How’s this for a unique experience in Argyll? Courtesy of the Golf Links Express, an offshoot of the award-winning Loch Lomond Seaplanes business, golfers will be able to fly into Prestwick International Airport and take a 20 minute seaplane flight to some of Argyll’s spectacular golf courses like:
- Loch Lomond, on the shores of the loch, with two courses and home to the Scottish Open
- Machrihanish Golf Club – the historic course designed by the legendary Old Tom Morris
- Machrihanish Dunes – the adjacent, new and groundbreaking course, designed by David McLay Kidd and built in a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in the sand dunes on the Mull of Kintyre.
- Machrie Links, the lovely course with the Machrie Hotel on the Isle of Islay (with drams from the island’s eight single malt whisky distilleries readily to hand) in only another 15 minutes away.
And the golf courses in Northern Ireland are only 25 minutes away. Loch Lomond Seaplanes will fly into Loch Erne, with access to the Loch Erne Golf Resort.
The Golf Links Express is the only air service dedicated primarily to golfers – although the flights will be open to anyone.
David West, from Loch Lomond Seaplanes, puts the logic of the development and paints an enticing picture. He says: ‘Prestwick International Airport already welcomes tens of thousands of golfers every year but many rarely venture further than Ayrshire because of the travel time by road. Now they can access some of the best links courses in the world within minutes.
‘Golf Links Express will be able to carry up to 10 golfers and their clubs from Prestwick to Islay in around 25 minutes, on to Machrihanish in 15 minutes then to Loch Lomond in another 25 minutes. That’s three fantastic locations across Scotland (and all in Argyll). Each would usually take a day’s travel to reach by car.
‘We’ve already had bookings from golfers as far a field as the US, Scandinavia and Ireland,” said David West, founder of both Loch Lomond Seaplanes and Golf Links Express’.
Then, of course there are Argyll’s island courses – 9-holers, eccentric and as scenic as only Argyll can be. We’re jumping ahead here to what is possible. At the moment Loch Lomond Seaplanes are talking about flying to the Kintyre, Islay and Northern Ireland courses – but anything is possible if the demand is there.
Similarly, if the demand is there, Loch Lomond Seaplanes already fly out of the Clyde on their scheduled services to Oban and Tobermory so an obvious development is targeting the high-end market flying into Glasgow International Airport and whisking them straight away by seaplane from the river to Argyll.
This potential service will be by charter. The scheduled service will operate, as above, out of Prestwick.
Brian Keating, founder of Machrihanish Dunes golf course and The Ayrshire, which is being built on the links near Irvine Bay, says that the airline opens up tremendous possibilities for changing golf tourism in Scotland. ‘The Golf Links Express is just what Scotland needs.
‘There are more than a quarter of a million golfers arriving in Ayrshire every year and this airline will enable them to experience more of what Scottish golf has to offer and spread the value of those visitors throughout the economy.
‘Scotland and Ireland have some of the best golf courses in the world but traditionally people have been unable to reach them because of the traveling time.
‘Now they can play somewhere like Machrihanhish in the morning and be on the greens at Lough Erne in Ireland within 25 minutes.’
And it’s not just the fast access to superb golf courses. It”s the flight itself. The one thing everyone coming to Scotland should do is take the Loch Lomond Seaplanes scheduled flight from Glasgow to Oban – or vice versa. It is breathtaking and unforgettable. We’ve done it. We’ve written about it. We want to do it the other way – nothing looks the same when you reverse the direction.
Argyll’s MSP and Enterprise Minister, Jim Mather, has been delighted proposals from David West and his Loch Lomond Seaplanes company to extend their services in this way. The seaplane services have already been a boost to west highland tourism with flights from the Clyde in central Glasgow to Oban and Tobermory and this is yet another imaginative move.
Mr Mather says: ‘Having seen the setting up and launch of the Machrihanish Dunes resort I am delighted to see that the potential realised for expanding the golfing appeal of Kintyre and of Islay by providing an air ferry service based on Prestwick, another of Scotland’s golf attractions.
‘As David West of Loch Lomond Seaplanes has said, the new Machrihanish Dunes course and the historic Machrihanish Course are but a short hop of twenty minutes away from Prestwick. The beautiful Machrie course on Islay, known only to true aficionados, is less than ten minutes on and for those who really want to extend the golf experience there are superb courses accessible in Northern Ireland 25 minutes flying time from Kintyre. It will be obvious that this could set up a wonderful opportunity for golfers to mix and match and that all the courses could enjoy an increased footprint as a result.
‘A demand has already been established for golfers wanting to hop the North Channel from Ulster to the Campbeltown area and this could be the basis to build upon.
‘I wish David West and his company every success in this and feel confident that this is yet another attraction that will appeal to visitors to Kintyre.’
The top photograph shows the Lc Lomond Seaplanes scheduled service landing in Oban Bay, with the town’s signature folly of McCaig’s toer just visible on the skyline above the nose of the plane.
The photograph above shows one of the Loch Lomond Seaplanes, with its crew, at home at Culag on the lochshore.