With Easter well and truly over and April coming to a close, some of us may find ourselves patting our chocolate-filled bellies, enjoying the sunshine from the comfort of a lounger in the garden and stocking up on barbecue supplies in preparation of the summer months.
The first week of May brings us Get Walking Week – a festival created to encourage the populace to get active and explore the wonders that await them outside their doorstep, wither it’s making short journeys on foot instead of taking the car or finding time out with working hours to enjoy a more lengthy trek.
Without trying to state the obvious – walking is good for you.
Keen walkers frequently boast of the physical and mental benefits of walking; stating that as well as being a good way to stay fit and tone lower-body muscles, it also offers a form of stress relief and can greatly improve your mood.
Further to the health benefits that come with walking, Britain’s beautiful and diverse landscapes – in particular the West Coast of Scotland (in our unbiased opinion!) – have many nature walks, national parks and mountain paths to explore, offering breath-taking scenery out onto lochs, glens and forests.
The best thing about walking is that anyone can enjoy it: it’s free and you can go at your own pace. All you need is a pair of shoes and you’re ready to get going!
Start of small, building up your pace and distance through time – it’s never a good idea to over exert yourself, which could lead to injuries like sprains.
For those who fancy a slightly lengthier walk; it’s always a good idea to bring plenty of water and some snacks with fast-releasing carbohydrates like fruit. (A raincoat wouldn’t go amiss either!)
Avoiding Soreness and Fatigue
Muscle soreness and fatigue is a symptom and consequence of most physical activities and is usually fixed with a good rest. Though you’re unlikely to get any from light strolls and shorter walks, long and hilly ventures could leave you sore for days!
Massage is a useful tool to help relieve tightness and stiffness in muscle tissue and can reduce fatigue and soreness by increasing the blood circulation, bringing more oxygen and nutrients into the muscle.
For walkers we would recommend getting a leg specific massage to concentrate on easing the tension in your tired limbs before going on your next adventure!
After what seemed like an eternity of the weather toying with us - teasing us with the occasional day of dryness, and even a spot or two of sunshine - Scotland finally broke through the barrier into suntan-lotioning and sunglass-wearing this week, giving everyone the Easter Weekend we all hoped for!
The shores of every beach in Britain is likely to have been bombarded by impromptu trips to top-up tans and here at the West Coast things are livelier than ever! With any luck we'll be enjoying the sun for a while yet, allowing us all to dust the cobwebs off our summer gear and enjoy the great outdoors!
Today: Clear blue skies all day accompanied by a slight breeze
Monday: Sunny intervals throughout, with temperatures climbing to a comfortable 16°C
Tuesday: A cloudy start to the day, clearing up late morning and remaining sunny for a large part of the afternoon.
Wednesday: Looks to be mostly cloudy, with some brief rain showers. Temperatures remaining moderately high.
Thursday: Sporadic rain showers predicted to fall throughout the day, with things drying up in the evening.
Friday: More cloud and mild wind throughout, though things expected to remain dry.
Saturday: Looks to be mainly unchanged, with thick cloud to persist.
Though we are not completely free of those pesky April showers, the week ahead offers us ample opportunity to enjoy the fresh outdoors!
Those visiting us this week are in for a real treat: the sunlight brings out the vibrant colours of the Island's flora and makes for an unforgetable sight. The Cairn, in particular, will be worth a visit to witness the incredible 360° view of Eriska's surroundings out towards the Isles of Lismore and Mull as well as Loch Creran.
If you're in the area why not go on one of the boat tours that leave periodically from Oban and Port Appin: try your luck at spotting the infamous white-tailed sea eagle, witness the wonders of the numberous ancient castles that line the shores and bask in the beauty of the surroundings from the sea.
One of the largests appeals of Eriska to our guests is it's unique setting. A private escape from the worries of reality where civilisation doesn't have to exist outside our 300 acres if you don't want it to, and our team are always trying to find ways to add to that experience.
