GOLFING & CRUISING TWO JOYOUS PAST TIMES IN SCOTLAND
Author:- Dave Bowers | Editor Chip n Pin Magazine
Apparently Rick Stein travelled in a barge down the canals and rivers between Bordeaux and Marseille in the making of a TV programme. So if it's good enough for the man who masterminded Glasgow Celtic to the first British success in the European Cup, it's good enough for me.
Ah, apparently I'm confusing my Steins. It was Jock who managed Celtic and Scotland , not Rick. No wonder Jock's fish recipes tasted so bad. Anyway, Jock would certainly approve of travelling through the Scottish Highlands by barge to enjoy some of the region's top golf courses - and that's just what is possible with Go Barging, a Middlesex-based company specialising in luxurious barge travel on the inland waterways of nine European countries.
It was to Go Barging to whom Stein turned when he planned his French Odyssey - he travelled on the barges Rosa and Anjodi - and it was the same company which whisked me off to the Scottish Highlands. Actually, the company offers nine golf cruises in total, in Scotland , England (two on offer), Ireland and France (a choice of five). But I felt the best place for a golf magazine to start was in the home of golf - wash your mouth out if you said The Netherlands .
The six-night, seven-day Scottish Highlander's Golf Cruise travels between Dochgarroch and Banavie - in different directions in alternate weeks. And you'll be relieved to know it does include some whisky tasting. Not surprisingly, such splendour - the barge is described in the pamphlet as an "exclusive boutique hotel-on-the-water" and it's hard to argue with the assertion - amid a historic setting proves immensely popular with our cousins across the Atlantic, so if you're not in a party chartering the whole vessel you may find yourself teeing up alongside an 18-stone guy in capacious shorts and a loud shirt. But as I'm an 18-stone guy in capacious shorts and a loud shirt it didn't bother me.
The first full day of the cruise - you board the Scottish Highlander on Sunday afternoon - saw us teeing off at Royal Dornoch before returning to the barge for a cruise to Fort Augustus, passing Urqhuart Castle.
Originally designed by Old Tom Morris, the Royal Dornoch links is often cited as one of the best golf venues anywhere in the world. It is not long by modern standards – at 6,276 yards or 6,514 yards off the championship tees – but it’s subtly undulating greens will prove a tough test for any golfer.
The following day we were given a packed lunch and travelled by car to play the championship course at Nairn. It was just like being waved off by our mums back in the days when we used to wear shorts without worrying about our legs – only the lunch was significantly nicer and Nairn Golf Course is a lot more awe inspiring than Miss Murray, my former class teacher.
Nairn has played host to many professional and top amateur events and therefore would probably not have looked too kindly on my efforts on what is arguably Scotland’s driest and windiest golf course, located as it is adjacent to the North Sea. A par-72, 6,705-yard course, it again provides a tough test – as did Miss Murray if memory serves correctly.
Wednesday’s round was played in the afternoon at Fort Augustus, allowing time in the morning for a bit of sight-seeing in the village – ideal if you have a penchant for antique of craft shops, but Ikea addicts need not apply.
There is also the opportunity to visit the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre. The 29-lock Caledonian Canal – one of Scotland’s greatest 19th century engineering achievements – is more than 60 miles long, including as it does three connected lochs: Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy.