It's that time of year again when the Island truly comes alive.
With the season broken in nicely, the notorious wildlife of Eriska is making it's triumphant return for 2014 bringing with it the magic that makes Eriska special to so many of our guests.
Though our friends in the animal kingdom never truly left us - most notably Bertie and his friends, who suffered through thunder storms and gale-like winds all winter to get their daily helping of peanuts and milk - the rest of the island natives are beginning to come out of hiding
Otter Point, in particular, is showing signs of life with our cheeky semi-aquatic compatriots frequenting our stony-shores. Many of these playful creatures have been spotted by guests over the last few days, as well as island resident Mrs B who was lucky enough to capture the above pictures for us.
As suggested by it's name, Otter Point is a sight notorious for spotting otters and last year become home to the bronze sculpture, Wache, that was placed in tribute to mark Eriska's 40th year as a hotel, making it an increasingly popular spot for our guests.
Wache, our bronze otter sculpture, was made by Kenneth Robertson last summer using advanced techniques to give it its flawless life-like shape that was moulded to fit a particular rock at Otter Point.
It was placed as a "Guardian to the Island" to mark Eriska's 40th year and subsequently named by our competition winner, Dr. Joe Myers, who came up with the name "Wache" which is an old Scots terms meaning "Eternal Watcher".
Since his placement on the island, Wache has become a popular sighting point for our guests and is frequently mistaken for a real otter to approaching visitors!
Tips for Spotting Otter's on the Island
Eriska’s coastal environment is ideally suited to otter's habitation.
Our natural habitat remains untouched by urban development, water pollution or the use of pesticides. Our island location is remote from main roadways and our coastal and land environments offers food on tap: fish and shellfish as well as birds and small mammals.
Here’s some handy hints to have the best chance of spotting them:
Look for their ideal location: clean water, vegetated banks with available prey.
Look out for their distinctive webbed toe prints, or their distinctive odour (likened to jasmine tea!)
Dawn explorers will have the best chance of spotting them.
Be still and patient, or walk quietly; keeping upwind (wind can carry your scent which may alert them to your presence)
Other Otter Locations near Eriska
The west coast of Scotland is well known for offering sightings of wildlife not commonly seen in bigger towns and cities. From Oban there are a selection of boat tours dedicated to sea-life watching as well as frequent ferries to the Isle of Mull who's coastline is littered with Otters when the tide is in.
However, for those not too fussed about trying to catch a distant glance of Otter's in their natural habitat, the Scottish Sea-life Sanctuary in Benderloch homes a few and even hosts a couple of "Meet and Greet's" throughout the day to give you a closer look and learn more about their eating and living habits.
So for those in the area in the near future, we would definitely recommend taking your chances out by the coast to try your luck at spotting one of these fantastic animals and visit Wache who continues to guard the island at Otter Point!
After what seemed like an endless winter, things on the west coast of Scotland are starting to brighten up.
Though the rain remains annoyingly persistent, spells of sunshine are becoming longer and more frequent as the days go by and it won't be long before the cold and stormy weather seems like a distant memory.
The weather this coming week definitely seems a vast improvement on its predecessors and likely the driest of the year so far; though it may be a bit early yet to retire the raincoats and umbrellas as things are likely to take a bit of a turn at the end of the week.
Today: Today, showers of rain are expected to fall for the majority of the day, with some brief patches of dryness in the afternoon.
Monday: Things are looking to dry up significantly, with white cloud and sunny intervals reported to last all day.
Tuesday: Starting with a bit of a chilly morning, Tuesday will evolve into a bright and sunny day making it the nicest of the week.
Wednesday: Projected to remain dry, but cloudy throughout
Thursday: Some light rain will start of the morning, though will clear up mid-morning and remain dry.
Friday: The weather takes a turn, with light rain expected all day.
Saturday: Ending on a bit of a dour note with heavy rain dominating.
Although we're not completely clear of the rain, the change is definitely coming and before you know it we'll be complaining we're too warm and hoping for a bit of a drizzle to cool us down.
Until then we'll be taking full advantage of the small amounts of sunshine we can get, using the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors and fresh flora and fauna - which is becoming more lively every week - and hope that our guests do the same.
With the first meterological day of Spring behind us, we here at Eriska find ourselves eagerly awaiting all the associations of the season. With signs of new life slowly creeping all around the island the days of rain, wind and cold finally seem numbered.
Though the mountains are struggling to shake the remains of the snow from their tops, the days are getting noticably longer and it won't be long until the clouds open up completely to reveal the clear blue sky that we've been dreaming of since the beginning of winter.
But there's still a while to go before the reports of sunshine are upon us and the weather this coming week seems a true testiment to that.
Today: A sunny start to the week, with intervals of sunshine expected to last until mid-afternoon. Heavy rain will appear later in the day and last throughout the evening.
Monday: Light rain showers will fall periodically, though things will mostly be dry with a touch of sunshine in the afternoon.
Tuesday: Looks to be another cloudy day with some light showers.
