THE SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS
The Drumochter Pass stands as a formidable natural barrier to the Scottish Highlands and for centuries it helped to preserve the unique ‘Highland’ way of life. Today, the A9, the Great North Road leads you into the Scottish Highlands, an unrivalled region, rich in history, unsurpassable golf courses and awe-inspiring vistas.
SPEYSIDE, THE FINAL FRONTIER
Speyside is certainly one of this author’s favourite parts of Scotland. There’s an elfin grace to the wooded glens that web through the magnificent Cairngorm Mountains with the River Spey leading the way. There’s a quality of air also that’s second to none.
In 1890, the new railway brought Victorian holidaymakers to the towns of Newtonmore and Kingussie. To see what life was like before this, we visit the Highland Folk Museum in Newtonmore and its recreation of a 1700s Highland village where the television drama ‘Outlander’ has on several occasions been filmed.
The River Spey is a main artery to this region, supplying "uisge beatha" or the "water of life" to the many whisky distilleries that line its banks. More than half of Scotland’s distilleries are located in Speyside and it’s a must for a day-tour and sample - or three.
Just a few miles southwest of the Highland capital of Inverness stands Loch Ness, the largest body of fresh water in the British Isles. It was in the 1930s, during the construction of the A82 route along its shores that the modern craze for monster-spotting began. Perhaps the digging and blasting disturbed the reticent mysterious ‘beastie’ from its murky depths. Interestingly, 2017 had more official sightings (17) than ‘Nessie’s’ busy periods in the 1930s and 1960s!
Urquhart Castle was once one of the largest castles in Scotland standing on a rocky outcrop that juts out into the loch. Since Pictish times the site has been strategic and was partly dismantled by the English during the Jacobite rebellion to avoid it becoming a rebel outpost.
Castle Stuart Golf Links
Castle Stuart is one of the finest new courses to be built in Scotland over the past 20 years and as testament, it has hosted the Scottish Open four times thus far.
In spite of it being ‘constructed’ on an exceptional but not natural linksland site, it’s all here… expansive, billowing fairways, outstanding backdrops, greens that allow for sensitive approaches and aggressive putting and a general rhythm that reflects the natural terrain on which it lies.
HEART OF THE HIGHLANDS
To the east of Inverness is the battlefield of Culloden. On the 16 April 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his 5,000 Highlander supporters faced the 9,000 strong Hanoverian forces under the command of the Duke of Cumberland. The rest is history…
King James VI of Scotland visited the town of Nairn in 1589 and later remarked “the High Street was so long that the people at either end spoke different languages. Similarly, its two golf courses, Nairn West and Nairn Dunbar to the east of town hold a different attitude but we won’t hold that against them. Nairn West or The Nairn Golf Club to give it its full title is the more illustrious whilst the lesser-known but equally engaging Nairn Dunbar Golf Club offers a more relaxed ambiance and delightful links challenges.
Tom Watson said playing Royal Dornoch was ‘the most fun I’ve ever had playing golf’. Since then this outstanding Highland links has firmly been on most golfers hit list.
Golf was played in this area at least as far back as 1616 when the Earl of Sutherland was recorded to have ordered golf clubs and balls to take up the game that was becoming so popular further south. This makes Royal Dornoch the third oldest golfing community in Scotland and the course would be an Open venue if it was more accessible.
The Edwardian enclave of Dornoch is an elegant, refined community, at its centre the compact but engaging Dornoch Cathedral.
A mile or so beyond Golspie stands Dunrobin Castle, the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and seat of the powerful Sutherland family.