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Hive of activity at Royal Dornoch Golf Club

By Caroline McMorran

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ROYAL Dornoch Golf Club is a hive of activity all year round.

Course manager Eoin Riddell and his greenkeeping team are proud of their environmental credentials.

And one of the side benefits is a supply of honey to keep members sweet.

Stuart Gillies and course manager Eoin Riddell pictured near the Royal Dornoch hives. Picture: Matthew Harris
Stuart Gillies and course manager Eoin Riddell pictured near the Royal Dornoch hives. Picture: Matthew Harris

Former Golspie High School pupil Stuart Gillies looks after bee hives near the Struie Course.

And jars of delicious linksland honey are quickly snapped up when they arrive at the clubhouse.

Stuart (42) said: “It all started a few years ago when Eoin mentioned at a staff meeting that the golf club was interested in introducing bees to the land around the courses.

“He asked if anyone was interested and I happened to mention that I’d done a beekeeping course at Elmwood College back when I was 16. No one else raised their hand up!

“I’m a lot older now but fortunately nothing really changes with bees. They just do what they do.

“I did a refresher course with the Inverness-shire Beekeepers Association, but Covid intervened before I could visit one of their apiaries to see a hive up close.

“I bought a book and went on YouTube during the pandemic - so I had a grasp on things before we got out first hive.

“A supportive beekeeper from Rogart also gave me advice and looked at our hives. She stressed no two beekeepers do things the same way.

“We have two hives on land near the 9th on the Struie Course.

“They don’t disturb the golfers and you wouldn’t know they were there.

“They can fly for three or four miles to a food source, whether it is nearby heather, or they make their way towards town.”

Stuart, who comes from a crofting background in the area, has been greenkeeping for 10 years.

“I check on them once a week, but I walk past the hives quite a lot just to keep an eye on them. They don’t take much notice of me," he said.

“It’s certainly different from cutting grass and the usual greenkeeping jobs.

“The honey isn’t a commercial enterprise for the club but the jars disappear quickly when they go on sale in the clubhouse.

“I have to say I am partial to honey myself and one of the advantages of my role is that I am the only person who knows how many jars the bees are producing!

“Golf clubs like Royal Dornoch take our environmental responsibilities seriously, encouraging flora, fauna and wildlife of all sorts.

“Beekeeping is an extension of that, trying to encourage pollinators on the huge swathes that make up the deeper rough and land beyond the golf courses.”

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