Its hard to beleive that we are entering spring but as I write a list of chores for the estate team this week and it seems to be a diverse and complete plethora of tasks from winter jobs to summer jobs. From clearing snow and ice to cutting golf course greens and trimming snow drops. But I try to keep telling myself that it is this changeable and diverse weather that really makes Scotland different! But it is starting to get a bit thin!
One of the beauties of Scotland must be the weather, and that is certainly not to do with consistency unless you can cite the fact that it is always random as being consistent! Indeed we really built the indoor sports facility to take the weather out of the equation although in reality it was the opposite as we tried to make the weather part of the equation for guests deciding to join us here at Eriska with the promise of dry bright temperate facilities come rain or shine. Well we kept our end of the bargain!
So as we are supposed to move into the next season and the Met Office tells us it has been the wettest Janaury on record, as the nights become shorter and the grass starts to grow again its hard to believe that summer is next given that fields are under water, rivers are bursting banks and every day seems dominated by television pictures of weather misery- but in reality its fine as long as a great summer is around the corner- although I suspect its not going to happen next week! So what is ahead next week?
Today: After a wet and windy night is is looking like a bright day but with showers which will be heavy but at least it is above freezing
Monday:A fairly cloudy start with a more organised band of showers but these soon becoming fewer with the cloud breaking up allowing some sunny spells to develop. A breezy day with strong southwesterly winds.
Tuesday: Clear spells and a few showers but becoming cloudier in the afternoon with rain coming in across the coast and this will fall as snow on the hills but stay as rain on Eriska.
Wednesday:A cloudy day with outbreaks of rain, these becoming lighter and more patchy for a time but another heavier pulse arriving in the afternoon. Gale force winds expected.
Thursday: Mainly cloudy with showers in the morning then drying up.
Friday: Cloudy wet and very windy but hopefully drying up before te weekend.
Saturday: Starting to warm up slightly as the wind drops and a drier day on the cards making it all seem better!
The days are starting to get longer-
Or so I thought yesterday morning when it was dry and bright and certainly seemed to be dawn earlier than a week ago but then we reached this morning and it is back to the old expected weather with dark until eight. anyway the weather for the New Year celebrations cannot be any worse than it was for Christmas. Several nights of worry that the power would go out and one 4 hour session of darkness was not the ideal Christmas present but at least we survived without too much damage.
So the New Year must be better- or at least we have our fingers crossed for it to start and continue well! 2013 has however not really been bad overall. It was a very dry calm start to the year with mild conditions - a long spring which helped everything in the garden to get out of the ground and then a long warm summer- never too wet and certainly never too hot - so when we have had a month of miserable weather to finish off the year we should not be surprised not aggrieved.
So what can we expect this week?
Today: After a dull start it wil quickly improve and we can expect a generally dry Sunday. Some sunshine but then becoming wet, windy during evening- hopefully once all our New Year guests have arrived safely.
Monday: Showers at first mostly dying out. Just a few continuing on higher ground otherwise mostly dry with clear periods and lighter winds. A colder night with ground frost.
Tuesday:After a wet and windy night it will become dry and bright with some sunshine. Still a few light showers over higher hills.
Wednesday:Hopefully dry start will continue and we will get the annual Golf Competition run before it becomes cloudy later in the afternoon with wet and windy weather during evening.
Thursday: Again the morning will seem brighter but a showery afternoon will start early- a really good excuse for enjoying a long lunch and resting in preparation for the 2014 ahead.
Friday: A cool dawn but the day starts bright with a few showers but rain spreads north later. Breezy throughout.
Saturday:Rain, heavy at times, and strong to gale force winds with more showery weather to follow, heavy and thundery in places, and wintry over high ground.
Each year we seem fixated by the possibility of a White Christmas.
