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    Playing Golf in One of the Remotest Places of Scotland

     

    Harris Outer Hebrides Scotland Source Google map

    Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland - Source: Google map

    We came back from our 2004 and 2006 trips to the Outer Hebrides (Vatersay, Barra, Eriskay, South Uist, North Uist, South Harris, North Harris, Lewis) with lots of unforgettable memories. We’ll share them with you on Scotiana but today and before investigating, as I’ve promised to do, into the past of Hoddom Castle, that old and mysterious castle which stands by the river Annan, in a nice and quiet corner of Dumfries and Galloway, 4 kilometres southwest of Ecclefechan, I’d like to add a last touch to our recent articles about golf in Scotland.

    Scarista beach and golf South Harris Outer Hebrides Western Isles of Scotland

    Scarista beach and golf - South Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland - © 2004 Scotiana

    The Isle of Harris golf course, which I’m going to tell you about today, is one of the most beautiful panoramic courses in the world and one we would certainly choose if we decided to try our hand at the game. There, at least, when you miss the target of your reluctant ball you can’t miss the beauty of the landscape!

    Scarista Golf notice board South Harris Outer Hebrides Scotland  © 2004 Scotiana

    Scarista Golf, South Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    Imagine yourself driving your ball from the first to the ninth hole in front of one of the most beautiful Scottish beaches, a golden sand beach.

    It was grey, cold, rainy and wintry when we visited the place but we liked it anyway, as many golfers do of course 😉

    Below is an extract of what a Scottish golfer has written about his experience there, in what he describes as”The Land Where Time Stood Still”…

    ‘The course was designed by nature, and was simply cut out of the “machar”, the seaside grass and dunes that lie between the magnificent Scarista beach, and the inhospitable Scottish moorland. Driving towards the course from Tarbert you begin to wonder whether or not someone has simply been playing a huge practical joke on you and whether or not the golf course actually exists, as your only companions are the ever present sheep and the (very) occasional passing car at the passing places on the single track road through the lochs and moor.
    Then you crest the brow of a small hill and there lies the Isle of Harris golf course in all its splendour. Or rather, there’s the little sign on the right hand side of the road that tells you you’ve arrived. Blink and you’d miss it, because the golf course has no fancy clubhouse or driveway; simply a wee sign and a gate through the wire fence leading to the first tee!”(…)

    The course is currently only nine holes, which you play twice in order to make up your round. At a mere 4,864 yards in length (2,432 yards for the nine holes) with a par of 68, and with three par-3’s, five par-4’s, and one par-5 you might be forgiven for thinking that it’s something of a pushover. But don’t let its short length fool you into thinking you’re going to have an easy time of things, as what it lacks in length it more than makes up for in degree of difficulty. In fact, many modern course designers could learn a thing or two from the Isle of Harris, as they persist in making modern-day golf courses longer and longer in order to increase the difficulty level. A golf hole DOESN’T necessarily have to be long in order to be difficult, as the nine holes here in Harris prove.
    I won’t describe all the holes, as you can always go to the Isle of Harris Golf Club’s excellent website where they are admirably illustrated. I’ll describe just three holes which particularly took my fancy (…)”

    Source: www.dooyoo.co.uk/sports-locations/isle-of-harris-golf-club-scarista-scotland/1035252/

    Vatersay Outer Hebrides The Western Isles of Scotland  © 2004 Scotiana

    Vatersay Island, Outer Hebrides, Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    To give you an idea of what the Western Isles landscape looks like when the weather is fine, look at the above photo we’ve taken on the island of Vatersay. Vatersay is the most southerly inhabited island in the Western Isles. Since 1991, it has been linked by a 250 m causeway to Barra. Its waters are as blue and crystal clear as those of the Mediterranean sea and the landscape is rocky and wild. We’ve even caught sight of an eagle flying over the hills there.

    Scarista Golf South Harris Outer Hebrides Scotland Golf notice board  © 2004 Scotiana

    Scarista Golf, South Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland - Golf notice board © 2004 Scotiana

    The Isle of Harris golf club is certainly one of the most picturesque 9-hole courses in the world, situated as it is along the Sound of Taransay which opens onto the Atlantic Ocean. It
    was set up in 1930 and a number of famous golfers, such as Nick Faldo and Ronan Rafferty, have come to play there, on a course which must demand expertise and even art when the wind is blowing, and that must be quite often in this remote place facing the elements.

    How we would have liked to stay long enough there to go and walk on the white sands of the beach we could see in the distance but it was already late when we went there and we had to find a place to pitch our little tent. No camping site in the neighbourhood and the weather was not so good.

    Blue Reef Cottage Scarista Harris Outer Hebrides Western Isles of Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

    One of the two Blue Reef Cottages, near Scarista, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland © 2004 Scotiana

     

    We suddenly stopped in front of a strange turf roofed cottage with big windows, just across the road. The modern version of a hobbit’s house?  On a fine day, Bilbo would certainly have appreciated to smoke his pipe in such a beautiful and quiet environment. But Tolkien’s unforgettable hero was a wealthy hobbit and he could have afforded the price of this luxurious cottage. We could only dream of it, looking at the pictures displayed on The Blue Reef Cottages website which offers ‘Luxurious accommodation with panoramic views of local beaches. Ideal location to star gaze, or from the comfort of your cottage you can watch the sun set or the Atlantic Ocean crashing on the shore and beaches below.’

     

    Blue Reef Cottages, Scarista, Isle of Harris Scotland Source: Blue Reef Cottages website

    Blue Reef Cottages, Scarista, Isle of Harris Scotland Source: Blue Reef Cottages website

    Set in the beautiful remote village of Scarista, on the Island of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, we have two turf roofed luxury cottages, the ideal Hebridean retreat.

