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Trip List by StrandsDanville

UK & Ireland Golf in 16 Days

Feb 29, 2012  Provide insights for others planning a similar trip!
4.5 of 5 bubbles based on 1 vote

2 golfing buddies and our wives chose early September (ideal) for an incredible trip to explore Scotland, Northern Ireland, Ireland & Wales while playing many of the top courses in the world!

  • 1. United Kingdom & Ireland = tinyurl.com/UK-IRE-Golf (paste into browser)
    United Kingdom, Europe

    We rented 2 buggy's (each couple, pick-up Edinburgh return London Heathrow), stayed in B&B's (fabulous) the entire time and played 12 rounds of golf (3 holes in the rain) at the following highly-ranked in the world courses (we hired caddies at each course except Royal Porthcawl):

    Scotland: Old Course St Andrews, New Course St Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Dornoch, Prestwick, Royal Troon

    Northern Ireland: Royal Portrush, Royal County Down

    Ireland: Ballybunion, Killarney, Old Head

    Wales: Royal Porthcawl

    We booked every tee time prior to leaving on this extraordinary golf experience. The exception of "course" being St Andrews! We are 7 handicaps! Gorse has teeth and is impossible to hit your ball out of!

    3 Nights - Scotland - St Andrews
    2 Nights - Scotland - Dornoch
    2 Nights - Scotland - Ayr
    2 Nights - Northern Ireland - Portrush
    1 Nights - Northern Ireland - Newcastle
    1 Nights - Ireland - Adare
    1 Nights - Ireland - Killarney
    1 Nights - Ireland - Kinsale
    1 Nights - Wales - Cardiff
    1 Nights - England - Bath, Salisbury & Stonehenge
    1 Nights - England - Windsor

    From the above tinyurl Google Map you can see our route. We rendezvoused at the King's Cross train station in London and traveled to Edinburgh. We picked up our buggy's driving to St Andrew's for 3 nights!

    Each couple renting their own vehicle worked out very well. This allowed for independent exploration during our "transition" days between the golfing meccas! For instance, The Strands love to hike, so we took a day trip to the Scottish Isles while the other couple toured the local sites around Dornoch.

    We were all culinary experts about the classic English breakfast at the end of our 14 servings! Although haggis was a side dish treat in Dornoch. The Strand's also enjoy their fancy dining, so a wonderful dinner outside of Ayr to celebrate the Mrs birthday was quite nice. Pub grub needs to be counter-balanced!

    Being great buddies who love golf, we also both appreciate single-malt scotch and cigars and poker. The variety of selection was unbelievable. Naturally the cocktail hour every night before dinner was spent enjoying our scotch and recounting the other shots of the day! The best beer in the world is a Guinness on tap anywhere in the UK & Ireland!

  • 2. St. Andrews = tinyurl.com/St-Andrew-Wow (paste into browser)
    St. Andrews, Fife

    Our B&B was perfectly located only 2 blocks from the R&A and St Andrews golf complex. Our B&B proprietor entered us into the tee time lottery the day before but we did no win!

    Up early, our first of 14 English breakfasts and we grabbed our clubs to register at the starter's booth for play that day. I am obsessed with the greatest game on the planet....Golf! Words cannot describe the feelings of nirvana when turning the corner at the end of the street, carrying my clubs and seeing the R&A clubhouse, 1st tee and 18th green. Just wow!

    We had beautiful weather and both of us were paired in the same forsome around 10AM. The Scottish caddies, the wee bunkers, a successful practice blast at the Road Hole bunker, our wives taking pictures of us on the Swilcan Bridge and an everyday gathering of the townsfolk ringing the 18th green as my birdie attempt lipped out! Well worth the price of admission!

    The next we all went to the St Andrews train station for a very enjoyable day trip and tour of the town of Edinburgh!

    Our final day we played the New Course (built in 1895 by Tom Morris). The course is a solid test with some great holes. Our caddies who had caddied for participants in The Open Championship were full of great stories. Naturally they accepted our invitation for a couple of pints at the tavern after the round! That day we did an extended tour of St Andrews attractions.

