Whisky, castles, fishing and great golf

May 29, 2012
David Brice, Golf International, Inc.

David Brice, CEO of Golf International, reviews destinations on PGATOUR.COM that can be experienced by purchasing a package with Golf international, a leading provider of high-end international golf travel. For more information about this trip or any other of Golf International's destination trips, click here.

Fyvie Castle is only one among more than 20 ancient castles readily assessible from Aberdeen
Kings College dating from the 15th century is Britain's oldest school of medicine
Peterhead is a crusty old-timer, ready to give anyone a run for their money
Aberdeen Art Gallery, one of the city's not to be missed sights
Fraserburgh is another daunting links that flies under the radar
Glengarioch Distillery is one of the closest in a list of more than 100 distilleries surrounding Aberdeen

The broad shoulder of land to the Northeast of Scotland, protruding defiantly out into the North Sea, is the region of Grampian, famous for malt whisky, imposing castles, the finest salmon fishing in Europe and, less heralded, some very impressive golf. This is mountainous countryside, dramatically beautiful and apart from the capital city of Aberdeen, sparsely populated.

It's the outstanding golf in the area that first attracts the curious players. Base yourself in Aberdeen for a few days and not only will a selection of Scotland's most highly regarded links courses be within easy striking distance, together with some real hidden gems, but within a 40 mile radius of the city, an array of other fascinating Scottish distractions.

Royal Aberdeen is the world's 6th oldest course and a stunning layout that somehow managed to stay under the radar of visitors until it hosted the British Seniors Open in 2005. Ranked number 40 in the British Isles, Royal Aberdeen's Balgownie Links is as tough as nails and one of the great classics, worthy of a place high atop any links-lovers must play list.

Murcar, situated immediately next door, may be less known and be a little short on the pedigree of Royal Aberdeen, but don't let that deter you from playing it. Sharing the same sand dunes and temperamental North Sea wind, this somewhat shorter layout puts out its own impressive challenge and is an excellent preparation round for its Royal neighbor. Cruden Bay is another stunning course fast gaining popularity with visitors. Miss the opportunity to play this jewel and you'll be missing a unique links treat and a crusty, old-fashioned beauty that knows every trick in the book and then some.

It's only a few miles further along the coast to discover a pair of true hidden links gems deserving of far more attention from visitors venturing into these parts. Peterhead Golf Club is a slice of golf history formed in 1841 and is the 18th oldest club in the world. The course here was originally laid out by two-time British Open champion, Willie Park and is one of the most natural links in all Scotland. Deceivingly short, the demands presented will test the abilities of even the most accomplished player. The links at Fraserburgh, just a little further up the coast, are nothing less, with an even longer history..

Parish records show that golf has been played on Fraserburgh links since 1613 and Fraserburgh Golf Club lays claim to being founded in 1771, making it the world's 7th oldest (although it also admits to those early members were not being the best of record keepers). The location is the most north-easterly point in Scotland, where the North Sea and Moray Firth converge, creating a unique micro-climate with elements that are even less predictable than usual. Be prepared for a bouncy ride around a delightfully natural Scottish links of substantial sand dunes buffeted by an incessant wind.

With the instant camaraderie both these clubs shower upon all too few visitors, there's a very special Scottish golf experience in store for any who travel the few extra miles to savor this pair of truly historic, hidden gems.

The courses surrounding Aberdeen are reason enough to visit the Grampian region, but for any with even a passing interest in other things Scottish, there are many more distractions to occupy any off-course hours.

Aberdeen is the gateway to whisky country and the distilleries of the Scottish Highlands. Within a half hour's drive are the some of Scotland's oldest distilleries, including Fettercairn, Royal Lochnagar and Glendronach. Only 20 minutes further and you can be in the heart of Speyside, the epicenter of malt whisky production, with half of all Scotland's distilleries concentrated into a small area of less than 200 square miles. Glenfiddich, Glenlivit, The Macallan and 40 more of malt whisky's most famous names make this a whisky connoisseur's heaven.

This northeast corner of Scotland also boasts the greatest number of ancient castles and mansion houses in the country and Aberdeen is the gateway to a trail of 13 of the very best. Dating from the 13th century to the 18th century, they span a range of the most unique castles in Scotland. From the fairytale magic of Craigievar Castle to the rugged splendor of the ruins of Kildrummy Castle, to the elegant timelessness and country house grandeur of Leith Hall, it's an amazing collection. Take them all in, or view only a few, the castle trail is easy to follow and clearly marked with road signs

If fishing sounds more appealing, you couldn't have found a better place - The River Dee is one of the longest and best salmon fishing rivers in all of Europe. The river enters the North Sea at Aberdeen after an 80-mile journey through Grampian countryside and traditionally records the greatest number and size of salmon taken from any Scottish river. World renowned by fly fishermen for its salmon, the Dee offers equally good sport for those fishing with rod and reel who are after the sea trout and grisle that begin to enter the river in May. Conveniently spanning the best golfing months, the fishing season begins in early February and runs through the end of September.

Experienced fisherman or first timer, fishing in Scotland has an appeal of its own and is one of those activities that should be experienced at least once. Local ghillies (fishing's equivalent of caddies) are employed on each beat (sections of the river reserved for fishing) always on hand to assist. Between the ghillie and local tackle shop, rental of all the necessary tools, equipment and permits can be easily arranged.

Whether on the golf courses or off, the Aberdeen and Grampian region holds a wide range of attractions for everyone, making it one of the more fascinating parts of the country to visit. Combine this region with St. Andrews, East Lothian or the West Coast and you'll have the makings of a rather special Scottish golf trip. For a few more ideas, click here.

©2012 David Brice / Golf International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Golf International -- Providers of quality golf travel arrangements since 1988.