Tag Archives: Scotland

Golf & running in Papendal

Luca wanted to enjoy a weekend out in The Netherlands, I only asked some time during both Saturday and Sunday to run some 8 to 10km each day. We ended up in Papendal: a hotel and sports centre in the country side close to Arnhem. 

Papendal centre entrance

At first I didn’t know about it, just what Luca told me “there is forest around where you can run”. Once we arrived she explained to me more about the place and we could read in some posters that the hotel is used by Dutch national sports teams of several disciplines to prepare big competitions such as the Olympics.

Time to the next Olympics games.


Then, I recalled “I believe that FC Barcelona might have come here as well for summer stages prior to starting the season”. I googled it, and voi là! FC Barcelona has been staged here several times starting as far back as the 70s. I saw an interesting article describing the centre [in Spanish, 237KB] from 1981, when it was already the 4th time the club visited the centre, in 1982 they repeated the experience and many times afterwards (including one in 1988 when the team captain got himself arrested by Dutch police!). Other Spanish teams have been there as well, e.g. Athletic Bilbao in 2003 & 2007.

Luca & I enjoyed a quiet weekend in which we played again golf, this time in the “Pitch & Putt” installation (close to the Edese golf club), just about 7 weeks after having played in Scotland. The game was entertaining, with some pond and trees in between the holes. We’re already looking forward to play the game in Toulouse.

Playing golf.

Then I could run both days around the installations and in the athletics track. I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying out 400m (1’16”), 100m (15”) and long jump (…m)… though I have to say that after having run 9km each day, the legs are not in the best situation to handle those activities. I’ll have to try again being rested in a track in Toulouse… ideally after Berlin marathon training season is finished.

Athletics track where I did some training sessions.

Not that I jumped long, huh?

We also enjoyed the sports decoration motives that you can find in several spots in the hotel. They already make you feel in the sportive mood.

Javier Sotomayor’s 2.45m high jump.

Bob Beamon’s 8.90m long jump.


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On the 2nd of June I flew in the morning from Toulouse to London Gatwick. At more or less the same time Luca flew from Amsterdam, our friend Elena from Madrid and Maicol drove from Bournemouth, in the South of England. From then on, we embarked into the adventure of seeing as much as possible of Scotland in a week. There we go!

Day 1: Gatwick, York, Riding Mill.

Day 1

At first we encountered heavy traffic in the road, thus we arrived to York later than we wished. We could have a walk around the city. We then followed to Riding Mill where we would sleep at the Low Fotherley Farm, the first of the many Bed & Breakfasts that we would be hosted at. This is a feature which I loved of the trip: those breakfasts! I also enjoyed much the suppers at pubs.

Day 2.

Day 2: Scottish Borders, Markinch, St. Andrews, Edinburgh

We continued our way to the North, making our first stop at the Scottish Borders, listening for the first time to the pipes and starting to see Scottish flags (St. Andrew’s cross). We then reached Edinburgh and passed it as we wanted to reach Markinch to witness the Highland Games, of which I already wrote one post.

Scottish Borders.

We then went to St. Andrews to visit the Old Course, which I explained in a post about golf in Scotland, and back to Edinburgh where we arrived just in time for dinner.

Day 3.

Day 3: Edinburgh, Stirling, Glamis, Cairngorms, Balmoral, Aberdeen

In Edinburgh we slept near Arthur’s Seat, but we decided to skip the trekking to the hill and head to the city centre. We then visited the Castle, where they were getting prepared for the Military Tattoo (where this year an official name for A400M may be given!).

In the castle we saw Mons Meg cannon, St. Margaret’s chapel, the Great Hall, the Scottish War Memorial, the One O’Clock Gun firing at 13:00, the Stone of Scone… We then went down to walk along the Royal Mile to see some more highlights of the city, such as the Cathedral or the statue to Adam Smith.

Edinburgh Castle.

We then went to visit the Stirling Castle, but was already closed (as were Glamis Castle and Balmoral, which we also passed by later on in the day). We took a look of the views of the fields around the castle, where many battles central to Scotland’s history were fought, among them those involving William Wallace and Robert the Bruce, who has a statue just at the entrance of the castle.

Fields at Stirling.