This year marks the 40th year since Eriska opened it's doors to the world and to celebrate the occassion we've brought a new lease of life to the Island by the revival of Eriska's Farm.
Having fallen into disuse for some years, our Garden Manager, Kenny, has revolutionised the gardens since joining us last month, sowing a large selection of vegetables, plants and herbs for both culinary and asthetic use and bringing the Island back to life.
Meet the newest addition to the Eriska family. Over the last month a dozen of these minute birds joined our ranks to provide our guests with fresh eggs for their meals.
Having only been with us for a couple of weeks, our feathery-friends have already begun to lay eggs, causing much excitments amoungst the Kitchen team.
The Vegetable Patch
Ross in the kitchen is a strong believer in the use of fresh local produce in his dishes, and where could be more local than on our own doorstep? Guests to Eriska can now see their food grow in the gardens before they are harvested for use at night.
Of course it will be a while yet before you'll be seeing these legumes on your plate, but the introduction of fast-maturing crops such as radish and lettuce will see the use of our homegrown vegetables in the kitchen within the next few weeks.
We asked Kenny his plans for the coming seasons and he explained "I've started some earlier crops for the kitchen such as radish and lettuce which will continue to be sown periodically for a continuous harvest. Most crops require a longer growing period and these have been started off too; such as aubergine, cabbage and french beans."
These are not the only vegetables Kenny's been sowing since joining the team; we also have beetroot, peas, onions, potatoes, courgette, leeks, turnips, swede and kolhrabi growing under the soil as well as many herbs like fennel, garlic, dill, parsley, corriander and sage.
The Flower Gardens
Wildflowers and shrubs grow all around Eriska, giving the Island a natural beauty that often leaves visitors in awe. There is also the Rose bushes and a flower patch by the stables that have provided us flowers to adorn in the main house for years.
However, Kenny has brought another dimension to the asthetics of the gardens, preparing the addition of some multi-purpose plants such as mariglods, nasturtiums and borage that will provide both a floral display and can also be used within the kitchens. He explains, "The petals are the only part of marigolds which are edible and can be used in many dishes, generally as a garnish but can also be a substitue for saffron. The young peppery leaves of nasturtiums will often be found in salads or used as a garnish. Borage is a personal favourite; the flowers are commonly blue and are used to garnish drinks such as pimms and can also be found in various desserts"
We're very excited about the coming progress of our little farm and will be watching eagerly for sproutings over the next month or two - some more impatiently than others! With unbeatable freshness in our Island-grown produce, a whole new layer of taste will be added to dining in our restaurant and will help create a true Eriska experience.
I always watch this weekend with enormous anticipation firstly because of the London Marathon when runners look for weather - not to hot, and not too cold but just right - although having completed this once -(and never again) the weather was the least of my issues! But I do have sympathy with the 40000 on the start line and feel that every little bit helps. And secondly as the week ends this year with Easter I am reminded of a wonderful couple who used to stay with us through my childhood for Easter and they always- come rain or shine- would sit out on Easter Sunday and have tea on the Library patio so for them it would be nice to see a warn sunny afternoon and not driving rain"!
However after a damp and dreary winter any further signs of spring will be popular- but as I watch out accross the lawn today and see the daffodills in full bloom maybe - just maybe spring has finally arrived- the grass is growing, the floods subsiding and the birds are in full song so what has the weather hot in store?
Today: Some early brightness then becomming mostly cloudy.
Monday: Scattered showers across northern and western mountains in the morning, with longer spells of rain across the peaks, developing elsewhere by the afternoon. Strong westerly winds.
Tuesday: Mainly dry with some good spells of sunshine, just an isolated shower across highest inland peaks at first. Northwesterly winds continuing to ease.
Wednesday: Dry, sunny and pleasantly mild on although chilly through the night- so keep heating on for one more week!
Thursday. Turning cloudier with some patchy rain, mainly in the north and west.
Friday: Most places should be dry with sunny intervals, light winds and perhaps a few showery outbreaks.
