Scotland is famous for its single-malt whiskey, castles, fishing, and shooting sports. Unlike England, which is known for country sports such as fox hunting, horse racing, and steeplechase, Scotland’s topography of lofty mountains and melancholy moors does not lend itself as practicably to equestrian sports. However, for the finest salmon fishing, most challenging golf, or adrenaline-rushing wingshooting, Scotland offers unparalleled country sport.
The game of golf, as it is played today, is widely credited to Old Tom Morris, the “Grand Old Man of Golf.” Morris was a professional Scottish golfer who established the modern game at the venerated St. Andrews Links in Scotland – the “home of golf” – in 1851. The game itself is said to have originated in Scotland in the 15th century.
Where to play golf in Scotland:
- ANDREWS, Fife.
The most famous course in the world, and one on every golf enthusiast’s bucket list. One of the most playable layouts, with seven double greens, only two short holes, and only two par 5s.
- Opened: 1552
- Designed by Old Tom Morris
- Ranks No. 1 out of the top 100 golf courses in the world
- Green fee (U.S. Dollars): $300
MUIRFIELD, East Lothian.
Host of The Open Championships on 16 occasions, the course runs in two loops with the front nine clockwise around the outside and the back nine sitting in the center. Varying wind is a huge challenge along this stretch of terrain.
- Founded 1744
- Opened: 1922
- Designed by Old Tom Morris
- Ranks No. 3
- Green Fee (U.S. Dollars): $500
Four Open Championships have been held at Trump Turnberry Alisa Course, whose lighthouse was converted into one of the best halfway houses in all of golf. A spectacular par-3 maximum-length one-shotter is played over the cliffs and crags to a new green, right by the lighthouse. The Ailsa Course is not for the faint of heart, measuring 7,489 yards with a course rating of 77.
- Founded: 1902
- Designed by: Archibald Kennedy and William Fernie, redesigned in 2016 by Martin Elbert
- Ranks No. 4
- Green Fee (U.S. Dollars): $425
Scotland offers driven shooting and walk-up shooting for grouse, partridge, and pheasant, along with duck shooting, and each differs in the gun, load, and shooting technique used, the season and the time of day. Shooting birds with a shotgun dates to the 17th century, when it was called, appropriately, “shooting flying.”
Where to hunt driven birds in Scotland
There are many fine shoots throughout the United Kingdom, but determining where to go in Scotland depends upon the variety of terrain. The Scottish Borders is easily reached from either Edinburgh or Glasgow airports. There you can enjoy driven grouse or walk-up pheasant and partridge on fairly gentle ground, from rolling hills to manicured parkland and, to the west, wild and rugged wind-swept moors. Highland Perthshire is considered one of the best in all Scotland, but the terrain can be extremely challenging and walk-up hunting is generally an all-day affair. A six-hour drive from Edinburgh, seasons vary with the game bird.
For example, woodcock, which are fast and low-flying through trees, arrive on the first moon of November. The Cairngorm Mountains are within a couple of hours of Edinburgh and especially popular for the area’s unrivaled grouse shooting on the heathered highlands. Driven grouse is extremely challenging — and expensive — and walk-up grouse is extremely tiring, as your legs will feel like spaghetti after spending a day walking on heather.
Fishing, or angling, hails to the day of writer and biographer Izaak Walton (1593-1683), author of The Compleat Angler in 1653 – the first book to celebrate the art and sport of fishing with a fly rod and an artificial fly. However, some of the most famous landlocked salmon rivers in the world are in Scotland.
Where to fly fish in Scotland
There are many famous rivers to fish for the much-prized salmon, but you have to be well-versed in the fine art of casting and landing the king of all gamefish, and you must know how to read the water. There are any number of “beats,” or lengths of streams and rivers, including the rivers Tay, Tweed, Beauly, Farrar, Spey – where the two-handed Spey rod for salmon was invented – and the Dee, which flows through the late Queen Elizabeth’s private estate, Balmoral.
A word before you go: Be proficient in the sport. Scotland is not for amateurs. The rules and regulations that apply at home may be quite different. Always book through a qualified outfitter who is personally familiar with the places to go, professional guides, and discloses all costs. Know the permits you must have and travel restrictions on any gear you plan to bring. The better prepared, the more enjoyable your sporting trip.