We have now been open for Christmas at Eriska for 20 years and in that time we have "enjoyed" only two occasions where we had a white Christmas. Although the most memorable will remain the first Christmas we opened for the festive period. The guests all arrived on the 23rd and as I went out to the shops for the morning papers on Christmas Eve it started to snow. by the time I returned to the hotel the car was leaving tracks in the snow which was by now lying on the ground. It continued snowing all day and that night it froze with a deep freeze so that we all awoke on Christmas morning to a crisp frozen white landscape, it was cold enough to walk on top of the snow without breaking the surface although as the sun came out and the clouds cleared the crust defrosted enough to make snowman buidling comeptitions a possibility.
Maybe its old age or imagination but I remember this being the perfect weather and probably the conditions we all dream about when we demand a "White Christmas". However since then we have had one white, but some stunning blue skied christmas mornings- always worth pointing this out before people highlight the odd year where the wind has blown the rain has poured and they have been forced to enjoy christmas from inside behind the windows with log fires blazing and an endless supply of mince pies and malt whisky- Christmas can be tough- imagine forced to relax!
Anyweay whether we are cynical or simply beleive the forecasters it looks like Monday and Tuesday are going to be a bit wild. The met office website has even taken the trouble to place a yellow warning over the whole of the UK,
Whilst this looks a bit simplistic it is probably part of their campaign to get everyone home early and safely over the next 24 hours! At least or team only have half a mile to travel to work so weather we have to offer them a boat, kite or simple lift in the car I am sure they will make it in to help with the festivities. So what can our guests look froward to this week?
Today: After a disturbing night with great llightening and thunder today seems like calm after the storm. We may even see sunny intervals and showers but there is the threat of snow on higher ground.
Monday: Further showers, these perhaps merging and becoming heavier through the day an certainly inland showers of snow on higher ground and occasionally wintry at low levels. Hail and thunder especially into the evening as the wind start to pick up
Tuesday- Christmas Eve- Further sleet and snow showers continuing these giving slight to moderate falls in places more especially over higher ground. Gales pushing in form the south east so possibility of tree damage as this is an unusual direction of wind
Wednesday- Christmas day- Starting dry then rain, preceded by snow on high ground, this may be heavy on hills but we should miss it and the wind will start to subside and will seem much milder.
Thursday- Boxing day- Winds easing on Boxing Day, sunshine and scattered showers.
Friday: After a cloudy start to the day it will clear to show a dry and bright, but gales and rain will push back in at night.
Saturday:Dry at first before turning wet and windy across all areas later in the day and probably the last of the wind and rain for the year!.
Is a White Christmas Guaranteed
I have to admit a bit of pity for the poor television weather reporter this morning who was being pushed and encouraged to predict the weather - not for today, nor tomorrow or even the week ahead but for the weather on Christmas day- ten days away.
Given the accuracy of current forecasting and the variable and changing climate it was little surprise that he managed to avoid the question rather then set himself up to be pillared next week when his- lucky guess- would be mocked. It is amazing that given the fact that we can send a probe to the moon- or at least the Chinese still can- and we have powerful computers to work on building models that can predict the future of a drug or medicine- that we still cannot plug in the variables today and find a matching weather pattern ion the past which will allow us to plan ahead.
Anyway I suppose thats what makes each day different- as I show guests round Eriska and take them into our new sports hall I often remark that it is our answer to predicting the weather tomorrow and indeed whilst it is not the heaviest used facility it does give everybody the opportunity of a game of tennis or badminton whatever the weather outside and whatever the time of year. the latter point is extremely important at this time of year as we approach the shortest day next week and the nights close in- at least by this time next week the days will be starting to get longer and summer will be closer well at least spring will be closer!
So what really is ahead for this week given our experience of the weather forecast over the last 40 years of being here at Eriska?
Today:having had a particularly wet and windy week it looks set to continue today although we have woken to a dry and bright morning it is not set to last!
Monday: Rain spreading east after a bright start. Windy.
Tuesday: Bright start with some sunshine, then clouds increasing with rain spreading by midday, reaching the area during the afternoon, with some heavy bursts. Southerly winds strengthening, gales over the Isles.
