Sun, sea, golf and whisky – all from the opulent decks of The Spirit of Fortitude. What more could any golfing enthusiast ask for?
Ten days of award winning courses, world class distilleries, impressive historical wonders and some of the most alluring coastlines and sights you could ever wish to see.
Test your nerve on world famous links courses and follow in the footsteps of golfing legends. Pit your skill against nature on some of the most beautiful yet treacherous courses in the world. Couple this with tasting sessions and tours of local but global whisky distilleries and immerse yourself in the water of life. At every turn, nature will inspire you with golden eagles, otters, seals, whales and more.
Truly, this voyage of discovery encapsulates Scotland and will enchant you forever.
Passing places, anchorages and ports
From its humble beginnings as a fishing village in the 15th Century, Greenock and its access to the River Clyde made it an important location for servicing the busy city of Glasgow until the 1800s and then became the shipbuilding capital of the world. Set on steep slopes, it has magnificent views across the firth of Clyde to the mountains beyond.
With two spectacular courses, Royal Troon is a must for any golf enthusiast. Lying at the end of a gorgeous stretch of Ayrshire coastline, golf has been played here long before the club was founded in 1878. Awarded Royal status in its centennial year of 1978 it has hosted The Open Championship 8 times and will host it again this year. The Old Course is thought to be one of the greatest in Scotland and with a mixture of the wind and terrain – it is a challenging one. Take time to reminisce in the history of players past who have found glory here and take your chances on the famous “Postage Stamp” hole surely your best chance for a hole in one on a Championship course! The alternate course – The Portland Course was originally designed by William Fernie who won The Open in 1883 before being redesigned in the 1920’s by Dr Alister MacKensie. Slightly more forgiving than The Old Course, the Portland Course takes you through sheltered holes on a slightly shorter course.
Full of beautiful coastlines, rolling hills, woodlands and mountainous terrain, this most southerly Scottish Isle is just19 miles long by 10 miles wide but offers some stunning seascape vistas at every turn. Easily described as a miniature Scotland due to the variety of terrain, as you traverse the island you will feel that you are a million miles away from the hustle of everyday life. It is home to a modern but popular distillery and produces its own soaps and lotions with a visitor centre where you can see how it is done. Full of local artisans, we source much of our menu from here. The island is also home to the Kings Caves – a series of waterfront caves carved out of the sandstone and thought to be where Robert the Bruce had his famous encounter with the spider.
Lochranza Golf Club
The gorgeous highland scenery of Lochranza is what makes this golf course so special. Set in a National Scenic Area and Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, it was established by the villagers in 1898. The course stretches along lush parkland towards the head of the loch. Challenging in places, it has four fairways that cross the Chalmadale Waters or mountain burn. As you enjoy the timeless beauty of the course, watch out for red deer and red squirrels as well as golden eagles soaring in the skies above.
Isle of Arran Distillery
Picturesque Lochranza, at the north of the Isle of Arran, has been the location of the island’s first legal distillery for over 150 years. Until the 19th century, Arran was renowned for its Malt Whisky, often made illicitly, and known locally as “Arran Water”. The distillery allows you to learn about whisky making from professionally trained guides, whilst you enjoy the spectacular exhibition set around a thirty-foot indoor waterfall and experience a little bit of history in the making. Each tour ends in the fully stocked tasting bar where knowledgeable staff are happy to give you a dram of some of the award winning products.
One of the most remote of the Scotland’s mainland towns it was renamed from Kinlochkilkerran in the 1600’s by the then Earl of Argyll and Chief of the Clan Campbell. The town flourished in the Victorian era with a reputed distillery on every street. With that much whisky in town, it is a good thing that they name was changed! As you wander around Campbelltown you rapidly realise that it has retained a remarkable collection of extremely fine buildings throughout the ages. The Town House, built in 1760 is considered one of Scotland’s best Town Halls and the Wee Picture House is the oldest cinema in Scotland still showing films. In the centre of town is the Campbeltown Cross -a magnificent stone cross thought to be carved around 1380 and covered by extremely intricate designs including saints, animals and interlaced foliage. Campbeltown today still has 3 distilleries, Glen Scotia, Glen Gyle, and Springbank.
