Golfers wanting to combine visits to the courses of the west of Scotland and Northern Ireland will have a new transport option from this spring.
Since the opening of Machrihanish Dunes on the Kintyre peninsula in 2009, efforts to find an operator to restart the car ferry service between Campbeltown and Ballycastle in Northern Ireland, which was discontinued because of poor traffic figures in 2000, have continued. In the meantime, though, passenger-only operator Kintyre Express has announced it will begin a service on the route in May.
Kintyre Express launched several years ago, connecting Troon with Campbeltown in around an hour, saving golfers several hours on the alternative road and water routes between the isolated peninsula and the string of links courses in Ayrshire. Initially a scheduled service, the company has more recently been running as a charter operation, using a 36-foot rigid inflatable boat (RIB), capable of carrying twelve passengers and making a top speed of 37 knots. Now, the company is to start regular scheduled services between Campbeltown and Ballycastle.
The service will run four days a week – Friday-Monday – from 27 May-26 September, with two return journeys each day and a crossing time of 90 minutes, enabling golfers more easily to combine trips to Machrihanish and Machrihanish Dunes with side visits to the likes of Royal Portrush and Royal County Down, and making the 'Heart of Links' concept plugged by Machrihanish Dunes at its opening a more feasible prospect.
Fares will be £50 single and £80 return, but the company warns that services may not operate if fewer than four passengers are booked on a particular crossing. Golfers may also wish to consider the potential impact on their game from bouncing across the Irish Sea for an hour and a half before playing!