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TRAVEL | SPECIAL

BY ROYAL APPOINTMENT ENJOY THE FINEST THAT SCOTLAND'S SCENIC AND HISTORIC ABERDEENSHIRE REGION HAS TO OFFER THROUGH LUXURY GOLF TRAVEL EXPERTS STIRLING&STIRLING.

The Donald Trump-owned Trump International Golf Links is as stout a challenge as you can find in the British Isles 82

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F Clockwise from top: Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s Scottish estate; the sixth hole at Cruden Bay; a bedroom at MacLeod House; a quick tasting 84

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rom its dramatically imposing coastline to its picturesque villages and rolling hills, Aberdeenshire boasts some of the finest scenery that Scotland has to offer. And then, of course, there are innumerable golf links to be discovered in the land where the game was invented. Scotland’s cultural heritage is ever more accessible, and it would be possible to spend several months in the Highlands and still not visit every castle, notable garden, historic site and whisky distillery. Golf connoisseurs had long known the area above Europe’s oil capital, the city of Aberdeen, for a pair of Old World links – Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay golf clubs. Now thanks to the Trump organization, it’s development team and British architect Martin Hawtree, the Trump International Golf Links is making the headlines. Scot and former Ryder Cup Captain, Colin Montgomerie, went as far to say “it’s so far one of the best – if not the best – links courses I’ve ever played.” It is not often that a new course makes an impression in a country as blessed with quality courses as Scotland, but this new addition to the Scottish golfing scene is already being talked of as a

possible Ryder Cup and even Open Championship venue. At nearly 7,500 yards, the course is long and tricky, not least thanks to nearly 100 bunkers, including 18 on the 18th hole alone. It could well be the new king of all courses in Scotland. The Trump International Golf Links has certainly brought more attention to this very special corner of the home of golf. It’s neighbours, Royal Aberdeen and Cruden Bay, are now deservedly sharing some of the spotlight. Royal Aberdeen runs essentially out and back along the North Sea shore at Balgownie. After 126 years, the world’s sixth oldest golf club will host the European Tour’s Scottish Open in 2014. The pros will find that there is no finer outward nine in the game as its cuts its way through some wonderful dunes. The inland nine returns south and is on high ground so it’s more a battle with the elements. The five-minute rule to find your ball was made here in 1783 so maintain your pace! A traditional old Scottish links, it is well bunkered with undulating fairways. It has an excellent balance of holes, tricky par-3s, strong par-4s, and two classic par-5s, with the eighth protected by nine bunkers. The everchanging wind, tight-protected greens and a HKGOLFER.COM

magnificent finish makes Royal Aberdeen a test for the very best. Cruden Bay is a true links course. This is a spectacular track and a very challenging one too. For one thing, across much of the course are tall dunes that shape the holes and dictate much of the play. Tom Simpson modified the original 1899 Old Tom Morris layout in 1926. Simpson cunningly took a very good, traditional links course and developed it into a true test for the thinking golfer. Blind shots, a burn that winds throughout, vast sand dunes, the beach and a clever figure of eight configuration that has the wind coming in from the North Sea in ever-changing directions only adds to the challenge. With the soaring dunes, the views of the beach, and Slains Castle perched high above, there's nothing quite like Cruden Bay. The Castle, by the way, was the inspiration for Bram Stoker when he wrote Dracula. Aberdeen, the country's third largest city, is the perfect location for sampling some of Scotland’s finest culture and locally produced food, with the two bordering rivers of Don and Dee creating a beautiful backdrop to city life. It is a lively, cosmopolitan city fuelled by the oil industry and two universities. It is constantly buzzing with enough bistros, cafés, bars and nightspots to serve the thriving population. The city is also the gateway to Scotland’s largest National Park, a UNESCO Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The area is the perfect destination for a relaxing holiday, with unique wildlife, such as red deer stags and golden eagles adding to the air of tranquility. It is an excellent location for outdoor activities such as walking, biking and wildlife watching. It is not that unusual for inspiring monarchs to leave their mark on the land where they once ruled. Scottish place names with royal connections HKGOLFER.COM

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GOLF ITINERARY

NON-GOLF ITINERARY

WEDNESDAY 4 to MONDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2014

WEDNESDAY 4 to MONDAY 9 SEPTEMBER 2014

DAY 1. WEDNESDAY: Arrive in Scotland and be met by your concierge. Travel to Trump International Links in Aberdeen. Check into the sensational MacLeod House. Relax before the Welcome Dinner.

DAY 1. WEDNESDAY: Arrive in Scotland and be met by your concierge. Transfer to the sensational MacLeod House. After an informal brunch, take a stunning drive to the amazing Duff House to see one of Scotland’s greatest art collections. Enjoy afternoon tea at leisure. Return to MacLeod House to relax before Welcome Dinner.

DAY 2. THURSDAY: Tee-off at Royal Aberdeen, host of the 2014 Scottish Open. Afterwards, enjoy a spectacular private falconry experience. This evening, chefs will prepare a BBQ with the best of Scottish produce. DAY 3. FRIDAY: Travel up the coast to the scenic Cruden Bay Golf Club. In the afternoon enjoy a Land Rover Safari at Glen Tanar Estate.

