Visiting Scotland without sneaking in a round at the links is practically sacrilegious, the equivalent of strolling through the Sistine Chapel without ever bothering to take a gander at the ceiling. Her courses bear names with the ring of ancient battlefields where many an iron-swinging gladiator squared off against destiny: Gleneagles, Muirfield, Royal Troon, the legendary St. Andrews. Indeed, Scotland is the Old Country for serious golfers of any flag. But as one family will soon discover, there’s more in store here than, to paraphrase Mark Twain, several good walks spoiled.
B&R’s Bespoke team has earned its reputation as the travel industry’s master couture tailors. Willing and able to customize any existing B&R trip or crafting a completely brand-new one just for you, they specialize in making seemingly impossible dreams come to life. One of their latest masterpieces involved a trip to the land where golf was born for a multi-generational family celebrating a 70th birthday. Grandfolks, parents and tykes? A challenge for sure, but Bespoke Trip Designer Anne Zakula pulled it off with flying colours.
The matriarch and patriarch in Anne’s group are avid golfers who’d played some of Scotland’s prestigious links 20 years ago, so golf figured to be the centerpiece of the trip. With the wondrous Kinnaird Castle—the private home of Caroline and David, genuine nobles, no less—serving as homebase for the first five days, the group will play rounds at some of the country’s finest courses in the mornings and cycle the gorgeous foothills of the Angus Glens in the afternoons. Then, it’s off to charming Edinburgh for three nights of city exploration and local culture by the boatload.
But back to the golf. First up is Carnoustie, one of the sport’s most respected and feared courses. “Car-nasty,” as it is known, has humbled daytrippers and professionals in equal measure since at least the 16th century, and is universally recognized as one of golf’s ultimate tests. It was also the scene of one of sporting history’s most bizarre moments when, in the waning stages of the 1999 British Open, Jean Van de Velde blew a three-shot lead on the final hole, eventually losing the title to Scotsman Paul Lawrie in a playoff. The indellible image of Van de Velde clambering into the wee burn in a futile attempt to chip his ball onto the green has made the unlucky-but-determined Frenchman the patron saint of struggling duffers everywhere. After tackling Carnoustie, the group will play a round at the ancient Montrose Medal course the next day before heading home—the Home of Golf, that is! The Old Course at St. Andrews is a bucket-list must-do for any fan of the sport, and Anne’s travellers will no doubt be awestruck by the incredible history that these fabled links exude.
Scotland’s hilly geography makes it a paradise for cyclists and much as it is a challenge for golfers, and Anne has made sure the family will get to see as much of the gorgeous countryside as possible. From the winding streets of quaint Kirriemuir to the magnificent Angus Glens and back, the second day’s route wends its way through the bucolic farmlands and lush forests of the Grampian foothills. The spectacular views from Glen Doll are worth the visit alone, and there’s still almost a week to go! Later, the riders will bike past lochs, castles and the mysterious engravings of the Picts—ancient Scottish tribespeople from the 10th century—to meet the sea at Stonehaven, a fishing village with one of the prettiest harbours you’ll ever see and some of the best seafood around. Older travellers will also get the chance to enjoy a tipple or two in Fettercairn, home to Scotland’s second-oldest distillery—but not too many… You still have to bike back!
Ah, but what would a trip to Scotland be without a goodly time in Dùn Èideann, known to non-Gaelic speakers as Edinburgh? One of the most cultured capitals in all of Europe, Edinburgh is immensely popular, attracting an average of one million curious visitors per year (second-highest in the UK after London, no less). Rich with literary history, the city’s cozy shop-lined streets, UNESCO-protected districts and stunning Georgian architecture have inspired the prose of noted writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, Ian Rankin and JK Rowling. But for all its opportunities for quiet reflection, the ‘Burgh can really make some noise when necessary—especially when the Edinburgh Military Tattoo are playing, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (the world’s largest performing arts extravaganza) is in session, and the city’s numerous pubs are open for business!
The group will get the chance to soak up the history with the help of Jo Weld Forester, a colourful local guide who doubles as an expert in 18thC porcelain for Sotheby’s auction house. Securing the services of knowledgeable and well-connected people like Jo is essential to making a good trip great. B&R’s guides are amazing people, but even they can’t be expected to know everything. That’s why the Bespoke team works hard to match your group up with relevant artists, dignitaries, interpreters, historians, naturalists and other learned folks to bring out the hidden character of the places you go.
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