    The next morning after our English breakfast, the golf buddies headed to Carnoustie where the gals would meet us after our rounds. We played the tees in front of the Championship tees in a steady non-prevailing wind. Although a sunny day. The opposite wind made some of the holes a wee long. This course is ALL golf and the challenge everybody believes it to be!

    We hopped into our respective buggies and set the course for Dornoch!

  • 3. Dornoch = tinyurl.com/Dornoch-Go (paste into browser)
    Dornoch, Caithness and Sutherland

    With 2 separate buggies and 2 separate ideals of travel my buddy and his wife traveled up the coast through Aberdeen on the way to our B&B in Dornoch, while we headed through Inverness doing a nice hike along the way! Being semi-joined at the hip, we arrive in Dornoch at almost the same exact time! The drive over the lavender strewn mountains is stunning!

    Our B&B. Highfield House, was not far from Royal Dornoch. We were treated to some excellent haggis with our English breakfasts! We split up the next day with the Strands headed for a hike towards Ullapool and the other couple touring Dunrobin Castle. Somehow we both found time to independently tour a distillery (Glenmorangie & Clynelish Whisky) and procure some fine single-malts!

    The following morning's golf was unbelievable. Our two ball with great caddies was played in a leisureful 2.5 hours. We took video and spent time taking in the views of Dornoch Firth and the North Sea. Naturally we had created a "tradition" and invited our caddies to the course bar for a couple of pints! The course is beautiful and a real treat to play. My best score, 77, for all 12 rounds. Well worth the excursion time to play this jewel!

    Side note: The Strand's on our next trip will spend a night on the Isle of Skye!

    Into the buggies and off to Ayr and the electric brae!

  • 4. Ayr = tinyurl.com/Ayr-Golf (paste into browser)
    Ayr, South Ayrshire

    Motoring from Dornoch to actually Largs for 1 night we traversed the shore of Loch Ness looking to spot the loch critter, then further South along the shore of Loch Lomond. The long drive was very scenic. Of note, in our split buggies, we traveled the east shore and our friends traveled the west shore. Better odds to spot Nessie!

    The B&B in Largs was not up to our standard so we only stayed the 1 night. Our next location outside Ayr with crazy Jessie was a real kick. The animated way she described the Electric Brae will always be remembered! We enjoyed our tour of the castle and grounds. Plus Mrs Strand enjoyed her fine dining birthday! Oh yeah, we also played a couple of rounds of golf!

    Prestwick with its Open history and extreme quirkiness is a must play. Don't hit the train on your opening tee shot! Needless to say our caddies were invaluable when it came to direction and distances. The wind was very, very strong on the back nine. I attempted to smash a low 2-iron some 160 yards which I got the ball up into the wind and it carried towards the group on the adjacent tee box on a high knoll. I yelled fore but the shot hit Jocko the caddy in the back. I ran over to apologize and see if he was alright. He was just standing there like nothing happened, smiling and talking with the other caddies and players. My ball was 30 yards down the hill on the green! A tough Gael is an understatement. My buddy cried foul when he lost the hole! Aye laddie, rub of the green!

    Royal Troon required us to pay for 36 holes (included the Portland course which a castle tour with the wives prevented our tour of the course!) Plus the fee included a nice buffet lunch in the clubhouse before the round. Personally I did not enjoy the course as much as I anticipated. Shooting 200 may have some bearing? I blamed it on the Electric Brae! We tried to get on Turnberry but they required a prohibitively costly stay at the Hotel to gain access. I took enough strokes at Royal Troon for both courses. Gorse did you say?

    After the round at Royal Troon we really enjoyed sitting in the bar with our requisite Guiness beer, looking through the floor to ceiling windows (I almost hit them while playing) at the 18th green while conversing with fellow golfers about places to play on the planet! For some reason I did not mention my score for the day!

    Early morning we drove to catch our car ferry to Larne in Northern Ireland!

  • 5. Northern Ireland
    Northern Ireland, United Kingdom

    Two of the finest courses on the planet, Royal Portrush and Royal County Down were on the radar for our stint in Northern Ireland!