Wednesday: Any rain soon clearing then mainly dry with clear spells for a time then clouding over with showers later. Windy at times.
Thursday: Sunny spells and blustery showers, most frequent on the higher grounds , some heavy with hail and thunder, wintry over higher ground.
Friday: Sunny spells and showers then windy with outbreaks of rain overnight
Saturday: Turning much colder with snow showers and severe gales over the weekend
Weather forecasts are not always right!
You can understand how after last weeks storms and winds when the forecaster on television prepares us for "substantial rain on the west coast" we start getting our wellies on and gaze to the heavens. However with the mild weather and calm conditions outside it is as ever difficult to believe what the forecasters tell us- until it is too late!
Sometimes we must wonder how we managed before we had wall to wall satellite coverage to keep us up to date on climate and weather forecasts but in reality were we ever any worse off than when we simply stood outside felt the breeze, looked at the clouds and put on an extra jacket or wore a wide brimmed sun hat- probably not! Anyway what do we thing is ahead for this week?
Today: Cloudy with outbreaks of rain, some heavy, especially over higher ground as the rain pushes in from the west.
Monday: A generally cloudy day with occasional rain, but becoming heavier and more persistent in morning and spreading across the mountains where rain will also be heavy at times in the afternoon.
Tuesday: A wet end to the day, but the rain will gradually become lighter and more patchy through the night. Staying mild and breezy.
Wednesday: Generally cloudy with outbreaks of rain at first but mostly dying out in the morning with brighter conditions developing and a little sunshine in the afternoon. Still mild and breezy.
Thursday: Mainly dry and bright with some sunshine at times, but also rather cloudy.
Friday: Some rain at times but still remarkably mild with south or southwesterly winds.
Saturday:It will be mostly cloudy with rain, locally heavy, accompanied by strong winds and gales through the night into Sunday.
A Truly Scottish New Year is as traditional as Turkey at Christmas.
For 20 years we closed Eriska at the end of the summer season and hibernated until the snow drops and daffodils had arrived before Easter. Then all changed in 1993 when we decided to open through the winter and this allowed us to extend into the festive period. It is no secret how perfect Eriska can be at Christmas and it certainly remains one of my favorite times.
However as I sit here today writing out to those joining us over the festive period my mind also tends to wander towards New Year.
I would not be the first to point out that I am not great at Christmas "Good Cheer and merriment" and feel that it has become a bit more commercial than seems necessary - a bit ironic for a hotelier enjoying additional holidays by our guests - but the reasons for Christmas seems to be lost in the consumerism. Not just because if I am in the hotel there can be no family arguments with me at home but really because Eriska - the house - lends itself to that wonderful atmosphere at a houseparty.
As guests cross the bridge the world stops and worries and plights can be left at the gate, the newspapers seem to dwindle and television becomes full of annual wonderful films and shows which disregard the 24 hour news updates.
New Year however is much more brazen as simply being a time to reflect on years gone by and the last in particular and time to look forward and especially to 2014. Whilst the majority of us will all make ourselves promises - resolutions- we will fairly instantly break at least we have thought forward and even thought forward into the distant future and this can only be positive. On this note it soon becomes clear to me why Eriska is an ideal place for this reflection and contemplation. Those with little to worry about can indulge in enjoyment and those with much to consider can use activities and entertainment to raise their heads and escape the pressures. So whilst it is a full list of activities we plan it is enhanced by the early onset of night, the roaring log fires, the wonderful food and hopefully lengthy peaceful nights sleep, this interjected by the activities, newspapers and supporting weather makes it ideal - so what is planned for New Year 2013/2014.
