NC500: the best golf courses on Scotland’s top road trip

golf courses on the NC500
There are many great golf courses on the NC500 but there is some wonderful wildlife too

It was none other than Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns, who said that when he entered the gates of heaven, he would ask no more ‘than just a Highland welcome.’

The Highlands are a place of myth and beauty, wilderness and adventure. The North Coast 500,  launched in 2015, was billed by some as Scotland‘s answer to the great American road trip. But it’s so much more.

This 516-mile route begins and ends in Inverness, the gateway to the Highlands, and forms a loop around the entirety of the northern tip of Scotland. It takes in the breathtaking Applecross peninsula, as well as Durness, John O’Groats and Brora. But it is also home to some of Scotland’s most enchanting and celebrated golf courses.

Here are some of the very best.

1. ROYAL DORNOCH
Quite simply one of the best golf courses on earth, Dornoch lies 30 or so minutes north of Inverness and can either be played on day 1 or on your final day, depending on which direction you choose to begin the NC500 in.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Scotland
Royal Dornoch Golf Club in Scotland

2. BRORA GOLF CLUB
Just north of Dornoch, Brora has history, beauty and wonderful seclusion to set it apart. The front 9 runs along the coast and between the dunes and is terrific. And then coming home, highlights include the par-3 18th, with the green only a few feet from the windows of the clubhouse. Look out for some local wildlife on your round here.

3. REAY GOLF CLUB
Believed to be Britain’s most northerly 18-hole links course, the layout at Ray dates back to the 1800s. On a clear day, the views across Sandside Bay are breathtaking and with a fair wind you should catch sight of Orkney.

Durness beach
Durness beach

4. DURNESS GOLF CLUB
Picturesque, remote, scenic and dramatic, Durness is well worth a visit. Situated on the westerly end of Scotland’s north coast, this 9-hole cliff-top links can be played twice with different tees allowing you to play 18 holes.

5. GAIRLOCH GOLF CLUB
Situated to the north of the breathtaking Applecross peninsula, Gairloch is a 9-hole golf course with a truly stunning backdrop. To the west the islands of Harris, and Lewis. To the south, the mountains of Torridon lie in wait and to the north, you’ll find Ullapool. Just fabulous.

*The NC500 runs a golf passport scheme which is worth checking out if you do want to play golf as you explore this incredible part of the world. You can find out more at www.northcoast500golf.com

Ben is the founder of The Wandering Golfers. He grew up on the links of Ayrshire in Scotland learning the game from his beloved Grandpa. He spent more than a decade covering Ryder Cups and the Majors for The Times and BBC Sport before starting his own businesses.

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