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*** TRIP REPORT - Chase and Avios. Experience Golf History in Edinburgh, Scotland

*** TRIP REPORT - Chase and Avios. Experience Golf History in Edinburgh, Scotland

Old Sep 3, 2022, 3:42 pm
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*** TRIP REPORT - Chase and Avios. Experience Golf History in Edinburgh, Scotland



This event took place July 13-18 2022 and was part of the series of Chase Avios "Above & Beyond" cardmember events exclusively for Chase British Airways cardmembers. This is a trip report for the event and the posts are split into the following sections.
  • Wednesday 13th July 2022
    • Post 2. Arrival and drinks at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh
  • Thursday 14th July 2022
    • Post 3. Bus tour and walking tours around Edinburgh during the afternoon
    • Post 4. Dinner in the evening with Bernard Gallacher at the Royal Burgess Golf Club
  • Friday 15th July 2022
    • Post 5. Golf at the Royal Burgess Golf Club in the morning
    • Post 6. Dinner in the evening aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia with her last Captain, Commodore Anthony Morrow
  • Saturday 16th July 2022
    • Post 7. Day trip to Thirlestane Castle with activities and lunch hosted by the Maitland family
    • Post 8. Early evening trip to the Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh
  • Sunday 17th July 2022
    • Post 9. Two VIP tickets to the final day at the 150th Open Championship in St. Andrews
This was a stunning event that we were absolutely delighted to be able to attend and was an excellent use of 150,000 Avios for two people. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we enjoyed attending it.

I can't stress enough the level of meticulous planning that Chase and Avios put into these events. Every detail is thought through beforehand by a dedicated team of event managers working closely with Chase and Avios. The same team of event managers has been on every one of these trips we've attended. Not only are they planned well, the execution is flawless. Even when things don't go exactly as planned, there are contingencies in place to mitigate any difficulties. I don't know how they do it, but they do.
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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 5:03 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 3:52 pm
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Wednesday 13th July 2022. The Balmoral Hotel.

Although we live just outside Tampa, FL my wife and I had been spending a few days with family in Aberdeen and arriving into Edinburgh by train. Waverley station is literally next door to the Balmoral hotel which has the prestigious address of 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh. It seemed to make sense not to bring a car! Plus, we also know from previous Chase events that there's a seemingly unlimited supply of alcohol throughout the trip which made getting the train a no-brainer.

The Balmoral is a luxury five star hotel and it didn't disappoint. The room was beautifully appointed.




The wall art in the bathroom was slightly odd but featured a well known Scottish celebrity. I can assure you we stayed upright at all times.







Having unpacked we proceeded to the Esk Suite which featured a roving reception with hors d'oeuvres, food stations and an open bar.

We were welcomed by our hosts from Chase and Avios and started to get to know the people we would be spending time with over the next 5 days. They were a great bunch.






Also present was a group from Stirling Distillery explaining the origin of their company, located in the shadow of Stirling Castle, and their process for distilling gin. We each chose flavors and they bottled us a little gin of our own.







We named hers The Queen for obvious 'family' reasons and mine 'The Gunners' for more obscure footballing (soccer!) reasons.

At the end of the reception we headed out with some friends we had just met to a local pub down the road which had completely impromptu live music. It was a lot of fun and it was good to have a decent pint of warm flat beer again rather than the wishy-washy cold fizzy American stuff.

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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 12:09 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 3:54 pm
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Thursday 14th July 2022. Red bus tour then the walking tours around Edinburgh

After breakfast on Thursday we headed for the bus tour of the City of Edinburgh and surrounding areas.




Together with an original ticket machine. It brought back memories of my school days (the ticket machine that is!)





There was then a choice of walking tours in the city. The three choices were (a) The Outlander Walking Tour (b) Edinburgh's enlightenment and (c) The history of the Royal Mile and Old Town. We chose Edinburgh's enlightenment and learned about figures such as David Hume, Adam Smith, James Hutton and Walter Scott. The city was home to them all and covered their topics such as economics and medicine. It explained about their involvement in the Select Society and The Poker Club and how the city gained its reputation as the Athens of the North. It was very interesting.


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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 3, 2022 at 8:49 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:03 pm
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Thursday 14th July 2022. Dinner at the Royal Burgess Golf Club

We knew beforehand that our guest of honour was Bernard Gallacher. I had never met him but remember watching the Ryder Cups when he was Captain of Team Europe. A lot of people in the UK will probably recognize the Gallacher name from his daughter Kirstie, a well known TV personality.

We boarded a bus from the Balmoral Hotel that took us the 20 minutes to the club where we enjoyed drinks on the balcony overlooking the 1st tee and 18th green.

The Royal Burgess Golfing Society of Edinburgh was instituted in 1735 and is widely recognized as the oldest golf club in the world. It has a list of Captains that predates the formation of the United States. I think that took a while to sink in.





