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!
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!
Often you do not appreciate what you have until someone points it out!
Last week i received a wonderful surprise when a parcel arrived by courier. Nowadays with the wonderful royal mail we seem to have continual deliveries of boxes and parcels and since the birth of Amazon - it seems to give people of Eriska a lifeline to the real world- strange when Oban and the touch shops are only 12 miles away but I suppose this is a sign of the times and a perfect example of the computer age- its easier and probably more cost effective to sit on your couch at home and order items than to get ina car and travel and converse with a shop attendant just down the road.
Anyway the courier left and I was confronted by a carborrd box which intrigued me- what had someone seen as being so important to send a van from Glasgow to deliver. So I opened it with caution and was delighted to see a copy of a new hardback book entitled
As one would expect it had a wonderful paradise island on the front cover and an excellent foreword written by Farhad Vladi, in which he explains the mystery surrounding islands and the magnetic draw which has made him photograph and track private islands for the last 40 years- and indeed it is the same draw which made me keep turning the pages to see the next wonderful spot myself .
So it was probably no surprise that one hour later and 96 islands later I was still flicking through and ignoring my long list of jobs left for me. however the perseverance was worth it as I turned the page and came across a very familiar shot- one of Eriska! I had not anticipate this nor had I been aware, I had not thought of Eriska as one of the 101 Best Islands in the World but was clearly thrilled to be included.
In short we are an island, we are in a stunning part of the world and the location scenery and climate has its own charms and personality as individual and unique as Necker Island in the Caribbean or Heron Island in Australia. Sometimes we simply need to stop- look around- immerse ourselves in our environment and simply appreciate how lucky we are!
So it is great to be reminded by the book and I am sure it will become one of the most read books in the drawingroom and I wonder how many guests will get as far as page 184!
This week marks a stark change in the West Highalnd Seasons
Its often amazing how the climate seems to remain the same and then suddenly overnight we flip into a completely different season. So it has been this week as we started with a mild - if damp - Monday and this was soon followed by torrential rain- stories of 6 inches falling in 45 minutes do not seem implausible- and strong winds so that today when we awaken - the leaves are off the trees, the temperature is almost 10 degrees lower and the mountains of Kingairloch and Ben Cruachan have white snow caps adorning them- winter is truly here!
Strangley it seems later than usual and this woudl not be a surprise as the summer seemed to continue longer than normal and this has pushed autumn into November. The Deer Rut and stalking was certainly later and whilst I am hearing stories of a great month on the mountains with fantastic images of Rutting Stags it does play havoc with my plans for collecting leaves in October and we still have a lot of raking and burning to do now to get tideied up for Christmas
It is one of the stregnths of Scotland the ever changing weather and certainly one of te attractions compared with places that never seem to alter seasons- fortunately its one which we appreciate even if its also one we seem to continually complain about! So what is in store for this first week of winter!
Today: Bright with sunny spells and scattered showers today although be warned that the showers will be fierce!
Monday: Bright with sunny spells, but also scattered showers, mainly over higher ground at first, but developing further east during the afternoon, perhaps the odd heavy one later over Eriska. Fresh or strong west to northwesterly winds slowly easing.
Tuesday: Showers will become more isolated and confined to coastal areas , with long clear spells inland, leading to fairly widespread frost over rural parts as the winds fall light.
Wednesday: A few showers continuing , otherwise a dry and bright day with lengthy spells of sunshine for most parts. Light west to northwesterly winds.
Thursday: Rain clearing to showers then bright with sunny spells and showers in the evening.
Friday:After a dry night some heavy and prolonged periods of rain. Windy, risk of gales
Saturday:Rain will soon clear leaving clearer but showery weather for most of the weekend. It is likely to stay largely unsettled thereafter with showers or longer spells of rain, locally heavy.
Earlier this year we launched our 'name the otter contest' and last week we welcomed Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie to unveil the plaque underneath our friend on the rock. You may remember we set out to name the bronze otter sitting on the rock at Otter Point at Eriska, in conjunction with our 40th anniversary as a Hotel. You may remember we announced the winner, Jo Thompson? if not here's a quick recap!
The Bronze Sculpture
Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. This took several visits and much hard work from Kenneth and his son.
Dr. Jo Thompson & 'Name the Otter Contest'
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out to get our friend a name earlier in the summer. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher'.
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organisation overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution. Since 1995 Jo has been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species. Through her work she also met Victoria Miller from Oban, which is how Jo found out about our little contest!
As we mentioned above we received Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie last week to unveil the plaque we got made for Wache this summer. They have had Basenjis for years, and on the top picture you see them with their Basenji, Cassie - the whole reason Jo found out about our otter contest! Unfortunately Jo could not come with us to unveil the plaque being attached to the rock so they brought Cassie instead!
