A different sort of golfer …

…  a different sort of biker.  Durness is the place where Golf in the Wild ends and its sequel, Golf in the Wild – Going Home, begins.  The image of the 8th green shows a ball adjacent to the pin – it will not have arrived in regulation.  The approach has the characteristics of an infinity pool – just fairway and water.  It takes confidence to go for the invisible green, anything long seemingly destined for the briny sea.

The view from the 8th/17th green takes in many highlights of the course: the dunes and the edge of Balnakeil Bay; sturdy Balnakeil House – available for rent to the well-heeled and grubby – it has six bathrooms; the graveyard where lies the Clan MacKay henchman, Donald McMurdo – was ill to his friend and worse to his foe; the 18th tee, which provides such a glorious finish across a rocky inlet and the Clubhouse which resembles a coastguard station, forever keeping watch for those in peril on the course.

The view from the 8th green, looking east

The image does not sparkle, it was not one of those days – hazy sunshine turned dreich, but I was grateful for the benign conditions; when the winds blow strong across the Parph from Cape Wrath, this will be an inhospitable place for golf and much else besides.

It was taken in August 2012 and, sad to relate, I have never played the course since, despite becoming a country member for a couple of years when the club’s finances were stretched. Their secretary, Lucy Mackay, has always been very supportive of Golf in the Wild.  That is not to say I have never returned to Balnakeil and Durness – I have been several times, most recently in 2021 by motorcycle.

The NCA Motorcycle Club at Balnakeil Bay – May 2021

My standard line is that I have yet to fathom how to carry golf clubs on my BMW GS, but as I proved on Barra, dependence on my own clubs is entirely illusory, indeed, my game seemed to benefit from using a mixed set of hire clubs.  With this in mind, I am planning more extreme wild golf by motorcycle – in 2023 the intention is to ride to the Lofoten Islands in Norway and play golf under the midnight sun on Lofoten Links.  I have travelled there by car, sea, ship and aeroplane which only leaves the motorcycle to complete the set.  On my last trip I travelled with my eldest son by train from Oslo to Bodø and then took a short flight to Svolvær.  It was the beginning of March and snow was still thick on the ground – the Lofoten Islands are well within the Arctic Circle such that Lofoten Links will only open from 5th of May until 15th of October in 2023.

The road to Lofoten Links – March 2020


Near Lofoten Links – March 2020

Why post this now? It is all part of the process of making it happen – a commitment to myself, and now, to others. It is about not losing face.

Return to Svolvær

Svolvær seems like a dream to me now.  We timed our trip to Norway to perfection.  It was always going to be sometime between mid-February and mid-March, to ensure there was still plenty of snow but a reasonable amount of light.  When I booked the flights, hotels and rail journeys, little did I know that there was another consideration, something I could never have imagined.  As I said in an earlier post, we arrived back in the UK on 7th March and Norway went into lock-down on the 14th.

Like everyone else, I guess, we are dreaming of where to go when the world returns to normal, whenever that might be.  Mostly I think of places I would like to go back to and, of course, Svolvær is at the top of the list.  Some of this is because every Saturday night at 21:00, I am reminded of how it looks.  By coincidence, BBC4 are showing the Nordic thriller Twin, filmed in and around Svolvær.  A slightly bizarre and hardly believable story, the compensation is the scenery, although I can’t help thinking they should have talked to me about the best time to film 🙂

All this inspired me to dig through some of my unused images from the trip and return on a virtual tour.  I have selected as a soundtrack one of the songs used in Twin – God Don’t Leave Me I’ll Freeze by the Norwegian band, Highasakite – full marks for the name!  Is it me or does it sound vaguely inspired by Sami folk music.

The view from Svinoybrua

The view from Lamholmen





More from Norway

Having posted a series of images of magnificent Norwegian landscapes, these are ad hoc moments captured along the way.  It turns out, by good fortune, we just about timed it right.  We returned to the UK on 9th March and this was announced on the 14th:  Millions of Norwegians and foreigners living in or visiting Norway will be impacted by a drastic set of measures announced by Erna Solberg today. Norway is essentially shutting itself down for two weeks, in a bid to stop the rapid spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19 disease.