Instead of taking the fastest way by the coast to Aberdeen, we decided to take the route through the national park of the Cairngorms, where the highest mountains of Scotland are. There we saw plenty of deers (we almost bumped onto some of them suddenly crossing the road!), cows, rabbits, etc.


Day 4: Aberdeen, King’s College, Loch Ness, Badbea, Dunnet Head, Thurso.

In the morning we took a walk around Aberdeen, the silver or granite city. It was a pity that the cathedral and other places were closed. We could visit the Maritime Museum. We then headed for the beach. We did not take a bath yet, as we were not enough in the North. Close to the beach we saw the football stadium of Aberdeen football club, one of the two which defeated Real Madrid in a Cup winners’ Cup (Recopa) final in one of the four times it took part in the competition. We then went to see King’s College, founded in 1495, with its idyllic campus. Close to the university we visited St. Marchar’s Cathedral where we enjoyed its heraldic ceiling with the coat of arms of many European kingdoms of the time (including Castile, Leon, Navarra…), and where a quarter of William Wallace is supposed to be buried in the walls.

St. Marchar’s Cathedral heraldic ceiling.

Nessie, at Loch Ness.

Once we left Aberdeen we went to Inverness and crossed it to see the Loch Ness, and we did found Nessie!

On the way to the north coast we stopped at Badbea, a former village by the cliffs of the east coast established during the Highland Clearances, a dark episode in Scottish history.

Badbea (what it’s left of it).

We finally reached Thurso, on the north coast, but that was not enough, we needed to reach Dunnet Head, the northernmost point of the island (being this the one and not John o’Groats). There we could see the lighthouse and some fortifications built during WWII.

Day 5.

Day 5: Thurso, Bettyhill, Durness, Ullapoll.

We departed from Thurso and started our tour along the north coast of Scotland, one of the requirements for the trip. We made some stops along the way, to see some sight spots, to have a swim at the North Sea (close to Bettyhill), to visit the Smoo Cave at Durness, to see Durness’ beach and unexpectedly to play golf at Durness Golf Club, as I already explained in an earlier post.

Having a bath at the North Sea.

Luca “flying” at Durness beach.

Day 6.

Day 6: Ullapoll, Isle of Skye, Glencoe, Goban.

We had been recommended the visit of the Isle of Skye, as the most beautiful of the islands. After almost rounding it completely we do not recommend the visit. We had some lunch at Portree, which we didn’t either find particularly beautiful. Sincerely, we found dozens of more beautiful spots driving down the west coast of Scotland.

Continuing with our tour we made two short stops: at Glencoe, to visit the memorial of the massacre, where most of the MacDonald clan was killed, and at Goban, a nice port city.

Day 7.

Day 7: Islay

In Islay the main attraction was to visit Bowmore distillery, which I described in an earlier post. We had a walk around the village and then went on to visit the other villages of the island, Port Ellen and Porthaven, where we had some coffee.

Day 8.

Day 8: Islay, Glasgow, Lockerbie, Liverpool.

On the way to Liverpool we stopped to have a walk in Glasgow, where we had lunch at the restaurant “The Willow Tea Room“, designed by Charles Mackintosh in 1904. Later on, as we saw in the road the signpost of Lockerbie we drove by to see if there was any memorial of the tragedy with the Pan Am Flight 103 which exploded on air; we didn’t find it.

In Liverpool we went by Anfield, though we were late for taking on any guided tour. This is something for which I’ll have to come back. We then moved to the centre to visit The Cavern Club (where The Beatles made their first performance) and have some dinner.

Anfield, “You Will Never Walk Alone”

Luca at The Cavern Club.

Day 9.

Day 9: Liverpool, Gatwick.

This was the last day of the tour, with the only goal to get to Gatwick in time for our flights. The only remarkable thing we saw were some paratroopers being dropped from a C-130J-30 from the UK Royal Air Force, some miles to the East of Brize Norton air base.

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Bowmore distillery

On our last trip to Scotland, a visit to a Scotch whisky distillery was a must. But, which distillery should we visit? Location was not a problem, we would travel throughout the whole of Scotland, thus, we decided to cross some inputs to make our decision.

