Destination Golf - March 2016 Destination Golf - March 2016 - Page 43

Kevin Markham discovers so much more than just world-class golf in the northern Scottish Highlands. Raise a glass to the world’s newest driving route. What is 500 miles long, slides between endless mountain and seascapes, and has 27 golf courses? The answer is Scotland’s newest driving route. Named the North Coast 500 (NC500) it is pitched as Scotland’s answer to Route 66… in reality, it more closely resembles Ireland’s dramatic Wild Atlantic Way. Route 66 can’t boast the sort of epic coastline found here. The NC500 wraps around the northern Highlands, stretching from Inverness, up to John O Groats, the most northerly point on the British mainland. It then switches west for 90 miles to the isolated and beautiful village of Durness. From here the road peels south through one of the most dramatic and inspiring landscapes imaginable, winding its way towards Applecross, another remote outpost on the Scottish coastline. This is the wild and beautiful Scotland that so many people imagine. In November, I drove this route to play all the golf courses and experience the magic of the Highlands. It promises the best of both worlds: scenery to leave you breathless and golf that plays over two of the world’s best courses. The NC500 starts in Inverness, the region’s capital. There is a non-stop bustle to the city’s restaurants, shops and nightlife, which all fall under the gaze of Inverness Castle. In one shape or another, the castle has been watching over this part of the Highlands for a thousand years. It must never tire of the views that spill away to the north and up the Moray Firth, which begins beneath the castle walls. One of those views is Fortrose and Rosemarkie Golf Club [www. fortrosegolfclub.co.uk], just up the Moray Firth. This is a low-lying links, set on a narrow peninsula which juts sharply into the sea. Holes stretch out to the tip, called Chanonry Point, where people gather daily at the lighthouse, waiting for a pod of dolphins to put on a daily show. Golfers can enjoy the performance from the 4th green. Sadly, the show was cancelled on the day I played. Volume 3 • Issue 32 43