With most of the leaves now off the trees and the wind starting to bring in colder breezes its not hard to believe that winter is just around the corner. However the change of clocks last night at least makes the mornings seem easier even if the down side is that the evenings will start closing in and definately - for us - that will mean that the curtains will be closed even earlier but thats even more of an excuse to snuggle down beside a log fire with a nice book and kind malt to enjoy!
In reality we can look back at tis autumn having been quite kind with a late fall of leaves and then some stronger winds to help them off the trees and make the teams job easier to clear them up and prepare for winter. When I checked my mothers sun machine for the last month it showed that many days had as much sunshine as peak summer and even though it was cooler it was at least dry and bright.
So whats ahead for next week:
Today: Rain at first but soon dying out to clear skies and light winds. Winds then freshen with blustery showers spreading from west,
Monday: Frequent showers, turning squally with heavy rain, or hail and thunder. South becoming southwest winds will reach gale force in showers with surface water and spray making travel difficult.
Tuesday: Bright at first but showers developing, turning cooler and breezier
Wednesday: Fairly repetitive but more persistent rain due in through the afternoon.
Thursday:The end of the week looks unsettled with showers or longer spells of rain, and generally windy so Thursday provides a lull before the storm!
Friday: Probably strong winds possibly gale force and potentially a very wet and windy day.
Saturday: Not much better but the wind will begin to die down later in the day and lead to a period of calm.
The essence of life is learning through enjoyment.
No place is this more prevalent than in our pursuit of further knowlege in the fields of wines and food - so what better way to combine these two fascinating topics than by arranging a weekend of education her at Eriska. Or so we though back in 1993 when we first organised a Winter Wine Weekend. Back in those days we all had so much more time - and it could be argued a far greater thirst for knowledge that we used to run a three day weekend. Guests arrived on the Thursday in preparation for a full day in the kitchen. On the Friday our kitchen team would be joined by experts in their field to help explain and educate. One that sprung to mind was a Seafood and Chardonnay weekend when Andy Race- our fish merchant arrived- late on Thursday because in those days the market on Thursday night physically took place in Mallaig and he had to be there in person to examine, bid and purchase the fish.
On the Friday monring he simply brought in a huge box of mixed fish and with 20 guests sitting round, dressed in aprons and armed with knives he tallked through the box demonstrated how to identify, pick and select the best fish ( a lesson I still utilise) and how to prpeare it for the the kicthen with ease. This, as then, followed by working demonstrations and then the kitchen team took his work and helped show how it could be transformed. All sounded so simple but by the end of the day we had a great lunch and had some wonderful produce ready for dinner.
Then we are joined by some partners who could not escape for all three days and had a wonderful dinner focussing on the proiduce that had been prepared and with an introduction to wines of the world all featuring the Chardonnay Grape.
On Saturday we had anther practical; day with a demonstartion and talk from Inverawe Smokehouse highlighting the skill involved in curing and smoking fish- a skill we then took even further when we opened our own smoker- and then after lunch it was out on the water- some went out with a prawn creeler, some went to a local Oyster Hatchery and farm and some simply wantered on the beach as part of a guided foraging tour.
This was all simply to build up an appetite for dinner which was proceeded by a tasting of Chardonnay wines from around the world highlighting the huge range of grapes and abilities to create a diverse yet wonderful product. Then for dinner, the kitchen having been slightly freer and less invaded by fishmongers and guests- created a wonderful gastronomic dinner which was matched by a variety of wines which complemented the palate.
A greta fun weeknd and everybody learnt something- some more than others but all had left their cares of the world behind and ultimately relaxed.
However those days have slightly slipped away.
Time has become even more valuable but our thirst for knowledge has not waned so we are delighted to be able to announce that we will be joined by Mark O'Bryen, Master of Wine and Taittinger Ambassador to the Uk for our Winter Wine weekend which takes place over the weekend of the 16th November. In order to offer complete flexibility we have restricted the main event to a Champagne Masterclass on the Saturday Afternoon - for those not intersted in the rugby internationals!- and havearranged a tutored tasting to accompany Rosses wonderful dinner. It will allow Mark to Showcase the rangeform tis great champagne house and really introduce it to novices whilst evolving experts palates to appreciate the finer details. Clearly it will give teh opportunity to showcse the range but I am certain that we wil eb able to slip in a glass of still wine to help tittivate the taste buds styill further.