After a short tour of the club we took our seats for dinner.







The current Club Captain introduced Bernard Gallacher who gave an illuminating after dinner speech.






A couple of weeks later, I was fortunate enough to be invited to play Oak Hill Country Club which was the scene of one of Bernard Gallacher's finest moments leading the European Ryder Cup team to victory in 1995. This is the plaque on the wall at Oak Hill dedicated to that achievement.

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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 11:53 am
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:04 pm
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Friday 15th July 2022. Golf at the Royal Burgess Golf Club

The forecast wasn't great for Friday morning but as luck would have it, the rain passed and we played in dry conditions the whole round. The course was in great condition and with it being a compact course (unlike most US courses) it was a pleasure to be able to walk the course.












Having family close by meant our grandson was able to join us after the round.


Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 8:36 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:05 pm
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Friday 15th July 2022. The Royal Yacht Britannia

[EDITED TO ADD:
I originally wrote this post on Wednesday 7th September which was the evening before the news broke that Her Majesty's physical condition had deteriorated leading to the announcement of her death the following day. Re-reading this post prior to publishing it was a poignant moment. Thank you, Your Majesty for your dedicated service and long live the King.]

When we returned to our room after the opening night reception we found these tickets on the bed together with a souvenir handbook detailing some of the history of the Royal Yacht.

As I write about the history and what we learned that night I have drawn on extracts from the Official Souvenir Guidebook to ensure accuracy. The Guidebook, shown below, was published in association with The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust.






The evening on the Royal Yacht was an absolute blast.

The gents were fitted for kilts and the ladies were provided with a tartan sash. I was fortunate that I had my own kilt with me although I had to come to terms with the fact that it used to fit me a lot better when I was 25 pounds lighter. I need to lose that weight.




Two buses took us from the Balmoral to the Royal Yacht where we were piped aboard.






There was a drinks reception with musical accompaniement in the State Drawing Room which is the main reception room onboard Britannia. Next to this room is the smaller anteroom where the Royal Family would assemble for drinks before lunch and dinner. Most of the furniture here was a gift from the Swedish Royal Family during a State visit from Stockholm in 1956.









We were then treated to a guided tour and a lot of history. Here are some highlights.

Britannia's captain was always either a Commodore or Admiral and was supported by a staff of up to 21 Officers and 220 Yachtsmen. On the 4th February 1952, an Admiralty telegram instructed the Clydebank shipyard, John Brown & Co, to "proceed forthwith with detailed design and construction on fair and reasonable price basis". Building began with the laying of the keel in June 1952. Just under a year after the hard work began, on 16th April 1953, the Royal Yacht was ready to be launched. The Yacht's name was a closely guarded secret right up until the last moment.

Britannia's final voyage was at the handing over of Hong Kong on 30 June 1997. After the Union flag was lowered for the last time she slipped out of Hong Kong Harbour carrying the last Governor, Chris Patten.

On the 10th October 1997 the UK Government announced that there would be no replacement for Britannia. However, she was to be preserved as a national treasure and not scuttled as was the tradition for Royal Yachts.

On 20th October 1997, Britannia left Portsmouth on her final operation: a farewell tour of the UK. On the 11th December 1997, The Queen, accompanied by the vast majority of the Royal Family attended Britannia's decommissioning ceremony in Portsmouth. As you will see from some of the photos in this post, all the clocks onboard Britannia remain stopped at one minute past three which was the exact time that The Queen was piped ashore for the last time.





Listening to some fascinating stories from our tour host.

The Captain's quarters





Always a safe bet to take a utility vehicle with you.



The Queen's bedroom.


One of the clocks, all of which are stopped at one minute past three.




Our guest of honour. Britannia's last captain, Commodore Anthony Morrow.

Dinner was served in the State Dining Room. While I'm sure we did not receive this level of attention to detail, it could take up to three hours to set the dining table for its 56 guests with the position of each item of cutlery and china was measured with a ruler to ensure perfection.

The State Dining Room walls, painted white with a gold trim display many interesting items including an array of exotic gifts and unusual mementoes of places visited. The State Dining Room also doubled as a cinema when on Royal duty.



Dinner was delicious with a simultaneous waiter/waitress service where everyone has their own server and all items was placed at the same time.










At the end of the dinner the Commodore proposed a toast to Her Majesty The Queen and in return I proposed one to the Commodore. Sadly, I referred to him as Captain and demoted him a rank which - quite rightly - he was very fast to point out. Cue a little embarrassment on my part but we had a joke about it afterwards.





And with that, a truly sensational evening was over. Back to the Balmoral after a very busy day.
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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 12:20 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:14 pm
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Saturday 16th July 2022: Thirlestane Castle

After breakfast we set off for Thirlestane Castle. Thirlestane is set in extensive parklands near the Lauder in the Scottish Borders.



