Skip to main page content (AccessKey S)
Turnberry appears as a small and apparently insignificant settlement on the map. It is a tiny village on the Ayrshire coast about five miles north of Girvan and a mile south of the village of Maidens, scattered around the road junction between the A77 and the A719.
But to understand why the name is known worldwide, and in particular wherever the game of golf is played, you simply need to know that Turnberry is home to one of the world's earliest, and most enduringly successful, purpose-built golf resorts.
Turnberry Golf Club formed in 1902, and within a year the 18-hole Ailsa course was in use. In 1904, at the encouragement of the 3rd Marquess of Ailsa, then resident at nearby Culzean Castle, the Glasgow and South Western Railway started to built what they called the Turnberry Station Hotel at Turnberry, and a new railway line was built between Ayr and Girvan to service it. The 100-bedroom hotel was designed by architect James Miller and opened for business in 1907. A second championship standard golf course was added in 1912.
Today, what is now known as the Westin Turnberry Resort offers guests a choice between staying in one of the best hotels in Scotland, or accommodation in one of the fine estate of white houses (originally built to accommodate hotel staff) between the hotel and the clubhouse.
Meanwhile, a new clubhouse was built in the early 1990s for the golf club, and the Colin Montgomerie Links Golfing Academy was added in 2000. For non-golfers, a large new Outdoor Activities Centre opened close to the hotel in 2001.
In total Turnberry now offers two championship quality 18-hole golf courses (one of which will be home to the Open Championship in 2009); a 9-hole course; and a pitch-and-putt course; plus the golfing academy.
Although the Westin Turnberry Resort may only be 100 years old, the story of settlement at Turnberry goes back rather further. The view from the hotel at Turnberry is famous for two very distinctive features. The first is the dome-shaped island of Ailsa Craig, out in the Firth of Clyde. The second is Turnberry Lighthouse on the coast close to Turnberry Point.
The lighthouse was built in 1873 and to a modern visitor it is far from obvious that it stands on part of the site of Turnberry Castle. This was the seat of the ancient Earls of Carrick and was probably the birthplace, on 11 July 1274, of Robert the Bruce, or Robert I of Scotland. The castle was slighted in 1310 to keep it out of English hands, and never rebuilt.
Even after Turnberry became established as a golf resort six hundred years later, the course of its subsequent development was far from smooth. An indication of this stands a little inland from the lighthouse. The Royal Flying Corps Memorial, designed by Hugh Wallace, was erected in 1923 in memory of the air crews who trained here during the First World War when the golf courses were turned into a grass airfield: with the still very new hotel becoming the officers' mess.
In World War 2 things went further, and a triangle of concrete runways was built here as part of a military airfield. Traces of the runways can still be seen on the ground, though golf rapidly returned after the end of the war.