McLeod House (top), home to an assortment of Scotland’s finest accommodations; pipers on display (opposite) 86

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abound, and from the Picts, Scots and Vikings right through to modern times different rulers have brought their regal names to the areas of land where they once held sway. This is particularly true of this area. It is now simply known as Royal Deeside and it is still frequented regularly by the present queen and royal family. Queen Victoria fell in love with the area in 1852 – she called it her “dear Highland paradise” – and you only need to spend a short time in the valley to understand why. One of the monarch’s favorite summertime retreats is Balmoral, where the Royal Family and their guests continue enjoy field sports, angling and the great outdoors. The nearby towns of Ballater and Braemar are also full of quaint little shops stamped with ‘By Royal Appointment’ and coat of arms. Each year Braemar invites people from all over the world 'to come over the hills' to attend the Braemar Gathering and Highland Games. The Gathering is always held on the first Saturday in September and it is perhaps the most famous and respected Highland Games anywhere. It features the finest Pipe Bands, Highland dancers and athletes in a beautiful setting surrounded by hills. The patron of the Gathering is Her Majesty the Queen and members of the Royal Family regularly attend the games. The region also boasts more than 350 castles. Whether you prefer the Disney kind or the gothic kind there is a castle for you here. Walt Disney is said

to have based the famous turrets of the Fantasyland Castle on Craigievar by Alford. Most of the castles have spectacular gardens, too. It makes for a fascinating castle trail. In his 1880 poem, The Scotsman’s Return from Abroad, Robert Louis Stevenson declared whisky “the king o’ drinks” and connoisseurs of fine spirits agree. There is no better place to experience the world’s finest whiskies – and the stories behind them – than Scotland. If whisky is your passion you’ve come to the right place to indulge in it. Aberdeenshire is home to more working distilleries than the rest of Scotland’s put together. ‘Royal’ Lochnagar appointed, by Royal warrant, and ‘Distiller to Her Majesty’ is the perfect place to discover how Scotch whisky is made. Watch as the distillery‘s team tends to the traditional mashtun, gleaming copper stills and fill casks at the traditional distillery, which retains much of its original charm. The Royal connection has meant a string of famous visitors to the distillery, many of them British prime ministers taking an hour or so off between meetings with the monarch of the day at Balmoral. The annual Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, held 2-6 May in 2014 May, is a fabulous opportunity to celebrate the food, culture, history, and of course the spirits that have shaped the way of life here. The best months for a visit are May through September, with the long summer evenings of late June and early July being especially memorable. HKGOLFER.COM

DAY 4. SATURDAY: Journey to the picturesque town of Ballater, situated on the edge of Her Majesty The Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate. Visit Royal Lochnager distillery to enjoy a whisky experience. Soak up the outstanding scenery of the Cairngorms National Park before experiencing the Royal Breamer Highland Gathering attended by Her Majesty The Queen. Dine at The Chester Hotel, the finest restaurant in Aberdeen.

DAY 2. THURSDAY: Before a tour of the famous Huntly Castle, your concierge will escort you round the ancient city of Aberdeen, with its university, cathedral and historic harbour. Enjoy a champagne lunch before browsing boutiques in the city. This evening chefs will prepare a BBQ with the best of Scottish produce. DAY 3. FRIDAY: Whether a novice or experienced horse rider, you have the opportunity to gallop on the beach, before a gourmet picnic lunch in a secluded spot. Head to Glen Tanar estate for a Land Rover Safari. DAY 4. SATURDAY: Journey to the picturesque town of Ballater, situated on the edge of Her Majesty The Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate. Visit Royal Lochnagar distillery to enjoy a whisky experience. Soak up the outstanding scenery of the Cairngorms National Park before experiencing the Royal Breamar Highland Gathering attended by Her Majesty The Queen. Dine at The Chester Hotel, the finest restaurant in Aberdeen.

DAY 5. SUNDAY: After a relaxing morning, return to play Trump International Links once more. This evening, Fyvie Castle is the setting for a sensational Farewell Gala Dinner, and a traditional ceilidh.

DAY 5. SUNDAY: A professional guide will accompany you on a beautiful walk to the beaches of the Balmedie Estate. A lunch will be available at the clubhouse. This evening Fyvie Castle is the setting for a sensational Farewell Gala Dinner.

DAY 6. MONDAY: Luxury transport available for airport transfers.

DAY 6. MONDAY: Luxury transport available for airport transfers.

HOW TO BOOK Stirling&Stirling Scottish golf's luxury travel experts invite you to experience the very best of hte country – world-class golf, ancient castles, vibrant cities, romantic Highlands and Michelinstarred cuisine. Bookings for this itinerary, which can be extended to include St Andrews, should be booked by 31 December. For further information please contact scotland@hkgolfer.com. Readers are entitled to an exclusive discount offer of 10 per cent.

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