Gardermoen Stasjon from the airport concourse

All points on the compass

Black Crow Blues

Honeymoon couple

Start them young

Some don’t seem so keen

As we left Svolvaer Airport – one last abiding memory.

Mono landscape

Eight train journeys, four flights and I am home.  Every connection was made but that’s not to say everything ran like clockwork – a landslip heading north delayed the train’s arrival into Bodø by one hour and, on the return leg, the sleeper service was cancelled between Trondheim and Oslo due to a derailment.  It is reassuring to know that it is not just the UK that struggles to run a reliable rail service, although, in the land of darkness, snow and ice there may be better excuses.

The day we arrived in Svolvær, it was a Fuji Velvia day – a bright, vivid landscape and light, nature’s colour saturation turned up a notch or two.  The next day, we toured the northern islands under leaden, monochrome skies – regardless, it remains a spectacular place to be and already, I am plotting my return:

A cormorant drying its wings.

The road to Gimsoy.

Morning light.

Abandoned landing stage.

Light and shade.

The beacon at Kabelvag

Kabelvag harbour.

Where sand, sea and snow meet.

Near Lofoten Links.

The bridge to Henningsvaer.

Henningvaer harbour..



It has been some journey.  Over two days we flew from Edinburgh to Oslo, caught the sleeper train to Trondheim, swapped onto the daytime Vy.No service to Bodo (complete with line closure and bus detour) and then, this morning, we flew the red-eye island hop into Svolvær. This trip was always going to be as much about the journey as the destination, the railway journey into the Arctic Circle being a highlight. The problem with rail journeys is they provide little opportunity for effective photography – through glass, at speed and with reflections, it is never going to produce good results.

Svolvær, our destination, provides more than adequate compensation. This morning we walked the road bridge to Svinoya and Kjeoya islands – dried fish central. There is a distinctive smell to these small islands – and this is their unlikely destination – Nigeria.

Racks with a view

Dried fish head anyone?

The source of the smell

Fortunately, there is more to the beautiful Svolvaer than dead fish …

Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway – colourful and busy.

The view from the bridge

Something fishy going on …

Svolvaer Harbour, Lofoten Islands, Norway.

The view from the small islands

… Svolvaer skyline

A Merry Christmas

It is time to sign off for the year – wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and all the very best for 2018.

And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”   Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Approaching Honningsvåg, Norway – 23rd December 2014 on the Hurtigruten Ferry.


This first image of Finnsnes was taken from MS Finnmarken on 22nd December 2014. Within a short time we would float under the bridge in the distance, heading north to Kirkenes.  At the time my knowledge of the local geography was sketchy at best and I certainly didn’t appreciate that the bridge connects a sizable island with Finnsnes and the mainland. Nor would I have expected to be driving over said bridge just seven months later, my geographical knowledge much enhanced, to appreciate the wonder that is the island of Senja.

The bridge ...

Once across the bridge we turned left and did the clockwise tour taking various detours to the north of the island where the passes get higher, the roads narrower and the tunnels deeper. There is much more than can be seen in one day:

Snow gates ... More from ... The north road ... The high peaks ... Bovaer ... Bovaer ...In the high mountains ...Riding ...

Storekorsnes and Oksfjord

The Norway of my imagination survives at its distant edges. It is an imagination fed by a too brief holiday in the early sixties when the sun perpetually shone, the snow-capped mountains reflected a clear bright light and the fjords were a deep dark blue. I found it again these last few days, at Storekorsnes and Oksfjord.

Both are situated at the end of long and winding roads and both survive not because of their tarmac connections but because of their proximity to the sea. Storekorsnes is a small fishing village and Oksfjord a thriving ferry port – it is the sea that feeds them.

Like many of the coastal towns and villages, the routes to them include long deep tunnels, some descending far enough to burrow beneath the seabed. The route to Oksfjord includes a particularly unpleasant 4km example – a single lane with irregular passing places, it is roughly hewn, dimly lit and damp throughout. It has more in common with Telford’s canal tunnels than anything designed for motorised transport. Emerging back into a bright Norwegian light is a welcome and remarkable contrast; from hell to heaven in the blink of an eye.

Views from ... On the road to ... On the road to ... On the road to ... On the road to ... The road in the sky ... The perfect location ... The harbour ... The harbour ... The harbour ... The harbour ... The harbour ... The harbour ... The harbour ...