  • 6. Portrush
    Portrush, County Antrim

    Driving from Larne to Portrush found an off-weather day. We enjoyed our time exploring a couple of towns, eating my super favorite soda bread from the bake shops and enjoying some pub grub. A Guiness or two is a given!

    We toured the Bushmill's Distillery learning quite a bit about the differences between Irish whisk"e"y and Scotch whisky (winner by a wide shamrock) Then an absolute vacation first, we went to an afternoon movie (Braveheart was not playing)! Erin Go Bragh!

    The next day we toured the very interesting Giant's Causeway (fascinating story) and Dunluce Castle!

    But what about the golf? Royal Portrush's front nine is the most penalizing tract I have ever played. IF you are not hitting the ball straight off the tee, well then forget it. I even had a sand wedge from heavy rough only 20 yards from the green and never found the ball after the swing moved it to middle earth? I WILL get even (break 80) with this great golf course some day (what do long term rentals go for?)!

    The next day a long drive (long par 200) to Newcastle via Londonderry! My buddy and his wife set off on their desired "course". What is absolutely amazing is upon reaching Newcastle and comparing notes about the day is we ate lunch at the same pub in Londonderry! Yes joined at the hip! Birds and feathers?

  • 7. Newcastle
    Newcastle, County Down

    Simple...after 12 spectacular rounds on this trip I voted Royal County Down as my favorite course. The balloting was very close and I cannot adequately explain why Royal County Down? Play it and discover what you think!

  • 8. Ireland
    Ireland, Europe

    After playing Royal County Down we headed to the Republic of Ireland towards Ballybunnion. WE knew going into this trip that this drive would be a killer given the time of day and the distance. The Irish cow crossings, where we turned off the motor, actually were quite amusing. The term "bessies" as been with us ever since. We foolishly chose to stay in a very upscale Inn in Adare as a splurge. My buddy and I never saw the place except in the dark. Tilt, foul ball, go to jail, do not pass Limerick!

    Our transition was okay. But somehow my buddy and his wife could not resist stopping at the Guiness brewery in Dublin! Could it be their last name is Tierney? When they finally found splurgeville around 10PM, it was not an oh wow moment upon entry. We were enjoying tea in the salon! The crazed Irishman "stormed" into his "quite elegant" room, not even seeing the $250 a night finery! But duty called, he of ":course" met me for English breakfast at 6AM in time for our drive to Ballybunnion!

    Golf is a 4 letter word!

    Golf note: We were unable to get a formal time at Portmarnock in Dublin! A redo would find us there "both" enjoying the Guinness brewery! Next time!

  • 9. Adare

    Our accommodation was very nice from what we could see in the dark?

    Must admit a double bogey on the logistics vs enjoyment scale!

    Ballybunion quickly made up for the out of bounds!

  • 10. Ballybunion = tinyurl.com/Bally-Golf (paste into browser)

    We left in the dark from Adare to make our early 8AM tee time. Ballybunion Old Course is another course that my very high expectations were not met. Primarily the front nine starts in a nondescript manner (so does Pebble for that matter). But the back nine offers great vistas of the ocean cliffs and some very interesting golf holes. My close to 70 year old caddy, William, was an amazing trooper. I pulled my tee shot on 15 way, way up on a steep dune. I told William to not bother. But there he was bag and all when I hit my "elevated" shot back down to the fairway. Every caddy on our trip was fantastic adding immensely to the overall experience, highly recommend!

    Aside: Bandon Dunes on the Oregon coast gives Ballybunion a run for its Euros!

    The gals rolled in soon after our round. They found us right away enjoying a Guinness (what a surprise) in the clubhouse. We enjoyed lunch before heading off to Killarney!

  • 11. Killarney = tinyurl.com/South-Golf (paste into browser)

    At Killarney Park playing the Killeen Parkland course was a pleasure. The setting along the lake is beautiful and many of the holes were very demanding. The Irish Open was played here in 2009 & 2010. In retrospect, with a redo, we should have opted to play at the Waterville Golf Club! The history (dating from 1889) and links style of Waterville are the venues to experience in the UK and Ireland. Parkland courses like Harding Park in SF can be played in many locales around the US!

    Back in the buggies to kiss a stone, recite a soliloquy from Shakespeare and discover Carmel By The Sea in County Cork!

