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Aberdeen &
Grampian Highlands

Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay...

Ayrshire
Royal Troon, Turnberry, Prestwick...

Just east of Edinburgh

Scotland's Golf Coast
North Berwick, Muirfield, Gullane...

Northern Highlands
Royal Dornoch, Brora, Nairn...

St. Andrews area

Out of the way, but worth a play
Machrihanish, Pitlochry...

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Planning Your Independent Golf Vacation in Scotland

Hints and help to make your stay in Scotland
enjoyable and comfortable

Where to stay in Scotland

Guesthouses and Bed & Breakfasts (B&Bs) are ideal for the independent golf traveler because they are generally less expensive than hotels, often have their own parking areas (a real bonus) and are in attractive locations. Many owners will store your golf clubs for you and have drying areas for rain-damp clothes.

Guesthouses and B&Bs are an opportunity to meet other people, both locals and travelers, at breakfast.


Hillview B&B, Dornoch, Scotland
A fine example of a B&B breakfast room. What a perfect way to start your day. Lodging like this, with gracious hosts and wonderful breakfasts all in a memorable setting, make you want to return again and again. (This lovely place is in the northern Highlands.)

Always ask if your room is "en-suite" (pronounced on-sweet), which means a bathroom is in your room. All of the places we recommend offer en-suite rooms, but some also offer "private" bathrooms, which means you have your own private bathroom but have to go into the hall to access it. So be sure to ask, so you get what you want..

Your site really made my trip possible. I took your recommendation for a perfect place to stay, Thanks again for the terrific information. Keep up the great work!
Rick Beck, Oakland CA
Information Centres throughout Scotland i
When in doubt about ANYTHING, head for the nearest Tourist Information Centre. Virtually every town has one. Look for the big "I" out front. There will be signposts and directional arrows around the town to guide you there.

Information centres have everything you'd want to know about the area. Plus, unique gift items at reasonable prices and mostly made in the UK. Their staffs are very helpful. Lots of free booklets, and items you won't find anywhere else.

When to come to Scotland
May thru September are the best months to come. May is less busy and especially beautiful, with the yellow gorse in bloom everywhere (although hellish on the golf courses in the rough). September can cool off yet is usually still nice. The weather here is changeable and fairly unpredictable. Be prepared for rain...chances are you'll get some. But here's the good news -- whatever the weather is in Scotland, it won't spoil your stay.

St Andrews Old Course Christmas 2009
Although the locals play golf year round in Scotland, winter is not the ideal time to visit here. Days are very short and nights very long. It will most likely be cold and damp, with snow in some areas.

Here's something rather rare -- the world's most famous golf course covered with snow!!! Quite a different St Andrews Old Course from the one we all know. Photo taken on Christmas Day 2009, by David Scott.


Packing for Scotland -- what to bring
First on the list is a comfortable, STURDY pair of walking shoes with good tread on the soles for non-city walking. Second is adequate rain gear. (A must.) Pack so you can layer your clothing each day--it's the best way to out-guess the weather, which changes frequently.The more you travel the more you realize you need to bring less. Pack a change of clothes in your carry-on luggage, in case your stowed luggage is lost or delayed. (It happens.) Bring care-free clothing made of cool-max or microfibre, for instance. We buy most of our clothes mail order from Travelsmith (www.travelsmith.com or 1-800-950-1600) and L.L.Bean (www.llbean.com or 1-800-221-4221, and don't miss their excellent coupons and great deals -- http://verified.codes/LL-Bean ), and Winter Silks (ww.wintersilks.com). A good resource is www.packinglight.net .

Some important items to bring --

"Can I charge my electronic gadgets in Scotland?" Yes…BUT!
Virtually all electronic gadgets sold in the USA can be used with the USA's standard 100 to 110 volts. Much of the rest of the world uses 200 to 220 volts. However, almost all items sold internationally can run on both voltages. If you check the charger of your smart phone or tablet or computer you'll see 110/220v or 100/240v, which means it runs on both. BUT… the electrical outlets in the United Kingdom (Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) are different from the outlets in the USA, so you'll need an adapter to plug into the outlets in the UK. NOTE -- You do NOT need a transformer. You simply need an ADAPTER (about $5). These UK electrical adapters are readily available in any travel store. The adapter for Europe is different from the UK adapter, so if you're traveling in France, Germany or any other European country, you'll need an additional adapter. Again, check out your travel store.

