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. It might make for questionable entertainment, but it 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.
Scotland is 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.
It’s national dish is of course haggis (don’t let anyone dupe you into thinking its a wild animal! – it isn’t). 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.
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.
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.
Haggis is rich in flavour (honest) Whisky is the national drink © Copyright image Tess Watson (Haggis – left)
licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Terms of licence [CLICK].
© Copyright Jack-Mac34 (whiskies – right) free commercial use from Pixabay
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 though, your perception of the climate is going to be framed by whereabouts you’re from and what you’re used to. Officially the climate of the UK is categorised as “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 and in certain conditions adds to the enjoyment.
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 moderately temperamental with all sorts possible, although it’s also worth being aware that for reason, April is also the driest month of the year in St Andrews and often overlooked despite this. Ultimately we are playing golf in low lying areas (links courses have to be at sea-level by definition) so shouldn’t encounter the worst of what Scotland is capable of.
April is the driest month of the year in St Andrews
One big advantage you enjoy at this northern latitude comes in the summer and the amount of daylight you enjoy. In the Highlands in mid June for instance the sun typically rises at 04.00 and sets at 23.00. You have useable half light conditions for thirty minutes the other side of this. Even in July the sun sets at about 22.00. This allows you to play a double-day without putting you under any timing pressure. It also permits you to extend any non-golf interest into an evening, particularly so where scenery or landscape is involved as these visitor attractions aren’t opening time restricted. If you’re able to make this adjustment, and recognise that you have about five perfectly useable hours each day from 17.00 onwards, you can begin to add significantly to what you’re capable of including.
Think about it. Five extra hours a day, multiplied by say seven days is equivalent to 35 hours. If we’d normally consider ten hours a full day on a vacation, then you can add anywhere between three or four ‘free days’ in effect just by making smart use of the available daylight you have. You can do things like leave Gleneagles at 16.00 spend a couple of hours in Glencoe, and still get back to Gleneagles before its dark
The UK is a densely populated country and her roads reflect this. Scotland isn’t too bad however once you’re outside of the Central Belt (Glasgow to Edinburgh). Strangely enough, driving in congested conditions is often easier. The traffic is frequently gridlocked and allows you much greater opportunity to observe, plan, and even follow others if need be. Although you will need to adjust to driving on the left hand side of the road though, for such time as you’re in urban areas this is fairly easy to do as other motorists will ‘keep you honest’. Overseas visitors who are used to driving on the right-hand side of the road tend to be more vulnerable to lapses in concentration in remote rural locations. There are signs dotted around the Highlands saying ‘keep left’ but that needn’t be enough. Some modern driving management systems do of course have a warning ‘bleeper’ if they detect the vehicle has crossed a ‘white-line’ and moved onto the wrong side of the road
Faraway Fairways will nearly always be able to secure you an automatic transmission, which means you have one less thing to worry about since changing gear only to find yourself winding down a window is a little bit alarming at first until you’ve adjusted. In addition to this aide, we will normally look to put an audio GPS Sat-Nav into a hire as well, so as to allow you to concentrate on steering and general road craft rather than navigation
Outside of the cities, driving in Scotland, particularly the Highland region, is often considered a legitimate leisure pursuit in its own-right. The roads are uncongested and typically scenic. There are normally ample opportunities to pull over and admire a view. Popular spots are known to the highway planners and provision is made to park-up for a few minutes. Drivers should resist the temptation to steal a glimpse and wait instead until such time as its safe to park
Approaching the east end of Glencoe from Rannoch Moor
The currency of the UK is Sterling. You will encounter both English and Scottish bank notes. Fear not, both are perfectly legal tender and are used inter-changeably.
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. 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 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. Reception is sometimes a bit patchy in peripheral areas though, and some courses will have a no mobile phone rule whilst playing. Faraway Fairways endeavour to be available to you on a ‘needs be’ basis throughout the day, and will issue you with contact details should you require our assistance in-situ. In reality however we find most clients prefer to rely on the less intrusive medium of e-mail which they pick up at their convenience
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. There is a danger that we end up exploring 1001 unlikely possibilities if we begin to examine the finer protocols of all the do’s and don’ts. 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! There are certain things that guidebooks daren’t commit to the written record though (similarly, neither will we!). Faraway Fairways are happy to offer discreet guidance should anyone want to ask about how certain views or behaviours are likely to be met though. 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 Thirteen courses variously rated in the world’s top-100. The likes of Royal Aberdeen and Loch Lomond occasionally rank too, whereas Western Gailes, Nairn, and Gleneagles, can’t be missing out by much. Not only is Scotland the ‘home of golf’, but since she is roughly the same size as South Carolina, this concentration of quality also makes her the richest golf mine on the planet as well
|3rd (Golf.Com, 2020)||St Andrews Old Course|
|5th (Golf Digest, 2015) ||Royal Dornoch|
|9th (Golf Digest, 2015) ||Muirfield|
|17th (Golf.Com, 2020)||Turnberry, Ailsa Course|
|26th (Golf Digest, 2015) ||Carnoustie|
|37th (Golf.Com, 2020) ||North Berwick|
|51st (Golf.Com, 2020) ||Royal Troon|
|63rd (Golf.Com, 2020)||Cruden Bay|
|66th (Golf.Com, 2020)||Castle Stuart|
|71st (Golf.Com, 2020)||Kingsbarns|
|75th (Golf.Com, 2020)||Prestwick|
|93rd (Golf.com – 2020)||Machrihanish|
|100th (Golf.Com, 2020)||Trump International Links|