We managed to arrive during the Scottish summer which - as someone who lived in Scotland for 25 years - is a feat in itself. It was a stunningly beautiful day.





The land has been in the ownership of the Maitland family since 1587. It has a fascinating history and we split up into four groups for these activities:
.
  • A guided tour
  • Whiskey tasting
  • Hands-on bagpipe tutorial
  • Falconry demonstration

The guided tour was interesting. We learned about the history of the castle over what's nearly 500 years as our guide talked us through the main characters most of whom were displayed on the walls.













We learned about the Speyside Benromach distillery where they make single malt whiskies and their Red Door gin. A wee dram before lunch!



Then it was off to the bagpipe lesson. I'm glad it was in that order and not the other way around. To keep it simple we were given some basic instructions to try to make an acceptable tune using the Chanter (shown below). It's harder that it looks.




It was all good but the falconry was my definite favourite mainly because the guy explaining it was hilarious. If you have a few minutes, here a some examples.





After all that, it was time for lunch and we were delighted to be joined by the current owners, Edward and Sarah Maitland-Carew. They are in the process of earning their places on the portrait walls.





Finally, after lunch, and before the ride back to Edinburgh we were treated to a little jousting contest in the back garden!


Heading back to Edinburgh and in particular to the Johnnie Walker Experience.


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Last edited by Prospero; Sep 17, 2022 at 5:33 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:14 pm
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Saturday 16th July 2022: The Johnnie Walker Experience

Somewhat late in the afternoon we arrived back into Edinburgh at the Johnnie Walker Experience on Prices Street just a short walk from the Balmoral.

We were given a tour of the place and the history of the Johnnie Walker brand. During our trip back to Edinburgh we had been encouraged to complete an online form outlined our tasting likes and dislikes. These were collated and we were then able to make our own 'preferred' drink choosing from one of the well known Johnnie Walker blends and adding specific ingredients. It turned out that I was best suited to Gold Label plus some fruity flavours. I must say, it was very good!













Chase and Avios had lined up some finger food in the private bar area to end the evening. And with that, the day was complete.
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Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 6:49 pm
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Old Sep 3, 2022, 4:16 pm
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Sunday 17th July 2022: Final day of the 150th Open Championship at the Old Course, St. Andrews

When planning for the trip I had expected this to be the main event for me and it was terrific. We started out watching Tom Watson leave the Balmoral Hotel in his private Open Championship limousine headed to St. Andrews for the final day of the tournament.



As with Royal Burgess my wife had gladly volunteered to be swapped out for the day for our daughter's partner and we started off by walking parts of the course watching some of the early starters.



Chase and Avios had arranged access for us to the Corporate Hospitality along the 14th fairway so we watched some of the action from there too.






Sergio Garcia not doing so well on the Road Hole


We made our way to the stands to see the leaders tee off. Here's the view of the 18th and 1st fairways.



Tough pin on 18.



Having watched the leaders start their final round we headed back to the hospitality area for a well earned low-calorie lunch comprising of macaroni pie and scones washed down with whatever we wanted.



And we settled down to watch the remainder of the final round play out on the big screens where it's much easier to follow the excitement.

Another long day ended back at the Balmoral.

And so that was it. The five days were over and we all decided we needed a well earned rest.

Next up, whale watching in Cape Cod, September 2022.

Last edited by golfmad; Sep 17, 2022 at 5:02 pm
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Old Sep 17, 2022, 5:54 pm
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What an amazing experience and what an inspirational use of your Avios
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Old Sep 17, 2022, 7:45 pm
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Looks amazing. I don't think BA and Amex (or Barclaycard) do anything like this for their UK cardholders or if they do it's well hidden. It seems excellent value for the points. It must have felt emotional visiting Britannia at the moment.
The only thing that seemed odd was your bus tour was on Routemaster buses which doesn't seem very Scottish (particularly as they were in LT livery) but the detail they went through with everything is was indeed impressive.
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 12:56 am
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Can’t believe I missed this when it was first posted- very much my neck of the woods and a real pleasure to hear about what an enjoyable time you had!

Edited to add: I enjoyed the attempted chanter tune- my son plays and I am always amazed that he can get it to sound anything approaching tuneful...!
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Last edited by crazy8534; Sep 18, 2022 at 2:37 am
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 1:08 am
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Very jealous of this whole experience. What an excellent report / review
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 3:44 am
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What a great trip report!

I am not a golfer but I would definitely be happy to become one for a few days if this is what you all get up to as part of the the world of golfing experience,
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Old Sep 18, 2022, 4:33 am
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Looks like an excellent trip and as a Weegie I have to say Auld Reekie no too bad eh!

Oh and those kilts do shrink don’t they :-)
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