The Machrie – a Scottish experience

The Islay coastline, with the Mull of Kintyre in the distance
The Islay coastline, with the Mull of Kintyre in the distance

Islay is truly one of the hidden gems of Scottish tourism. It is a relatively popular destination for Scots seeking a peaceful vacation on an idyllic island known for its whisky production and slower pace of life. There are only 3,500 residents on Islay, which is reachable by air from Glasgow & Edinburgh in addition to regular ferry service from mainland ports.

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Golf, Whisky and Amazing Views: The Machrie Golf Links

The Machrie Golf Links - #TBT

The Machrie takes its name from the Gaelic word machair, which means the links. Set in the dunes of Islay, and designed in 1891 by Willie Campbell, it is the traditional Scottish links.
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Scotland’s Pride and Joy from Islay to Turnberry

CBS Sunday Morning News ran a story during the holidays about Islay single malts that reminded us that the flight from Glasgow to Scotland’s famous Isle of Islay (EYE-lah) takes less than an hour.  Whisky loving links golfers who journey this way with a week or so to chase their passions will find their quest for Scotland’s pride and joy off to an outstanding start.

First there is the joy that is an Islay single malt.  There are nine distilleries on the island who find themselves set apart from Scotland’s other whisky regions because the peat they use to fire their kilns and smoke their barley produces the boldest malts made.  Islay’s tradition with peat is not exclusive to Scotch whisky production but it is profoundly distinctive.  Sunday Morning reports that more than a billion dollars’ worth of Islay malts were exported to the States last year.  The New York Times spirits panel wrote in 2011 that as they tasted 20 single malts from Islay, “ we reminded ourselves to step back a moment, to contemplate with no small amount of awe the magic of what was in the glass.”   Roll Tide but Islay is also home to golf magic, at The Machrie (1890), found five miles from the Laphroaig (lah-FROYG), Ardbeg and Lagavulin distilleries who are queued up along a two mile stretch of the A846.   The Machrie would be a good proshop to patronize because you’ll go on to meet plenty of golfers who have heard of it but not so many who have played.

The same can be said for your next round. After a night or two in single malt heaven, the focus will turn to Scotland’s pride – her classic and clever links – beginning with Machrihanish.  Machrihanish (1876) isn’t ordinarily “on the way” but if you’re bound for Turnberry from Islay, the Mull of Kintyre is immediately on the left at the end of a two hour ferry ride.   The Mull is home to Old Tom Morris’ masterpiece, along with its impressive neighbor and newcomer Machrihanish Dunes ( 2009).  Accommodations are superb at The Royal Hotel or The Ugadale Hotel or the Ugadale Cottages, the dining is exceptional, the pace is perfect.  The scene will change before you know it of course but you’ll enjoy two nights and 2-3 rounds before speed boating off to Turnberry.

The Kintyre Express will ferry you back to the real world, 40 miles away across the Firth of Clyde to the Scottish mainland, in time for your first round on the Ayrshire Coast.  Another thing to like about this trip is how the first part gives you a tune up for the second part when you’ll be playing two of the most historic courses in championship golf.  Having a little game on a British Open layout is a good thing, so you can go home with the right kind of stories about Royal Troon (1878) and The Ailsa at Turnberry (1909).

 

Great News for Islay

Further to my post in January regarding The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links entering administration, I was pleased to read that the administrators have found a buyer and the property was sold for an undisclosed sum on Thursday 30 June 2011 to Machrie Golf LLP.

Machrie Golf LLP is a partnership established by Baroness Sue Nye (former Director of Government Relations at 10 Downing Street) and her husband Gavyn Davies (Chairman of Fulcrum Asset Management). The facility will now be managed by G3k, whose CEO is Stewart Smith; a Scottish golf professional for 28 years who has been involved with some very impressive golf course developments.

The Machrie

The Machrie estate is located on Islay on the West coast of Scotland and includes the hotel with bar and restaurant, lodges, golf shop and the 71-par championship golf course. The golf course is considered one of the world’s top links courses and is rated within the UK’s 100 top golf courses.  You can see further details by clicking here.  

With an array of single malt distilleries on the island Islay is a great destination for any golfers looking for something a bit different.  It can also work well with a trip to Scotland’s Ayrshire coast as you can fly there from Glasgow and this allows courses like Turnberry, Royal Troon and Prestwick to be included in a trip.

By Alastair Niven.  Alastair has been with PerryGolf for over 10 years and is one of our Golf Travel Specialists.