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.
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.
Throwing out items can bring back memories!
Finally after a couple of weeks of staring at a pile of a box of papers in our office I decided to do the task I have been putting off. many years ago- before we arrived the office at Eriska the area to the left of the front door - like many houses - was the washroom- it is now- refurbished and holds the offices and reception of the house. Above our office is an old store where there used to be a water tank, it has been disused for many years and is now a store for old paperwork and documents of importance to the Inland Revenue but , I thought, of little interest to anyone else. Anyway as it is in part of the old house it is an a fairly high ceilinged room but as it used to be the old water closet for the house it is also quite constrained so requires time and patience in getting a ladder in position and help in transporting any materials in either direction.
Anyway yesterday seemed to be quiet and there was a lull in activity - that combined with a great deal of furniture movement due to one of the rooms in the main house being refurbished that I decided to utilise the added hands and move the document pile into its new home and at the same time clear out some of the older material from above the office.
All a really simple task if only it was that simple!
Whilst the store is dry and warm it is also dusty and cramp so once I had squeezed into the space movement remained constricted and I had to double move some of the boxes just to create enough room operate. Then I realized that moving the boxes out of the space may or already had become even more of a challenge than initially thought so we set up a stream to pass simply the paper work down and then replace it with the new documents leaving the original boxes in place. After a strenuous 30 minutes all seemed to be complete until I came across a treasure trove of a box near the bottom.
My eye was first caught by a wages book dating back to 1980 and a quick flick though showed some names I recognized and clearly some I had no recollection of - however interestingly 34 years has seen the top hotel salary increase by 10 times and the bottom salary increase only by 7 times- maybe a sign of the times. I then came across some menus from back in the seventies and whilst some of the dishes are similar there is certainly a few dated elements- fruit cup and mushroom paste are probably not dishes we would serve today but it certainly raised a wry smile from Ross when he was chatting with my Mum about the old times- still porridge and Oatcakes remain timeless!
Then I came across the quote for the tennis court - £5000 in 1980 seemed a bargain but more impressively was all the documentation regarding planning permission to erect a 2.2m fence around the court to form a ball enclosure- one my father was arguing was a deer fence despite it having a 5m gap in one side to let spectators watch the game! A battle he won although the tome of paperwork and letters may not have seemed worthwhile to most it must have been a moral victory to my father.
Even his drawing of the fence in triplicate to scale - using copier carbon paper -was slightly ironic and appeared to have caused the planners final straw to let them accept his plans. In reality achieving planning permission for a 12m high shed to cover the court two years ago seems to have been easier than his initial battle.
Finally we have come across all the quotations for the work on converting Eriska back in 1973. In reality these documents will have little interest to others but have a small place in our heart and I will now have to reduce down the box for common sense but will keep the heart just in case. 40 years of memories will fill more than a box but maybe all that was discovered and unearthed yesterday will be the catalyst for more! We are still appealing for any memories or images of guests stays at Eriska over the last 4 decades and would welcome any more.
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
I am sure many of you will sing this song in your head - Yes - Abba 1980
Why do we celebrate New Year? What is so important with this temporal boundary? We had a look through some old (yes that old) pictures from our long tradition of festive celebrations here at Eriska this week and thought we would look a bit closer at the world wide celebration of New Year as it is a part of our loved festive season on the island!
As we all know the celebration is quite different depending on where you are in the world just before midnight on the 31st December and you may have experienced very different celebrations in today's well travelled world. As much as 24% of the adult population in the UK plan to make the most of their Christmas and New Year periods by traveling elsewhere in the UK during the festive season! Nevertheless, for most people it has been and still is a time celebrated with family and friends - famously expressed through song by Abba and even more famously captured by Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne.
An Ancient Holiday & A Change in Calendar
People have long celebrated New Year’s Day, New Year’s is in fact one of the oldest holidays still celebrated, but the exact date and nature of the festivities has changed over time. It originated thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon, celebrated as an eleven day festival on the first day of spring. Though its location on the calendar has moved around quite a bit throughout Western history. The Julian calendar considered 1st January the first day of the new year, but in Medieval Europe, dates with more religious significance (like Dec. 25, Mar. 25—the traditional date of the Annunciation—and Easter) were marked as New Year’s Day, until Europe gradually made the switch to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Historically, people have always celebrated the arrival of the new year, though depending on their community’s conception of when days begin, they might begin the celebration at sundown or at sunrise instead of at midnight. In the 18th and 19thcenturies, Western Europeans and Americans began marking the midnight between Dec. 31 and 1st January by drinking, ringing bells, or shooting off canons or fireworks—but each community kept its own time, so one town’s midnight might not align with the neighboring town’s midnight. When standard time was adopted at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, midnight became the official dividing line between days worldwide.