Saturday: The driest and brightest day of the week but eventualy leading to increasing cloud and outbreaks of rain and freshening winds into Easter Sunday.
The Easter Holidays are upon us! There were times, I’m sure, that you felt this day would never come – after what seemed like an endless winter – and now that it’s here you can finally have that much needed break that you deserve! Though for those sitting at home waiting out the rain by catching up on TV in the hopes that the sun will shine once again; we implore you to resist the urge. With Spring in full swing there is ample opportunity to make the most of your break.
Believe it or not, Easter is about more than just gorging on chocolate eggs and rendering that “New Year Diet” obsolete! Here, at the bonnie West Coast, there is a whole range of activities and events to celebrate the season and so guests to the area will find themselves spoilt for choice.
Being largely unspoilt by modern metropolitan culture, the West Coast adorns several scenic nature walks with viewpoints looking out to the unbeatable landscapes that Scotland has become famous for.
The three-week Spring Festival, on the Isle of Colonsay, runs every year from the end of April and offers a variety of workshops, demonstrations and live music. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn new quirky skills, like Stone Carving, and revel in a more traditional culture.
Trips to the Isles
A trip to the Isle’s is always a nice day out: wither it’s just for a couple of hours to the Isle of Kerrera for a bite to eat at their popular Seafood restaurant; a few hours with a bike to the Isle of Lismore cycling it’s lengths down to the Lighthouse; or a day trip to Mull to stop by Tobermory, Duart Castle or hop over to some of the smaller Isles. For the Virtuoso’s amongst us, keep an ear out for the Mull Music Festival in Tobermory, at the end of April, celebrating the best of local music.
With the weather subsided to a reasonable mixture of sunshine, cloud and showers the locals are beginning to come out of hibernation and very soon the ever-popular farmer markets will once again become a frequent fixture in the area. This year our neighbours down at Kintaline Farm are hosting the “Lorn Community Producers Market – Spring Fayre” on 17th April which celebrates the local food and crafts, with community organisations and fun activities throughout.
Cadbury Easter Egg Trail
Well it just wouldn’t be Easter without an Easter egg hunt and this year Argyll council are hosting theirs in Arduaine Gardens, near Oban, between 18th - 21st April. A great day out for the whole family as you enjoy the stunning surroundings of the gardens on your hunt for the hidden chocolate treasure!
The West Coast of Scotland's unique location offers a breathtaking alternative to the larger cities and towns, allowing you to experience the true beauty of the Scottish Highlands and Islands.
With a variety of events being hosted by the community on a regular basis, there's always something different to do and see for everyone, adding to your holiday and creating a truly unbeatable experience
After our brief period of dry, near-warm weather the entirety of Scotland seems to be frequented by bothersome April Showers leaving us all pining for more sunshine.
Though the forecast does very little to lift our spirits, and things are looking to remain somewhat dull, the large collection of spring flowers shooting up around the Island have been enough to keep our sunny disposition.
Today: Sporadic heavy rain throughout the day with patches of dry and some sunny intervals in the early evening.
Monday: A dry start to the day with more heavy downpours in the afternoon and moderate winds.
Tuesday: Sunny intervals forecast for the duration, with brief light showers in the late morning. Though strong eastward winds persist.
Wednesday: Looks to be a dull and wet day, with heavy rain dominating for the entirety.
Thursday: More showers predicted with some sunny intervals in the afternoon
Friday: Things expected to remain overcast for a large part of the day, with heavy rain in the evening.
Saturday: The week due to end on a wet note with continuous rain forecast for most of the day.
Things are certainly looking dreich with large quantities of rain throughout the week, meaning we'll have to put our plans for barbecues and visits to the beach aside for the moment.
Though for those coming to visit the West Coast this week there is plenty still to enjoy in rain or shine. With Spring close to full bloom the selection of public gardens in Argyll and Bute are coming into their prime and would definately be worth a visit!
It’s come to that time of year when the weather is starting to pick up, the schools are finishing up for the summer and tourists are flooding into cities all around the world.
