Monday, August 9, 2010

Golf and History at Inverness and Nairn

After disembarking from the ferry back from Isla, we motored far north on the A 81 alongside Lochs Linnhe and Ness winding up in Nairn, a seaside resort town on the Moray Firth. You will not be surprised to learn that the town's primary attraction for us is the wonderful Nairn Golf Club, a former Walker cup situs, and one of the finest links in the north of Scotland. But Nairn is also a great taking off point for exploring the whisky trail, Scottish historical sites, castles, and Inverness- the "capital of the Scottish Highlands."

We easily found our lodging for the next three nights, "Greenlawns," a fine B & B in a posh section of Edwardian residences not far from the golf club. The engaging innkeeper, Shelagh Southwell ,warmly welcomed us. Our 6 hour drive had left us weary so after a quick fish and chips repast in the bar at Claymore House, and a leisurely walk around the neighborhood, we turned in early.

The next morning found us raring to go on Nairn Golf Club's first tee where we were greeted by Jack, our 76 year old caddy. Jack usually serves as a starter, but he likes to occasionally caddy for exercise. Hard by the Moray Forth, former Walker Cup venue Nairn is a natural seaside links that qualifies as a must play if you are anywhere near the Highlands of Scotland. Great silken greens-some say the best in Scotland -are framed by some very serious bunkers. It is a tough driving course although I recalled more gorse when I played the course in 1997. Jack opined that the decision to remove much of the gorse had made the course too easy. After walking off 18 with a mistake-pocked 87, I was not inclined to share his view. I mentioned to Jack that, "maybe my round was not so bad since I shot 47 on the front 9." With typical Scottish caddy bonhomie he replied, "Yeah, it's a good round for a 20 handicapper!"

The afternoon found us touring medieval Cawdor Castle, scene of Duncan's murder in Macbeth. Lisa took particular interest in touring the castle since she had just finished a book by a woman who recounted her childhood growing up in the castle as it doubles as tourist attraction and private residence.
We also squeezed in a tour of the Culloden Battlefield, site of the last land battle in Britain in 1746 where the Scottish clans led by Bonnie Brince Charlie suffered a disastrous defeat. After such a full day, dinner at the very pleasing Caledonian Restaurant on High Street in downtown Nairn hit the spot.
Wednesday was our day to play golf at new Castle Stuart, a wonderful new links course just ourside of Inverness. Magnificent views of the forth could be seen from every tee. Castle Stuart itself was the target on the par four tee shot I am hitting below. A majority of the holes are played fight along the shore. After playing the 1th hole, we climbed straight up a rather daunting dune where the rest of the holes were played from 100 feet above sea level. We did not care for the protracted climb, but otherwise we liked Castle Stuart. It is no doubt destined to move up high in the rankings alongside Kingsbarns.

views of Castle Stuart

After our round, we took the train from Nairn into Inverness. We had time to walk though the old city and grab dinner. We always enjoy train travel in the U.K. It is by far the best way to get into the city.

the train station at Inverness (top)
local gentleman we met (right)

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