You will love Durness! Another absolute charmer up that way. It's a winding, but glorious trek from Dornoch across some of the wildest and varied ground I've seen anywhere.
As Tom alluded to, there is some stunning coastline in that immediate area around Durness.
I'll always remenber the day I made that ride over there, as we were ambling along a VERY rural country road, but not single track, we rounded a bend and came apon a cluster of land rovers. It was late August if I recall, and witnessed an unforgettable scene. An entire bird hunting party was emptying out of the vehicles and forming up to begin the hunt.
The array of magnificent dogs, some beautiful firearms and classic hunting attires worn by the group was a picture from another era... only it wasn't!
That is the type of timeless moment that that region of Scotland STILL delivers. The main reason is because much of that area is locked up in the hands of folks NOT interested in growth, progress and all that goes with it.
As you will see, various crofts (farm or grazing) , many estate lands, moors etc. knit together to maintain a landscape that still has its rugged natural beauty and integrity.
The remoteness of it has insulated it from "development."
Therein lies the inherent danger of blowing up a village like Dornoch into some bustling "growth" community. No one expects things to remain the same forever. That's a given.
Golf, on it's own, has one of the lightest footprints possible, in the RIGHT places, to provide economic opportunity to a community.
That's been going on up there, and loads of other places, worldwide, since the early days of the railroad.
Let me ask others that have been to them, does the golfing "hub" that is Nairn feel like Dornoch? Does any other golfing in Scotland have the sense of Dornoch?
Where things become problematic is the
" expansion" that is sure to follow when something becomes a focused, designated "hub" for something.
The local population, in the end, USUALLY holds what determination of their community will look like.
That said,, outside influence often has a way of
" convincing" decision makers at the local level to embark on things that end up changing permanently, and often not for the better, what gave the place it's special qualities.
When you layer in governmental agencies that need to justify their existence by " fostering" growth and economic initiatives, that only adds to the haste in generating an opportunity to tout.
Economic gain alone is not enough reason to approve something, especially in the wrong place, if it ends up ruining what gave a community it's defining qualities.
Dornoch has enjoyed a certain vibe, a mystique if you will, that has "entranced" golfers, AND non-golfers to a certain degree, since the 1800's.
It HAS been the small bucolic scale, and intertwined fabric of that village, which provided the special and unique flavor it holds. Lose that, and it loses what separates it from most other places.
Sometimes adding something takes away from the overall presenation. It could be the BEST ingredient in the world. But it changes what made the recipe so good... that which gave the dish it's superb taste.
I saw significant things change during the years I visited regularly, particularly the allowing of housing to be placed without regard to the sense of arrival, that began to alter the formerly quaint feel coming up the road into the village from the A-9. I'm sure it's worse now.
Dornoch is not unlike countless other rural places, worldwide, that wrestle with trying to create economic vitality, yet not lose what they have. I so hope and pray they get it right.
My first trip to Scotland was as a Pebble Beach caddie, on an epic trip in which we played the St. Andrew's caddies in an awesome competition of fellowship and comraderie.
I went up to Dornoch afterward, with two fellow caddies, after reading how amazing the golfing experience AND town was.
What I found there was what Mike Keiser and everybody else found there. It was THAT experience which propelled his vision.
THAT Dornoch was EVERYTHING I had read about!
Will those that go there in the future be able to say the same thing?
Enjoy your trip Michael, while it's still there.