Mad dogs …

Everything has changed.  Gone are the thousand lakes and the endless forests.  Gone too, if temporarily, are the midges. We have crossed into Norway, into snow-capped mountains on the edge of the sea.

The 200km trip north from Lakselv along the E6 and E69 is spectacular, at one point diving deep beneath the sea in a 6km tunnel – exciting in a car, not so pleasant for the many laden-down cyclists heading north for world’s end.

The objective was Nordkapp via Honningsvag, a town we last saw under deep snow in December.  By coincidence MS Finnmarken is moored at Honningsvag quay, the ship that brought us here over Christmas, as is P&O’s Arcadia, the ship we travelled on to the US, the Arctic and the Med.  As a consequence the town is echoing to the sound of English accents and so is Nordkapp where the dreaded cruise tour buses line the car park.

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

... on the road to Nordkapp

... from Lakselv to Nordkapp

Seven months on the snow has gone from Honningsvag and it looks a little rough around the edges but then most towns are improved by their winter coats. This first image of MS Finnmarken contrasts with the version shown here:

MS Finnmarken ...

Heading north ...

Heading north ...

Heading north ...

It is a long haul to Nordkapp and as you climb through cloud there is a sense of achievement on arrival. This is soon followed by disillusionment at the exorbitant entry fee – like Land’s End, Nordkapp is now a themed experience but having come this far we feel obliged to cough up. At least there is a statue which recognises our irritation – “No Kimi, I will not tell you again, it is just too darn expensive!”

Heading north ...

At the edge ...

In all the +1000km we have journeyed to the far north, I had not seen one UK registration plate until this appeared in the car park at Nordkapp. Only mad dogs and Englishmen would go out in the land of midnight sun in such a device – good luck to them, a fine adventure.

Heading north ...

The snow-capped mountains come in the next post.

Made it, Ma! Top of the World!

Boxing Day in Hammerfest, we are at the world’s most northerly town.  At only -4c it feels spring-like compared to Kirkenes.  At the Polar Bear Club adjacent to the ship’s mooring we are briefly over-awed by a stuffed example but, not so much as to be enticed into buying the equivalent miniature version.  I am too cynical about souvenir shops (and much else besides 😉 ) such that I close my mind to thought of buying anything.  My suspicion is that everything is made in China – I learn from a fellow passenger that even Helly Hansen is manufactured in the Orient.

From the quay we climb the ridge above the town, closed in winter due to “the risk of serious accident” – everyone is ignoring the sign.  There are steps but we never feel them beneath our feet, instead, we trudge through deep snow to the 80 m summit – it is a struggle but worth the effort.  The views across the bay to Melkøya are stunning.

Hammerfest feels prosperous and across the water is the explanation – vast tanker ships laden with LNG (liquefied natural gas) from the Barent Sea, heading for southern Europe.  It is highly advanced extraction technology such as this which enables us the luxury of considering suspect alternatives; the dream of replacing that which works with that which does not.  I have not seen a single wind turbine on this entire voyage.

That said, much of the journey has been in darkness so there is every justification for returning on lighter days to confirm my prejudice.

HammerfestPolar bear at ...HammerfestThe streets of ...

We had planned ahead fully aware that the quieter moments onboard would be inadequately filled by Scandinavian television – actually many of the programmes are bought in from the UK and broadcast in English with Norwegian subtitles.  However, I have no desire to see repeats of Midsomer Murders – I didn’t want to see them first time around.

Consequently among our winter baggage are The Wire Seasons 4 & 5 and The Sopranos Season 3.  I love these edgy series but sometimes struggle with  the Baltimore and New York street dialogue – in part because my hearing is no longer fully Dolby compliant. This got me thinking – I also love Spiral (and Caroline Proust!) and Scandinavian crime series such as The Killing and The Bridge – and why are these foreign language TV programmes so popular with those of a certain age?  It’s the subtitles 😉

To round off, this is not the best photograph due to the intrusive light leaking from the streetlamp but the subject I know to be utterly mischievous – it is of course the good lady, undoubtedly up to no good 😀

Pam in Tromso ...

(click on the images to enlarge)