SCOTTISH GOLF TRANSPORT, THE LOWDOWN, THE PROS, THE CONS & OPTIONS
How Do I Get There?
When beginning our appraisal of Scottish golf transport we thought it sensible to start with the point of arrival. Edinburgh is the logical airport for most golf tours. United Airlines has two direct flights from Newark New Jersey daily landing at 07.55 and 09.45 respectively. Otherwise there are direct flights from Chicago, and Philadelphia.
Glasgow is the better option for Troon and Turnberry. United also has a daily flight that lands 07.30, again from Newark. Glasgow has routes to Las Vegas, Orlando, Toronto, and Calgary. Faraway Fairways tend to advise that if you’re playing the Highlands or Aberdeenshire then you’re probably better off using Edinburgh. Alternatively fly to any English hub (London, Manchester, or Birmingham) for regularly local connections to Scotland. In 2016 Heathrow began a direct service to Inverness, the airport is about 4 miles from Castle Stuart
Edinburgh airport is located on the west side of the city and reasonably convenient for ‘getting away’ especially for Fife and St Andrews.
A couple of itineraries involve starting in Northern Ireland. It’s normally worth giving strong consideration towards arriving in Dublin and then transferring over-land (2 hours). Dublin is very often the cheapest North Atlantic route. Alternatively fly to any English hub (London, Manchester, or Birmingham) for regularly local connections to Belfast. The cost of international flights do not appear in our price lists
Unless you’ve booked a self-drive option and would just prefer to be left to get on with things yourself, (some people do) Faraway Fairways will have a representative to meet you and facilitate the last bit of your journey. We don’t seek to slowly assemble a group of you in an airport and then move you en-masse in a single transfer. You’ll want to just get the final leg of your journey over with as quickly as possible.
Anyone who has made an alternative arrangement completely will need to notify us. If you’re not using a Scottish airport, we might not be able to meet and greet you, but would still be able to co-ordinate your onward transfer but please understand you’re likely to incur a cost above that which is otherwise included in the overall cost (unless it’s otherwise been legislated for, e.g. some Irish trips).
UK Driving Experience – What to expect
With 65M people, the UK is a densely populated little island, but Scotland is very ‘Jekyll and Hyde’. Some of her roads are ‘open’ in the liberating sense of the word, and a real joy to drive. Both Edinburgh and Glasgow however are notoriously busy and not terribly well signed.
Driving in congested conditions (although frustrating) isn’t that difficult. It does grant the unfamiliar motorist a bit more time to survey things and consider their options.
You might also find you need to consider any non-golfer(s) and how comfortable they would be striking out on their own whilst the golfers play? The likelihood is that you’ll encounter a logistical issue here as well if non-golfers are using the only vehicle during the day, at the time that golfers are on the course. An appreciation of time and distance would be helpful in coming to any accommodation!
Self-drive or Driver guide?
In common with a lot of operators, self-drive is our default offer. Faraway Fairways are less certain however whether this is a genuine customer preference, or just the way provision evolved because its more convenient for remote tour operators? Faraway Fairways are UK based, and so would be neither remote nor unfamiliar with the challenges. Any transport issues we might encounter will also occur on our time zone which makes responding to them easier to manage. We therefore feel qualified to provide a brief self-drive summary to help you decide.
- You will have a right-hand drive vehicle
- You will need to drive on the left-hand side of the road
- You will encounter strange road-signs and highway laws that you’ll need to adapt to quickly
- You will encounter unfamiliar things like ‘traffic roundabouts’ and ‘giving way to the right’
- Even with sat-nav, you’ll run an enhanced risk of navigational error
- We would normally expect to be able to source an automatic transmission, but could end up with a manual gear-shift as there are many more of them. Automatic’s normally cost marginally more, but not significantly enough to worry about it
The principal gain of self-drive however is 100% independence. Even with a driver guide with whom you establish a good relationship, or someone who keeps out of your way to the point where you barely notice them, it is still never quite the same as being completely independent in your own friendship group
Part-drive therefore involves Faraway Fairways driving a car that carries your golf clubs, whilst the golfing party travel together/ follow, along with their personal luggage in the other car.
Small Size Group travel (four, perhaps five) – Self Drive
Traditionally tour operators use 7-9 person Multiple Person Vehicles (MPV’s), in order to accommodate a group of four, with provision for between 7-9 luggage items. Faraway Fairways can provide this too. If keeping your group together in a single travelling unit and one vehicle is a priority, then it makes much sense. We are increasingly finding however that it is better value to use two mid-range executive saloons instead (8-10 luggage items in total, plus the back-seat if needed).
