Pubs have been a central feature of British life for... well I was about to say "centuries" but that's perhaps not right, even though some that can be seen today do have origins that date back hundreds of years. Perhaps it's an age thing, but for us the heyday of the British pub was probably in the final quarter of the last century. Until then, and at the risk of a vastly over-simplified generalisation, pubs in cities tended to be fairly class-specific, and fairly gender-specific too. Outside cities, the village or country pub had more of a sense of an inn about it and was rather more inclusive. In the final quarter of the 1900s there was much more variety on offer with many more establishments taking a much more enlightened approach to what they were beginning to think of as their markets. Move things forward to today, and it is arguable that many more pubs are actually restaurants where you can also drink (which can be a good or bad thing, depending on what you want to do) or borderline clubs, and all are smoke-free, which made them much more pleasant if - literally - less atmospheric places.
It remains true that the pubs of a town or city add a huge amount of character to the place, and, perhaps paradoxically, that is especially true if the place in question already has a lot of character of its own. We've seen pub guides to Edinburgh and Glasgow before, but never one of St Andrews, which, now it's been filled, seems an obvious gap in the market. St Andrews is a town with a huge amount of character, an extremely compact historic centre, and a student population that is large as a proportion of the whole. Oh, and it's a Mecca for golfers from around the world. You'd think it would have a pretty good selection of pubs.
"St Andrews Pubs" by Gregor Stewart shows that the town is indeed home to a wealth of pubs. The author includes coverage of 30 within his guide, and for each he gives fairly large exterior - and often interior - photographs. There are also photographs of pub signs and of the many historic plaques found on or associated with St Andrews pubs, plus the occasional historical image where it helps the author make a point. The real joy of this book lies in the depth of research the author clearly undertook to produce potted histories of each of the pubs covered. For us these form the real core of the book and make it much more than a guide for those intending to visit and drink in one or more of the included pubs.
There is an introduction to St Andrews at the beginning of the book, and another at the start of its largest section, covering the historic town centre. We suspect that the most frequently used pages will be the ones containing a nice map showing the locations of the 30 pubs and a key cross-referring the map to the pubs. It might have been better if the numbers used for each pub on the map were also referred to in the individual entries about the pubs, but the key is not so long that finding them by name is a problem. "St Andrews Pubs" by Gregor Stewart is essential reading for anyone contemplating spending any time in St Andrews, whether to play golf, to study, or for any other reason.