Passport copy - make a copy of your passport and pack it away from the original. Or take a digital photo of your passport and send it to your email address. That way you'll always be able to access a copy of it.
Golf handicap certificate - Most golf courses don't ask for a handicap certificate but if you have one handy, bring it. (A letter from your club professional is no longer used.)
Bungee cord or two, for securing your golf bag on a trolley (pull cart). They come in handy for many things.
Golf rain gloves - Or you can always wrap a wet hankerchief around your grips when they get wet. Amazingly effective.

Don't want to bring your own golf clubs?
Then contact www.GolfGearHire.com, a new service for the independent golf traveler in Scotland.They supply quality golfing equipment with several options. Also, most golf courses have clubs to rent, but call first to make sure.

Getting to Scotland
For either Fife (St. Andrews) or the Edinburgh (say "Edinburra") area of Scotland, you can fly into London and take a connecting flight to Edinburgh, where you can rent a car at the airport. But better yet, look for international flights direct to Scotland.
Avoiding the London airports whenever possible is always smart, so if you are coming from the U.S., best to fly directly into Edinburgh or Glasgow (depending on where you'll be golfing) from a major U.S. airport.

Another option is to fly from NY or Newark or Orlando directly to Dublin, take a connecting flight to Edinburgh, and drive from there. As you know, flight itineraries can change, so check for the latest info.
European trains are excellent

Trains go from London's King's Cross Station to Edinburgh, about a 4 to 4 1/2 hour picturesque ride. Frequent service--almost every hour. These are fine trains, such as the Flying Scotsman, Highland Chieftain, and Northerm Lights. From Edinburgh take a 1-hour train ride to Leuchars, the station for St. Andrews. Taxis are plentiful at Leuchars for the 5-minute ride into town. Or for Scotland's Golf Coast, take a 30-minute train ride from Edinburgh to North Berwick.

Sail across the Atlantic on QM2 And then there's our own personal choice
Each May or June we sail out of New York (Brooklyn) on the Queen Mary2, Cunard's magnificent flagship which makes the transatlantic crossing. Yes, you need time to spend 6 days (7 nights) at sea, but what an incomparable experience it is. You arrive rested, well-fed, and free from jet-lag.The ship docks at Southampton, England, and we drive up to Scotland from there.
The QM2 is the last of a bygone era, and really worth experiencing at least once in a lifetime. If you can spare the time, it's "the only way to cross." (Sailing to England may seem expensive but remember, in addition to transportation to Southampton, sailing on the QM2 is like staying in the equivalent of a 5 star hotel. Consider how much would you pay to fly to England and then stay in a 5 star hotel for 6 days and 5 nights with all meals from a top-notch kitchen included?)
www.cunard.com

Car rental in Scotland


***Special note -- A "sat nav" is essential. Not all rental cars have them, so check to find out whether your car does. If not, bring your own but make sure it includes the United Kingom map.

We use Kemwel -- reliable, easy-to-deal-with, good rates, and integrity. If you shop around you'll see it is difficult to compare rental costs. Our experience has proven it's best (least stressful and least expensive) to stick with a dependable company.

Get a smaller car than you might have in the U.S. because streets can be very narrow and parking spaces are smaller than in the U.S. More economical, too, because petrol (gasoline) is very expensive in the UK. Try to rent a diesel. Once you get behind the wheel, KEEP TO THE LEFT !!! It takes some getting used to, so go slowly. And try to avoid the mistake we all make when we first come here--when approaching an intersection or crossing the street-- look to your right when driving or walking, because that's where the traffic is coming from.