Bygones and Nostalgia in Scotland
Many customs and traditions (some more common than others), were found online and we thought we would share some of the Scottish ways with you.
The idea of celebrating New Year today is mainly to stay up to see the old year out with a party and welcome the New Year in. Now customs and traditions may be very different even from one town to another. Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner and is historically known to last for days - In other words no-one celebrates the eve quite like the Scots. Nobody knows for sure where the word 'Hogmanay' came from, but it may have originated from Gaelic or from Norman-French.
Many believe that as Christmas was virtually banned and not celebrated in Scotland for over 400 years from the end of the 17th century until the 1950’s, New Years Eve was therefore a good excuse for some revelry and the excuse to drink whisky and eat good food as everyone were working through the Christmas period.
Auld Lang Syne
Another great tradition is the singing of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne (times gone by), a song about love and friendship in the times gone by, sharing a drink to sympbolise friendship.
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight, not just in Scotland but in many English-speaking countries.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as one of the most frequently sung songs in English. The song is sung or played in many movies, from ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ to ‘When Harry Met Sally.’
To sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ a circle is created and hands are joined with the person on each side of you. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands.
The First Footing
First Footing is from the olden days where one was supposed to bring good luck to people for the coming year. As soon as the 1st of January arrived, people used to wait behind their doors for a dark haired person to arrive. This visitor would carry a piece of coal, a piece of bread, money and greenery. These items were all for good luck - coal for the house to stay warm, bread for everyone in the house to have enough food, money, well so that they would have enough money, and greenery to ensure a healthy long life.
The ‘first foot’ in the house after midnight is still very common is Scotland. To ensure good luck, a first footer should be a dark-haired male. Fair-haired first footers were not particularly welcome after the Viking invasions of ancient times. Much like before, traditional gifts include a lump of coal to lovingly place on the host’s fire, along with shortbread, a black bun and whisky to toast to a Happy New Year. To first foot a household empty-handed is considered grossly discourteous, never mind unlucky!
These traditions and customs are all told in slightly different ways by people and a range of versions are found on the internet. The main lesson during these celebrations is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Good New Year! The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note! We are sure you knew a lot of these fun 'facts' but 'how Scottish' are you?
At Eriska we have an extensive programme for our New Year Package. Every year we offer a 5 night New Year Package, celebrating together with family and friends, in the good old country house style.
Last weekend was something special at Isle of Eriska! We welcomed 45 MacLean's from America for a family reunion to have exclusive use of the island with a wide range of activities for every interest. Mr. MacLean came to Scotland 40 years ago for his first family reunion to return with the family this year - which some of you might already know is also Eriska's 40th anniversary as a hotel!
With a fully packed schedule for the weekend we had activities for both children and adults. Thursday was especially dedicated to the children, while on Friday we set out to visit some of the places that the MacLean's ancestors originally came from. On Saturday the afternoon was spent on the golf course, in the Spa and in Oban, before the family gala dinner, live music and fireworks completed a great family reunion.
Eriska Highland Games & Brave
I am sure many have seen the Pixar/Disney film Brave of princess Merida, a very determined young girl that sets out to find her own path in life, defies the Scottish customs and thereby leave her father's kingdom in chaos set in a fantasy version of medieval Scotland.
On Thursday we had some great people from Stramash to lead the highland activities for both children and adults. Activities included archery, tossing the caber, tug of war, orienteering or 'the bear hunt', crossing the bog and haggis hurling to the sound of Scottish bagpipes at the front lawn!
For the afternoon the MacLeans were divided into four teams facing various challenges together while competing for parts of the lost map to locate princess Merida's crown. In the race to find the crown only one team could win! The winning team was lead by a kilted piper when finally crowning the princess.
Although everyone passed the challeneges laid out - we were no match to the Scottish midges! A 'de-bugging' session saved the day and the activities could continue as soon as everyone had had their turn.
A day on Mull
On Friday morning we got onto the bus and left for the ferry to Mull to visit Duart Castle and Tobermory. The weather was not in our favour to begin with but it slowly dried up and the sun was out when arriving back to Eriska! Both adults and children were excited to see Duart Castle, ready and dressed in the MacLean kilts we were toured around the castle by the present chief Sir Lachlan Maclean.