The Equinox - days get shorter and nights get longer!
If only it was a simple as this but in reality it is the end of summer and the official start of Autumn. All the schools are back, the daily basket of apples from the orchard is regular and the leaves are starting to fall added to this the nights are closing in and Autumn is most definitely here. my mother would agree with this as he maintains no central heating for the summer and that Autumn is here when heating is needed- and to think 5 years ago central heating would have been a luxury only required when the snow was on the ground!
Anyway I always think of this weekend as being wet and windy due to the expected equinox gales and the rush in the boat yard to get all the boats out of the water for winter before the winds start to roar. At least this prediction was right yesterday as sitting by a roaring log fire enjoying the comforts of the library was very tempting but as usual today bucked the trend and calm tranquil weather purveyed leaving me a little foolish in my weather forecast but maybe I can do better for this week's west highland weather!
Today: Mainly dry with some clear intervals during this evening and overnight, but generally a good deal of cloud. Some light, patchy, rain with extensive hill fog. Some mist patches developing later in places.
Monday: Mist patches clearing then bright and mainly dry with some sunny intervals developing. Cloudier with any early, light, rain dying out
Tuesday: After a dry start outbreaks of rain spreading south later on
Wednesday: A cloudy damp morning turning to heavy heavy rain for a time.
Thursday: Brighter weather today following yesterdays rain before rain returns northwards in the afternoon
Friday: Rain is likely to affect us at first on Friday but it should become mainly dry with some warm sunny spells in the afternoon.
Saturday: After a dry night rain or showers are likely to spread in from the south so deending on progress we should have a better morning although it will set in for the weekend.
Todays fads are not always tomorrows trends...
In a world of ever changing needs and skills it is often worth occasionally taking a step back and seeing what really matters - not short term trends but long term values. Eriska is now entering its fifth decade under the guise of a hotel. It was established simply back in the early seventies to offer a warmth and hospitality to those who chose to stay with us and today this core remains at our heart.
However we have over the years strived to achieve this in many ways-
Some well planned and programmed others chanced upon and cobbled together but always we have tried to blend our three ingredients- the place the people who visit and finally the team we work with- to create the best final product. We spend hours looking at the guest profiles, we spend every penny we earn to improve the place investing and finally we value our team but in this pursuit of success we sometimes both lose touch with our core and miss out on the simple fixes and most important opportunities.
So when we do gain the chance to simply walk out our back door and look around, stop and enjoy the environment, pause and soak up where we live it is not surprising that it keeps bringing us back to the basics and even more importantly the simple things upon which Eriska was established. To some when we come across these Eureka moments it seems like an obvious "No Brainer" - to others it is to simple to matter - and to others it may seem like a pointless crusade and time wasting concept- to the final category I would suggest Eriska is not for you!
When Eriska first started it was not only a country house hotel but more a working farm and its largest producer of its own raw material - we had dairy herd that produced- milk, butter cheese and cream, hens for eggs and gardens for vegetables. A very large Deep Freeze to benefit the heavy summer harvests and hold for a longer winter , and also to take account of the lack of regular summer supplies. Today we have had to give up the farm but the garden still produces herbs and salads along with the orchard looking after apples and pears for a couple of months of the year.
We can access world markets and get regular deliveries but are we really catering for our customers bringing products and ingredients from across the world - are we selling ourselves best showcasing the world to the world or would we be better showcasing Eriska and Scotland to the world.
It seems a simple and logical step in our pursuit to be unique and individual that we take what we believe is best and showcase this, and even more logical would be that the best fresh produce would be that which has come out of the ground most recently and traveled fewest miles. So under the guidance of our New Head Chef Ross Stovold and his team we have set about changing our view from the kitchen. Luckily this is supported by a resurgence in foraging - although in our view forgaing is not only about trapsing round the island looking for produce but also about working with local businesses to help and encourge them to deliver products we want and where necessary it is up to us to support them as we persuade them to go do a different route to market.
