Yes, inveterate travellers know they are back in Scotland when they look out of a window at 6.30pm sharp, every evening, and watch a lone bagpiper walking up and down. This is certainly what happens when the gal returns to Turnberry, A Luxury Collection Resort near Ayr, an hour’s drive south and a bit of west of Glasgow – host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games,(July 23rd-August 3rd,2014) . To get to this luxury hotel, owned by a subsidiary of Dubai World, you can fly into Glasgow via Emirates, which has two non-stop Dubai-Glasgow services each day. From the Americas, take one of the daily Glasgow-bound flights from New York’s Newark airport, or from Philadelphia.
I am on a tour of friendly, and super-luxury, Scottish golf resorts. If you are lucky you too will be greeted by Jordi Tarrida, the German-Spanish guy who runs this 209-room destination (89 of the rooms are actually in detached cottages, great for families or groups of golfing friends). This is naturally (being Scottish) golfers’ paradise. Come here for the par-70 Ailsa course, or the par-72 Kintyre course, or the nine-hole Arran course. Non-golfers can try such activities as water-zorbing, mountain biking, archery, clay pigeon shooting, salmon fishing, or simply doing nothing.
From room 125, the Price Suite, you look down over the landscape to the Firth of Clyde. If it is fine, you can see beyond to the 1,100ft-tall Ailsa Craig island, which gave its name to the golf course. This is where the best curling stones come from, a fact of interest only to Scots, and Canadians, and the few others who are passionate about curling. But tasting tea has aficionados all round the world (it is one of Chinese millionaires’ favourite pastimes). Here in the Price Suite, there is an espresso machine (of course) and a kettle, and a Twining’s tea chest, with 12 different varieties, including jasmine pearl. Choose your favourite, make it in the china pot, timing the brew with a three-glass hourglass labelled white tea, green tea, black tea.
They take drinking and eating very seriously here. The main restaurant is named 1906, for the year that Turnberry first opened, as a 100-room railway hotel complete with the then-staggering salt and freshwater showers, and elevators. In a room leading off the kitchen, behind the restaurant, is a dedicated chefs’ table for up to nine diners, much in demand including by visitors from China. The beech birch and glass table itself is absolutely gorgeous, and no wonder chef Justin Galea, from Melbourne, is like a boy with a toy. It was custom made by Kenny Donaldson, lead designer at Fairlie Furniture, who stuck to the brief, by highlighting every imperfection. The C-shaped table thus reveals every gorgeous knot and twist of the wood.
Gosh you eat well at Turnberry. I had a plate of grass-fed Orkney beef carpaccio with a covering of watercress and parmesan, with a truffle dressing. I had seared Scottish salmon on a bed of asparagus from Dowhill farm, a few miles south in Girvan, and squid ink hollandaise. At breakfast try a real Scottish specialty, say Arbroath smokie with poached egg. Why Arbroath smokie? The name, protected by the EU since 2004, is reserved for haddock prepared in the Arbroath area, on Scotland’s east coast. Fish are salted overnight, and then hung in pairs (tied by their tails) over wood sticks over a hardwood fire in a barrel. They are covered with a wet sack-sealed lid and fast-smoked, to give a strong taste.
Turnberry’s spa is another reason for coming here, and staying longer than merely a couple of rounds of golf. The whole wellness complex, opened by Prince Edward in 1991, can be reached from the main house by a subterranean walkway so even in mid-winter you can head over for a swim, or an ESPA treatment, or a workout in the Technogym (I also recommend the luxury hotel’s sauna, with a glass wall so you can look out at squirrels and rabbits and other wildlife). I would then head back to the Price Suite, to check out its fabulous library, which includes not only Hemingway and P.G. Wodehouse but the complete works of my philosophy hero, Michel de Montaigne. And since the ‘minibar’ includes full-size bottles of Ch. Norton 2007 and Hendrick’s gin, I could be well away – particularly with that piper serenading just outside.