Welcome to Carnoustie
Carnoustie is a small coastal town, ten miles east of Dundee, famed for its long sandy beaches and golf course. Carnoustie’s Championship course is considered to be one of the finest in the world and has been the location of a number of thrilling Open Championships, including the unforgettable 1999 final in which the Scot, Paul Lawrie, won the title after a tense playoff. While the story of the town is inextricably linked to golf the beauty and history of the area is rich enough to attract even those who have no interest in the game.
The tooth of land, where Carnoustie lies, which juts half into the North Sea and half into the Firth of Tay has been inhabited for millennia. The area is home to over 300 prehistoric and Roman sites. Amongst the most impressive remains are the Iron Age forts and houses at Ardestie, Carlungie and Caterthun while Monifieth boasts a number of standing stones dating from around the 8th and 9th centuries.
Around the same time as the stones were set in place the Vikings began raiding into Scotland. The Viking menace had far reaching effects on Scotland. It helped in the unfolding unification process by providing the various kingdoms with a common enemy but made it difficult for the kingdom to secure the islands off the northern and western coasts. At the same time Viking military might threatened the independence of the young kingdom itself. The 11th century saw the Vikings of Denmark build up a large empire which included Norway, Sweden and England. However, when the Vikings found their way to Scotland they would find the Scots a tougher nut to crack.
In 1010 when the Danes launched an all out attack on Scotland one major crunch came at Carnoustie. The invading Danish fleet, crewed not just by Scandinavians but also Orcadians and English, having been driven north, landed on the Barry Sands. They met the Scottish army of Malcolm II around the area of Carnoustie and in the fight that ensued the Danish army was slaughtered. Their leader, Camus, was beheaded and his body buried at a spot marked by a stone cross slab. While the cross slab still lies where it has for almost 1000 years, the remains it contained were dug up in the 17th century when a headless skeleton of a large man was unearthed. In total, Malcolm II defeated the Danes in five battles in 1010, and as a result has gone down in history as Rex Victoriosissimmus (the victorious king). Carnoustie gets its name from this time as well; meaning ‘cairn of heroes’, it is named after the men who successfully defended Scotland’s independence during this war.
Scotland’s independence was threatened again at the end of the 13th century when Edward I of England launched an invasion. The area around Carnoustie is associated with the war in two ways. In the area along the coast to the west the famous freedom fighter, William Wallace, grew up having been sent to Dundee for his education. In the opposite direction, along the coast to the north east, lies Arbroath. It was here in 1320 that the famed declaration of Arbroath was signed by the Scottish nobility who petitioned the pope for his support against English aggression. The document is one of Scotland’s treasures not only because of its historic significance but also as it is a powerful statement of Scottish independence:
‘For, so long as one hundred of us remain alive, we will never in any degree be subject to the domination of the English. Not for glory, riches or honour do we fight, but for freedom alone, which no man loses but with his life.’
Declaration of Arbroath, 1320
The first mention of golf in Carnoustie appears in a local estate register in the 16th century telling of a local laird’s enthusiasm for the game. Parish records tell of 17th century ‘Sabbath Breakers’ caught playing the game on Sunday. The 1838 Dundee-Arbroath railway opened up the area for greater numbers who came to enjoy the beaches as well as to play golf. In any case, the club was founded 4 years later and is one of the ten oldest in the world.
The town grew up not just because of its golf courses but also as the result of the development of local industries. The Panmure Textile Works created employment from as early as 1857, around about the same time when records first show that Carnoustie was a centre for malting barley for the production of Whisky. More recently tourism has begun contributing to the local economy, encouraged by Carnoustie's heritage, beautiful sandy waterfronts and, above all, golf courses.