My husband, Andy, son Jake, 5, daughter, Phoebe, 2, and I recently chose to spend some time away at the luxurious self catering apartments at the Lands of Turnberry, Scotland. It seemed like the ideal place to try our hand at a few holes of golf while relaxing in, what turned out to be, the lap of self-catering luxury.
The Lands of Turnberry is a small self-catering mini-village just yards from the impressive Turnberry Hotel and across the road from Turnberry's famous links golf courses. Our apartment, The Prestwick, had stunning views of Scotland's western ocean.
These apartments are just as luxurious as a five star hotel suite. Each apartment has a fully equipped kitchen, large living room and two spacious bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms. The bathrooms were stacked with toiletries and the showers and baths ran fast and hot, much needed after chilly walks along the beach. Our children were so excited about having their own huge bedroom and ensuite that they probably would have been happy to play in it for the duration of our stay.
The living area is open plan; ideal for families as you can keep an eye out for the kids as you cook. But don’t forget to stock up with food supplies on the way as there aren’t any supermarkets nearby. We visited one in Ayr en route and bought enough for our three days.
The cosy living area boasts a living flame gas fire, television with a selection of satellite channels and DVD player (there are also televisions in both the bedrooms), board games and books to keep us all entertained. You will also find a handy utility room off the hall with a washing machine. just in case any child-related accidents involving mud, food (or worse) should occur.
The apartments are set in the huge grounds of the Turnberry Hotel and, aside from the golf course and some scattered farms, all you will see for miles around is wonderful open space. But don’t be fooled into thinking this stretch of coast is bleak and windy – it rarely snows here and is in fact a mild micro-climate thanks to the warm Atlantic currents.
Our apartment was sheltered and private. The hotel, a few minutes walk up the path on the hill, felt like ‘ours’ too for the length of our stay and we truly enjoyed the best of both worlds; whether wandering along the terraced gardens and past the helipad, or entering around the back in the car.
The hotel is luxurious but relaxed, and children are not just tolerated but as welcome as any guest. Ours were fascinated but the roaring log fire in the entrance hall, while we were mesmerised by the view across the ocean from the Grand Tea Lounge.
Things to do
When we checked into our apartment, both children were given a Wee Explorers kit. Each kit had a smart drawstring bag, water bottle, map, and a checklist to tick off which activities they’d tried – sparking some healthy competition.
Adjoining the main hotel is the spa, which you might think would be off-limits for kids but the hotel has a ‘children welcome’ rule and the 20 metre swimming pool (and baby pool) is open for smaller guests at all times except for an hour before closing. We made good use of it, especially at Splash Time; an hour every afternoon when floats and inflatables are thrown in the pool. We also took turns to look after the children so we could both enjoy the sauna, steam rooms and Jacuzzi. The changing rooms were a joy in themselves; raindrop showers, ESPA products and the same effortless chic as the rest of the hotel.
We happily ticked off Splash Time at the pool pretty much straight away, then headed to the Wee Explorers Playroom, a complimentary unsupervised playroom that is open daily from 8am-8pm. Our children loved it: an Xbox for the eldest and dolls houses galore for the youngest – and the rain outside was quickly forgotten. The hotel offers organised activities in the playroom such as birdbox making or face-painting and the timetable is in the Wee Explorers' kits. You can also arrange child-minding while you head off and enjoy something a little more grown-up, like afternoon tea in the Grand Tea Lounge or an ESPA treatment at the spa.
Trying out the golfing facilities was obviously a priority, with a course the calibre of Turnberry to play on. The Turnberry Performance Academy is a new world-class teaching facility that offers coaching sessions for families. my son and I stepped up to trial a Mother & Son golf lesson with one of the teaching professionals. Neither of us had played golf before, and our teacher appeared to have limitless patience with a not-very-sporty woman and an easily-distracted five year old. We practiced in the driving range then headed out onto the putting green, before finishing in the bunkers, which our teacher, much to the delight of his small student, described as "sand monsters that eat the balls".
We ticked off a wonderfully windy walk to the lighthouse at the end of the beach on the same day. Also on offer for outdoor fans – although ones with older children than ours - is Turnberry Adventures, a range of outdoor activities including archery, air rifles, water zorbing, wildgoose GPS treasure hunts and mini highland games. We couldn’t resist a tour without our children in tow, and did it in spectacular style in an off-road vehicle on the specially designed 4x4 track. We made a mental note to head back when the children were a bit older.
If you venture off site, Heads of Ayr Farm Park is a short drive up the coast (but is closed during the winter months, be warned). Culzean castle is a must-visit if you have children, and we made an afternoon of it on the way home. Huge grounds and a wonderful adventure playground loom outside and a tour of the stately chambers has been made more interesting for kids thanks to a Lego figure being hidden in each room.
What we ate
There are children's dining menus in all restaurants and bars at Turnberry. For one evening's dining, we chose the relaxed Ailsa Bar & Lounge with its amazing views across the sea.
The bar is chic and modern with a focus on Scottish dishes. My husband and I chose the rustic bread board with dips to start, which the children soon joined in with, followed by Scotch lamb casserole with honey roasted vegetables and tarragon suet dumplings. Also, Clams Bonne Femme, Virginia cured bacon and tarragon cream with creamed spinach and a Barwheys cheddar crumb; both of which were plate-scrapingly delicious.
For the children, there is a great choice of starters (all £4) such as Salmon Cakes, Mushrooms on Toast and Potted Prawns (which our two devoured). From the mains (all £6), they both chose Fish and Chips but could have opted for Macaroni & Cheese, Spaghetti Napolitano, Orkney beef pie, St Brides chicken casserole, or a half-size portion from the main menu. The dessert list was equally expansive, but our children were fairly predictable in their choice of ice cream sundaes, which we of course had to ‘help them out’ with.
For the rest of our stay we ate in our luxurious temporary home, warming pancakes for breakfast. In the evenings, we loved sitting up to our dining table overlooking the coastline while we tucked into fresh-from-the oven pizzas, then ate ice cream in front of the television.
For every boxed ticked for the grown ups – a nearby golf course, spa treatments and fabulous cuisine, there’s another box ticked for the kids – family golf lessons, Splash Time pool sessions and a great children’s menu. They’ve got the balance just right as children are treated like welcomed guests.
Why we’ll go back
Unlike a lot of self-catering holidays, this one is a real all-year-rounder as even in colder or wet weather, you have plenty to do thanks to the wonderful Turnberry Hotel. And when the sun does shine – you couldn’t be in a more beautiful part of the world to enjoy it.
Apartments at Lands of Turnberry until the end of November are from £450 until December. Over Christmas and New Year (from 23rd Dec – 2nd Jan) they are from £885 for a three or four night stay.
The Ailsa Craig Bar & Lounge at the Turnberry Hotel is open for food Monday to Friday from 5pm to 11pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 12pm to 11pm.
Turnberry Adventures activities can be arranged online or calling 01655 333993.
Find out more online or call 01655 331000.