Short summer breaks are just what you need to escape the monotony of every-day life. For those planning on joining us at the West Coast this summer, here's some activities on and around Eriska to help plan the perfect getaway itinerary:
Thing to do on the Island
The main house is set in the centre of the island and is surrounded by an abundance of flora and wildlife wherein lies a selection of nature paths for our guests to explore. From all points of the island there are amazing views to be witnessed, and with each walk varying in length both casual walkers and experienced hikers have the chance to behold the wonders of the Island.
For those wishing to really take advantage of the Island experience, we offer a wide range of activities so that there’s always something for everyone: relax and regenerate at our stables spa, complete with swimming pool, sauna and hot tub for an escape of pure luxury; test your skill on our 9-hole golf course and driving range, or build up a sweat in our indoor sport facility with a spot of tennis, badminton, football and more.
Our 300 acre island is home to more than just the estate; many birds and animals reside in the depths of the vegetation that are unlikely to be spotted in a metropolitan setting. Many a guest have the enjoyment of waking up in the morning to the harmonies of several species of birds chirping in the distance and often spot deer, otters, badgers and seals while exploring the islands depths. For the keen birdwatchers, we have over 100 species of birds on and around the island including the rare white-tailed sea eagle which has been said to make an appearance by our golf course
For those looking for something a little unusual, we offer the fast-paced heart-pounding experience of clay pigeon shooting. Test your skill with a rifle as the clays are sent soaring through the air, along with our experienced instructor.
Activities and Places to Visit near Eriska
- Sea Life Centre
Located only a mile from Benderloch, you don't have to go too far to have a fun afternoon.The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary homes a variety of different and interesting fish and aquatic animals, offering frequent talks, feedings and displays each day to help you get better acquainted with your favourites
Our neighbours down at Tralee Bay offer a great variety of quirky activities to try. Explore their vast hilly terrain and fantastic open views as you guide your segway through some of Scotland's most scenic countryside or attempt to walk on water in one of the huge 2 meter water walkers. With activities for all ages, it truly is a great family day out!
Charter your own boat to take you around the Isles from Eriska's own Pier. Coastal Connection offer a selection of different Island tours ideal for couples and large groups, allowing you to witness the beauty of the west coast from a whole different perspective.
For those looking to go on a bit of an adventure, Stramash offer a plethora of outdoor activities for a wide range of skill sets. Archery, Coastering, Sailing and Kayaking are just a few of the things you can try in many of the local stunning settings around the Argyll area
Eriska offers the perfect getaway; it’s location in the West Coast of Scotland places it right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, offering beautiful picturesque scenery and tranquility and with the vast range of activities both on and around the Island our guests will never lack something to do.
Our popular three-night breaks offers the perfect amount of time to explore and indulge, with rates starting at just £585.00 per person. And with our pay before you stay option, you can save a further 10% on top of this.
It's been a great week for us, here at Eriska, with the sun making frequent appearences and reminding us all exactly what makes the West Coast so special. The unrivaled scenery of Scotland's Highlands and Islands really comes to life in the sunshine and has left many of our guests in awe.
With last week's weather proving to be better than expected, we're hoping for some more luck to extend our pre-summer excitment and to offer visitors to the West Highlands something to remember.
Today: Sunny intervals with clouds thickening in the afternoon
Monday: The day looks to be mostly cloudy with brief patches of sunshine in the afternoon and some light rain in the evening.
Tuesday: More cloud and rain showers in the afternoon
Wednesday: Projected to be a dry day, with things brightening up later in the afteernoon.
Thursday: More light cloud throughout with temperatures peeking at 16°C
Friday: Things look to be mostly unchanged, with more cloud throughout
Saturday: The weather appears to take a slight turn, with showers throughout the bulk of the afternoon.
Although the week doesn't look to be finishing on the best note, there is still plenty to remain hopeful for. With temperatures rising and local businesses re-opening their doors, the entire Argyll area has been given a new lease of life.