Well after a hectic frantic Christmas week guest will arrive on the Sunday afternoon and hopefully by 6pm we will be able to hoist the drawbridge and start our festivities. The first evening is always a chance for auld acquaintances to recapture memories and for new visitors to bed into the house and settle in. On Monday we will spend the day catching up and relaxing with an afternoon Triathalon for those who remain energetic or those looking to work off Christmas Pudding- although in reality it remains a simple and fun afternoon of activites with something for everyone.
Then on Tuesday- Hogmanay- we always reflect on the year gone by with a grand quiz of the year and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate then a treasure hunt round the island to allow further exploration and work up an appetite for the wonderful Dinner Ross has planned taking us up to the bells. Traditionally we have a piper to join us before 12 with a piped eightsome- the last of 2013 and then the bells. Over the years we have been early , late and even on time but in reality it makes little difference as nobody outside the building needs to know although as we open the curtains at 12 it is always nice to hear the horns and sirens drifting across the water from Oban - although occasionally it can be drowned out by the howling wind or driving rain.
Then Wednesday is the first day of a New Year, a slower start with a Champagne Brunch all morning or however long guests want although some seem keen to start the New Year and others prefer slightly less gusto on the morning after! Then at One we start the first Eriska Golf Championship which is traditionally run whatever the weather and certainly need more good humour and enthusiasm than expertise although we can be guaranteed great competition for the wonderful prizes!
Then more relaxation before the Dinner Dance and Paddy Shaw and his band whirl away the cobwebs and start 2014 in style.
Previously we used to make this the last day of New Year but as we get another days holiday in Scotland and guest found it hard fining petrol and stops on the way home we thought it was best to make the most of it and on Thursday we have a quiet day of refection with a traditional lunch of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding and an afternoon of Egyptian PT ( a term handed down through my family) involving lying flat and still with your eyes closed for a couple of hours to recharge the batteries and insuring a full charge before the last dinner and departure on Friday morning making the weekend pass like a flash and all the resolutions still in tact or at least nearly.
So for those that thought we relaxed and do nothing all winter then think again and for those looking for a break with a difference then maybe Hogamnay at Eriska is worth considering!
How times have changed over 40 years!
When I was talking with some guests last night and reminiscing on years gone by they mentioned that they had always enjoyed discussions with my father. In particular they remembered him circulating the diningroom at breakfasts and giving his weather forecast for the day ahead. Oh how times have changed as today we simply print out a forecast form the BBC and place it on every bodies breakfast table. There are however three reasons for this- firstly I am not as good a forecaster as my father and would inevitably get it wrong, secondly we believe guests are slightly more reserved and would prefer to find the forecast in their own time and finally there are more interesting things to both tell guests about the area and about the world than simply Eriska's forecast and now with the plethora of indoor non weather dependent facilities on site there is less importance on the day ahead and the potential weather.
So why- I hear you ask- do we continue to forecast the weather ahead- again it is good for those who area bout to visit us to grasp what clothes to bring and what to expect, and it keeps those who like to know what we are up to up to date with all on Eriska. Like last week when heavy gales were reported on the west coast we can assure you that the wind lasted strongly for about an hour and then passed and the rain was as predicted by our forecast as nothing more than expected for this time of year.
So what can we expect for the first week of December?
Today:As I walked down the hill today it was remarkably mild, the wind had disappeared and the sky seems clear so the rest of the day should remain dry with some sunshine.
Monday: A mainly dry bright day with variable cloud amounts but this breaking to allow some sunny intervals, best across coastal hills
Tuesday: Mainly dry with some bright or sunny spells. It will be cloudy over northern hills with more persistent rain later. Freshening southwesterly winds.
Wednesday: Cloudy with outbreaks of rain with stronger winds pushing in and brining the temperature down
Thursday: Drier, brighter but colder .
Friday: Again windy with rain, turning to snow, especially on higher ground, before clearing later in the day.
Saturday:A band of rain will spread southwards during the weekend giving snow over high ground but clearer, colder and windy conditions will follow from the northwest with showers, these falling as snow.
Destination film location!