As most distilleries in Scotland are centuries-old businesses, many have changed hands several times over the decades. The one exception to the rule is Springbank, which remains the only independent, family-owned distillery in Scotland. First founded in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still, the distillery is still going today in the hands
of Mitchell’s great-great-great-grandson, Hedley Wright. Campbeltown was once known as the ‘whisky capital of the world’, but it slipped into decline leaving only three working distilleries today. Much of the original Springbank Distillery remains intact, including decades-old machinery like the mill and kilns. As such, traditional methods are still employed by hand, including malting the barley on the distillery’s malting floor. It is also the only distillery to make whisky using a unique process called two-and-a-halftimes
distillation. The first half of the distillation (the low wines) is redistilled a second time, before being added to the second half for a third and final distillation. While the majority of distilleries concern themselves with consistency, Springbank is less concerned resulting in some of its 10 Year Old single malts, for instance, being more sherried than others – an additional quirk to a very unique distillery.
Machrihanish with its stunning beach, though will always be more famous for its golf courses. The original course being built by Old Tom Morris who is famed not just for designing courses but playing golf as well. Having come second in the very first Open Championship in 1860, he then won this the following year, to date he holds the record as being the oldest winner of The Open Championship at the age of 46 in 1867. He also held the record for the largest margin of victory in a major of 14 strokes in 1862 until this was beaten by Tiger Woods in the 200 US Open. The world famous links course of Machrihanish is recognised as having one the best opening holes in the world, as you tee off with your opening shot to carry out to the Atlantic.
Nearby is newer Machrihanish Dunes club – built 130 years after Tom Morris designed the first course. This Championship course allows you to play golf in its oldest and purist form on the constantly changing linksland. Flowing along the sea, the course is the only one to be built on a Site of Special Scientific Interest over 259 acres with only seven acres being disturbed during construction.
Machrihanish was a military base for the U.S.A and is now community owned, like most places we visit a distillery is never very far away for those who prefer to visit.
Perhaps a welcome break to ease tired muscles as we sail in luxury across to Northern Ireland and the majestic Royal Portrush. Designed by H. S. Colt, the Dunluce links at Royal Portrush Golf Club is the only course outside of Scotland and England to have hosted The Open Championship, and it will do so again in 2019. Harry Colt considered the course to be his masterpiece and not a single hole fails to impress. Calamity Corner, the 14th hole, is recognised as one of the world’s most treacherous par threes, with its green perched on the edge of a precipice.
For the non-golfer’s highlights include the Giant’s Causeway and Dunluce Castle, two marvels of the Antrim coast. Our ﬁrst stop is at the Giant’s Causeway, a phenomenal natural rock formation often referred to as the “eighth wonder of the world.” Further down the road lies Dunluce castle, precariously situated on a cliff overlooking the sea.
The oldest working distillery in Ireland, for over 400 years Bushmills have been hand crafting batches of beautifully smooth Irish whiskey. Granted a licence to distil by King James I in 1608, the distillery grew from strength to strength before being destroyed by fire in 1885. Lovingly rebuilt, its reputation grew and was mentioned in Ulysses. Prohibition hit hard in the 1920’s, but a Belfast merchant had faith and bought the distillery in 1923 – 10 years before prohibition ended and exports to America were soon flowing. In 2008 the Bank of Ireland graced their banknotes with an image of the Old Bushmills Distillery to help celebrate the 400th Anniversary and the brand grows stronger year by year. With a fine range of single malts available, a visit to Bushmills is a must.
The “Whisky Isle” and the most southerly of the western isles, Islay is known around the world as home to eight Scottish whisky distilleries including three of the island’s most famous distilleries, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. With its high peat content, the strong flavour of the Islay whiskies are most distinctive. The history of the island is thought to date back as far as the Mesolithic period after a flint arrowhead dating from 10,800BC was found. More recent historical remains can be found at Kildalton Cross with a ruined church and a number of fascinating gravestones. There is also the American Monument, built to remember the loss of the hundreds of US soldiers who died when two ships were sunk off the island in 1918.
Outside of the distilleries, perhaps what makes Islay so special is that it acts as the winter resting place to over 35,000 barnacle geese as well as over 10,000 Greenland white fronted geese. The European cousin to the American trumpeter swan, the whooper as well as golden eye ducks are also regularly seen. The elusive corncrake and the cirlew sandpiper are also often seen during the summer. Permanent residents include the majestic golden eagle, barn owls, guillemot and the red billed chough as well as the sea eagle. Wandering through the paths, you can see red deer, fallow deer and roe as well as otters, lizards and seals who gather on the rocks in the evenings. Perhaps as you sail to the island you will see the local bottlenose dolphins, minke whales and pilot whales as well as a special glimpse of killer whales majestically gracing the waves
Named after the famous Scottish machair, Machrie is set in the beautiful dunes on the Isle of Islay also well known for its rich and peaty whisky. Designed by Willie Campbell, he stood on the edge of the sand dunes overlooking Laggan Bay and said “this place was made for Gowf”. It is said that to play The Machrie is to walk in the footsteps of the golfing gods and to play it twice is to fall in love!