For those coming to us in the coming weeks, we'd definately recommend you pack a camera to capture some of the stunning landscapes and spring flora that the Island adorns.
Though it may be a bit premature to retire the raincoats just yet. We're sure there will be some April showers to come - so best to be prepared!
Eriska prides itself in the use of the very best local produce to provide our guests with fresh, high quality food and ensure the best dining experience possible. Ross works closely with neighbouring businesses, where possible, and has recently added the Oban Bay Brewery to his list of suppliers – ordering in some of their fine ales to use in our homemade Beer Bread (or so he tells managment!)
The use of the ales from Oban Bay Brewery was a natural choice for Ross who believes that it’s “important to use as local as possible”. With the Brewery located only 12 miles from the hotel it’s transport in better for the environment and boosts local economy.
We asked the team in the kitchen about the use of beer in the bread. They explained to us that beer can be used to enhance the flavour of bread, giving it a richer taste. The alcohol is burned off in the baking process and leaves behind the flavours of the malts, which can make such an enjoyable difference.
Here on the Island bread is used every night as an accompaniment with dinner. We believe good bread and butter is an essential part to a good dining experience and should stand out as a key feature to any meal. Ross has devised a recipe which involves adding beer to a sourdough starter as well as oats to add to both flavour and texture.
Oban Bay Brewery
Obay Bay Brewery branched from the Mull Brewery, based in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, in 2009. They are committed to designing the best quality and tasting ales using 100% natural ingredients.
The beer used in beer bread makes a difference to the flavour; light ales will yield a lighter flavour than the darker varieties. With this in mind, Ross has picked the Oban Bay’s “Skelpt Lug” which he believes will produce the tastiest bread for our guests.
Skelpt Lug is the darkest ale available from Oban Bay. It has a reddish-brown tone and complex taste stemming from the use of both coloured and wheat malts which produces a refreshing, fruity flavour with a ‘hoppy’ finish.
Our beer bread is just one of many things that Ross has introduced to the kitchen since he joined us in the summer. With his passion for food and creativite mind we don't doubt he'll be adding new recipes to his repetoire in the future. So next time you're with us why not give our beer bread a try and let us know what you think!!
Last week Eriska hosted it's annual Spring Wine Weekend with guest Wine Connoisseur Philippe Larue of L'art du Vin. The event showcased a selection of French wines by 'Second Generation Winemakers' hand-picked by Philippe, who worked closely with Ross in the kitchen to pair the wines with appropriate dishes.
Wine Choice - Why Second Generation Wine?
When asked about his choice of Second Generation Winemakers, Philippe explained to us that it may have been possible to accuse the French winemakers of the 70s and 80s of complacency; their wines were selling well around the world because of their reputation. With the advent of a number of excellent New World wine styles (such as the Cabernet Sauvignons of the Napa Valley in California, or Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand) there was the need to return focus to quality in order to compete internationally!
With this in mind, Philippe selected some wines where there has been a marked improvement or development of style with the introduction of a winemaker from the next generation who understands the pressure of international competition.
Thienot was set up 25 years ago and is run by the youngest MD in Champagne, Stanislas, the son of the original Founder. The company (who also own Canard Duchene) originally sold 70% of their wine in France and exported 30% to the UK, but under Stanislas have added a further 25 countries to their export market. The brand is recieving excellent reviews and are well on the way to competing with the more famous 'Grande Marques'. We used their wonderful Vintage Brut as an aperitif with canapes of our own Smoked Salmon, and Salt Cod with Chicken Skin.
Run by the Pabiot family, son Jerome started with only 3 hectares, which he recieved as a birthday present. His first step was to convert the vineyard to be totally organic and biodynamic, and over the subsequent years has continued to espouse this philosophy to much critical acclaim. We paired his top Cuvee with hand-dived Scallops and Pork Belly so that the fresh acidity could counter the richness of the Pork, and the herbaceous and mineral character pair beautifully with the lightly cooked Scallop.