So it is probably no surprise to hear that Eriska was yesterday Awarded its latest award by Visit Scotland of "Taste our Best". This is a new scheme both supported and backed by the Scottish Government which highlights properties which showcase more than 40% of their menu from the locality. Although apparently the locality to the customer ranges greatly but for ease in this excersise- and I am sure nothing to do with the push for independence- Local means Scottish.!
However the scheme does not stop a simply awarding a plaque but also offers feedback to business about where they could make a difference and has been linked to the Food and Drink suppliers with a website to help identify other potential producers which may currently be anonymous and unknown. We were delighted to not only be one of the first to be recognised but more imporantly that this recognition aligns so clearly with our principles. Hopefully the scheme will take off and be a great success and that will require the customers to grasp and support it too.
In the meantime it is out on the island between showers, to pick more Brambles and Chantarelle otherwise we will have some hungry guests tonight!
I try each day to learn something new in an attempt to improve myself daily.
This may sound like a grand foolproof plan but at this rate I am not really making progress and sometimes not even standing still as I seem to become more forgetful-- well that's what all the team around me keep highlighting!!
So today as I drove out to get the papers I was listening to the history of St Swithens Day and hence the new obsession with the weather forecast for tomorrow
Swithun was initially buried out of doors, rather than in his cathedral, apparently at his own request. William of Malmesbury recorded that the bishop left instructions that his body should be buried outside the church, ubi et pedibus praetereuntium et stillicidiis ex alto rorantibus esset obnoxius [where it might be subject to the feet of passers-by and to the raindrops pouring from on high], which has been taken as indicating that the legend was already well known in the 12th century.
In 971 it was decided to move his body to a new indoor shrine, and one theory traces the origin of the legend to a heavy shower by which, on the day the move, the saint marked his displeasure towards those who were removing his remains.
The name of Swithun is best known today for a British weather lore proverb, which says that if it rains on Saint Swithun's day, 15 July, it will rain for 40 days.
- St Swithun's day if thou dost rain
- For forty days it will remain
- St Swithun's day if thou be fair
- For forty days 'twill rain nae mare
So what is ahead for this week and in particularly tomorrow!!
Today: After a stunningweek last week today will remain- Dry with some sunshine but rather more cloudy than yesterday.
Monday:Rather cloudy with still a little rain over higher hills- maybe at tis point we should highlight that St Swithen is burried in Winchester which is expecting a sunny day!
Tuesday:Rather cloudy and breezy with still a little rain, mainly over higher hills
Wednesday: It will be a dry and bright day with sunny spells.
Thursday:Rather cloudy but shuld at least remain dry
Friday: Dry, brighter and warmer on Friday with sunny spells and light winds.
Saturday: Largely fine and dry at first but it may change overnight into sunday where there may be some cloud and outbreaks of rain.
As I stepped onto the platform this morning I wondered how many other commuters had experienced as enjoyable a Saturday as I had? On Friday night I had the good fortune to hear Jools Holland and his big band play in Perth. After the concert I drove across to Eriska. There was a thick dark blue band of light on the horizon even though it was close to midnight. The longest day is just around the corner and hopefully some better weather is on it way.
I arrived at Eriska around 2:00 am, and Beppo met me with the news that we would be leaving shortly after six. Moments after my eyelids closed it was time to get up. Our task was to pre-position Beppo's boat in the Clyde ready for racing over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Things were looking promising. Seona had arranged scrambled egg and bacon rolls and a suitably highly calorific picnic. The passage down toward the Crinan Canal was wonderful. A northerly wind pushed us down past Oban and on past Easdale and Seil. We had clear views of Ben More on Mull, and we speculated on the progess of the boats in the Scottish Islands Peak Race. The runners of the slower boats would have been on Ben More in the dark, but they all should have been well on their way to Jura to tackle the Paps.
A little later we passed Corryvreckan. I remembered that that George Orwell's brother-in-law is famed as the first man to swim the whirlpool. This is more of an achievement because he only had one leg. We arrived at the start of the lock system in relatively good time, although there was still a fair chance that we would not make it out the other end before the locks closed. Seona had come down to lend a hand and give us a lift back to Eriska. The lock system provides a critical safe passageway for boats to move between the west coast and the Clyde. As well as being a fantastic example of engineering, the canal is a very peaceful interlude between the rugged seascape of the west coast and the wide estuarial waters of the post-industrial Clyde.
