A look back at the early days of the royal romance – and the beautiful Scottish town where it all began
What better place to fall in love with England’s most eligible bachelor than the famous St. Andrews, known as “Britain’s top match-making University”. Here’s a look back at where future monarchs Prince William and Kate Middleton shared time, drinks and life together while their love grew.
Their College Town: St. Andrews
The town of St. Andrews, 60 miles north of Edinburgh, is not only home to Scotland’s oldest University (founded in 1413), it’s also where two 19-year-old art history majors Kate Middleton and William Wales (as he was called back then) met as freshman in St. Salvator’s dorm. The small town (known for its Gothic architecture and as “the home of golf” thanks to the world-famous Old Course) allowed their love to bloom in relative privacy. “It is a gentle relationship that has been moving along slowly,” says a college pal.
Their Local Pub: Ma Bells
Sharing a flat by their sophomore year, William and Kate spent their nights at local pubs Ma Bells and West Port as well as the restaurant Pizza Express. Their days, said an onlooker, we spent “gazing into each others eyes” during rugby matches. “When they walk down the street,” added the pal, “they look happy and carefree.”
Their Date Night Spot: The Oak Rooms
For intimate dinners, William would take Kate to this restaurant in boutique hotel Ogstons on North Street – reportedly making reservations under a cheeky alias, and always arriving with the royal security team in tow. His favorite dish? The chicken fajitas, said a source. And while the couple were often affectionate and “very smoochy,” the source added, they did go Dutch when paying the check.
Their Luxe Retreat: Fairmont St. Andrews
During his university days, Prince William used to cool off in the pool at this world-class luxury resort and spa (a.k.a. The St. Andrews Bay Hotel) on the edge of town. But it was also the site of the couple’s hottest moment: It was here, at a charity student fashion show in March, 2002, that Kate first caught William’s attention, sashaying down the catwalk in that now-famous sheer black dress.
Their Weekend Getaway: Balmoral Castle
The Royal Family’s Scottish retreat, Balmoral Castle, continues to play a special role in William and Kate’s relationship. During college, the Prince would spirit Kate away for romantic weekends to Tam-na-Ghar, the three-bedroom “cottage” on the castle grounds given to him by Queen Elizabeth. Kate’s parents, Michael and Carole Middleton, were even spotted shooting at Birkhall, Prince Charles’s nearby home. But visitors beware: The grounds, gardens and exhibitions at Balmoral are closed to the public during certain months, when the Royal Family is in residence.
• With Reporting by Simon Perry and Monique Jessen