The Hyundai 40i estate, has become an established favourite for golfers. Scope might exist to combine an executive type car (Mercedes/ BMW – for people and luggage) with a hatchback (golf clubs). This normally works out to be a more expensive combination than two saloons (approx £50pp more) but isn’t without its attraction, given that one car will be used more than the other. The hatchback is primarily used to help with the load moving between hotels. The executive car is used on golf days
Pro’s and Con’s of MPV versus Saloon cars
- The two vehicle option is more flexible, potentially allowing a group to split their areas of interest should you wish to do so (especially helpful for areas of non-golf activity).
- Having two vehicles can be particularly useful if you encounter split tee times (most likely to occur in groups of more than four golfers).
- Two vehicles would allow you to play different courses on the same day, in some cases this could be a question of choice, otherwise it might be the result of tee-time allocations (likely to occur with St Andrews)
- A second vehicle provides a level of contingency against something going badly wrong (mechanical breakdown).
- Two saloon cars normally have slightly more leg space, a marginally higher specification, and greater ride comfort than a standard MPV.
- There is normally little cost difference, (if anything it’s marginally cheaper for now).
- Two vehicles does involve a second fuel requirement
- Two vehicles might have the effect of splitting the group a bit as it requires two drivers, quite probably a two and two arrangement in a party of four
Medium Group travel (eight) – Self Drive
Faraway Fairways normally look to use nine-person MPV(s) for a medium-sized group of up to eight. This would be the largest vehicle that most of you will be able to drive legally. In broad terms, the same logistical pros and cons exist as that for the two saloon cars. You will probably find the saloon car easier to drive, albeit adapting to an MPV isn’t that demanding. Otherwise, the only thing that’s different is the scale given the capacity handling of the vehicles concerned.
A people carrier outside of the Scores Hotel in St Andrews, with the rear of the R&A headquarters in the background and the 18th green beyond
Larger Group travel (nine plus) – Guided Drive
By the time your group begins to exceed eight or more, your options for self-drive are beginning to diminish outside of elaborate convoy solutions! (which are feasible incidentally). In most cases groups will now adopt the guided drive solution and settle back in a mini-bus/ coach in line with the travel class you wish to enjoy. As a general rule you ‘get what you pay for’ with regards to luxury and comfort.
One of the draw backs to self-drive is that it can detract from the group camaraderie experienced in travel if you decide to use two vehicles. Faraway Fairways’ ‘part-drive’ solution is a way of addressing this. Essentially vehicles carry people and luggage, and these can be split accordingly. The Part-drive solution allows a Faraway Fairways driver to transport either your golf clubs or luggage, which permits a group of four to stay together in the second vehicle by removing the burden from one of them to be a second driver (or eight if using a pair of MPV’s). This solution is probably worth giving consideration to.
Faraway Fairways normally provide transport in line with comfort to distance. Many of the journey’s we undertake aren’t that far removed from a daily commute by way of time burden (45 mins). Consequently de-luxe options might be considered an unnecessary extravagance. Faraway Fairways are equally aware however that this might be something of a false equivalent. For many a golf trip to Scotland is something of a life-time ‘experience’. There is the old saying of, if it’s worth doing, then it’s worth doing properly.
Even if an executive car, (a Mercedes or BMW), is more than you really need, it undoubtedly provides a superior ride comfort. You might even consider combining the executive car in a ‘part-drive’ solution? This means one high quality executive car with a lesser quality saloon or even hatchback. On a golfing day all that would happen is that the clubs are transferred to the executive car allowing you to arrive at the course in style. The smaller car is primarily used to help with the load moving between hotels. This variant on the part-drive solution normally works out to be a more expensive combination than two mid-range saloons of similar quality (approx £80pp more) but isn’t without its attraction.
An executive car will normally give you a greater ride comfort
Larger groups are less likely to use an executive car option. They needn’t be compromised however as executive mini-coaches will normally have most, if not all of the following features; extra wide seats with individual arm and footrests, seat back tables, air-conditioning, TV/DVDs, mood lighting, double glazed windows and full draw curtains and cool boxes or fridges. Longer distance coaches can have a toilet and kitchen area with microwave, kettles, and fridges.
Luxury mini coaches and coaches are similar to a first class aircraft seat.