Wednesday: Rain will dominate, with a mixture of light and heavy rainfall throughout
Thursday: Projected to remain unchanged, with more rain and moderate winds
Friday: Rain will persist another day, though things expected to heat up a bit with temperatures reaching 11°C
Saturday: The week looks to end on a wet note, with forecasts of rain.
So it may be a few more weeks yet before we can retire the winter coats and wellington boots. Though it does look like our guests will have some opportunity to get out and enjoy the scenery without getting too wet!
In the meantime, for those coming to visit this week we'd advise making full use of our indoor facilities, which offers a nice variety of activities for those who want to stay active as well as those who want to put their feet up and relax!
This week Britain has taken a beating from severe weather conditions in the south, leaving many homes, farms and transport routes destroyed by extreme flooding.
Luckily things at the west coast of Scotland have been much tamer, however much to our annoyance, February is proving to be as wet a month as its predecessors. As Scotland endures it's wettest winter in over 100 years we find ourselves asking for any change: cold, sun, even snow.. as long as it stops raining!
Though looking at the forecast for the coming week, things certainly don't look promising.
Today: Heavy rain expected throughout the day, with some brief patches of sunshine.
Monday: With a slight temperature drop, prepare for potentially icy conditions on the road. Heavy rain will dominate in the morning and early afternoon, though things are looking to dry up as the evening progresses
Tuesday: Looks to be another wet day, with light rain and sleet showers alternating throughout
Wednesday: Projected to remain unchanged, with more rain to come.
Thursday: Flurries of snow and sleet are anticipated to fall sporadically throughout the day, with temperatures becoming near-freezing
Friday: The weather looks to take a slight turn, with the day remaining mainly dry.
Saturday: Sunny intervals and light cloud predicted, giving us the opportunity to stretch out legs in the fresh air.
So perhaps there is some light at the end of the tunnel, with the week looking to end on a dry note - and perhaps a bit of sun!
This bodes well for the spring flora that has started shooting up around the island, allowing them the opportunity to absorb some light and photosynthesize into blossoming flowers just in time for Spring.
With any luck, it won't be long until the rain is behind us and our guests can start to enjoy all that the island has to offer!
There's nothing worse than suffering through endless months of below freezing misery knowing that t-shirts, suntan lotion and ice cream cones are still a month or two off. After Christmas, passing time in the winter months seems a far greater challenge and the minuscule amounts of daylight and cabin fever certainly don't help.
But instead of giving into the self-destructive urge of sitting by the window and staring down the rain, February can be a great month for experiencing new things that allow you to explore different activities, be creative and become more knowledgeable.
Go Ice Climbing
Just like in summer, it's always good to take advantage of the opportunities the season provides. Though picnics in the park and trips to the beach may be out the question, there are many activities available that allow you to make use of all the winter-wear you've stocked in your wardrobe.
Ice-climbing exerts your mind and body as you navigate your way up the tall slippery surface, providing a great rush of adrenaline. Furthermore, Scotland is home to the largest indoor Ice Climbing facility in the world with walls reaching heights of up to 50ft and grades ranging from beginner to expert, making this activity a must try for the natives looking for a bit of adventure.
Discover New Music
Music is constantly evolving. Though iTunes, Spotify and Youtube are all great platforms for finding artists similar to those that you already like, nothing compares to going out there and discovering new acts first hand. Live events and festivals are held all year round with the aim of promoting the best new music of all genres
The west coast, in particular, is a stronghold of Scotland's finest folk music with plenty of live-music nights and festivals that explore the traditional elements of Scotland's musical heritage.
Bake or Cook Something Different
Experimenting with different recipes is a great way to introduce yourself to new flavours and improve your skill.
Cooking and baking can be enjoyed as a group or solo activity and is a great way to spark your creativity. Some dishes can take hours to prepare and it's not always possible to find the time to make them; so take advantage of the wet and windy days that leave you stuck indoors and experiment!
Skiing and Snowboarding
The popularity of these snow sports has escalated greatly in the last few years, and with its mountain-filled terrain and low temperatures Scotland is a natural choice for those wanting to give them a try without a costly trip to the Alps.
The west coast houses a handful of resorts, such as Nevis Range and Glencoe, known for their dramatic slopes and stunning views. With equipment hire and lessons available, this is an activity that can be enjoyed by people of all skill levels.
Have a TV Marathon
Sometimes it's just too difficult to give up the comfort of the mountain of blankets that you've been hibernating under since November, especially when the weather outside leaves little to be desired. Luckily, all your favourite TV shows are back on air after their Christmas break, allowing you your fix of your favourite characters, but waiting an entire week for the next episode can be tedious. So why not dust off some of your favourite boxsets( or maybe even try something new) and watch episode after episode of uninterrupted excellence?
We all have that show that we've never quite got round to watching; the one that we read about online and that your friends are always talking about. Now is a perfect time to see what all the fuss is about!
Of course there are many other activities that can help you get over your winter blues like reading, learning a new skill or organising your photo collection that all come with the added bonus of being productive way to spend the time.
