Back-Roads Scotland: Newburgh-on-Ythan

One of the Daves I played with at Newburgh-on-Ythan, in Scotland. He’s teeing off on the 18th hole, a par-5, which was once said to be the longest golf hole in Scotland. Snow began to fall as we reached the green, although it didn’t fall for very long.

Last April, I played a round at Newburgh-on-Ythan Golf Club, on the east coast of Scotland about halfway between Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay. The round was unusual in that all three members of my threesome were named Dave. (One of the Daves was the club’s captain, but I no longer remember which one.) Newburgh was founded in 1888, a year before my golf club at home. Originally, it had nine holes and was only a little over two thousand yards long. (The hole called “Long” was just three hundred and thirty-three yards.) It was laid out like this:

The second nine of the current course occupies the same piece of ground as the original course, although the layout has changed. The new nine is situated on the hill shown in the upper left-hand corner of the map above. One of the new holes incorporates an ancient wall thing, and if your ball ends up inside the enclosure you may have trouble hitting it out, as one of the Daves did:

A rare photo, showing both of the non-me Daves at the same time. No photo of all three Daves is known to exist.

The most famous person ever to take golf lessons at Newburgh is probably Prince Phra Bat Somdet Phra Poramentharamaha Vajiravudh Phra Mongkut Klao Chao Yu Hua (later King Vajiravudh) of Siam (later Thailand), who learned to play there in 1897, the same year the map above was drawn. Here’s what the Prince looked like after he became King:

The future king learned to play golf while staying for a month at the Udny Arms Hotel, across from what was then the first tee and is now (more or less) the thirteenth. The hotel still exists, and from the outside it looks pretty much the same as it did in 1897. I had a nice meal there the day after I played the course.

The wind blows hard on Scotland’s east coast, and one result is the mountain-size pile of sand in the photo below. It’s on the far side of the estuary of the River Ythan, directly across from the golf course:

The Sands of Forvie, across the Ythan estuary from Newburgh-on-Ythan Golf Club.

The mountain of sand is part of Forvie National Nature Reserve. You can enter the reserve from a parking lot a mile north of Newburgh and walk all the way across it to the sea:

I hiked across the reserve along this road.

A large part of the reserve was closed when I was there, to protect nesting terns, but I was able to explore the ruins of the village of Forvie, which was buried by blowing sand in the early 1400s. All that’s left are some piles of stones and part of the village church, which was built on high ground:

What’s left of Forvie Kirk, and of Forvie itself.

Forvie Kirk was built in the 1100s and was dedicated to St. Adamnan, who was born in Ireland in the seventh century. Adamnan visited Scotland in the late 600s and, apparently, made an impression. He didn’t bring luck to the residents of Forvie, however.

I took this picture for my wife, who, for unknown reasons, has become interested in moss and lichen. To make up for the fact that I’d abandoned her for a week, I smuggled home a golf-ball-size chunk of moss from Aberdeen, as a present. (Never bring your wife a golf shirt or golf hat, no matter how much you loved the course.)

Near the path I followed into the reserve were several stations like the one below, which were equipped with tools I could have used to stamp out any fires I happened to have started. Luckily, I didn’t start any.

I’m not sure that I need to play Newburgh-on-Ythan again, but I’m glad I played it once, and I’m glad I met the Daves, and I’m glad I found that old ruined church. And the chunk of moss I brought my wife is now growing near our back door. It didn’t make up for the trip, but it probably helped.

4 thoughts on “Back-Roads Scotland: Newburgh-on-Ythan

  1. Great post. That is a dream of mine to go over to Scotland and play those courses you mentioned. For your wife, I recommend the new book: Life Everlasting by Berndt Heinrich. It’s not just about Moss and Lichen but a lot about the whole process they are involved in. It’s actually pretty fascinating for something that sounds boring.

  2. I’m not crazy, am I … to think that the young future King of Siam bears more than a passing resemblance to Tiger Woods? (No, I’m not a racist!) Seriously, look at his eyes. Tiger’s mom is from Thailand, right? You don’t think that … well, maybe!?

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