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8 Extra Reasons to Stay And Play Golf in Ayrshire

By: Golfshake Editor | Wed 14 Jun 2023

Matt Carr is a travel journalist covering all manner of outdoor pursuits, including skiing, surfing and of course - golf. You can read his work here on Golfshake and in a variety of other publications online and in print. He visited the Ayrshire coast with a group of 12 keen golfers of mixed ability, with scores on their tour ranging from 69 to 109!

The Ayrshire coast is rightly known as one of the finest stretches of links golf on the planet, anchored by the star power of Turnberry and Royal Troon, the history and quirk of Prestwick and ably supported by the modern links Scottish Open venue at Dundonald Links, the traditional gem that is Western Gailes, and several other strong local courses all within touching distance.

But what else can the touring golfer expect to find on this hallowed stretch of seaside, besides the golf itself? Even the keenest beans among us need to have the odd break between rounds, or even a fully-fledged day off. On a recent stay & play trip I found that Ayrshire is home to an embarrassment of golf-adjacent options to explore.

We stayed at Dundonald Links’ purpose built golf resort, which I cannot recommend highly enough, particularly for a group golf tour, so we’ll begin our adventure here:

Dundonald Links

(Image Credit: Patrick Koenig)

The Welcome

We could not have been made to feel more at home than what we were at Dundonald Links. Nothing was too much trouble for Frances McClure in the reservations team to Davey Rutherford the Head Concierge to the super friendly team in the Canny Crow restaurant, we felt like members from the second we arrived.   

The Canny Crow

Canny Crow

Daniel Sweeney, Head Chef at Dundonald’s Canny Crow restaurant has put together a belter of a menu with options to please all tastes and budgets. During our visit in April 2023 they had a Masters Menu, featuring a selection of recent Masters Champions Dinner selections. Not surprisingly, the various local Black Angus steaks are real standouts, whilst imaginative uses of whisky and haggis blend with more delicate French fine dining flourishes. The home-made pickle & onion focaccia, with maple butter was simple but somehow really unusual and absolutely delicious.

The Wildlife

If, like me, your blood pressure is prone to rising dangerously on and around a golf course, the wildlife that inhabits Dundonald Links can be a welcome distraction. Various panels, usually next to tee boxes, feature a range of fascinating detail on the local flora and fauna. What could transport you back to a state of golfing zen after a second consecutive sub four-foot missed birdie putt than learning about the whys and wherefores of the skylark song heard overhead? What would quell the despair of losing your ball in the rough if not the opportunity to hang out with the UK’s smallest variety of butterfly - the Small Blue - which makes its home there?  

The Sauna

The Sauna

One of our group, who’s played just about everywhere, described the changing rooms at Dundonald Links as “the best he’s ever been in”. The centrepiece is undoubtedly the sauna & steam room, which certainly helped ward off the stiff joints and hurt back that can easily blight a golf tour. I got my sweat on every day post-golf and felt all the better for it.

The Whisky

Dundonald Links

No Scottish golf trip is complete without a comprehensive examination of the brown stuff and there’s no shortage of top notch whisky to get stuck into at Dundonald Links, which offers a range of whisky tasting experiences in its dedicated whisky room. In-house expert Adam is on hand to guide you through over 100 whiskies available to try, from local independent bottlers to global showstoppers.  

The Isles

Isle of Arran

Continuing the boozy theme, the nearby Isle of Arran (which features prominently on the horizon across the Firth of Clyde from every course) is home to two whisky distilleries, Arran Botanicals (beachside gin-makers at Cladach Beach House) and two beer breweries, all offering great tours. For those looking to give the body and liver a break, why not head to Cumbrae, a smaller island sometimes referred to as the Island of a Thousand Bicycles” - where you can rent bikes for a gentle 10-mile ride around the pretty island.

The Golf History

For golf history buffs, it doesn’t get any better than the clubhouse at Prestwick, where the first Open Championships were held, 24 of them in all. The clubhouse is a splendid monument to the history of the game. Getting to the club at least an hour before your tee time to take a tour is an absolute must, whilst the formal lunch in the Dining Room is a rite of passage that should not be missed.

The Not-Golf History

Robert Burns Museum

Ayrshire was the birthplace and home to The Scottish Bard, poet and songwriter Robert Burns. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is well worth a visit to immerse yourself in the heritage of Scotland’s literary hero. In nearby Irvine there is also the Scottish Maritime Museum, nicknamed the Cathedral Of Engineering, which is a delightful building which documents Scotland’s storied shipbuilding and seafaring history.

Should you wish to know more about golf breaks to Ayrshire, including specifically from Dundonald Links, then please check out our travel partners Golfbreaks.

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