For the fish course we prepared some fresh Halibut from Mallaig with braised Leeks and a Toast Puree. Philippe had selected a beautiful Puligny Montrachet from Jean Chartron so the hints of bread and brioche from its Oak-Ageing would reinforce the flavour of the Toast Puree, and its lean mineral acidity would keep the palate refreshed without overpowering the fresh fish. Now run by the youngest member of the Chartron Family, the estate is maintaining its reputation as being among the finest producers in the Puligny-Montrachet appellation. In fact it was the Great Grandfather of Jean Chartron who campaigned for the hugely reputable suffix 'Montrachet' to be added to the Village name of Puligny, which had the effect of doubling the sale prices of the wines from the area almost overnight!
The current managing director of Chateau le Grand Verdus, Thomas, took over from his father in 2008 after working as a wine consultant in France and Spain. With a degree in agricultural engineering and experience from apprenticeships in Malborough, New Zealand, he introduced a low yield philosophy focusing on the usage of carefully selected grapes and high quality oak for ageing to produce excellent modern Bordeaux. We paired the rich Grande Reserve Wine with Oven Roasted Beef Sirloin, which had been covered with Kohlrabi Ash before being roasted and carved into steaks. The smoky notes of the Bordeaux beautifully complemented the char on the outside of the meat, while the velvety texture and ripe plum flavours served to enhance the richness of the Onion Gravy and Kohlrabi accompaniments.
With 50% of vineyards in Alsace being owned by Cooperative producers, the wines outside of the top long-established producers can sometimes be a little disappointing. At Domaine Mann however, brothers Maurice and Jacky Barthelmé - sons-in-law to Albert Mann, are gaining quite a reputation. They were awarded winemakers of the year in 2012, and best Pinot Noir in Alsace 2013. We chose to serve their single vineyard Pinot with our cheese course of Isle of Mull cheddar on Sourdough with plum Ketchup. Here the intention was to have the acid profile of the wine counteracting the rich protein of the cheese, while the rich fruit and minimal tannin add another layer of complementary flavour.
The Sweet Wine to end the evening was also from Domaine Mann. We showed the Vendanges Tardives ('late harvest') Pinot Gris along with Slow-Grilled Pear and White Chocolate Curd. The Pinot Gris is a comparatively fresh and light style of sweet wine, and so the flavours are more in the spectrum of ripe pear and citrus purity than the rich and complex honey styles of Sauternes or Tokaji. The Pear dessert was a natural choice to accentuate this character, and the fact that Ross in the kitchen grilled the fruit slowly meant that the natural sugars caramelised and softened the flesh all the way through without introducing any 'burned' flavours.
Food and Wine Considerations
Matching wines to food can seem intimidating for those of little knowledge. When matching wines with food there can be said to be two very broad approaches-
The traditional approach to wine matching is picking wines and food from the same region. Matching food with wine from the same geographical location is a good fundamental rule because often the food and wines have evolved alongside one another and have a natural affinity. Goat's cheese from Chavignol in the Loire Valley with Loire Sauvignon Blancs such as Sancerre or Pouilly Fume is an excellent example of this, or fine Barolo with the truffle and oil-covered pasta of Piedmont in Northern Italy.
An alternative approach to wine matching is to look at the variety of factors that can affect flavour and trying to find qualities in both food and wine that might complement each other. Things to take into particular consideration would be the levels of acidity in the wine, intensity of flavour, fats and proteins and sauces and dressings, flavour profiles etc.
The fundamentals of this approach can be about reinforcing flavours - for example matching 'heavy' food with 'heavy' wines - or contrasting flavours - using acidic wines with cream or butter sauces to 'cut through' the richness and refresh the palate.
It is also definitely worth pointing out that there are no hard-and-fast rules to the practice of combining wine with food, and the whole thing should be a fun experiment. If you enjoy New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc alongside your Roast Sunday Dinner then you shouldn't let anyone tell you it's wrong!
Co-written with F&B Manager Glen Montgomery