  • 12. Kinsale, Blarney Castle & Old Head Golf Links

    Leaving Killarney and heading to Kinsale, we stopped for a worthwhile tour of the Blarney Castle & Rock! Hearing about the Blarney Stone for decades, it was interesting to discover it requires quite a narrow climb to reach it on TOP of the castle. Then a scary low dip outwards to plant your kiss! The fable is kissing the stone will provide you with spoken eloquence! Afterwards our Bard speak, Burns poetic cadence and Wilde musings flowed like the Guinness taps at O'Blarney's Irish Pub!

    The town of Kinsale was a unexpected surprise! We ventured out for a very nice dinner in honor of my buddies 50th birthday. The town facades and shops have a colorful upscale charm to them. We even bought some fancy salad tongs. Later in the evening we enjoyed live entertainment with singing about Dirty Old Towns, despair and ruin at a local pub! Just the upper one needs to take on the Old Head Golf Links the next day!

    Old Head is an incredible golf links on an amazing point of land! We started with a light rain on the first 3 holes and then proceeded to finish the day in bright sunshine. The 3 holes of light rain were the only precipitation we had playing golf for all 12 rounds. One traveling "transition" day was in a major downpour. Luck of the Irish? My buddies last name is Tierney!

    This course is simply a Wow! We played the back tees. One lifetime memory for me is standing just below the red & white stripped lighthouse on a tee box cut into the side of the hill. Gazing out over the Atlantic where the Lusitania was sunk by a U-boat in 1915, seeing the 12th century Norman wall extending down the right of the doglegged fairway with a contrasting modern clubhouse situated behind the 18th green. There I was playing the greatest game on the planet, bar none, with my golfing buddy in an unparalleled setting. It brings a tear to my eye to think about it! Wow indeed!

    Naturally we always parred the 19th hole! This time we had a larger group of golf fanatics from all around the world. Enjoying the Guinness, talking about our golf travels, talking about the course and hearing where others are from while gazing out the huge windows at the lighthouse on the hill.......yes priceless!

    Off to Wales!

  • 13. Wales - Cardiff = tinyurl.com/Porthcawl (paste into browser)
    Cardiff, South Wales

    Being veteran buggy drivers at this point, we cruised our ways via Waterford (my buddy and his wife stopped to procure some objets) to Wexford and our ferry crossing to Wales. The roads and ferry crossing were very scenic. All in all an enjoyable transition day!

    Now for the foul ball or is it a sticky wicket? The only destination on our entire trip where we did not have a chosen and pre-booked accommodation. We did what I absolutely despise (major part of my detailed planning motivation), we went around town trying to find a vacancy. Shockingly many hotels were fully booked. We finally, more out of exhaustive frustration, took 2 rooms at the Bates Motel (would have been preferable). I have never stayed in a worse hotel. I literally sleep like a log with nothing bothering me (even bears prowling around the campsite in Little Yosemite Valley) At 5AM I deserted the Mrs (no noise, I could not stand to be in the room) and went to read in the car! I did go back in to eat my English breakfast because after 13 straight days of English breakfasts, the last thing I needed was English breakfast withdrawal shakes while playing Royal Porthcawl!

    Alas, our last round on the trip! We arrived at the course early for our tee time and there were no caddies? We ended up carrying our bags and truly guessing what directions to hit off many tee boxes! Quite the challenge and an excellent excuse. The course was truly a test and a lot of fun to play considering we were the only ones playing. Our own private club!

    Speaking of private! We went into the Gentleman's Lounge for our, similar to English Breakfast, addictively required post round Guinness. We were the only 2 in the sizable lounge, just kicking back and rambling on about the course, the trip, the uniqueness of the Gentleman's only Lounge. Then a commotion at the door leading into the dining room! Mrs Strand, a very independent woman, possibly a la Helen Reddy, was trying to get into the Lounge and announce their arrival to the Hubbies who may have lost track of the time (impossible)?? Next thing, the Secretary for the Club with suit and tie is standing next to us and stating your wives are in the dining room. I foolishly state, there is nobody here, can they join us? Uh oh! "BLOODY HELL NOT"! I did not mention this to Helen!

