Islay is perhaps the perfect place for a Scottish golf break. Firstly, it’s home to smoky, peaty Islay whiskies, with the likes of Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Laphroaig and Lagavulin among those made here. Then there’s the wild, untamed beauty of the Western Isles, complete with myriad birdlife, flora and fauna. It also has a world-renowned links course with a rich history dating back to 1891. Now The Machrie Hotel has reopened its doors and looks destined to make the island a top-quality golf destination
When the hotel, once a farmhouse, went into administration in 2011, it was saved by keen golfer and former BBC chairman, Gavyn Davies, and his wife, Baroness Sue Nye. With Campbell Gray Hotels installed to operate the property, it was closed and effectively rebuilt over two years before finally reopening late summer 2018.
What opened was a luxury hotel, complete with gym, spa, 30-seater cinema, a courtyard for summer afternoon teas, a roaring fire for cold winter nights, and a sea view terrace for sundowners. There’s a restaurant serving up the best of the local game and seafood, and four private lodges and 47 bedrooms, many with views of the water. On the doorstep, via a private pathway, are seven miles of pristine beach. Then there’s the golf course. It was on this spectacular links course that a very British ‘Open’ took place in 1901, when Harry Vardon, John Henry Taylor and James Braid did battle for what was the the biggest prize purse of the time — £100.
Since then the Willie Campbell-designed course has seen many changes, including the recent overhaul by former Ryder Cup captain DJ Russell, but whatever changes have been made to modernise and improve, the general feel is the same as it was in the 1800s, with the spectacular sand dune setting and the familiar challenges of a classic Scottish links course.
The perfect Scottish golf package might just have been created on Islay.