Making a good use of the Wikipedia we found out that only a few distilleries in the whole of Scotland were producing their own malt:  Balvenie, Kilchoman, Highland Park, Glen Ord, Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Laphroaig, Springbank, and Tamdhu. Fewer of them opened their doors to visits. Three of those were located in Islay island, which Luca had already suggested. We then decided to target the oldest one of them: Bowmore, founded in 1779.

The visit was superb, even if due to lack of rain in the previous weeks they had stopped malting (for which they need tons of water coming from the local river). We had the chance of visiting all corners of their facilities: malting barns, we entered into the kiln (like an oven where they burned the peat which smoke provides the characteristic peatty flavour of Islay whisky),  the mash tun, the tun room where the wash back is made (so far the process is practically the same as for producing beer!), the stillhouse and the warehouse, where there were cask from up to 1957!

One curiosity which I enjoyed: whisky casks normally have been used beforehand either for producing bourbon in the USA (where in some states the law allows only to use them once for bourbon production – the cask selling for ~100$ each) or for producing sherry in the South of Spain (these were in higher demand as they may have been used more times and give more flavours and aroma to the whisky – the cask selling for 500-1,000$ each). You can also take a short visit to the distillery in their website.

We immediately became fans of Bowmore, buying some small bottles of 12, 15 and 18 years old single malts, some glasses, coasters, a flask, beer made out of malt and casks from Bowmore, “peatty” honey…

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Note: I must admit that in our becoming fans of Bowmore, or in general Islay whisky, we may have been biased as Luca’s surname, “Veen”, means in Dutch “peat”.


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Playing Golf in Scotland: St. Andrews & Durness

According to the Wikipedia “The Old Course at St. Andrews is considered by many to be the “home of golf” because the sport was first played on the Links at St. Andrews in the early 1400s”. Thus, we could not skip a visit to St. Andrews when we visited Scotland last week.

Even though none of us plays golf, the place breathes a special air of tradition that anyone can feel. We loved the visit. The views of the course are wonderful. Its placement close to the beach and the village make it all the more enjoyable. The possibility of crossing through was also inviting (even if hazardous).

Close the St. Andrews Links there is a small field where putts and balls can be rented for just one pound in order to play 18 holes in a green and make small tournament with friends. So we did. We had lots of fun “playing golf”, though I am afraid I came in last, with 76 strokes. See in the tweet below the complete results of our competition:

As a complement to visiting the Old Course, there is the British Golf Museum just 50 metres from it. The museum is wonderful. I will have to come back to it one day, as we had to visit it in a rush (it closes at 17:00 – free of charge).


A couple of days later, completing our tour by the Northern coast of Scotland we arrived at Durness. Walking by the beach we discovered a golf course. My friend Maicol mentioned that it would be a good plan to play.

At the beginning we were doubtful as in Spain you need a licence to play in a golf course, but we gave it a try and went to ask. What a positive reply! “Visitors are always welcome at Durness Golf Club”, “you don’t need any licence to play here”, “you need to pay just 10 pounds to play”, “a set of clubs can be hired for just 5 pounds”… we had a plan! 2 hours of playing golf for just 30 pounds altogether.

Again, there, the views of the course at the seaside were wonderful. Especially the last hole, where you needed to avoid the ball falling down the cliffs into the Atlantic Ocean to reach the green. We highly recommend paying a visit to the club.

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Highland Games (Handicapping)

We all have heard the concept of handicap applied to golf. That is a way of levelling off the game by adjusting net score to each player skill.

Markinch Highland Games programme

During our last holidays in Scotland, we attended to the Markinch Highland Games. Apart from weight throw games, pipe demonstrations and traditional dancing contests, one thing especially caught our attention: the application of handicapping to athletics races.

Runners of different ages (or simply speed) were competing together starting at different points to compensate for their different skill. Let me show you an example. Take a look at the roster of participants in a 800 metres race below.

The number at the left of the names is the bib number, while the number at the right side of each name indicates the handicap. Even though this was a nominally 800 m race, no runner completed 800 m. The fittest runners started 35m ahead of the 800 m starting line, while the least fit started 190 m ahead. That is, some ran 765 m while others completed 610 m.

800 m Open Handicap roster

This clearly makes the race more attractive to spectators, what I am not so sure is the opinion of the fastest in case he or she cannot recover the 155 m lead of the slowest during the race…

Highland Games race

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