A great new discovery
If your destination is Scotland's Golf Coast, with North Berwick and/or Edinburgh, then see Scotland with local eyes, and really enjoy your stay in this beautiful part of the world. Discover this delightful preview of Scotland's Golf Coast with "LOCAL EYES -- Fun & Friendly Small Group Walking Tours". A new and unique service, Local Eyes is the best way to start your holiday. www.localeyestours.co.uk

Walking in Scotland, an advantage for the independent traveler

In addition to golfers, golf courses in Scotland are open to walkers. Anyone can hike freely anywhere on any golf course except for the greens. Obviously, don't walk in the fairways but keep to the sides. Watch for golfers, give them the right of way, and be alert to any flying golfballs! Golf courses are so beautiful and peaceful in Scotland, so they are wonderful places to walk. Keep this in mind as a good way to reconnoiter a new course before you play it, or as a nice outing for a non-golfing partner to walk along with you, or as a lovely way to spend an hour or two just being in nature.

Walk around a Scottish village or town to see the gardens in front of the houses. They are always a treat and some are spectacular. Often you'll see someone working in them and he or she won't mind at all (in fact be flattered) if you stop to admire. Usually they are happy to talk about their gardens or the village, etc. Take every opportunity to chat with the locals.
A typical lovely Scottish garden
Beautiful home
gardens like
this
are all over
Scotland.
A feast
for the eye. and
Leisurely strolls
will
always provide an
abundance of
them.
Woodland walk by Kingsbarns Golf Course
Or follow a public footpath. This bridge is near the footpath by Kingsbarns Links..
Public footpaths in Scotland
Walking is a major activity in the UK, and public footpaths abound, clearly signposted and free. Find them indicated on your Ordnance Survey map. Many are ancient, trod by Romans, Picts, Saxons, or other long-ago people. Very rewarding. This one is between the golf course and the sea

Coastal public footpath along Kingsbarns Golf Course
Public toilets in Scotland
A bathroom in Europe means a room with a shower or bathtub. In other words, a place to bathe. If you are looking for just a toilet (or what in the U.S. is called a "rest room.") then simply ask where a toilet is. Or "Where's the ladies?" or "Where's the gents'?" Or, if you really want to blend in, "Where's the loo?"

We've found the public toilets in the British Isles to be, for the most part, quite good and sometimes exceptional. They are easy to find and numerous. Some of the have a small charge for using the facility so always carry a bit of spare change. Our favorite is in North Berwick, Scotland, which has won "Loo of the Year" (a national award) many times. Spotless and attractive, with fresh flowers each day in both the men's and the women's. Sounds odd to call a public toilet a visitor attraction, but this one really is worth a visit.

Maps for Scotland
Once you arrive, go into any bookseller or news agent or the wonderful Tourist Information Centre (look for the big "I" outside) and purchase an Ordnance Survey map of the area. These maps are the greatest. They even show public footpaths and every other detail you could possibly want. There is literally one of these maps for every corner of the British Isles.

Parking in Scotland
Lots of public carparks around. Keep your eye
P
out for the big white "P" on a blue sign. These are "pay and display" carparks because there is a charge for most public parking. (The places to park I mention in my comments are free, unless we say otherwise.) Keep some loose change in your car so you will always be ready for pay parking. You just stick a few coins in a meter and out comes a ticket with the time printed on it and the time you must return. Directions are on the machine. Then stick the ticket onto the inside of your windshield. If you're not sure quite what to do, ask someone. They'll be happy to help.

Scotland without a car

If you don't want to drive, there are plenty of things to do without a car. And you should seriously consider taking advantage of the excellent local bus service everywhere in the UK. Even the smallest villages are linked by buses (many of them double-deckers) and/or trains. Public transportation is excellent in the UK. Again, keep a pocketfull of change.

Play golf with a member in Scotland
When booking a tee time, ask to play with a club member, who can show you the ropes and give you insights into the course. Richard inadvertently discovered another advantage--Just after paying his £52 for a round of golf, he was invited to play with three club members because one of their friends did not show up. This qualified him as a guest so he was refunded £42 and ended up paying only £10. Nice saving, enjoyable experience. Anytime you play with a member you get a reduced rate. But the best part is meeting the member(s) and getting inside information on the course. After the match, be sure to offer to pay for the first round of drinks.

Book bargains
The UK abounds in charity shops. Most towns have at least one, usually several. They sell donated clothing and all kinds of stuff, the proceeds going to the particular charity sponsoring them--heart foundation, cancer, Oxfam, etc. Good selections of used books at really cheap prices. Well worth checking out. In St. Andrews people sell used books in the middle of Market Street on weekends and often other days too. Actually, used books are sold in all sorts of unexpected places in the UK.