A choice of Distilleries – Laphroaig, Lagavulin, Ardberg, Gartbreck, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, Kilchoman, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila
Founded in 1815, Ardbeg Distillery is one of Islay’s oldest whisky distilleries. Ardbeg whiskies are deep, complex and steeped in peat smoke, a distinctive property that has come to characterise many Islay whiskies, due to the abundance of peat on the island. At Ardbeg Distillery you can choose from four different tours with tastings. Ardbeg offer a great Deconstructing the Dram tour from April to October. Use all your senses to deconstruct Ardbeg’s famous whiskies on this two-hour in-depth tour, from learning about Ardbeg’s production process to taking part in a fun nosing quiz. Along the way you’ll also sample some of Ardbeg’s finest whiskies, including a cask strength tasting in the warehouse
Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on the Isle of Islay and one of the oldest in the whole of Scotland, dating back to 1779. Like other Islay malts, Bowmore is renowned for its peaty smokiness, the result of traditionally smoking the malt using peat-fired kilns. The distillers keep to the time-and tested methods, and the process has scarcely been changed in over 200 years of production. Lying on the south eastern shore of Loch Indaal, the distillery uses water sourced from the River Laggan to produce a wide variety
of whiskies of different ages and different finishes. Thanks to its location, some of the distinct characteristics of the Bowmore malts include smoke, salt and seaweed. Excess heat from the distillation process is used to warm the waters of Bowmore village’s nearby public swimming pool which is housed in one of the distillery’s former warehouses.
Bunnahabhain has been part of Islay’s whisky heritage since 1881. Nestled into the north east tip of the island, it overlooks the Sound of Islay and the neighbouring Isle of Jura. The name Bunnahabhain derives from Gaelic word for ‘mouth of the river’ and the distillery draws its water from the nearby Margadale Spring. This remote distillery produces a fine range of malts which are not quite as heavily peated as other Islay malts, and with each bottling some distinctive characteristics. As well as Bunnahabhain single malt, many casks produced in the distillery will be used in Black Bottle, a blended whisky which features a quantity of spirit from every distillery on Islay.
In a sheltered spot on the shores of Loch Indaal lies Bruichladdich, home to a distillery which dates back to 1881. Bruichladdich distillery’s operation and ethos blends an interesting mix of old and new; much of the equipment used dates back to the Victorian era but this distillery is famed for taking innovative approaches when it comes to the whisky-making process. Self-styled as ‘progressive Hebridean distillers’, Bruichladdich has released the Octomore, an experimental whisky made from super heavily peated barley and said to be the most heavily peated single malt whisky in the world. As well as whisky, the distillery started producing gin, named The Botanist, in 2011.
In addition to standard daily tours, the Warehouse Experience offers something a bit special. Participants get the chance to try three single malt whiskies which are not
available for general sale straight from the cask in the setting of the cathedral-like maturation room.
Caol Ila Distillery
Located just north of Port Askaig, Caol Ila (pronounced Cull-eela) is set in a sheltered bay surrounded by gorgeous Hebridean scenery. It is the biggest distillery in Islay,
producing a jaw-dropping excess of 2 million litres of spirit per year, and boasts a whisky-making heritage that stretches back to 1846. Back in the day steamboats, known as ‘puffers’, would deliver cargoes of malting barley, coal and empty casks to the distillery. They would return with these casks full of whisky to the mainland through the Sound of Islay, the straight which separates the island from neighbouring Jura.
Upon arrival, absorb the outstanding panoramic views across the Sound of Islay to the Paps of Jura, before taking a behind-the-scenes tour of the distillery. Watch the distillers hard at work tending the six copper stills on one of three tours which invite you to witness first-hand the time tested process behind the spirit produced at Caol Ila. Discover how Islay peat imbues the whisky distilled here with its distinctive, smoky character, sample a selection of its different ages and maturations, and discover the unexpected flavourings of its finest malts during a special tasting session accompanied with delectable chocolates – a truly unique whisky-tasting experience.
Opened in 2005, Kilchoman Distillery is the youngest of all the Islay distilleries and was the first distillery to be established on the island for over 124 years. Visit this authentic farm distillery and discover how it manages every stage of the whisky making process on-site – they even grow their own barley on the farm’s fertile land. The tour takes you on a journey through every stage of the production process, you can even see how Kilchoman malt their own barley on the farm’s traditional malting room floor.
While other distilleries rely on specialist malting companies to supply them with malted barley for their whiskies, Kilchoman is one of the few distilleries in Scotland who malt their own barley onsite, meaning you can start your tour right at the beginning of the whisky making process. Tours range from the standard Distillery Tour to the Manager’s Tour, where you will learn about what it takes to run Islay’s farm distillery from one of the managers themselves, before tasting a unique expression straight from the cask.
