Every year, my husband along with his dad and brother, take a men’s golf trip with Focus on the Family. (just a little note: the trips are organized by our friend Jason of Avalon Journey, so if you are looking for someone to help you plan a golf trip or event to any destination, he’s your guy!) Typically, they stay in the US and its just a 3 day event, but on the years they go abroad, the wives are invited to tag along for a week of touring and sightseeing while they play their rounds. Three years ago, we went to Ireland and this year’s trip was to Scotland! My husband had been before but this was my first time and I must say, the country exceeded my expectations. The wild and rugged countryside coupled with the centuries old towns and nearly perfect weather (for the majority of our trip) was just spectacular. Scotland is pretty rainy and overcast most of the year and we had several days of cloudless skies and temperatures in the mid 80’s so we certainly lucked out!
Since the purpose of the trip was to golf, we only visited areas that were densely populated with courses…mainly staying on the east coast. While I was somewhat disappointed to not experience the Highlands area in the northwest, I must say, the countryside alone we saw while traveling from city to city was pretty breathtaking. Lush barley fields, green pastures and the occasional mountain top were the typical sites.
Our trip was 7 days in total, spending it amongst three different cities. I’ll break up the post based on where we stayed, what we saw at that location and I’ll finish the post with what I suggest to pack (for a July trip).
We began the trip in Edinburgh and promptly headed to North Berwick where we stayed at Archerfield. We spent 3 nights here and our family stayed in a lodge, which was lovely. If you aren’t traveling with a large party, you could stay in their pavilion suites or the cottage. There is also a lovely estate on property than can be rented out for up to 30 people or you could stay in the marine villa that was rumored to have been the very villa where Robert Lewis Stevenson stayed when he was inspired the write the classic, Treasure Island. The food was great and we even had high tea there which was delightful! If you are traveling with a golfer, this property is very close to courses such as Muirfield, Renaissance, North Burwick and Gullane.
Some of the sites we saw while we were in this area were:
North Berwick: A little town nestled by the sea filled with charm and stunning ocean views…including the island of Fidra, which is the inspiration of Treasure Island. There is a golf course right in the middle of the town that runs right along the water, so this would be a great place for a husband and wife to spend the day each doing their own thing. I loved the small streets filled with wonderful cafe’s, pubs and shops. It was also here that I had the sweetest encounter with an elderly woman in a church I walked into that invited me to have tea and cookies with her. She told me her son had played golf at Alabama…just like my husband and made me realize just how small the world truly is.
Tantallon Castle: Stunning views of the North Sea and a great vantage point of Bass Rock which is home to the largest colony of gannets in the world.
Edinburgh: Loved this old town and all the history it provided. It seriously looked like the set of Hogwarts in Harry Potter, which makes sense considering that JK Rowling wrote the book right there in the city. The Edinburgh castle is truly spectacular and I loved looking at it from the vantage point of Princes Street Gardens with an ice cream in hand. If you have little ones, this would be a wonderful place for them to run around and also enjoy kid friendly activities like the playground or bungee trampoline.
Holyrood Palace: The residence of the Queen when she visits Edinburgh, so many of the rooms are still staged with their original furnishings. It was also a treat to get to see Megan Markle’s wedding gown that was on display there too. You could easily spend 2 hours here exploring the palace and then enjoying the gardens on the grounds.
Gullane Beach/Aberlady Bay: Ok, so i don’t know how to provide the exact location of this area but this was hands down my favorite experience of the trip. I felt like I was in a dream as we navigated through the tall wheat fields that looked like golden waves rolling all around us with the sea to our right. We walked to this area from Archerfield but you can get public access from the Gullane Beach and just keep walking northeast until you start seeing them along the shoreline. The website I have linked in the title above is pretty helpful and informative if you want to experience this beautiful walk yourself.
Where to eat in Edinburgh:
I only had lunch at a little turkish cafe (which was fine), but I would suggest this restaurant :The Witchery - A restaurant recommendation I was given and while I didn’t eat there, I peaked inside and it was stunning. It’s right by Edinburgh castle and I believe its pretty pricey and best to have a reservation.
Golf courses my husband played in this area:
Stirling/ St. Andrews
You can’t go to Scotland and not visit St. Andrews. It’s the home of golf, the location of St. Andrews University (3rd oldest university in the world and where William and Kate met) and is just so incredibly charming. We stayed at The Rusacks hotel, which sits right on the 18th green of The Old Course. I’ll start by sharing what we did in Stirling on our way to St. Andrews:
Stirling Castle/William Wallace Monument: We made made a quick pit stop in Stirling to see the Stirling Castle. Stirling is a pretty notable place as its also the location of where William Wallace and the Scottish defeated the English (you may best know it from that iconic Braveheart scene when his face is painted blue). The National Wallace Monument is close by and can be seen at a distance from the castle if you don’t prefer to see it up close.This was probably my least favorite castle we visited, so I wouldn’t label it as a must see.
St. Andrews University: Tons of history and incredible architecture. While we were on campus, they were having chapel and it was so enchanting to hear the choir echoing throughout the courtyard.
The Old Course at St. Andrews/Royal & Ancient: Even if you aren’t a golf fan, it is pretty incredible to see the first golf course. (Did you know that the concept of bunkers originated from the areas of the course that the sheep burrowed out?) Its situated right next to the beach (which also happens to be the filming location of the opening scene of Chariots of Fire). The Royal & Ancient is also something that is neat for the golf fan to see and is also right there on the 18th green.
Glamis Castle:: My favorite castle we visited, this was the home of the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. The current family who owns it still uses it for special occasions so its neat to tour a functioning castle. There is also a room of momentos that hold treasures like handwritten notes from the Queen to her grandparents and the wedding programs of Charles and Diana as well as William and Kate’s.
Where to eat in St. Andrews:
Forgans: If you want to experience traditional Scottish food in a cool environment, I can’t recommend Forgans enough. Supposedly they have evenings where they have ceilidh singing and dancing so that would certainly make for a fun dining experience.
Little Italy: I know, it sounds crazy to eat Italian food in Scotland, but this is one of the most popular restaurants in St. Andrews. Incredible Italian food in a cozy setting. Make sure you have a reservation
Jannettas Gelateria: We had gelato from here every day and don’t even feel bad about it! I loved the sea salt chocolate and strawberries & clotted cream and Dwight loved coffee.
The final leg of our trip was on the west coast in Turnberry. We only spent one day/night here but it was at the beautiful Trump Turnberry Hotel. The boys played golf (at Turnberry) and the ladies enjoyed the amenities like the spa or having high tea. There is a beautiful lighthouse you can see from the hotel on the course and apparently there is a room inside that a guest can stay in. How neat! There was a wedding held there during our stay so it was so fun to see all the ladies in their fascinators and seeing the bagpiper lead them out of the ceremony. We ate there on property so I don’t have any food recommendations.
We flew out of Glasgow so I was only able to get a view of the city from the car, but it seemed like somewhere worthy of exploring.
So what did I pack?
As I mentioned earlier, the weather is typically pretty cool and dreary, so i packed a few sweaters, jackets and even my rain boots…but since the weather was quite warm during out trip, I really needed more warm weather options Thankfully, I had planned enough layered outfits that I just forwent my jackets and felt very comfortable. Here’s an overview of what I brought in my suitcase:
2 camis (white & black)
1 pair black yoga paints (for travel)
4 t shirts
3 button down shirts
1 pair of rainboots
1 pair of sandals
1 pair of wedges
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As always, leave a comment if you have any questions. I’m more than happy to help anyway I can.