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.