Few hotels could beat Turnberry's location: set just above a beach on the Ayrshire coast, it looks out across the Irish Sea to Ailsa Craig, the Isle of Arran, and the Mull of Kintyre. The views are glorious and best enjoyed on the world-renowned Ailsa golf course where the ninth tee offers the best vantage point. Which is as it should be, because the golf came first: the hotel opened in 1906, five years after the course was established, to provide bed and board after a hard day with the mashie niblick. The elegant white Edwardian edifice, with its striking red roof, reclines along the hillside, making the most of those views, especially from its two vast bay windows. These days it is flanked by a spa complex and a collection of cottages and lodges, designed in the same style as the original house.
World-class golf on the Ailsa and Kintyre courses, and expert tuition at the Colin Montgomerie Academy. But there's plenty for non-golfers too - horseriding, quadbiking, grass karts, falconry, archery, shooting and fishing to name a few activities on offer. More sedentary guests can relax in the spa, which offers Espa treatments.
The comfort factor
Turnberry makes the most of its Edwardian roots with traditional country-house interiors. Yet the wow factor is missing. The furnishings are undeniably high quality but some have seen better days, the standard of decoration is below par here and there, and the place could do with a bit of spit and polish. Perhaps Turnberry has been resting on its golfing laurels a little too long. Guests can choose from rooms and suites in the main house, with ocean or estate views. Families will be more comfortable in the two-bedroom cottages, while the six- or eight-bedroom lodges are a good size for get-togethers. Facilities include satellite TV and internet access. The best feature is the cosseting, custom-made bed.
Truly five star. The bathrooms are spacious, with pristine tiles and porcelain, good-size baths and walk-in showers, own-brand Westin toiletries in the rooms and Arran Aromatics in the suites.
The food and drink
Choose from fine dining in the Turnberry Restaurant, bistro fare in the Terrace, drinks and snacks in the Ailsa Lounge or a wee dram in the Whisky Bar. The golf course has its own restaurant, The Tappie Toorie, and Espresso keeps hunger at bay at the spa. I ate in two places: in the Ailsa Lounge a lunch of chicken Caesar salad was missing its rather essential anchovies and served with a bland rich sauce. Dinner in The Turnberry Restaurant, where local produce is given a French twist, was superb. Native oysters followed by steamed seabass left little room for a tempting dessert of warm Cuba chocolate. Wines start from £21 and rocket into the hundreds. One for special occasions, because dinner easily hits £100 per head.
Unfortunately, the service was erratic during our stay: consistent high quality should be the mark of a hotel of this calibre. Turnberry markets itself as a year-round resort, though golfers from the US continue to dominate its guest book. Special deals draw in families outside high season, and spa and golf packages in the multi-bedroom lodges are making it a popular haunt for groups of friends.
Have you really run out of things to do? Ayr racecourse is up the road. The Robert Burns trail starts at Alloway. Explore Culzean Castle. Play more golf at Royal Troon. Or head a little further north to Ardrossan and take the ferry to the Isle of Arran.
Most of the resort is accessible by wheelchair and some ground-floor rooms in the main hotel and the lodges have been specially modified for guests with disabilities. Children are welcome: there is no crèche, but individual "buddies" can be hired to babysit or entertain your children and special activities are held through the year. Dogs are also welcome, with special beds and dog-walking available on request.
An Escape package costs £169 per room per night, including breakfast.
The Westin Turnberry Resort, Ayrshire, Scotland KA26 9LT (01655 331000; www.turnberry.co.uk).