Lagavulin is one of three distilleries that sit on the southern coast of Islay. Much like its neighbours Laphroaig and Ardbeg, the site occupies the shores of its own secluded cove, Lagavulin Bay. As is also the case for many of the distilleries on Islay, its whitewashed with the distillery name, which can be seen from the decks of the arriving ferry from the mainland. The tradition of whisky distilling started on the spot where the current distillery buildings stand long before it was built. As far back as 1742, there was anywhere up to 11 illicit stills making whisky in Lagavulin Bay. The current distillery, sitting in the shadow of the ruined Dunyvaig Castle – once the seat of the Lord of the Isles – wasn’t built until 1816. The hallmark of Islay whiskies is peat smoke, and Lagavulin is not one to shy away from this distinct characteristic. Its signature expression, Lagavulin 16 Year Old, is appreciated the world over for its intense peat smoke notes – a superb accompaniment to a fine blue cheese.
Said to be the definitive taste of Islay, Laphroaig (pronounced ‘La-froyg’) has been distilling on Scotland’s whisky island for two centuries. Perhaps the smokiest of the Islay whiskies, it uses hand-cut peat from the nearby Glenmachrie bogs to dry malted barley in on-site kilns. Laphroaig was the only spirit not banned during Prohibition in 1920s America. It was sold as a medicinal spirit because of its iodine taste, a characteristic derived from the moss and roots in the peat.
From March to September, visitors can help the distillery staff cut the peat by hand at Glenmachrie ready for drying as part of the Water to Whisky Experience tour, one of
several different tours operated by the distillery staff. The taste of Laphroaig also has a lot to do with its location. Nestled in a cove from which it gets its name (translated from Gaelic as ‘the beautiful hollow by the broad bay’), it is in the direct path of strong salty sea winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The moisture in the air gets into the warehouse walls and casks, which gives the whisky a maritime taste profile.
Then an Option of the following:
Colonsay Golf Club – Colonsay
To experience golf as the very first golfers in Scotland, you really have to choose Colonsay Golf Course. Whilst it may not be the grandest in the world, it is certainly one of the most beautiful. Built on indigenous machair, this 18-hole course has the most beautiful names that perfectly reflect their setting like the “Bay of the Cold Well” The course is fringed to the northeast by the rugged, craggy Hill of the Sheep and part of the panoramic view includes Dun Ghallain, a cairned headland where a mediaeval fort once stood.
The 18 holes are completely natural and the course flows through the natural landscape and there are no bunkers to be found. The course is over 200 years old and has remained mostly unchanged throughout this time except for replacing the tarmacked runway that was put in place during WWII. One of the very best things about this golf course is the fact that, not only will you never be held up by a slow group in front, or pressurised by a fast group behind; but also, what’s more, you will mostly have the entire course completely to yourself.
Iona Golf Club
The natural machair of the sand dunes of Iona form the basis of the informal Iona Golf Course which looks onto one of the finest beach views anywhere with the Camus Cuil an Tabibh (Bay at the back of the Ocean) forming the backdrop. The Machair is habitat to sheep, cattle, and golfers, who step carefully as they navigate the 18-hole golf course laid out there. The worst obstacle during the annual Iona Open is a bull, who favours the vegetation on the ninth green. Take a swing at your ball, but try not to hit the grazing sheep: this 18-hole golf course is naturally dramatic and – best of all – free of charge.
Vaul Golf Club – Tiree
On the beautiful Island of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, the Course is situated at the East end of the island and consists of 9 holes, 1 par 5, 1 par 3 and the remainder par 4’s totalling 2894 yards for Gents and 2576yds for Ladies. The 9-hole format has been established since circa 1911. This is a super course for those taking up the sport or the holiday maker who enjoys a ‘hassle-free’ golf environment. Just pay your day ticket in the clubhouse ‘Honesty-Box’ and off you go!
South Uist is home to the oldest golf course in the Outer Hebrides – Askernish which offers phenomenal views whilst taking in a round of golf. Like many of the Western Isles it is an island of two halves – the east is dominated by mountains and the west is made of long lines of sandy beaches. Along the coast are the remains of a 12th century castle and on the west is the Hill of the Miracles, which is 1957 saw the erection of Hew Lorimer’s 30ft statue of the Madonna and Child, “Our Lady of the Isles” on its slopes
Askernish Golf Club
If you wish to experience a true links course and a wonderful golfing experience, then Askernish is for you. Home to one of the most natural 18-hole golf courses, it was created by Old Tom Morris and was maintained by the local crofters until the early 1920s. Over the next 80 years, nature reclaimed the course and parts of it were also used as an airstrip. In 2005, a local group decided to reclaim it back and it was restored and reopened in 200 to great acclaim.
