Our trip went very smoothly, thanks to Dave Saunders at LondonGolf who arranged the whole thing. He did a spectacular job and, in general, everything went as planned. We did learn some things along the way that may be of help to anyone else interested in making the journey to golf’s mecca. In no particular order…
If you’re a Scotch drinker and want to enjoy it while you’re there (as we did), definitely buy some at a store or distillery in Scotland. If you plan to take some home, it’s a better deal to buy it at the Duty Free shop at the airport. It’s cheaper and you don’t have to pay the VAT (value added tax that is everywhere in Europe and around 15%) and then fill out paperwork, get it stamped, find the special mailbox at the airport and cross your fingers you get a refund in the next 6 months. If you get to Tomintoul in the Cairngorm Mountains, stop in at the Whiskey Castle, you won’t regret it and you’ll find scotches you’ve never seen before in your life. Tell Mike Drury I’m enjoying the Blackadder he convinced me to buy.
Driving on the left isn’t so bad as long as you’re conscious of what you’re doing. The problems arise when you’re on automatic pilot. Your instincts will be all wrong. I’ve visited left side driving countries maybe 6 times now without incident, but I have had some close calls when I wasn’t conscious of what I was doing, like when you’re tired. Parking lots are dangerous because there are no markings to guide you and usually no cars to follow. When making turns, remember the first lane to cross your track is to the right. The same applies when crossing streets!
Besides a few main highways, the roads are two lane and narrow. Add twisty, and it’s a bit disconcerting to face a truck coming right at you. It doesn’t seem to bother the Scots though. They never seem to slow down while I often had to come to a crawl. Be mindful of anyone in the passenger seat, they will s__t themselves a few times. Imagine feeling you’re on the wrong side of the road and having no steering wheel!
If you’ve got the time, give yourself some days without golf. My wife and I played every day and on three occasions it was 36 holes. As many of the best courses restrict play on the weekends until Sunday afternoon, these are great times to sight see or just relax. If you have the luxury, book tee times late enough that you can find the course, practice and study the course guide before teeing off. Most of the courses we played had practice areas, but they are often somewhat removed from the clubhouse.
We didn’t take any travelers checks. It’s just as easy to get money from an ATM and at a better exchange rate. When I arrived at the Edinburgh airport I changed $ 200, the rest of the time I used my credit cards or an ATM. With all the credit card theft these days, make sure to call your card companies in advance and tell them when and where you’ll be traveling, otherwise you’re charges are likely to be denied.
If you have the time, drive into the mountains. They’re completely different from what you’ll see along the coast and definitely worth the visit. If you have time to get to the west coast of the Highlands, do it for sure. It’s beautiful and completely different from the rest of the country.
The breakfasts at the B&B’s are terrific. You can pretty much get anything and everything and it’s all cooked to order. From what we saw, dinner is you’re typical meat and potatoes or fish and chips. One of the best meals we had was at an Indian restaurant called Ganges in Carnoustie. All the golf clubs will welcome you into their clubhouse. The food is usually very good and the beer better.
You can still get real cashmere in Scotland. Johnston’s in Elgin is the one Scottish mill left that spins their own yarns. And you aren’t limited to the single ply stuff that comes out of China. Their cashmere is the real deal and you can even get it in 2 or 3 ply. The prices seemed very reasonable and nothing is warmer as an underlayer on the links than a nice cashmere sweater.
The supermarkets sell wine and beer. There are some terrific Scottish bottled beers there that you won’t find many other places. Be sure and try ‘Innis and Gunn’ which is aged in oak casks and ‘Lia Fail’, you won’t regret it.
Don’t be afraid to take the side roads along the coast. You’ll find lovely small towns that you’d otherwise miss. You’ll feel like it’s the 19th century. If you drive the coast from Dornoch to St. Andrews as we did, you’ll find it is constantly changing. It ranges from dramatic cliffs that fall into the sea to beautiful sand beaches that go on for miles and are completely unspoiled.
Doug Farrick is a co-founder of The GolfDash Blog – a golfdashboard dedicated to improving your game with great deals, news, reviews and no B.S. commentary. To find out more or to contact Doug with questions related to this article, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit: http://golfdashblog.com
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