To help you make a little bit more sense of the geography, mileage, and journey times, we’ve linked the RAC’s journey planner. Simply add the ‘to’ and ‘from’ destinations (A & B) and then click ‘Get Route’. You can add a ‘via’ point by clicking ‘add destination’ underneath the two options you’ve entered. The Highland and Wilderness tours are the longest. The most that any single day will involve is about three and a half hours. The only other significant journey is the one undertaken from Turnberry to Edinburgh (about two and a half hours).
The train is usually the most convenient and best-value method for anyone wishing to shuttle between Edinburgh and Glasgow. The journey takes about an hour, but only costs about $20 return, and drops you centrally in either location.
Edinburgh’s Waverley Station is right in the heart of the city
The train actually enjoys a very special relationship with Scotland’s golf links being responsible for the development of so many of them, circa 1880 – 1895. If playing Ayrshire and staying in Glasgow, it would be perfectly feasible to consider using the train as your primary transport, and massively reduce any need for vehicle hire or driving.
Express trains open up day-trip possibilities for the non-golfer too. Edinburgh is a mainline hub, serving the northern English cities of Durham and York, about 2 hrs and 45 mins away. Both cities have intrinsic value albeit we’d advise ‘old York‘ ahead of ‘Durham Town’. A long day-trip to London on the Flying Scotsman (departs from Edinburgh) is possible. It should yield about five hours in the British capital. We ask that anyone considering this contact us ahead of travelling as we would normally be able to secure you a cheaper ticket and tailor things in line with what you want to achieve on limited time. This would be a full day though. Be prepared to eat in-situ, and quite probably sleep on the return journey too!.
Tours that combine Northern Ireland with Scotland involve crossing the Irish Sea. Playing Royal County Down requires that we use the larger, modern, high speed ferry service, and the deep water port of Belfast. The crossing to Stranraer takes a little over 2 hours. The UK has over 100 passenger ferries leaving ports for European destinations daily. Their safety record is excellent. Only one has ever been lost in peacetime, and that was in the English Channel.
A Stena High Speed Catamaran completes the journey between Belfast and Stranraer in about 2 hours. If you want, you can take a private cabin for added comfort
Sea crossings do run an enhanced risk of travel disruption however. The services between Scotland and Northern Ireland won’t normally sail in ‘rough’ conditions. We will usually have some indication in advance of a deteriorating picture, and might be able to mitigate cancellations with alternative arrangements. It is worth being aware that periodically inexpensive flight tickets become available. Purchasing one of these as a contingency can sometimes be justified if the price isn’t prohibitive. The problem is we can’t rely on their availability, but Faraway Fairways can notify you of as to when, (or if) they make it onto the market
Our ‘Wilderness’ tour is also potentially vulnerable to inclement sea conditions. The ferries used for linking up the Scottish islands aren’t as modern as those used on the Irish lines. They are however rugged and durable. We have less scope for mitigation against cancellations here as flights are much less frequent and can face disruption themselves. Essentially golf is an outdoor sport, and this part of Scotland is remote. A degree of effort, and even logistical risk is needed to experience it. Basically there reaches a point where golfer’s will need to accept this. For the most part we’ll be OK, but every now and then we will face an issue of a cancellation and need to ‘sit it out’ and wait for things to improve
In a lot of cases local ‘hopper’ flights to the Highlands or Northern Ireland take longer door-to-door than overland transfers or sailing. The exception however is the flight from Glasgow to Machrihanish. This can be completed as a golfer’s day-trip, or as part of a wider tour.
The twin engine ‘Otter’ is the workhorse of the Highlands and Islands. It has proven to be durable and reliable. They even land them on beaches in the far north! Don’t worry, Campbeltown has a conventional runway
The service from Glasgow to Campbeltown is subject to a luggage weight restriction of 25Kg’s per person. This is fine for a set of golf clubs and a day-trip, but creates an issue otherwise. In the case of the extended excursion Faraway Fairways undertake to move your luggage separately by road around the Kintyre Peninsula. The scenic journey along Loch Lomond can take up to four hours, but by the time golfers have flown on ahead, eaten, and played 18 holes, we’d expect to be able to reunite you with your luggage upon completing your round
Faraway Fairways use a similar solution in light of a weight restriction on our ‘Wilderness’ tour. Having played Askernish, golfer’s will fly from the airport of Benbecula on the remote Hebridean Island outpost of South Uist, to Inverness. Faraway Fairways will ferry the rest of your luggage by sea and road and meet up with you later