On hearing about the reforming of Monty Python last week our thoughts immediately turned to the Holy Grail Film, which was shot close to Eriska so we thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the local locations used in well known films- some you may be aware of and others may be news to you but if you see the films again you may be able to look out for local sights and panoramas!
We have listed some of the local films although we must also stress that they are in no particular order- some involved Eriska others simply had us watching the final results and spotting locations!
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown
Synopsis: An immortal medieval Scotsman, Conor MacLeod, must face his fellow immortal peers in battle until only one remains to claim “The Prize”
Locations: Some of this was shot at the head of Loch Creran - indeed I remember seeing a sign in the local shop for extras - £5 per day or £10 if you had a horse! It may have seemed like easy money but I am told it invoved hordes running down a hill in the battle at the start of the movie where Connor and Kurgan first meet but it took several takes so also involved several trudges back up the hill to start the sequence again.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Synopsis: A comical slapstick take on the tale of King Arthur and his Knights, as they embark on a quest for the holy grail
Locations: Castle Stalker, Appin (Castle of Aaargh) which is now a well visited site for pilgrims on the Monty Python circuit.
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
Synopsis: A take on the story of William Wallace as he leads Scotland against the English, based loosely on historic fact.
Locations: Aonach Eagach (opening sequence) this is a stunning walk- but not for the fainthearted as there were no special effects used to highlight the drop on either side of the ridge. A lot of the film was then shot in Glen Nevis behind Fort William and indeed the village scenes were all sited here.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Synopsis: The best story ever told. The third in the series, Harry Potter enters his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while the convicted Murderer Sirius Black, who escapes from the wizard prison, Azkaban, is coming after him
Locations: This was shot in Glen Coe especially the long vistas looking towards Hagrids Hut and indeed Hagrid and many of the grown ups were based here at Eriska; However the most memorable images are probably of Glenfiddan Viaduct and Loch Shiel (Hogwarts Lake – most notably the Dementor Scene at the end)
Ring of Bright Water (1969)
Director: Jack Couffer
Starring: Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna
Synopsis: A fictional adaptation of the autobiography by Gavin Maxwell, about a man and his pet otter.
Locations: A very local film based in story line about Oban and shot on the Isle of Seil (Ellenabeich & Easdale) and in Oban (North Pier).
Eye of the Needle (1981)
Director: Richard Marquand
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Stephen McKenna
Synopsis: Set during WW2, about a German Spy trying to flee Britain with key information about D-Day who gets involved with the wife of a crippled man on a Scottish Island off the west coast as he waits to be collected. Adapted from the novel by Ken Follett
Locations: This was shot in the area but the most notable land mark is Connel Bridge which features quite heavily .
Morvern Callar (2002)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott
Synopsis: Following the death of her boyfriend, a shop clerk – Morvern Callar – passes off his unpublished novel as her own and uses the money he saved for his funeral to escape her dreary life Scotland
Locations: Oban was transformed into a winter wonderland in March for the filming however it also coincided with the Foot and Mouth epidemic so as we had no cows or livestock on the island and the film crew had been restricted for movement much was shot actually here on the island!
Director: Jon Amiel
Starring: Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Synopsis: After a priceless piece of art goes missing, an insurance agent, “Gin” is sent to go after and capture the thief, “Mac” by trying to entrap him, Claiming to be a thief too and promising to help him go after a valuable Chinese Mask from a well-guarded palace.
Locations: Although much was based overseas there was a section shot at Duart Castle (Mac’s hideout), and the main characters were based here at Eriska for the shoot.
Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam
Synopsis: During WW2, a young genius is recruited to help crack an enemy code that will help solve the mysterious disappearance of the woman he loves.
Locations: It was shot in and around Oban with the climax being at Tigh Beg Croft (Loch Feochan). the main cast were based here at Eriska.
