Beyond Open golf: discover Turnberry in Scotland

by jay

There's more to Turnberry than just golf. You can go walking, cycling, horse riding, malt whisky tasting, salmon fishing, sailing and castle bagging. Thats just for starters.

The Turnberry Lowdown

Turnberry is a small coastal settlement in the South West of Scotland and host to the 2009 Open Golf Championship. Turnberry village itself is dominated by the stunning 100 year old Westin Turnberry Resort, Spa and Golf Club, a five star property which stands on the hillside gazing across the famous greens of the Turnberry Golf club and beyond to the firth of Clyde.

Ailsa Craig the giant volcanic plug that rises dramatically out of the sea a few miles offshore gives its name to the Ailsa Championship Golf Course, one of a number of courses at Turnberry. Keen golfers will recognise it as the backdrop to the famous ‘duel in the sun’ between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson - the eventual victor of that 1977 Open Championship.

Open Golf Championships are no stranger to Ayrshire, with both the Royal & Ancient Troon Golf Club, and Prestwick Golf Club just 30 minutes drive north of Turnberry, and other popular courses such as Brunston Castle, Belleisle and Dundonald in relatively close proximity.Golfing aside, this part of rural south Ayrshire has many gems.

Getting away from the golf - my personal recommendations:

  • Culzean Castle and Country Park. Stunning attraction five minutes drive away. 
  • Souter Johnnies, a quaint thatched pub in the historic village of Kirkoswald
  • Dowhill Farm Shop and Cafe a minute south of Turnberry on the coast road.
  • Burn’s Country Smoke House in Minishant for local delicacies and cafe.
  • Auld Kirk Alloway, scotland's most haunted site made famous in the tale of Tam O’Shanter.
  • Burn's Cottage, birthplace of the poet Rabbie Burns in the attractive village of Alloway.
  • Girvan or Ayr harbour for a sail on the world’s last sea-going paddle steamer the Waverley.
  • Electric Brae, where cars and bicycles bizarrely appear to coast uphill. It really blows people away!
  • Wildings Restaurant in Maidens, for the freshest fish and local produce prepared perfectly
  • Shanter Riding Stables will take you for a ride along the beach and into Culzean Country Park.
  • Ayr Racecourse for the Scottish Grand National etc
  • Bladnoch Distillery the most southerly Whisky Distillery in Scotland. Take the tour and sample their wares.
  • Wigtown Booktown' Scotland's homage to literary landmark Hay-on-Wye.
Turnberry Tips:
At the Turnberry Resort Hotel residents and visitors alike ,can enjoy afternoon tea for around £20 in the elegant Grand Tea Room with its glorious views across the sea. Afterwards you can walk it off by following the public access path across the Kintyre Golf Course out to the famous Turnberry Lighthouse. Just ask the way at the starters hut behind the Colin Montgomerie Golf Academy, and watch out for flying golf balls!
Don't miss the fantastic display of golf memorabilia and trophies at the Turnberry Clubhouse, and take another chance to savour the view with a reasonably priced coffee and homemade shortbread in the clubhouse bar; also open to non-residents. The Malin Court Hotel is the other hotel in tiny Turnberry and has been awared 2 AA Rosettes for good food.

Not far from Turnberry is the smaller and fairly exclusive 5 Star Glenapp Castle Hotel in Ballantrae. A labour of love by its owners turned it from neglected run-down castle to the wow-factor place it is today, complete with a reputation for excellence in fine dining. Glenapp Castle won a Michelin star in 2007 and has three AA Rosettes.

Twenty minutes drive north is the ancient market town of Ayr, home to a few hotels that are popular with the golfing fraternity, including Western House Hotel at Ayr Racecourse which excels in good food, and the Fairfield House Hotel overlooking the seafront, which has a large car park and is perfectly located for a stroll around the lively town. Ayr is a traditional bucket and spade seaside holiday town, and has recently developed something of a cafe culture. High street stores are well represented in Ayr, and many of its independent shops, restaurants and retailers are held in high regard.

A little further north along the coast is Troon and another of the regular Open Golf Championship venues. There is a good choice of quality accommodation to recommend. A few minutes drive from Royal Troon Golf Course is the award winning Lochgreen House Hotel. Only a few minutes walk away from Troon's Royal and Ancient golf course is the 4 Star Piersland House Hotel. The well tended garden makes this an attractive location, especially in spring and summer when the flowers are in bloom.  The keen golfer's ultimate hotel location must be a bedroom overlooking the eighteenth hole. The Barcelo Marine Hotel, Troon offers just that and is full of character. I love the leisure facilities and swimming pool at this grand old hotel. Scotts of Troon is a stylish restaurant at the Marina which specialises in steaks and seafood at mid-range prices. Lunchtime in Troon can be a bargain with 'two for the price of one' main courses at Taco's Mexican Restaurant    Tired of silver service and linen tablecloths? Then head on down to The Wee Hurrie Chippie, Troon Docks at tea-time for fish and chips cooked to perfection and served in paper with a wooden fork. Slumming it never tasted so good! Their next-door neighbour Maccallums Oyster Bar & Restaurant  makes a fine alternative

The Turnberry Resort Hotel, Spa and Golf Club would definitely be my first choice of hotel in this area, but I have included some well respected, decent alternatives in the hotel links on the left of this page.