INVERNESS, Scotland--Once so remote, only the hardiest souls made the trek to the Scottish Highlands. Even then, it was just to visit Royal Dornoch and then turn back south.
Now, thanks to two bridges, more flights into Scotland’s beautiful northern region, the Internet and Brexit’s pound-depleting after-effects, playing golf in the Highlands has never been easier or more welcoming. Plus, it turns out there are some incredible courses that rival anything in Scotland.
If you’ve been watching the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at glorious Castle Stuart, you got a sense just how beautiful the region is. With more exposure brought on by the Scottish Open and a much shorter journey to the famed Royal Dornoch, the region has become a destination that never needs to be left thanks to so much great golf.
From Royal Aberdeen north to Brora, the list of must-see, once-in-a-lifetime golf rounds is now all within two-and-half hours of a major city (Aberdeen). With British Airways offering a daily flight to Inverness and multiple world airports regularly servicing Aberdeen, getting to the region from large cities has never been easier.
For bargain hunters, the collection of world class courses that includes Royal Dornoch, Castle Stuart and Nairn offers a fantastic April, October and November stay-and-play package starting at £365 per person.
While those big names courses of the region are not to be missed, especially at the shoulder season prices, the list of “off-the-beaten-track” gems keeps growing as more golfers experience the joys of going where the tour buses are not.
Starting near Aberdeen and working up, Royal Aberdeen and Trump International are big, brand name courses, as has become my personal favorite, Cruden Bay. All provide fascinating golf experiences. But don’t rule out Moray Golf Club in Lossiemouth, Fraserburgh in Fraserburgh and Peterhead in Peterhead for the craft brewery-style golfing options.
Moving north toward Inverness where Castle Stuart is located, Tain and Nairn are obviously must-plays. Heading north toward Dornoch, the magnificent and slightly nutty Brora is required playing for anyone with a love of links golf and scenery, while James Braid’s Golspie Links, while fairly simple, offers a great blend of links and heathland golf in a stunning setting.
In between all of these courses are scenic drives, fun castles to tour and multiple world class distilleries, including the world famous Glenmorangie.
Thanks to the internet lodging options are easy to book and can vary from the very affordable bed and breakfasts like Kilmarnock Arms near Cruden Bay, to the modern take on old world luxury at places like Links House Dornoch, which was created by an American couple. The Warnocks wanted to offer something more refined but still very much reflecting the ethos of Dornoch. It’s a small and magnificent operation ideal for couples and golf purists. (Todd Warnock is co-developing Coul Links with Mike Keiser, a Coore and Crenshaw design just minutes from Dornoch that hopes to get planning approval soon.)
Whether a buddies trip or a couples getaway to one of the most scenic region on the planet, the Highlands offers more than enough to justify a trip to the region. And thanks to Brexit’s impact on the pound, never has the opportunity to visit here been more affordable.