I Made It! The 5,000-mile trek complete, now my real Scottish journey can begin
The transitional journey is complete. Now the real journey—a life in Scotland—can commence. And though I’ve only made the first step or two down this path, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’m headed in the right direction.
But before I can begin to tell that story, I should offer up a wee bit of an update. After all, when I last posted in this space, I was in Blythe, Calif., aka the middle of nowhere. Here’s a quick blow by blow of what has transpired since:
Drove the fully loaded Miata through the Saguaro National Park en route to El Paso, Texas where—with Yelp’s help—I found a thoroughly charming dive of a Mexican restaurant called L&J. An authentic cantina is on the short list of the things that’ll miss in Scotland so I figured I should get my fill while I still could.
The next day took me to Dallas, where I stowed the Miata, regrouped at a DFW-adjacent airport and filled up on Texas barbecue—yet another experience that’s unlikely to be replicated over here.
Then, finally, I boarded a plane bound for London Heathrow. Arrived early the next morning, endured LHR’s legendary security queues and waited out a five-hour layover before catching a short flight to Edinburgh. Though I made it safe and sound, my bags—including my golf clubs—did not. Undeterred, I rented a car and drove to Kelso, our new hometown, and walked into our leased cottage for the first time. The original structure dates back to at least 1840, so it’s equal parts charming and quirky. But now that I’ve spent four nights here total, it also feels very much like home—albeit a very empty one. My wife arrives tomorrow. That’s when the real “homework” will begin.
In between though, after being reunited with my belongings, I made a crack o’ dawn drive to Glasgow to pick up a lifelong friend from Ohio. We headed north to the Highlands and, specifically, Dornoch to play an ethereal and, officially, royal links that we’d last traversed in 1997 during our initial pilgrimage to the auld country. We played an early round there, generously hosted by Harry Bowden, a member I’d met at Machrihanish last fall. Weather was kind until the last two holes when we got drenched and chilled by a sleet storm.
Rather than attempt a second 18 there, we drove further north to Brora Golf Club, home of the James Braid Society. As we ate our lunch in the clubhouse overlooking the course and the Dornoch Firth, the skies cleared (though the wind freshened), enticing us onto this links. What a fun ride! Unlike Dornoch that’s ensconced in gorse, Brora is a minimalist’s joy. Very grateful serendipity stepped in and allowed us to experience it.
After a hearty Indian meal back in Dornoch, we took a stroll through the quaint town, making stops at the cathedral (Madonna and Guy Ritchie christened their son Rocco here in 2000) and Donald Ross’ (of Pinehurst fame among hundreds of other top-notch course designs) childhood home. Then it was time for a second night’s sleep at the Amalfi, a homey B&B a mere five-minute walk to Royal Dornoch’s first tee that’s graciously hosted by Marelle (a Scot) and Edward (an American). I can’t recommend it highly enough.
The next morning, we headed south, stopping off at Tain Golf Club for an entertaining round. While the turf at Brora is a gently sweeping roller coaster, this links’ terrain is decidedly agitated—a bit akin to playing golf on a huge Ruffles potato chip. But it was still well worth the visit, especially the back nine that offers up a true links test.
From there, we continued south along Loch Ness, through Fort William and on to Oban where—thanks to the advice of booking.com—we spent the night at the Aspen Lodge, a first-rate B&B on the outskirts of this port town. Over Italian cuisine at a restaurant on the pier we watched as ferry ships—some seemingly large enough to traverse the Atlantic—docked for the night after a full day’s work transporting locals and tourists to and from the Isle of Mull.
The following day broke bright and calm, setting the stage for a no-stress, all-scenery drive to Machrihanish, where we met up with 22 friends old and new for a week of indulgence in golf, bevvies (aka adult beverages) and companionship. This year marked our 14th annual reunion at this remote corner of heaven—the inspiration for my recently released novel. What better way to transition from what my life had been to what it will be?
Now? I’m back in Kelso in the Scottish Borders, investing heavily in the local economy as we begin to furnish our cottage. As I write this, the weather is serving up a frothy mix of rain, wind and chill. But eventually the sun will break through and the view through our sunroom’s windows will take my breath away.
The past two months have been grueling. But make no mistake, it has been worth it. Big time.
Let the journey begin!