Scottish castles and stately homes
Castles are everywhere in Scotland Scotland is teeming with castles. Take time to visit some of these wonderful buildings. They range from tiny ruins to massive magnificent compounds like Edinburgh Castle, and all shapes and sizes in between. Most have a gift shop and usually a tearoom, where you can have a light meal. In Scotland you are never more than a few miles from a castle.

E-mail in Scotland
It's nice to be able to leave the everyday world behind and lose yourself in the local scene, But should you need internet access virtually any coffee shop has access available. Also, the public libraries in some towns offer internet service at very nominal cost. And most B&Bs and hotels are offering wi-fi now.

Phone cards
If you need a phone card for either local or overseas calls, the best ones are those sold in post offices. It's only a few pence per minute for any call, and these cards can be used with any type phone, including mobile phones and public phone booths.

Cell phones
Mobile phones are not permitted on most Scottish golf courses. (Dogs are usually allowed, but not phones.)

"Bad hair days"
Hairdressers are in every town, even the small ones. And hairdryers are available in most accommodations.

Smoking in the UK
Scotland is a non-smoking country. it's banned in all public places, including restaurants and pubs and most B&Bs.

Buying food
Supermarkets (called superstores) are popular in most parts of the UK now. The large chains we like most are Tesco (Britain's largest chain), Waitrose, and Sainsbury's. It's fun to go through them and see what different kinds of products they sell. Organic foods are popular in the UK, and the superstores have large sections of them. A nice feature of these superstores is their cafeterias. You'd be surprised as the quality of food here--not a bad choice for a quick meal.
Have a picnic lunch


But we want to put in a good word for the shops in the towns. As an independent traveler, you can take time to visit these smaller, single proprietor shops found on the "high street" of every town or village. There is a green grocer, a butchershop, a flower shop, a bakery, etc. These are the traditional British shops, where you'll find old-fashioned service and good products, usually beautifully displayed.

Eating out in Scotland
You can usually get a decent, inexpensive meal in a pub. They often have two menus--a restaurant menu and a pub menu. Standard pub food is simple but ranges from light meals to complete dinners. Pubs tend to be our first choice when we eat out. One thing that is different about the pubs in the UK is that you order your food from the bar and pay for it when you order. When it is ready. a waitress or waiter will bring it to your table. Note that tipping is different in the UK. In the States, 15% to 20% is normal. Not so in the UK where a 10% tip is very generous.
Valuable Tip: Our other top choice is a golf course clubhouse. Most of them have attractive views, offer decent food, and are open to players and sometimes the public.

Lunch
Here's an easy and inexpensive way to have lunch. Available almost everywhere--pharmacies (such as Boots and SuperDrug), small food shops in small villages, large superstores, department stores, petrol stations -- you'll find pre-wrapped sandwiches in a refrigerated area. Delivered daily to these outlets, they are always fresh, and usually quite good. Keep your eye out for them. (Especially the Ginsters brand.) You can pick up one or two, take it with you to a lovely spot, and enjoy your lunch.

Another lunch option is to pop into a food market (large or wee) and pick up a fresh baguette (many shops carry fresh French bread), some delicious cheese (there are assortments from all over the British Isles), some fresh fruit, and a bottle of soda or mineral water (they usually have some chilled). Take it to a park or any other attractive setting. You'll notice the locals do this.

Or have someone else put together a picnic basket for you. Some shops will do this. If you're in the Golf Coast area, you can have the best--www.gullanedeli.co.uk. (Also appears on our Golf Coast page.)

Still another option for lunch is to go into a pub and order a "jacket" (baked) potato. You can have it plain or choose one of the toppings, such as cheese or chicken or tuna, etc.. A salad is usually included. The baked potatoes in Britain are usually excellent--no soggy, grey-looking things. Another favorite pub food is called a "ploughman." This is a LARGE piece of cheese, a baguette, relish (chutney) and a salad. A Ploughman is the quintessential pub meal, and is often more than you can eat.

Special note for golfers --Two things rarely found on UK golf courses are toilets and drinking water. So be sure to pick up a bottle of water when you are shopping.

More helpful ideas for your golf trip under the specific areas