BUNKER DOWN AT BIRKDALE
27th May 2018
The golden, sandy links of the northwest coast provide the dramatic setting for one of the UK’s top-five golf clubs – not to mention a sweeping, undulating A-road blast to get there, followed by a cruise through the spectacular Ribble Valley.
1. Starting in maritime Liverpool, the A565 undulates its way along the coast. Make the most of a detour to Crosby beach (aka ‘Another Place’) where you’ll spot Antony Gormley’s eerie iron men.
2. Stop off for 18 holes round the Royal Birkdale.
3. Open up the engine as you cruise through the sand dunes towards Victorian Southport and the UK’s longest iron pier, just in time to catch a fabulous sunset over the Irish Sea.
4. Zoom up to Pendle Heritage Centre via the M65 then take your car through its paces along the Ribble Valley.
5. Let loose on the meandering, narrow roads of the Forest of Bowland, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, then up through the wild moors, ending with a visit to Lancaster’s castle.
Situated on the golden dunes of the North West coast – home to no less than 12 of the UK’s finest links courses – Southport’s Royal Birkdale is possibly the finest of all in England. Royal Birkdale has held more Championship and International events since World War II than any other course in the world.
It was 1922 when Southport Corporation became owners of the Club, putting a seven-year plan into operation to prepare the course for ‘Championship’ standard. This involved the building of a low-rise clubhouse – a masterpiece of Art Deco design – and a grand remodelling of the course.
Their philosophy was to lay out holes in the valleys between the sand hills rather than over them. This enabled Birkdale’s reputation as one of the fairest of the championship courses. It rewards the straight hit but punishes the wayward shot, with its surrounding buckthorn and dwarf willow scrub. The fairways thread through the valleys, leaving the mighty sand dunes as perfect natural vantage points for spectators.
Our route demands at least one overnight stay, meaning you’re not the only one who can recharge – your car can, too. Though, admittedly, not as much as you might suspect, since Jaguar’s gamechanging all-electric SUV makes so-called ‘range anxiety’ seem rather old-fashioned. Two Jaguar electric motors, producing 400PS and 696Nm, allow the I-PACE to deliver all-wheel-drive sporting performance (essential for powering through the tortuous single tracks of the Ribble Valley) over a whopping 292 miles.
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Here’s a fine excuse to tour the brooding west coast of Scotland: a drive almost as rewarding as a hole-in-one on the historic links of the newly refurbished The Machrie on Islay. Given the Isle’s fame for whisky, why not tour a distillery or eight, too?