Food and drink
No one is going to claim that British cuisine has earned a place on the culinary global pantheon quite yet, but by the same token there is no way that it’s as bad as popular myth would have you believe (honestly!!!). The UK today has never had a more diverse and cosmopolitan population and this has meant catering for, and absorbing an increasingly rich variety of influences.
The other major influence to consider is that our television screens have been infested by variants of ‘dancers cooking idolised celebrities in a jungle on ice-skates with a premium rate telephone number’ for well over a decade now, and this has undoubtedly raised the culinary consciousness of the nation. It seems that every independent establishment has genuinely ‘raised their game’ in response to this popularising of the dining experience. Scotland’s own contribution to this revolution goes beyond Gordon Ramsay.
Scotland is one of the stranger countries in Europe where cuisine is concerned. At one level it frequently performs poorly on healthy eating indices, but at the other end of the spectrum it also possesses a rich heritage and tremendous depth to its food which screams quality. The obvious conclusion that we’ve tended to draw is that this is a question of economics.
It’s famed for it’s game (notably venison) and beef (the Aberdeen Angus). It also has a world renowned salmon industry, as well as sea-fish.
Salmon is a speciality of many. Carnoustie’s is top drawer
It’s national dish is of course haggis (don’t let anyone dupe you into thinking its a wild animal!). The only area it really struggles with a bit are vegetables, due to a truncated growing season, but it’s rarely an issue and ‘neeps and tatties’ (swedes and potato) have been turned into a traditional ‘Burns night dish’ that you should be able to source.
Haggis, Neeps & Tatties; the traditional ‘Burns Night’ dish, but available all year round
To no small extent drink equals whisky (Scotch in English) albeit a “Scotch Whisky” does work as a sort of labelled appellation (use the word “whisky” if ordering any). Whisky isn’t to everyone’s palate though.
We dare not offer an opinion as to which one is the best, but Glenfiddich, MaCallan and Glenlivet are among the better known ‘Speys’
For the most part, Scots drink beer or lager, the same as anywhere else really. There is a distinction in that Scots will ask for a pint of “heavy” or a pint of “light”. Heavy would equate to a traditional beer, the sort which overseas visitors often call “warm beer”, whereas “light” is closer to the traditional chilled lagers you see all over the world.
Despite what the English might have you believe, Scotland is not in the Arctic circle, nor are polar bears indigenous to the Highlands!. To a large extent your perception of the climate is going to be framed by whereabouts in the US you’re from. Officially the climate is temperate, although the weather is often ‘changeable’. As golfers, your biggest enemy on a links course is likely to be wind, but that’s a known part of the challenge.
The best advice we can offer is to prepare for a bit of rain and have a waterproof contingency available. We shouldn’t hit a cold snap outside of winter, but if things do prove a bit chilly, you can always buy something here and do your bit for Scotland’s woollen industry rather than burden yourself with bulky items. April and early May can be a moderately temperamental time with all sorts possible. We are however in low lying areas so shouldn’t pick up the worst of things.
One advantage of this latitude, is we are far enough north to capture the aurora – we’re seriously hoping too! The equinox’s are normally regarded as the best time and that means September and March. A good siplay is normally forecast in advance and should we get lucky we’ll be happy to try and drive you out to a darkened area.
The currency of the UK is Sterling. You will encounter both English and Scottish bank notes. Fear not, these are perfectly legal tender. See if you can find the Royal Bank of Scotland’s with Jack Nicklaus on the back. Jack says he’s been asked to sign one every day since they issued this commemorative £5 note. You might cheat. Provided there isn’t a prohibitively long queue in the establishment concerned, a retailer might be prepared to rifle through their till to try and find you one, but they’re increasingly rare now. The 2014 Ryder Cup note is more plentiful
All major credit cards are supported across Scotland albeit Visa is the most widely used.
One area that often gets mentioned is ‘tipping’. The UK doesn’t really operate a formal tipping culture, but rather than burden you with a list of protocols we’re more inclined to suggest that you do what you feel comfortable with. We would however offer the following.
You are not expected to tip bar staff for drink service. In terms of buying a drink in a pub or bar it’s usually helpful to know what you want to purchase before ordering. Try not to strike up a prolonged conversation about the origins of every drink on sale before deciding what to purchase, especially if there are other people waiting to be served. No one will appreciate you doing this, and you could easily earn a rebuke from customers behind you, or even the staff if you’ve exhausted their patience.
It’s more customary to tip in restaurants. It should specify on a menu if a service charge is included, but 10% is normally considered a benchmark if it isn’t.
Those of you hiring a caddie for a round of golf are typically expected to offer a gratuity tip starting at about $25. Clearly this depends on the level of service and assistance that the caddie provides
You wouldn’t expect to tip someone for providing you with instructions as to how to find a place. It’s up to your discretion if you choose to obviously. There would be a reasonable chance that most members of the public would decline to accept out of embarrassment.
Tipping is more common in the hotel industry and our advice is to rely on what you’re used to and feel comfortable with
Contrary to what stereotypes might have you believe, the Scots tend to pretty well dress like anyone else does. That means they don’t routinely wear tartan, albeit women might occasionally wear a discreet bit of tartan trimming as part of a wider design. Wearing tartan won’t help you blend in. Quite opposite. It’ll normally advertise the fact you’re a tourist as it seems to be an adopted uniform worn predominantly by visitors. Similarly, ‘Pringle’ sweaters are normally another dead give away. Both are fine for a golf course, but for casual everyday wear it tends to be visitors who partake.
The UK is amongst the safest countries to travel around in the world. OK there is such a thing as ‘wrong place, wrong time’ that can happen to anyone, but you only need to look at any comparable international crime indicators pertaining to any felony you care to think of to realise that the UK compares very favourably.
You might find it helpful to bring your own mobile phone and make whatever arrangements are necessary to have it operational. We endeavour to try and be available to you on a ‘needs be’ basis throughout the day, and will issue you with full mobile contact details should you require our assistance in-situ. Reception is sometimes a bit patchy in peripheral areas though, and many courses will have a no mobile phone rule whilst playing.
We can over-do worry if we aren’t careful, and we wouldn’t want to send you into pangs of paranoia. For the most part you’re going to be perfectly ok. In addition your guide(s) are well aware of most of the dos and don’ts, as well as things that the guidebooks daren’t commit to the written record (similarly, neither will we!). We don’t propose to hand out an introductory lecture on this subject though as it hardly seems an appropriate starting point to a vacation. It’s about enjoyment, not survival! We’re happy to offer discreet guidance should anyone want to ask about how certain views or behaviours are likely to be met. In truth such enquiries are normally very interesting and we welcome them as they often throw light on other things.
International golf course rankings
Scotland has twelve courses in the world’s top-100. The likes of Nairn, Gleneagles, and Prestwick can’t have missed out by much. Scotland is roughly the same size as South Carolina, making her not only the home of golf, but the richest golf mine on the planet
||St Andrews Old Course
|5th (Golf Digest)
|9th (Golf Digest)
|22nd (Golf Digest)
||Turnberry, Ailsa Course
|26th (Golf Digest)
||Trump International Links
|50th (Golf Digest)
|91st (Golf Digest)