In my view the west coast provides the most amazing yacht cruising of anywhere in Britain, but the Clyde is a close second. Therefore to be able to link both of these areas up in a single day trip is especially appealing. I always find the seaward approach to Eriska very dramatic. If you are ever leaving by boat and going south, take a glance over your shoulder and you will get a unique glimpse of the Baronial elegance of the main house. Using the canal makes a trip to Eriska for dinner followed by a return passage home the next day a viable, and very attractive, possibility for Clyde-based yacht owners.
We hope you have had a wonderful start of your week,
As you may know, we recently celebrated our 40th anniversary at Eriska, a wonderful 40 years that are worth celebrating, by putting up a bronze otter at our otter point on the west side of island! We are still looking for a suitable name for him, and you can enter the name our otter campaign before the 31st May by liking our facebook page, or by clicking at the button below.
So why do we celebrate anniversaries? There is something about anniversaries that is special. Anniversaries, by definition, commemorate important events in our lives. They are milestones of so many things; achievement, happiness, commitment, loss, and sadness but maybe most of all they are celebrated in great happiness. They may be wedding anniversaries, the day you got engaged, a special achievement or a birthday – they are all anniversaries that should be recognised and celebrated. They are ways of reliving an experience or even the very start of new ones. Anniversaries are important, not just because they celebrate an earlier event, but because they help us relive it.
It may all sound straightforward, but in today’s fast phased work and family life, we tend to forget these very important dates. You may find yourself in the position where you realise just in time or you find your self in the position of making up for the forgotten anniversary, for those reasons have a look at our two easy tips to remember the important day;
Create the 'dates really worth remembering' calendar on your smart phone or in your diary
Set an alarm for it! – In this digital age almost anything is possible, maybe more importantly, set that alarm a month ahead so that you can start to plan for that unforgettable anniversary celebration.
Why not come to us at Eriska for that special anniversary getaway to celebrate? If you have been with us before you can book to relive that special moment, or if you are thinking of coming for the first time, we would love to make it truly unforgettable. At Isle of Eriska you can celebrate in beautiful surroundings and make new memories worth sharing.
There is more to life than increasing its speed, and at Eriska you can truly relax and enjoy time with your family and loved ones. Walks around the island is a brilliant way to relax and also explore as the weather is slowly getting better.
Some fashionable wellies and sunglasses may be the way to start the week!
Its hard to beleive we are actually in May and that the longest day is just over a montha way, however thats what British weather is all about! The weather again this week looks typical for the west coast of Scotland- Changeable with a wet influence!
Although there are some heavy clouds, a few rays of sun will be peeking through during the week. The birds are still singing, which makes you forget about the weather. Indeed this morning we were woken by the first cukoo of the year - nice to hear and reminds us of the changing seasons but by tomorrow morning we will no doubt have already heard enough!
So whats ahead this week on the weather front?
Today: A mainly dry start but cloudy with outbreaks of rain spreading east this morning, this mainly light. Brighter but showery conditions then spread east from late afternoon with some sunshine at times and bringing in a freshening southwest breeze which will stregnthen and become westerly.
Monday: A bright day with some sunny spells and blustery showers these occasionally wintry on higher ground with snow on the hills- hard to beleive it is mid May!.
Tuesday : Another day of Sunshine and showers although it will hopefully be mor eorf teh former and less of the latter!
Wedenesday : It will start cold for this tiem of year but as teh sun peaks thrugh so teh temperatuyre will rise- although bewarned that showers are styill a possibility
Thursday: A mainly dry day but some thundery showers possible in the afternoons with light winds making it seem warmer than earlier in the week.
Friday: The rather unsettled conditions are set to continue with showers and longer periods of rain.
Saturday: At last we can start to look forward to brighter and drier spells with a good deal of sunshine for teh weekends whilst condistions sdown south will remains decideley unseasonal.
This week I have been in London working with our sales team helping to - or at least hoping to - spread the word about Eriska to potential visitors. Its amazing the even after 40 years how many people who have been in the travel trade still have never heard of Eriska, been to the west coast of Scotland or even been north of Hadrians Wall so I have been trying to do my wee bit for us all.
