of their own produce as well as craft beers, ciders and an extensive gin collection that is totally unrivalled. Add to that the great lodge-style aesthetic and consistently good music you get a bar that will live long in the memory after we leave St Andrews.

1st Aikmans:

On the face of it Aikmans should be nowhere near top. The décor of the upstairs in particular is more than a little dated and even with two bars it is quite small. Yet I still firmly believe that Aikmans is the best pub in St Andrews. There is just something about it. It’s always open late, it’s always fun and it’s full of a great variety of people. Its home to great live music but also saw the introduction of something as unique as Wax Collective. There is no rival for Aikmans in terms of character. For others it may be just another pub like the many discussed in this list but for me it is wrapped up in one sweaty, cramped and alcohol filled package, one of the best things about going to St Andrews. In short, it is everything a pub should be.

So there it is the highly unofficial, hugely controversial and yet definitive ranking of the pubs in St Andrews. We should probably do a poll and see what the people make of this but until then I’m off, Aikmans anyone?

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