Picture the scene. With over 25 years of experience on the golf course, my husband approaches the tee. Below him the wild waves are crashing against the Scottish cliffs and the wind is howling, but nothing puts him off. His ball takes flight and he nails the shot. His competitor is up next. My camera in my left hand, my golf club in the right. I am ready to take my shot. One click of the camera and I’ve got it – the beautiful coast of Portpatrick is captured perfectly. Andy reminds me that we are here to play golf, to put the camera down and it is my turn to play against him. The challenge? Andy is a PGA professional golfer.
A few weeks ago, Andy and I made the very short drive from Belfast to Larne to get the ferry over to Cairnryan, Scotland. We have done the journey before and knew that the best option was to book into the Club Lounge so that we would also get priority boarding. We checked in, got our boarding passes and made it to the top of our lane. You can upgrade to enjoy the comfort of the Club Lounge from £12 per person and enjoy the priority boarding, and read the complimentary magazines while sipping on a glass of complimentary wine! Now you understand why we thought it was the best option….
Top tip: it is recommended to get there an hour before departure, as check in closes 30mins before (that way, you can grab a quick coffee in the terminal).
First onto the ferry, means that you can choose the best seat in the house! We chose a lovely table with a big window looking out to sea - the perfect view to enjoy the crossing!
The ferry journey only takes two hours, so you need to make the most of the onboard services as soon as you are settled. As always, I was a little bit hungry and decided to order something off the Club Lounge menu. Luckily, one of the perks of the Club Lounge is that there is a friendly steward there ready to take you order and mine was so helpful in speaking to the kitchen to check what would be gluten free. I ordered a simple salad and Andy poured me another cup of tea from the self-service drinks bars. He ordered a sausage bap and moved onto his third coffee of the morning (I am a talker in the morning, he isn’t. The caffeine kick is needed!).
After our morning snack (which is different to breakfast or lunch…call it ‘a snack’ and it means you can squeeze another meal in without judgement), we decided to brave the upper deck. It was a gorgeous morning and a little wind wasn’t going to put me off a bit of sea air!
My pet hate in airports is mind-numbingly watching the bag carousel going around and around while waiting on my suitcase. In contrast, there is no baggage limit when travelling with P&O Ferries, so you can load up your car with as many bags as you like! This time, not only did I delightfully over pack, but we brought our golf clubs too!
No sooner than we set sail, were we arriving at the shores of Scotland! It is not long after we seen the ferry pulling into the Cairnryan port, than we were driving off the ferry (at the front of the queue) ready to embark on our golfing road trip. What better place for it, Scotland is the birthplace of golf!
We made our way to the first stop of our trip, Wigtownshire County Golf Club. Only a 15 minute drive from the harbour, Wigtownshire is a true links course and is great for beginners because it is nice and flat (easier to see where your ball might be hiding).
We received a warm welcome from the ladies at the club who had just finished a competition, had some gluten free toasties and left the clubhouse to pick up our wheels…
As a total beginner, I found the easiest way to learn was to watch Andy and then try to copy exactly what he was doing.
The stunning beach views made the afternoon all the more enjoyable. Although, our round was possibly longer than normal as I wanted to take a couple of photos, or fifty.
Despite being fiercely competitive, I decided to let Andy give me a few tips along the way. He was able to use his V1 Coaching System (an app that he uses on his phone) to show me where I was going wrong and where I could make improvements. He showed me how to improve my posture and spine angle. The spine angle is the axis of the golf swing, so if it is off, your rotation will be off. By fixing my spine angle I was able to get more rotation and more speed into my swing. This in turn, would help me to win our game. Maybe.
As I grew in confidence, onlookers stopped in their tracks to watch my swing…
This is only the second game of golf I had ever played. The first was in Belfast and I took so long and made so many mistakes, that Andy had to repeatedly wave players through to let them go ahead of us. It was an entirely frustrating experience and really put me off playing again. I was so thrilled to be back on the course and actually have a really enjoyable game. This was the point that I realised I had been bitten by the golf bug and absolutely loved it!
A few lost balls later (sorry Andy), we were ready to drive off the course. We played nine holes plus an extra three because I was really enjoying the game and didn’t want to stop at nine, but was too tired to make it to 18.