However I am often confronted by the question about who our typical guest is and what they normally do and whilst this is an easy answer to reach as I am never short of suggestions for guests it is also very difficult as we have no "typical" Guest as every one is different and each market place is so different. However in truth - whilst each visitor to Eriska may be here for a different reason and they partake in a huge variety of activities or even inactivities the majority do come for relaxation and recuperation, hoping to leave us less tired, stressed and harassed than when they arrived.
However when I got back I had a brief look round the dining room- if only to satisfy myself that my answer earlier about the ecclectic clientele was correct- but it soon became clearly that a trend is emerging which I was previously unaware of- Eriska is the Perfect Scottish Honeymoon Destination. However given it was a English Bank Holiday and the fact that just over two years ago there was a Royal Wedding- I should maybe not have been surprised to see the number of honeymoon couples in the dining room- almost half.
However whilst this shows a new trend, and on the face of it it should make our lives simple it is far from simple as the age groups vary- the level of activities enjoyed varies and this simply enures that we need to treat each couple individually and tailor their breaks to ther needs or simply insure that they have nothing arranged and are simply free to enjoy the island and their first few days of married life- and recuoperate for what may have been the most stressful day of their life so far!
It is our role at Eriska to create an atmosphere in which couples enjoy a unique private celebration marking the start of your marriage the most distinctive experience that will stay a treasured memory forever. Honeymoons should be unique- most only ever have one and therefore most people have no first hand experiece of what to expect but probably also have lots of expectation!
Whether the package includes all the cliched bottle of champagne awaiting their arrival, a romantic room service dinner and a relaxing couples full-body massage at our ESPA spa or simply a clear diary and no plans we can adapt and change . Honeymooners can indulge in the lavish luxury of a traditional country manor or the idyllic woodland privacy of our luxury outdoor spa suites, complete with private garden and Jacuzzi. But in short they create their perfect experience from our range of sporting activities, exceptional spa treatments and services, and award-winning culinary menus. Unwind in the comfort of our hotel and enjoy a romantic daytime stroll on our grounds taking in the breathe taking mountainous scenery, or romantic evening wander absorbing the star-bound sky.
The experiences are endless, we have however had to offer special honeymoon packages simply to give ideas to guest of what we can do although in reality most create a package having discussed it with the team at Eriska. Anyway its really rewarding to the team to be able to make a mark on couples first few days of married life and gives a real sense of purpose when we see then start to relax and unwind and then enjoy all that Eriska has to offer
I suppose it should be no surprise that another bank holiday weekend is a wash out but then again its not really a "Bank Holiday" here in Scotland and normally the first week in May brings with it the start of real summer. However there is no doubt that over the last few months there has been no real normal weather pattern with spring in full flow in Argyll while the rest of the country has shivered and drowned -- so now when we would normally see sunshine and blue skies I suppose a change is not surprising!
At least there is activity in the garden though as the grass on the golf course has turned green and is in full flourish, the geese have taken flight and headed north, the warmth in the ground has certainly kicked the seeds and plants in the gardens both in green houses and outside but along with that comes the weeds too so it is a busy time simply keeping on top of the grounds keeping it all tidy.
So will this week be a week of sun tan lotion and hard graft over the flower beds or a week of wellies and water standing in converted paddy fields?
Today: After a wonderful dawn yesterday the day simply deteriorated and turned to rain and today looks similar except the dawn will be a bit cloudier and the rain during the day less consistent!
Monday: Remaining cloudy throughout today with some rain at times. The patchy rain turning more persistent during today.
Tuesday: Another cloudy, damp, day with further outbreaks of light rain. The rain will be more persistent towards the north, but southern parts tending to turn dry later.
Wednesday:Bright start but with rain spreading in.
Thursday: Clearing early on then bright with blustery showers. Further rain for a time in the afternoon then finally drying up
Friday: Whilst the wind will be strong it should bring a the start of a change in conditions with drier weather pushing in.
Saturday: Whilst this period will start unsettled due to the strong winds it will seem warmer and drier- hopefully a sign of things to come!