Local Hero (1983)
Director: Bill Forsyth
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Peter Piegert, Fulton Mackay, Peter Capaldi
Synopsis: An American Oil company send a representative to a small Scottish village in the hopes of securing rights to build an oil refinery, however things don’t go as planned when a local hermit, Ben – who owns a beach which is crucial to the plans – is unwilling to sell his property, leading the company representative to negotiate with Ben on his own terms.
Locations: Although not entirely local as it was on knoydart it remaisn a favourite scottish film for us so had to be included. Morar Beach, Mallaig was famous for beach scenes and northern lights- which we can see from Eriska too- occasionally
When Eight Bells Toll (1971)
Director: Etienne Perier
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley
Synopsis: A british secret agent, Philip Calvert, is sent on a mission to investiage the disappearance of a ship carrying £8 million in gold near the coast of Scotland.
Locations: although back in the earlier days this did establish Duart Castle and Tobermory as film locations as well as Fingal’s Cave (Staffa )
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris
Synopsis: Bond's loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. It sees him return to his childhood home and reaffirm his love of Scotland although the house was never here!
Locations: Glen Coe and Glen Etive are linked to the car drive and very apt as he was again back in his Aston Martin
From Russia with Love (1963)
Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya
Synopsis: James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE.
Locations: Several locations in Argyll& Bute with sea scenes south of Oban in particular the finale helicopter & Boat chase scene although you have to feel for the poor crew who get thrown overboard into the sea.
The festive season is almost upon us and at least we are thinking about the festive period given the celebration across the pond of Thanksgiving- well at least it gives us an excuse to trial run the Roast Turkey on the trolley and get us thinking of cranberry sauce and roaring log fires. So after a week of colder conditions should we expect snow and ice or mild and warm conditions this week?
Today: After a cold night it will be clear skies so dry with some sunny or clear intervals.
Monday: A dry day with variable cloud and some sunny spells though some pockets of freezing fog may last well into the morning. Frost at first and returning to some areas soon after dark.
Tuesday: Dry with variable cloud and some clear spells. These will lead to a touch of frost especially in glens
Wednesday: A dry bright day with some sunny spells, though with a few freezing fog patches lingering into the day. Perhaps some light showers over higher hills.
Thursday: Cloudier with some rain for a time, turning milder and breezy. Mainly dry though some patchy rain is likely in the evening.
Friday: Strong winds and rain will push in through Friday, with colder air and blustery showers following, some of which will be wintry in the north.
Saturday: Through the weekend, most areas will remain dry with variable cloud and sunny spells by day, and frost and fog by night.
The countdown to Christmas seems upon us.
However it is still over 4 weeks till the shortest day and the depth of winter so it is good to see that is still quite mild although I suspect that is about to change. The majority of the leaves are off the trees and we are certainly through the worst of the leave clearance. It is also a wee window for us to start cutting back paths and trees with less foilage to clear and still reasonably firm ground to work on.
We have also had a dramatic eduction of work on the golf course with the grass now controlling itself and the winter works program underway which we have to balance progress with potentail damage to the course as the water table certainly rises and the sraisn have to work hard to keep the course playable. So will this week be a week of work on course or a week of work off the course?
Today: After a cold start to the night the cloud cover has brought up the temperature and it is now a dry and bright morning but will begin clouding over with rain tonight.
Monday: A mainly dry bright morning with some sunshine after the clearance of early fog and frost. Clouding over during the afternoon with outbreaks of light developing towards the west coast by dusk.
Tuesday: Cloudy with outbreaks of rain, this rain becoming persistent and heavy at times
Wednesday:Cold and sunny with wintry showers, these mainly across higher hills with a chance of rain or snow.
Thursday: Another cold night will give way to mostly dry and bright weather at first but with scattered showers
Friday:A cold night with dawn greeted with showers will be a wintry combination of rain, sleet and snow, maybe giving locally significant snow accumulations over higher ground, and perhaps even to lower levels at times.
Saturday: Slightly more mild with dry conditions and a light breeze ushering in a more settled period of weather for the last week of November