We jumped in our car and headed in the direction of beautiful Portpatrick, where we would stay for the evening and play a round of golf the following morning. Portpatrick is the most gorgeous seaside town, with little pastel-coloured houses, a dramatic cliff backdrop and the friendliest locals. Now a peaceful holiday resort, Portpatrick boasts a number of bars and restaurants to choose from.
There is plenty of self-catering options in Portpatrick, as well as small hotels and B&Bs. We opted to stay within the grounds of Portpatrick Dunskey Golf Club in their self catering apartment. It is in a great location - right on the golf course and only a five minute walk from the town centre. Dunskey call it their ‘20th Hole’, which is ideal as you can roll into bed from the ‘19th hole’ (the bar), which is opposite the apartment. It sleeps 4 people in two twin bedrooms, has a kitchen, bathroom, a living/dining room, free WIFI and Freeview TV. The prices are extremely reasonable and you can book by clicking here.
After a long day playing golf, we were well and truly ready for dinner! We quickly dropped off our bags in the apartment, got ready and made our way down the hill to the centre of Portpatrick. We walked along the waterfront, with fairy lights lining the harbour wall. We had dinner booked in Campbell’s Restaurant, which was lucky because it was a full house! Campbell’s is the most gorgeous little restaurant right on the harbour. It has possibly the best menu you could ever wish for when you are hungry. I opted for the mussels in white wine and garlic cream for starters, their version of ‘Surf and Turf’ (fillet steak and lobster thermidor) for main and creme brûlée for dessert. This is a restaurant that I would definitely look forward to visiting again!
After we were suitably stuffed, we went back to our apartment and were tucked up in bed for 10pm. Not quite the rock and roll Saturday night we had planned in Scotland, but who knew a round of golf could be quite so exhausting! Plus, we had an early start on Dunskey golf course in the morning!
I was woken up by the sound of rain. Not just normal rain. Window crashing, wind howling, kind of rain. Andy wasn’t phased by it at all and began to get ready as if it were a glorious day outside. As I brushed highlighter onto my cheeks, I began to wonder if there was actually any point at all in putting on makeup. At the first hole, I got my answer and regretted even bothering to brush my hair.
Portpatrick Dunskey is a great test of golf! The beautiful greens were contrasted by the long, wispy links rough. This was definitely a challenging course for me to play, but the wind stealing my ball repeatedly played a huge factor in that. I definitely didn’t play as well as the day before, but I had just as much fun, despite not being able to feel my fingers! What totally blew me away (pun intended) were the amount of golfers out playing the course. Just like the Irish, the Scottish were not going to let the weather ruin a good game of golf!
The endurance of playing golf in these conditions soon became worthwhile, when we reached the 11th, 12th and especially 13th holes. These holes run along the cliff front and provide possibly the most dramatic backdrop for playing golf. Andy said that despite playing golf all over the world, he was hard pushed to think of a more scenic hole than the 13th in Dunskey. For anyone thinking of playing Dunskey GC, I left you my golf ball - it is somewhere in the long grass over on the lefthand side by the sea. You’re welcome!
After what was the craziest round of golf in the craziest weather, we headed back to our little apartment to warm up. We took our duvet into the living room, snuggled up on one of the cosy sofas and drank cups of tea while watching the wild wind beat off the large window. We look disheveled, but moments like this are the ones I always look back on and remember!
We finished up with a bowl of warming soup in the club house and then headed back to Cairnryan ready to sail home. It was so windy, that we were happy just to curl up in the Club Lounge, but not before one last photo. Nailed it…
We would like to say a huge thank you to Portpatrick Dunskey Golf Club and in particular their Pro, Chris Robinson, who made our stay in Portpatrick so wonderful!
If you’re interested in a Scottish golf trip, you can find lots of information on the South of Scotland Golf website by clicking here.
Top tip: Bring a hair bobble!
P&O Ferries’ great value fares start from £84 each way from Larne to Cairnryan for a car and driver. You can save 15% off sailings booked by 14th November 2018 by clicking here.
Road trips are the best way to explore new places and by travelling by ferry, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of renting a car!
Jump in your car, bring your travel buddy and the adventure begins!
Disclaimer - This blog post is a paid collaboration with P&O Ferries. All images, words and opinions are my own. Photographer: my very own Instagram husband.