As the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge prepare to embark on a new chapter of their lives together as new parents, we explore the Scottish land of Fife where a fond friendship flourished into great love in the picturesque town of St Andrews.
Little did Kate Middleton know the implications of her decision when she opted to study history of art in Scotland’s oldest university – dating as far back as 1411. But sharing a house with the eligible Prince William in their second and third year of university after meeting in their halls of residence, a romance soon blossomed into one of the country's favourite fairytales ever told.
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Steeped in rich history, with winding cobbled streets and secluded coastal views, the far eastern corner of the ancient kingdom of Fife provided the perfect romantic backdrop. And despite being home to a sparse 16,000 inhabitants – with a shortage of nightclubs and shops – what the university’s post-study entertainment might have lacked was made up for by the breathtaking natural beauty of the area.
Situated 60 miles north of Edinburgh and named after Saint Andrew the Apostle, the quaint village of cosy country cottages and sheep scattered fields prides itself on tradition. Known as the ‘home of golf', St Andrews' six centuries of golfing tradition are encapsulated in 11 golf courses, one being the oldest in the world, called Old Course. Other outdoor activity traditions include ‘pier walks’ and surfing which were regularly enjoyed by Prince William and Kate during their studies.
Glimpses of their scholar life were kept well away from media scrutiny, enabling the couple everything a normal university experience should entail – Prince William was even late to his first lecture!
Their first encounter was in 2001 when the young students both opted to stay in the ivy-clad St Salvator's hall, better known as Sallies, which was home to 189 undergraduates. But it was at a charity fashion show in the famous Fairmont St Andrews in 2002 when Kate really caught William's eye. The 19-year-old from Berkshire was strutting down the catwalk in a see-through knitted dress, recently sold for £78,000.
If the young couple weren’t enjoying a cider at Ma Bell's, the basement bar in St Andrews Golf Hotel, or dining at the Jahangir Indian restaurant – where you can now see a framed photo of the young Prince, they would visit the West Port Bar & Kitchen and sit in a quiet downstairs booth just to the right of the front door. For a more romantic affair, Hotel Ogstons restaurant on North street and Old Course Hotel with its adjoining Jigger Inn pub, were also popular joints.
With the stunning West Sands beach and idyllic scenic landscapes, it's no wonder one in ten students at St Andrews find their soul mates while studying. This was certainly the case for royal sweethearts William and Kate, who graduated hand in hand in 2005. The firm foundations of their relationship have since progressed to their wedding in 2011, crowned the wedding of the century, and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their first child in 2013, to be third-in-line to the throne.
And going back to where it all began, the couple took a trip down memory lane to Scotland for the St Andrews University’s 600th anniversary celebrations in February. Patron William stated happily "I have been able to lead as 'normal' a student life as I could have hoped for and I'm very grateful to everyone, particularly the locals." The Queen's grandson then went on to explain the sentimental significance of St Andrews to them, saying, "this is a very special moment for Catherine and me. It feels like coming home".