    Relax in a magical hebridean setting where you can enjoy the Sauna and Jacuzzi bath exclusive to each cottage.

    From the cottages enjoy the stunning panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean crashing onto some of its many beautiful beaches.

    Overlooking Taransay, mountains in the north of the island and an archipelago of islands in the Sound of Harris this is the ultimate place to enjoy a romantic and luxurious break.

    These isolated and secluded cottages are totally private yet only 10 minutes walk from an award winning restaurant and 10-20 minutes drive from shops and bars.

    Built to accommodate two people, these cottages offer relaxation in a breathtakingly beautiful part of the Outer Hebrides.

    The cottages are unique in their design as they are turf roofed and aesthetically blend into the hillside. The idea is based on Neolithic housing, which was situated underground. This idea along with a touch of traditional Hebridean building techniques has resulted in a unique design with exclusive features.

    The area surrounding the cottages is ‘machair land’ which is sandy soil with a carpet of wild flowers during the spring and summer months

    Source: http://www.stay-hebrides.com/autumn-winter.php

     

    Borvemor Blackhouse Scaristavore Harris Outer Hebrides Western Isles of Scotland © 2006 Scotiana

    Borvemor Blackhouse, Scaristavore, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland © 2006 Scotiana

     

    Off the A859 road, we stopped again, thattime  in front of what looked like an old blackhouse. “Tigh Dubh” was its name as indicated on the notice board.  As I’ve checked it up since, in my edition of Edward Dwelly’s Illustrated Gaelic-English Dictionary, tigh or taigh means house in Gaelic and dubh means black.

    With its thatched roof topped by a high chimney, its weathered dry-stone walls and tiny windows, this cottage had the typical look of an age-old traditional house but we were mistaken for this blackhouse was built in 1993. In fact, this charming little cottage is the first traditional blackhouse to have been built for over a century and it did not take more than 32 days to build it! Did you notice how the thatched material has been weighted down with stones? Not a luxury in those wintry lands!

    Contrary to appearances, this self catering little house (for two people only) is equipped with all the modern facilities and its wooden interiors look very cosy as you can see on the pictures displayed on Borvemor Cottages website.

     

    Borvemore Blackhouse Scaristavore Harris Outer Hebrides Western Isles of Scotland © 2006 Scotiana

    Borvemore Blackhouse, Scaristavore, Harris, Outer Hebrides, Scotland © 2006 Scotiana

    You know how I like to quote my favourite authors 😉  Today, to conclude my posts about the Scottish golf, I have chosen to quote one of my favourite actors.  Not only is he a very famous actor and one of the best spokesmen for Scotland but he also happens to be a very good golf player!

    Being a Scot Sean Connery and Murray Grigor front cover Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008

    Being a Scot - Sean Connery and Murray Grigor - Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2008

     

    ‘I never had a hankering to play golf, despite growing up in Scotland just down the road from Bruntsfield Links, which is one of the oldest golf courses in the world. It wasn’t until I was taught enough golf to look as though I could outwit the accomplished golfer Gert Frobe in Goldfinger that I got the bug. I began to take lessons on a course near Pinewood film studios and was immediately hooked on the game. Soon it would nearly take over my life.
    I began to see golf as a metaphor for living, for in golf you are basically on your own, competing against yourself and always trying to do better. If you cheat, you will be the loser, because you are cheating yourself. When Ian Fleming portrayed Auric Goldfinger as a smooth cheater, James Bond had no regrets when he switched his golf balls, since to be cheated is the just reward of the cheater.
    During the filming of Goldfinger, I learned the essential challenge of links golf at Royal Dornoch in the north-east Highlands. Ever since then I have been drawn to links golf and its enduring challenges, and I’ve learnt to play a variety of shots under constantly changing conditions. It’s quite naked golf. There aren’t many trees, or other features, to aid your alignment. Much is left to the imagination and to picturing the shot. Then there’s the wind, always a factor on a links course. You’re required to play run-up shots and to work the ball this way and that.

    Sponsors put up generous prizes and we allowed them to place their logo on the holes for £1,000. Eagle Star Insurance took the first hole, which was a driveable par four. But when two players in the first half-dozen holed out in eagle to each claim their prize of £500, Iain Stewart thought we’d all be left penniless. Fortunately only one more player holed out in two. The tournament was a great success, with Christy O’Connor becoming the all-round winner, and it re-established Royal Troon as a venue for future Opens. In 1970 I won a trophy at a tournament in Morocco, La Coupe du Roi de Maroc. Then the next day I was drawn against a brilliant player who had won the women’s trophy. That was Micheline Roquebrune. We were married one year later.

    Over the years golf has taught me much, and its implicit codes of conduct have provided me with the nearest I have ever come to a religion. A golf player is on his honour to call a shot against himself and to be considerate to other players following up behind. ‘

    Source: Being a Scot by Sean Connery and Murray Grigor. Weidenfeld & Nicholson, Hardcover. 2008

     

    Being a Scot Sean Connery and Murray Grigor first page

    Being a Scot - First page with picture of Sean Connery

     

    Jean-Christophe and Florence, my son and daughter-in-law, have offered me this beautiful and very exciting book with the particularly well-chosen dedication :

     

    Voilà comment retrouver dans un seul ouvrage

    l’histoire du pays qui te fait rêver

    racontée par l’un de ses plus fameux héros.

    We wish you a happy birthday

     

    Jean-Christophe et Florence

     

     

    Ours Golf

    Bonne lecture!

    A bientôt. Mairiuna.

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