Isle of Skye
The stunning approach to the Isle of Skye and its impressive black Cuillin hills and their dramatic backdrop offering spectacular scenes of beauty from every angle whilst surrounded by cascading, making Skye one of the most magical and beautiful places to visit from the sea with its mystical Fairy Rock Pools, and its famed Old Man of Storr, an impressive 165ft high column of rock along with its Coral beach to name just a few.
The remains of the headland fortress of Duntulm Castle perfectly frame the view from the tip of the Trotternish peninsula and further south lies the intriguing Kilvaxter Souterrain. To the North West lie two further peninsulas, Duirinish and Waternish – both worthy of exploration for both their beauty and also the ruin of Trumpan Church which is famous for “The Battle of the Spoiling of the Dyke”.
Tokavaig on the coast sits on a small pebbly beach under the watchful eye of the ruins of Dunscaith Castle. Legends tell that the original castle was built in a single night with the help of a witch. This headland was also said to have been the location for the legendary “School for Heroes” run by the Celtic warrior queen, Scáthach, whose name is reflected in that of the castle.
With the Cuillin range in the background and nestled on the shores of Loch Harport, Talisker Distillery produces an award winning, full bodied single malt that is easy to enjoy.
The oldest working distillery on Skye, you can tour and see the traditional worm tubs and the copper pot stills that help give it its own distinctive flavour.
A working fishing port on the North West coast of Scotland, it is visited often by the famous Jacobite steam train from the Harry Potter movies. Full of character, it remains a tranquil place to visit and is a considered a new town for Scotland at less than 200 years old. Benefiting from its new marina and the local art shops serving local artisans, Mallaig has one of the best wee fish and chip shops and has seen many drive from the central belt for the day and a fish supper!
Traigh Golf Club
Meaning “beach” in Gaelic, Traigh golf club offers golfers the traditional challenges of a classic seaside links course. Based on a line of grassy hills, this nine-hole course offers spectacular views of Eigg and Rum and is backed by the stunning Cuillins of Skye.
A picture perfect setting of coloured buildings down to the pier surrounded by wooded hills around the bay up to the lighthouse with its playful otters among the rocks. At the bottom of the bay is thought to remain the wreck of a Spanish galleon which fled the English fleet when she anchored in Tobermory to take on provisions. Following a dispute over payment the ship caught fire which caused the gunpowder to explode. She was supposed to have been carrying millions of gold coins when she went to the bottom but no-one has ever managed to find any significant treasure. Tobermory also has its very own chocolate factory.
Overlooking the Sound of Mull, Tobermory Golf Club was founded in 1896 and the current course was designed and built by David Adams in 1935. Using the natural heath and heather to create this challenging nine-hole course, it is widely thought to be one of the most scenic in Scotland. Do not be decieved by its beauty though as it offers a real test to golfers and is rarely if ever played to par!
Originally known as Ledaig Distillery, it has had a very disrupted history. Built in 1798 by John Sinclair, it was closed in 1837 before reopening under the new owners John Hopkins & Company in 1873. Forced to close in 1930 due to the world-wide drop in demand caused by prohibition it reopened for a few years in the 1970s before being restarted in 1979 and ran again until 1985 when the company went bust. Finally, it was reopened for the last time in 1989 and bought out by the current owners Burn Stewart in 1993.
Despite the turmoil, the distillery has retained many of its original features, including its mash tun. The Cathedralesque still room houses a single line of four tall stills. Today the distillery is best known for its 10-year-old Tobermory single malt, produced using unpeated malt from north-east Scotland. The slight peatiness in the finished product comes entirely from the locally-sourced water used in the process.
Our gateway to the highlands and islands ……. Historically a fishing and trading village until the Victorian steamers started arriving in larger numbers to this pretty village, Oban grew into a town as it became a main stopping off point for the Western Isles.
Set in a natural bay, it is largely protected from wilder weather and has some beautiful seaside shops to visit. At the top of the hill behind the bay sits McCaig’s Tower or the Folly as it is better known. Built in 1902, McCaig built the colosseum style structure as a lasting testament to his family and also to provide work for the local tradesmen. Despite it being a steep walk to the top, the views are spectacular. Oban also boasts a Cathedral, Castle and golf course. Oban has a rich culture in traditional Scottish music and this is evident with its many festivals, fresh seafood is a must, it is literally from sea to plate!