British Open: When is it, how do I get there and where can I stay?

Everything you need to know about Northern Ireland’s biggest sporting event

A total of 215,000 spectators are anticipated at the British Open in Portrush. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

A total of 215,000 spectators are anticipated at the British Open in Portrush. Photograph: Liam McBurney/PA

 

The British Open is the biggest sporting event ever to come to Northern Ireland. One of the world’s elite tournaments, it’s is the only golf major to be held outside the United States, and the numbers are big: 190,000 tickets sold, a total of 215,000 spectators anticipated, and an estimated £80million generated for the Northern Ireland economy.

The last time Royal Portrush hosted the tournament, in 1951, the winner, Max Falkner, walked away with £300; this time the prize money for the winner will be £1.5million.

Portrush itself is a town of 6,500 people; large crowds are expected from the first practice day on Sunday (July 14th), when visitors can expect to see some of golf’s biggest names trying out the course. The tournament proper gets underway on Thursday 18th, and with hotels as far away as Co Donegal booked out for the last year and road closures and parking restrictions in place, the official advice is to plan your journey carefully and to use public transport where possible.

This is The Irish Times’ definitive guide to getting to, staying at and enjoying the 148th Open.

How do I get there?

The 148th Open takes place at Royal Portrush Golf Club from July 14th to 21st. As the name suggests, Royal Portrush is in the town of Portrush, a popular seaside resort on the north coast of Co Antrim. The nearest large town is Coleraine, Co Derry, which has good road links to Belfast and Derry.

If driving, the best route to Portrush from Dublin is via Belfast. Take the M1/A1 north to Belfast, then follow the M2/A26 towards Coleraine.

From the west, head towards Derry, then take the A2/A37 to Coleraine. Those driving from the midlands should head north towards Armagh, then follow the A29 to Coleraine.

What are my public transport options?

Special coach and rail services have been organised for The Open, and the capacity on scheduled services has been enhanced. Translink, which runs Northern Ireland’s bus and train services, has a “major transport plan” in operation over the tournament, and has pledged that “every available train, coach and bus will be in operation” to get people to and from The Open.

The station is on Eglinton Street, just a short walk from the golf course on Dunluce Road. The Open transport hub will operate opposite the station for the duration of the tournament.

Great. I’ll take the train. How can I buy my ticket?

Portrush is served by trains from Belfast and Derry. There is no direct train from Dublin - instead, passengers should travel from Dublin Connolly to Belfast - approximately two hours and ten minutes - and then buy another ticket for their journey from Belfast to Portrush. Online advance adult return fares from Dublin to Belfast start at €18.99. Fares and timetables are available at www.irishrail.ie.

For the duration of the tournament, special trains will run from Great Victoria Street and Lanyon Place stations in Belfast – and main stations in between — to Portrush before 10.10am. The earliest departure on championship days is at 4.25am, though certain departure times are already booked out and Translink’s Director of Service Operations, Ian Campbell, has urged any passengers who intend to travel by train to book as soon as possible.

From Derry, a special rail service will also operate in the morning. Passengers must change trains at Coleraine for Portrush.

Tickets for special train services can only be booked online and seats are allocated on first come, first served basis.

An open return from Belfast or Derry to Portrush is priced at £19.50 for an adult and £9.75 for a child. Passengers can return on any scheduled train service.

Journey time from Belfast to Portrush is approximately 1 hr 45 minutes, and 40 minutes from Derry to Coleraine.

From Wednesday 17th to Sunday July 21st there will be enhanced capacity on normal train services, plus extra early morning trains from Belfast and additional evening services from Portrush and Coleraine.

From Wednesday 17th to Saturday Julyl 20th, the last train from Portrush to Belfast leaves at 11.05pm, and on Sunday 21st at 10.05pm.

The last train for Derry leaves from Coleraine at 10.43pm from 17-20th, and at 8.43pm on the 21st. Passengers for Derry should use either the Translink shuttle bus or the 140 Ulsterbus service to travel to Coleraine station, then transfer to the train.

The shuttle bus leaves from the transport hub opposite the station. It will be signposted and Translink will have staff on hand to direct passengers.

What about the coach or bus?

Coach services from Dublin to Belfast are available from Bus Éireann and private coach operators to the Europa Buscentre in Belfast. Translink will operate special day return coaches between the Europa Buscentre in Belfast to Portrush. Tickets must be booked online in advance and cannot be bought from the ticket desk or from the driver.

An alternative option is the 218 Goldline coach service from Belfast or the 234 from Derry to Coleraine, with an onward bus connection to Portrush from Coleraine bus station. If travelling from the west, Bus Éireann runs scheduled bus services to Derry from Donegal, Sligo and Galway - timetable details are available at https://www.buseireann.ie/.

