Travel: Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire

GOLF. For some, a way of life. For others, a good walk spoiled. So my question for Turnberry’s golf resort on the Ayrshire coast, home of the Ailsa and Kintyre championship courses, the Colin Montgomerie Links Golf Academy and the TaylorMade Performance Laboratory including 3D motion-capture, was, what’s in it for me, the mildly golf-curious but not really bothered?
Turnberry ResortTurnberry Resort
Turnberry Resort

Or, rather, what’s in it for me and the two children I fetched up with one overcast Friday in a battered old Corolla?

Plenty, it turns out. First there’s the location. Turnberry, custom built as a golfing sanctuary in 1906, is an island of Edwardian privilege, now refurbished and retro-elegant, all whitewashed exteriors and sprawling lawns. The hotel looks over the links and the old lighthouse, then out to the Irish Sea and the quasi-mystical granite mass of Ailsa Craig (currently on special for £1.5 million, contact Archibald, 8th Marquess of Ailsa).

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So, five-star aesthetics. But more importantly, as far as the children were concerned, five-star aesthetics with cool stuff to do. Eleven-year-old boy took off with a strange gleam in his eye to learn how to shoot a gun and handle a bow and arrow. I went with six-year-old boy to the working farm, where we fed the donkeys and checked out the pygmy goats and turkeys. The farm’s guide made it all involving and memorable. Later on we all met up and went a few times around the paddock on horseback. If we’d had a chance during our two-day stay we also would have got busy with quad-biking, the woodland walk and GPS treasure hunting – but then we had a pool to swim in, a castle to visit (more later), and a certain amount of slobbing around to take care of.

As for golf, we succumbed in the end to the gentle encouragement of the trainer at the academy. I don’t know if there’s a word among golfers for the sound you get when the kinetics come together, when club and ball connect just right and ball parabolas effortlessly down the fairway. The thwack? After several hundred swings I notched up three thwacks. Pitch and putt, you hold no fear for me now.


When we weren’t cooking for ourselves in our self-catering apartment, we walked a few metres up to the hotel to eat in two of Turnberry’s six restaurants and bars. Tea at the lively Ailsa Bar and Lounge was unpretentious and tasty. I had the Scotch beef and Arran ale pie with veg. Nice. The children had fish and chips, which I ate at least half of, so can vouch for that too. One morning we had breakfast at the resort’s premier 1906 restaurant. It was lush – the choice, the abundance, the rustle of service. We skipped lunch that day.


All of the above, plus Culzean Castle, a five-minute drive away. We spent a fantastic morning there, tramping about the pleasure gardens and, best of all, descending to the rugged beach to eat sandwiches and gaze into rock pools. You can also go inside the flamboyant Kennedys’ cliff-top pile and see what’s billed as the largest historical armoury of its type, except for the Queen’s. We didn’t bother, the weather was too good.


Budget? Not even close. But not boutique either, if boutique means hip and/or quirky. No, Turnberry is establishment and discreetly high-spec. We stayed in one of the self-catering apartments, which was larger than my Edinburgh flat. Much larger, and better in every way, as the children never stopped reminding me as they discovered yet another en-suite and flat-screen telly. “Can we stay?” they asked as we got ready to leave. “Deffo,” I replied. “We will claim this place as our own and live here for ever more. No, we can’t, get your shoes on.”


There’s a 20-metre swimming pool, and before that a changing room with what seemed like an endless supply of towels. The massive windows look on to Ailsa Craig. The boys splashed around happily, attempting to drown each other. I sank into the gurgling Jacuzzi and relived each of my thwacks frame by frame. “Stop thinking, let things happen, be the ball,” advised Chevy Chase in Caddyshack. Got it.


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A self-catering apartment, which sleeps six, costs £885 for three nights in high season, July-August. For all tariffs and packages, including outdoor activities for children, visit

Turnberry Resort, Lands of Turnberry, Maidens Road, Turnberry, Girvan, Ayrshire (01655 331000,