The First Meeting
Victoria met Jo through and online forum and a mutual friend. They met for the first time in person when Jo was speaking at the Hope4Apes conference in London 2010, hosted by Sir David Attenborough. Helena Lane (fellow breeder) and Victoria travelled to London to meet with Jo Thompson to discuss the possibility of importing one of Jo’s Lukuru Basenji puppies. The following year (September 2011), Cassie was imported into the UK - the first Congolese Native Basenji since the early foundation stock. Although born in the USA, Cassie was bred from pure Native stock brought back by Jo from a conservation area in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are no other dogs except the Native Basenjis. Cassie is the first truly African Basenji to arrive in the UK for 70 years!
"Cassie had 7 pups this summer, 31st July, which is why the visit has had to wait! Cassie and the pups are healthy and enjoy life off the west coast of Scotland", Victoria assures me. "Cassie's parents are on the other side of the planet, living the 'American Dream' with Jo". All this talk about Basenjis, you have to start wondering about the breed itself.
The size of a Fox Terrier, the Basenji has a wrinkled brow, prick ears, pliant skin, short tight curled tail, very short coat and wash themselves like a cat. They are a hunting dog capable of very high speeds who point and flush game, but their most unique features are they are barkless and carry no dog odours, a most useful asset when they are in pursuit of game who do not easily pick up their scent. Discovered in the African Congo with Pygmy hunters, early explorers called the dogs after the tribes that owned them or the area in which they were found, such as Zande dogs or Congo terriers. The native tribes used the dogs (which often wore large bells around their necks) as pack hunters, driving game into nets.
Early attempts to bring Basenjis to England in the late 1800s and early 1900s were unsuccessful because the dogs all succumbed to distemper. In the 1930s, a few dogs were successfully brought back to England and became the foundation (along with subsequent imports from the Congo and Sudan) of the breed outside of Africa. The name Basenji, or "bush thing," was chosen. The early imports attracted much attention, and soon after the Basenji was brought to America. The breed's popularity as both a pet and show dog grew modestly but steadily. In the 1950s, a surge of popularity occurred as a result of a book and movie featuring a Basenji!
All this talk about Basenjis, what is your relationship to the otter side of things?
"As you can see I took my otter t-shirt out for the occasion! No really, my relationship with otters is mainly through Jo, however living in the West Coast of Scotland, you can’t help but have an affinity with the local wildlife and otters are a truly special creature.”
We can't say anything else than that we agree with you! At Eriska the is an abundance of wildlife, such as red deer, badgers, birds and otters (!) in such tranquille surroundings - what is there not to love!
We want to thank you both for coming to see the plaque unveiled and of course for bringing Cassie along!
If you are looking to cure the 'winter' blues why not check out our 3 night rates this month, visit Wache, have some heavenly delicious food in our restaurant and a soak in the Jacuzzi in the Stables Spa.
Last week we were pleasantly surprised with dry and sunny, yet cold weather on the west coast. The weather gave us with the camera at hand many opportunities to catch the 'unreliable' weather and the many unique forms and shapes it creates - to be fair my camera could not do the view above any justice!
This week's West Coast Weather looks to continue the nice and dry days, with sunny spells and a continuing 'cold' breeze before a mildy wet weekend takes form on Friday.
Today: it is dry with sunny spells today, however it may become slightly cloudier during the afternoon with brisk north easterly winds developing. Tonight looks to be mainly cloudy but the cloud will thin at times to give a few clear interludes, otherwise a chilly evening.
Monday: looks to be mostly dry but rather cloudy with chance of sunshine across Argyll and the Isles.
Tuesday: is projected to be dry with sunny intervals.
Wednesday: looks to be dry at first but may becoming wet and windy later in the evening
Thursday: is projected to become drier again and slightly brighter
Friday: with easterly winds Friday looks to set the scene for the weekend with patches of rain and cloudy intervals.
Saturday: looks to continue Friday's patches of clouds and rain, yet with sunny spells throughout the day.
A sunny start coming to work this morning. Although a bit chilly, nothing beats walking out in the cold sunshine with the right clothes! Bring your autumn jacket, your base layer and a little scarf to Eriska and you are sorted for walking across the island taking pictures of the beautiful and scenic landscape the west coast of Scotland has to offer! Click the button below for more walks!
Join us in the 'celebration' of Scotland’s traditional national dish! Today on the 10th October it is the World Porridge Day! We spoke to Ross in the kitchen about his relationship to the simple and nutritious cereal and the will look at the use of oats in the Scottish diet!