The Story of the Macleans & Duart Castle on Mull
Sitting on one of the most spectacular and unique sites on the West Coast of Scotland, the position of Duart Castle was well chosen(where the panoramic picture at the top is from).The castle stands on a crag at the end of the peninsular jutting out into the Sound of Mull at the intersection of the sound of Mull.
Duart Castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean. Members of the Clan are now spread throughout the world and many return to visit the homes of their ancestors and family.
The Clan lands were, and are still on the West Coast of Scotland and the islands of Mull, Coll, Tiree and Jura. The Chieftains of the Clan Maclean had and still have lands on Morvern, Ardgour, Drimnin and at Dochgarroch on the mainland as well as on the islands.
The first recorded mention of the Macleans of Duart is in a papal dispensation of 1367 which allowed their Chief Lachlan Lubanach Maclean to marry the daughter of the Lord of the Isles, Mary Macdonald.
The castle has a rich history, and was not always in the Maclean's possession. Sir Lachlan 16th Chief lost the Maclean's land to the Duke of Argyll due to other commitments. The Castle, although in a fairly ruinous condition was then used as a garrison for Government troops until 1751. Left in ruins, it was abandoned until 1910 when it was purchased and restored by Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Chief.
After lunch on Duart Castle, we toured to Tobermory a fishing port built in the late 18th century. Tobermory is now the main town on the Isle of Mull and is the main departure point for whale and dolphin watching boat tours.
When we arrived in Tobermory, some visited Tobermory Distillery - which was unfortunately fully booked - however it became some of the MacLean's first meeting with the Scottish tablet (in this case infused with Scottish whisky), which was shared and enjoyed on the spot before deciding on the need to bring more tablet back to the States!
Since we were a bit unfortunate with the weather, the small cafe's along the docks offered great comforts such as homemade ice cream, caramel squares, pies and sandwiches - And of course fish and chips, which was enjoyed by the docks under a great number of umbrella's and curious seagulls. It is safe to say the experience was a success.
Gala Dinner, Live Music and Scottish Sword Dancing
On Saturday morning the MacLean family had a range of activities and excursions to choose amongst. Some went hiking on Kerrera, some went golfing at our 9 hole golf course, some booked in to the spa for the afternoon and some went to Oban to taste the famous 14 year old cask strenght whisky at Oban Distillery, before finishing off the afternoon at the Oban Chocolate Company, to the great enjoyment of both children and adults.
The gala dinner was planned with precision. Scottish sword dancers performed as the family was piped into dinner. A seven course meal cooked to perfection using the best local produce, accompanied by some of our best wines and of course Scotland's national drink. After the gala dinner, Whistlebinkies held a live performance in the drawing room. Whistlebinkies also played for the MacLean's 40 years ago when they were last in Scotland, which made it extra special.
The night was finished with a spectacular firework display and was a great family reunion worthy!
Exclusive use at Eriska means that guests can have the whole island themselves. We can help with the planning of any excursions throughout your stay, weddings, meals and dinners made from the best quality local produce and make your celebration unforgettable.
Our West Coast Weather took a different turn at the end of the week as you can see above! Spectacular colours always offered on the West Coast, but at night. The weather this week was unfortunately a bit cold and wet at Eriska, but it did not prevent the success of celebrations and anniversaries over the weekend!
Next week will be mainly cloudy, with patchy rain. The days will gradually become brighter but will continue to be breezy.
Today: our day has started off with some patchy drizzle, which is projected to become more persistent, however then turning drier and brighter in the afternoon with the breeze. Tonight looks to stay brighter with sunny intervalsbut with a few showers. Overnight scattered showers will continue throughout.
Monday: looks to be a bright day with a mixture of sunshine and scattered showers. Moderate to fresh westerly breeze and ok temperatures.
Tuesday: is projected to be wet and windy, with the weather spreading in over Argyll.
Wednesday: looks to become drier and brighter than the Tuesday.
Thursday: will experience more rain early on but looks to be clearing to sunshine and showers.
Friday: looks to be slightly warmer despite being quite cloudy.
Saturday: will stay the same as Friday with a slight rise in temperatures.
Bring your raincoat this week but don't forget, you can still go for a swim in our indoor pool as well as enjoying your favourite sports in the indoor sports hall!
In our next post I will tell you all about last week and this weekend's wonderful fireworks at Isle of Eriska at the top of the page!
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.