    The weapons of mass destruction were permanently packed and it was off towards Heathrow with a few terrific attractions along the way!

  • 14. Bath = tinyurl.com/Bath-Roman (paste into browser)
    Bath, Somerset

    Leaving Cardiff, another great day of motoring with a fun and scenic ferry ride thrown in. Arriving in the picturesque town of Bath just dotted the i.

    The weather was beautiful and our B&B had a lovely outside garden to enjoy our evening happy hour before setting out for some repast. Afterwards, there was a pub across the street where we hung out with the locales playing darts enjoying many laughs heading into the wee hours of the new day!

    Bath, not shower, why is that? Our tour of the Roman Bathes, featured in the middle of town, was simply a trip attraction highlight. The well preserved and almost functional ruins almost transported one back into ancient times. We were not keenly aware that Rome was going to be part of our tour! This attraction would rank very high if placed in the middle of Rome......Do not miss it!

    Then the final transition towards home in California! But first the mystical prehistoric Stonehenge and then early-medieval Salisbury! The Magna Carta (1215) even predates the most comprehensive set of rules & societal conduct ever written.....The Rules of Golf (1744)!

  • 15. Stonehenge, Salisbury & Windsor = tinyurl.com/Old-I-Say (paste into browser)
    Windsor, Windsor and Maidenhead

    Like the Acropolis, your entire life you see images of artifacts and monuments, wondering what it would be like to see them in person? Stonehenge is certainly one of those intriguing displays. Literally the stones stand in their "almost" henge in the middle of bloody nowhere! They are just there with no backdrop which really magnifies the enjoyment of the visit. You park, walk through a subterranean exhibit, do one lap around the outside (no touchy) and you exit. Coming from Romanesque Bath, it was not quite Veni, Vidi, Vici but Mirari - I wondered! Well worth the time!

    Sarum the book and its chronicles of English history named for Old Sarum in Salisbury and the early beginnings of 20th century civilization awaited us next. The Cathedral of Saint Mary built in the early 1200's and keeper of the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta (1215) is also Mirari - I wondered! Well worth the time!

    Back to reality and the 21st Century, we set our buggy courses for Windsor. Jetting home the next day with the time change, we transitioned back to California wine for happy hour gazing out over the pool at our 8 year old gazebo....Mirari - I wondered!

  • 16. United Kingdom
    United Kingdom, Europe

    Our, meaning the golf buddies, trip to play 12 rounds of golf on some of the world's greatest golf courses in 16 days was an experience of a lifetime. As usual, our wives were the real heroes! They certainly enjoyed themselves with the local attractions while we "played" and consumed our post round Guinness. A tip of the Tam O'Shanter to our special spouses supporting their guys!

    Collectively we all enjoyed our "group" tours (Edinburgh, Castles, Giant Causeway, Stonehenge, Salisbury, etc) and more importantly we enjoyed our independent time while motoring in our own vehicles. The Strands did their hiking thing with some fine dining and The Tierney's toured more attractions and were able to do some specific shopping (i.e. Irish Batik ceramics) The sometimes savory evening meals, preceded at the B&B by our single malt cocktails of "course", varied from pub grub to Indian food in a wide variety of restaurant motifs!

    We traveled over 1,500 miles in our buggies. The Scottish "mountains" covered with lavender were an unexpected but always remembered scenic surprise. The narrow streets in towns built way before the creation of the buggy gave us some "tight" moments and real laughs. Being stopped in the green Eire hills while the dairy farmers led their herd across the road as we sat with 2-3 bell carrying cows surrounding our buggy. Many travelers sometimes balk at long distances in a buggy which we find odd? Whenever we are on "new" pavement anywhere on the planet, to include California (very rare), it is high adventure in our books. Our days were filled to the max!

    Golf is the greatest game on the planet! The opportunity to converse with local caddies (hear their distinctive accents), build character in dealing with the pothole bunkers (I will never complain about being in a US fairway bunker again...child's play), enjoy vistas of multiple firths and bond with strangers all having a common passion which brings them together for those points in time!

    Wow indeed!