The History of Porridge Oats
The humble oat has been a staple of the Scottish diet since medieval times. It is used to make porridge, of course, as well as such other traditional favourites as oatcakes, bannocks, skirlie, haggis, mealy pudding and for frying fish. Every croft once had its own girnel, an oatmeal barrel, as well as a porridge drawer.
A batch of porridge would be made at the beginning of the week and kept cold in the drawer so that members of the family could slice off chunks as they were needed, perhaps for a snack while working out on the fields.
Oats were always popular in Scotland as they are a hardy cereal, able to grow in harsh climates and poor soil. Scotch oats, also referred to as 'pinhead', are chopped rather than rolled into smaller pieces and therefore tend to be chewier and take longer to cook. The finer the oatmeal, the quicker it takes to prepare and the smoother the consistency.
In its simplest form, oats were eaten as brose with hot water, but porridge is more popular, though how it is made differs from household to household. The traditional Scots way is to soak the oats overnight, then boil them in the morning, stirring the mixture as it thickens with a wooden spirtle to avoid lumps!
Porridge purists may reject adding any modern-day luxuries such as 'heaven forbid, sugar, milk, syrup or cream ' instead sticking to the time-honoured tradition of oats, water and salt (which was also Ross' first introduction to the cereal - see below). Yet if you don't have the time or patience to stand lovingly over the hot stove while the porridge comes to the boil, then making it in the microwave offers an easier and much quicker alternative today. You simply just have to find your favourite amongst the many ways of cooking and types of combinations, whether they are sweet or savoury! Even just as a cereal added to your yoghurt or smoothie makes your meal all that much more filling!
A bowl of hot porridge served on frosty mornings with a little milk is by all accounts extremely good for you. Oats contain more fibre than many other cereal grains and they are a good source of essential fatty acids and vitamins. Furthermore, it staves off hunger for longer as the carbohydrates in oats are absorbed by the body slowly. According to the NHS, findings support existing evidence that whole grains in the diet are important for cardiovascular health. They are recommended as part of a healthy, balanced diet and, along with recommended levels of physical activity, may help to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Ross' first introduction to porridge & his use of the hardy cereal
"My earliest memory of porridge is of my granddads serving us it cooked in water with a healthy pinch of salt! It wasn't pleasant, but the trick was to eat it as quickly as possible to avoid it setting in the bowl, which made it very child unfriendly!
I have grown to really appreciate oats and their many uses, my preferred method for porridge is to soak the oats in milk overnight (about 3 x milk to oats), then cook the porridge with this milk in the morning. Cook it slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally - this will yield a creamy finish to your breakfast.
It lends itself to savoury dishes as well! Try braising some oxtail and adding some of the stock after the meats cooked to some toasted oats - you won't need much stock. Stir in some diced butter from the fridge, some chopped chives and cooked chopped smoked bacon. Serve it underneath the oxtail for a change to mashed potato. You'll be surprised how good it is!"
Do you have any recipes for porridge you want to share? Why not put your favourite combination in a comment below? Or even better, if you are coming to stay with us in November, try out our own Eriska porridge! There is definitely something about spending a cold autumn morning in the luxurious country house style hotel with a bowl of porridge surrounded by the crisp colourful autumn forest, relaxing views over the gardens or by the roaring log fire...
Last week's West Coast Weather was surprisingly sunny and offered many of us an opportunity to spend our afternoons and early evenings outside without a worry. Other evenings again almost looked a bit threatening - like the picture above - but nothing! It was staying humid and mild throughout the week before the colder wind caught up with us at Eriska at the beginning of the weekend! The coming week looks much the same with some patches of rain, cloudy and a few rays of sun with milder temperatures.
Today: it is quite cloudy at first with a little rain, but it looks to be dying out, becoming brighter later this morning with some sunshine this afternoon, best across Lanarkshire. Breezy with fresh south-westerly winds. Tonight: Most places will be dry at first. Patchy light rain will edge in from northwest to most places later tonight, but becomes heavy over north Argyll. Otherwise mild and breezy.
Monday: looks to be cloudy with further outbreaks of rain, heavy at times up towards Oban and Mull. Rain will be patchy elsewhere with drier, interludes, especially across Ayrshire and Lanarkshire. Fresh south-westerly winds.
Tuesday: is projected to be mainly dry and bright
Wednesday: looks to be turning colder with sunny spells and blustery showers. Strong north-westerly winds.
Thursday: looks to be mainly dry with sunny spells and winds becoming lighter, but clouding over in the evening.
Friday: Thursday's weather seems to linger leaving another mainly dry day with a few rays of sun otherwise cloudy.
Saturday: continues to stay dry, cloudy otherwise it looks to be a bit colder than earlier in the week.