Scotland: Golf and Whisky

Scotland.  Home of golf.  And more golf. Whisky.  And more whisky.  Flying stags and magic around every corner.  It’s refreshingly cold, stunningly beautiful, and pure.  

What began as a golf trip for two became a couples’ trip for four old friends who reminisced and reconnected on the greens and in the pubs.  The itinerary was a circuitous one from south to north and back again, driven by golf priorities and tee times.

We started with a few nights in London at the Haymarket, one of Kit Kemp’s stylishly comfortable Firmdale hotels, before flying to Glasgow for golf rounds at Turnberry and Ancient Troon.  The non-golfers went on to the Scottish Highlands of Outlander fame, landing at Inverness for the short drive to Boath House, a small country-house hotel now run by the owners of London’s hot-ticket restaurant, Sessions Art Club.  Boath House is convenient to Royal Dornoch, another top course. 

Then, we all headed to St. Andrew’s, golf’s most hallowed ground.  On the way, we did the requisite whisky tasting at Aberlour in Speyside and passed through the dramatic Cairngorms National Park, stopping for lunch at the Fife Arm’s Hotel in Braemar, which is just a stone’s throw from the royal family’s Balmoral Estate.  Pretty country and stag horns a plenty there. 

But back to St. Andrew’s.  This seaside university town, where Will and Kate met, charmed the non-golfers and golfers alike. With a links pedigree that harkens back to the 1500s – it IS the home of golf and the Royal and Ancient Golf Club, after all – this course could justifiably be like Georgia’s Augusta National, sealed tight to all but an exclusive few.  But, no, the Old Course, revered as it may be, is much like a town park with families and pets passing by and over historic Swilcan Bridge, while golfers from around the world nervously tee off mere yards away.  There’s a celebratory feel to the place, often topped off with a tipple or two at the Jigger Inn or the Dunvegan pub at the end of a round followed by dinner at upscale The Seafood Ristorante.

The golf gods were smiling on our pair, rewarding them with coveted Old Course tee times, a lucky draw from the daily lottery ballot done 48 hours prior to play.  Eighteen holes on the Old Course was a dream come true, but the New Course (circa 1895) is every bit as worthy. Views of both can be seen through the windows of certain rooms at the convenient Old Course Hotel.

We ended our trip in Edinburgh, an enchanting, dramatic city right out of the pages of Harry Potter.  JK Rowling wrote the last book behind the purple door of room 552 at our hotel, The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte property that is as welcoming and comfortable as it is grand.  

Edinburgh was a pleasant surprise; it’s a cosmopolitan, ancient city divided into the new and old towns, the latter filled with Gothic grey buildings with dark spires reaching to the heavens. When there, don’t miss Hawico for the best quality cashmere and Walker Slater for tweed jackets, caps, and socks, all of which come in handy when the cold winds roll in off the Firth of Forth.  Try saying that five times fast. These shops are located on the Grassmarket, a lively merchant area that happened to be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.  And just like the boy wizard, this magical country – Scotland – cast a spell on us. 

Thank you to Jim and the team at Cork and Tee for their help designing our golf itinerary.

~ Brenda, May 2022