It's been an amazing century since
Turnberry Hotel opened its doors for the first time,
back in 1906. The hotel was built in a golden age,
when the British Empire spanned the globe.
Sport was becoming more popular, and you could get on a sleeper
train in London, and play golf at Turnberry the next morning.
The luxury golf resort was born, with Turnberry the perfect
destination. All seemed well with the world as
Britain basked in the glorious summer of 1906.
King Edward VII even paid a cordial visit to his nephew, Kaiser
Wilhelm II, in Germany, and was greeted by cheering
It was an age of invention too.
The Wright Brothers had taken to the air in 1903 and
motor cars were becoming popular. Electricity was
being more widely used, and giant liners battled for supremacy
of the Atlantic. Turnberry Hotel was a child of
its time — symbolising the best of Scottish and the best of
British. It was built unashamedly for the luxury
market. The entire building was lit by
electricity, with electric lifts connecting each of the
floors. A special feature for golfers was a suite
of bathrooms fitted out with plunge baths, showers and waves.
These facilities were supplied with both fresh and salt water, as
well as hot and cold.
The golf course, laid out in 1901
by Troon professional Willie Fernie, was acquired by golf
resort pioneers the Glasgow and South Western Railway.
It undoubtedly helped that the landowner, the Marquess of Ailsa, was
a railway company director. G & SW
introduced a good passenger service on the line, specially built
for the hotel. One of the Saturday services
was a golfers’ express, with a dining car, leaving from
Glasgow St Enoch, and calling only at Ayr and Turnberry, and
terminating at Girvan. But there were nine interim
stations for regular journeys on the new scenic coastal
line between Ayr and Girvan: Alloway, Greenan Castle (goods only),
Heads of Ayr, Dunure, Knoweside (request stop), Glenside (request),
Maidens, Turnberry, and Dipple (goods). Sadly,
golfers alone could not keep this wonderful line open, and
increasing competition from cars and buses led to its closure.
The majestic Turnberry Hotel
survived without the railway, and an Open Championship was
finally held on its Ailsa links in 1977. Two more
followed, in 1986 and 1994, with a fourth coming in 2009.
This year, of course, there are special celebrations to mark 100
years of the big house on the hill. Front
lawns will host three great centenary concerts, with seating for
1,000 each evening. These will take place on the
bank holiday weekend, May 26-28.