I am indebted to the Department of Special Collections at University of St Andrews Library for providing copies of postcards from their James Valentine & Co archive. I had asked for anything they could find for a variety of golf courses in northwest Scotland and, out of the blue on Wednesday, I received an email containing five superb old photographs. This view of Kyle of Lochalsh golf course is one of my favourites, perhaps because it is the most poignant:
The course is sited north of the town on the Plock of Kyle with wide ranging views towards Skye, and the isles of Raasay and Scalpay on its eastern shore. The small uninhabited island in the foreground is Eilean a’ Mhal which, like many of the small islands, is in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Just to the south is Eilean Bàn which, with its decommissioned lighthouse, provides a convenient ‘stepping stone’ for the Skye Bridge as it makes the final leap towards the mainland. The postcard dates from 1931 when Skye remained a disconnected island and the ferry still ran between the slipways at Kyle of Lochalsh and Kyleakin. Much has changed in the intervening years. The postcard clearly shows the but ‘n’ ben style white clubhouse and the neat fairways amongst the rocky outcrops, so much more punishing than mere sand. The modern OS map still tantalises golfers with a golf course symbol but when I last walked across the Plock of Kyle in March 2009, this was the state of the clubhouse seventy eight years later:
I don’t know when the course was abandoned but the evidence of former glories can still be found amongst the undergrowth and there was even a scruffy white flag attached to a bent stick planted on what was once a much tended green; not a flag of surrender but a symbol of sheer bloody-minded optimism, hopefully there is already a restoration committee making plans.
Footnote: With reference to an earlier post, the 70 foot Eilean Bàn lighthouse is another Stevenson creation. It was built in 1857 and designed by David (1815-81) and Thomas (1818-87) Stevenson, father of Robert Louis Stevenson. In the picture below the lighthouse is just visible beneath the right arch; elegant the bridge may be but I do wish it wasn’t there. I don’t suppose the islanders agree.
Hey there, I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster Blog award! Head over to my site to check out the details. Also as always your photography is amazing!
Thanks Veramoy, a very kind gesture – now I will have to find out what it means 🙂
Aha, now I understand and thanks for the generous comments:
1. What is the meaning of life? No really, quit laughing!
None that I have discovered – you can’t improve on Shakespeare: Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing…..a bit bleak, best not to think about it for too long – carry on regardless.
2. What author has influenced your writing the most and why?
Andrew Greig – an award winning Scottish poet and writer who writes from the heart about life and occasionally, even golf!
3.What’s on your Ipod while writing? Mostly anything by Guy Garvey and Elbow. Now they have performed at the Olympic clsong ceremony, concert tickets will be even more difficult to come by (you will remember Guy, he was the only singer who could hold a note on the night).
You may be interested to hear that there is currently a 2 year plan of work to improve public access to the Plock of Kyle area where the golf course was, though sadly it does not include any plans to reinstate the course. While I was waiting for my car’s MOT to be carried out in Kyle today, I wandered around the Plock (my first time doing so) and tried to visualise where holes may once have been. It led me to a tee area which still had a couple of rubber mats, but that was the only tangible evidence I could find. The old clubhouse is still there but is fenced off. A couple of sheds still sit adjacent to what must have been a fairway, presumably huts for greenkeepers’ equipment. I’m giving some thought to wandering around with the camera and photographing whatever signs of the course remain before it all completely disappears.
David – many thanks for the interesting feedback – such a shame that the improved public access will not lead to resurrection of the course. Forgive my unashamed plug but this post is an extract from Golf in the Wild (www.golfinthewild.co.uk) which was finally published on 12th August this year.