The local 140 Ulsterbus service, which runs between Coleraine, Portrush and Portstewart will run every ten minutes, stopping at major caravan and camping sites along the route. Set-down and pick-up stops on Dunluce Avenue will be suspended for the duration of the Championship, but alternative stops will be clearly signposted.

An additional morning and evening service will also operate on both the Ulsterbus 402 service between Coleraine and Ballycastle, and the 134 between Coleraine and Limavady.

Full timetables and all other information regarding train, coach and bus services are available from the Translink website or @Translink_NI.

I’m going to drive. Where can I park?

There is no car parking at Royal Portrush or in the immediate area. The only public parking available will be at temporary Park and Ride sites, which will be advertised by public signage. Drivers are advised to switch off their satnav and to follow the displayed yellow signs to the nearest Park and Ride facility.

Parking is £10 per day on practice days and £15 on championships. A weekly pass is £60. Parking can be purchased in advance. (https://www.theopen.com/getting-there)

Motorbike parking is available for £5 per day. Coach and minibus drivers should follow signposts to the designated coach parking area, which is within walking distance of the course.

Extensive on-street parking restrictions – indicated by cones on the roadside – will be in place on approach roads to Portrush and on residential streets for the duration of the tournament.

A shuttle bus service will operate from Park and Ride car parks to the golf course.

I’m going to drive. Should I fill up before I cross the Border?

Fuel prices vary. Northerners who live in Border areas tend to buy their petrol on the southern side of the border where petrol is generally slightly cheaper, though the weakness of sterling against the euro has eroded some of the difference in recent years. If paying in euros, drivers may wish to fill up before crossing the border; once in Northern Ireland, supermarket petrol stations are often among the cheapest. According to the AA, the average price of fuel in Northern Ireland in June was 126.6p/litre for petrol and 129.6p/litre for diesel.

Are there are any road closures I should be aware of?

Plenty. The following roads will be closed to traffic from 6am to 10pm from Sunday 14th to Monday 22nd July:

* Bushmills Road/Dunluce Road — between Crocknamack Road and Whiterocks Road

* Ballybogey Road — from Ballymacrea Road/Ballymagarry Road to Dunluce Road

* Portstewart Road — between Glenvale Crescent and Coleraine Road

* Whiterocks Road – between Dunluce Road and beach

Diversions will be signposted, and traffic to and from Portrush should use Atlantic Road or Portstewart Road.

A taxi rank will be in operation off Sandhill Drive for the duration of the tournament.

The best advice is to follow the signs to the nearest Park and Ride. Full details of all traffic restrictions are available on the Trafficwatch NI website (https://www.trafficwatchni.com/twni/traffic-news)

I’m in Portrush. Where can I stay?

If you haven’t booked by now, your options are limited. The good news is that, even in Portrush itself, accommodation is still available. But be warned, it is not cheap.

A quick online search on Thursday (based on 2 adults sharing for the four championship nights from Thursday 18th) turned up a hotel room in Stranocum, Co Antrim, for £540, as well as two beds in a 6-room dormitory in a hostel in Bushmills, Co Antrim, for the same price.

A double room in a B&B in Portrush would set you back £1,140, while a “luxury tent” at a boutique campsite is £1,320. A three-bedroom house is available to rent for £3,600.

Visitor information and accommodation booking is available at https://www.visitcausewaycoastandglens.com/ or from the Official Open Accommodation Bureau (https://www.stayattheopen.com) which provides hotel listings and rental properties which can be booked through their website.

Highlights include a nine-bedroom former mill in Aghadowey, Co Derry, available to rent for £23,000, or a seven-bedroom terrace in Portrush town centre at £15,000.

If money really is no object, go for the four-bedroom bungalow perched above the 5th tee at Royal Portrush. Boasting “uninterrupted views of all 18 holes of the course and the Clubhouse” and views of Donegal, Dunluce Castle and the headland of the Giant’s Causeway, it surely is the ultimate in Open accommodation. Price on application, so you can onlyl imagine.

What about spending money? Can I pay in euros?

The advice from the local Visitor Information Centre is to bring sterling if possible. Unlike in Border areas where sterling and euro tend to be used interchangeably, some businesses on the north coast may accept euro but others will not. The tourist office suggests bringing sterling to avoid any confusion while paying - the easiest way to get sterling is to withdraw from ATMs, or simply pay by credit or debit card. There is an Ulster Bank branch on Eglinton Street in Portrush, and there are more banking options in nearby Coleraine. One euro is currently worth approximately 90p in sterling.

What if I don’t have a ticket?

Championship days are sold out but tickets are still available for the practice days from Sunday 14th to Wednesday 17th, though the Tuesday and Wednesday are close to selling out. Adult tickets start at £15, and youth tickets are from £10. Book at https://www.theopen.com/tickets/.

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