It's always a good idea to keep an eye out for events happening in the local area; all year round you will find concerts, festivals, shows and celebrations are being hosted nearby that can open you up to new experiences, or at the very least help pass the day.
For those in and around the West Coast we would recommend checking out the Fort William Mountain Festival at the end of the month; hosting a range of workshops and exhibitions to celebrate the very best of mountain culture.
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 weather in the west coast over January has shown no shortage of doom and gloom, with what seems like an infinite supply of grey clouds, rain and icy winds. This week, in particular, heavy rain and thunderstorms have dominated, leaving many unwanted new water features in their wake.
However, the week ahead shows some promise with things drying up briefly as we reopen our doors to the first flock of guests in the New Year.
Today: Following yesterday's thunder and lightening, heavy rain is due to continue accompanied by strong southern winds
Monday: After a wet and windy night, the rain will continue throughout the morning before gradually dissipating into light showers with sporadic dry patches and brief intervals of sunshine.
Tuesday: The worst of the weather seems to have cleared, leaving most of the morning and afternoon calm and dry with temperatures remaining comfortably above freezing.
Wednesday: Is projected to remain unchanged, with more cloud and tolerable temperatures.
Thursday: Things are projected to take a bit of an icy turn today, with the morning and afternoon remaining dry and some light rain showers showing face in the later half of the evening.
Friday: It looks like the rain will be making a re-apperance bringing with it strong windsupwords of 20mph
Saturday: More rain and wind to follow, ending the week on a bit of a tenebrous note.
So it seems the weather is remaining true to its Scottish stereotype. Though, we at Eriska are not disheartened - after all it is a vast improvement onpervious years - and will take full advantage of our time indoors.
For those joining us at the end of the month, get ready to relax with your feet up by the fire with a good book and a glass of wine. But don't worry, the wellies are aplenty for those wishing to brave the outside.
Having finally settled after a busy new year and adjusted to dating everything "2014" we're finally ready to get back to business and prepare for the months ahead.
2013 saw big changes for Eriska with our new head chef, Ross Stovold, taking over the kitchen and promoting the use of the best of the local produce to create healthy and delicious dishes for our fine-dining restaurant.
With his passion for food and healthy living, we thought we'd take this opportunity to pick his brain for those of you who are making the change for a healthier 2014!
1. Buy a Juicer
Fruit and vegetable juices are a great way of getting vitamins into your body. Removing the pulp allows your cells to absorb the nutrients in fruit more readily and provide you with a quick energy boost.
It also provides you with a fun way to experiement with new flavours, by allowing you to be creative and inventive in mixing your own juice blends.
2. Choose Wholegrain Over the White Alternative.
Wholegrain bread, pasta and rice are higher in dietary fibre than the white counterparts. Fibre is important in a balanced diet and can help prevent heart disease, diabeties and can help improve digestive health.
Furthermore, fibre can help prevent weight gain as it is not broken down in your digestive system and keeps you feeling full for longer.
3. Snack on Raw Vegetables
Unhealthy snacking can be the kill-all end-all of any new diet. Though tasty, an abundance of crisps, chocolate and other sugary goodies are not good for you and can be costly!
Carrots, cucumber, bell pepers, celery, asparagus and cauliflower are just some of the vegetables that can be enjoyed raw, either on their own or with a nice low-fat dip.
4. If You Need Chocolate, Choose Dark Over Milk.
Starving yourself of your favourite treats makes diets incredibly difficult to maintain. If you feel you need a little chocolate on occassion, Ross recommends eating a small square of rich dark chocolate over a bar of milk. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa which is high in an antioxidant compound called flavonoids, this is believed to help prevent heart disease.
An alternative to satisfying your sweet-tooth with chocolate would be picking foods with natural sugars. Fruit is a quick and tasty way to treat yourself without feeling too guilty and can be enjoyed raw, lightly cooked or as a sorbet!
5. Avoid All Pre-Packaged and Take-Away Foods
It may seem like we're stating the obvious now, but even the so-called "healthy, low-fat"
ready meals are no substitute for the real thing. Devoid of most natural nutrients, these pre-packaged 5-mintute meals are filled with synthetic vitamins that are harder for your body to break down.
We understand that it's dark, cold, you've just had a long day at work and the last thing you want to think about it arranging a meal for the family. But if we take a practical look at it: in the 25 minutes it takes to place your order and await your deep-fried and greasy food to be delivered to your door, you could have already prepared a fresh and simple dish in the comfort of your own kitchen.
6. Use Walnut Oil Instead of Butter
Though butter is not bad for you in moderation, using it frequently throughout the day may run the risk of high cholesterol. The replacement of butter with walnut oil on your toast and sandwiches provides a nice nutty alternative and a good source of Omega-3.
Walnut oil also makes a nice salad dressing and good accompaniment for many meats and fish.
So there you have it; six small and subtle changes to make to your diet, which along with the general guidelines to nutritional health will have you feeling great in no time!
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!.