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!
Recently mushrooms have been popping up everywhere at Isle of Eriska! Although the pictures are not of edible mushrooms, I thought I would share them with you as well as giving you some fun facts and guidelines!
Fungi or mushrooms have been around for millions of years and are not plants or animals so have a kingdom of their own! Fungi come in all shapes, sizes and colours (and smells!) and can be found all over the world throughout the year living on wood, roots, soil, leaves and many more places. Scotland's woodland, grassland, mountains and coasts provide special habitats for over 12,000 species. Scotland is internationally important for the brightly coloured waxcap species which live on undisturbed grassland. Scottish woodland provide homes for fungi protected by UK biodiversity action plans, including the Hazel Glove Fungus and a group of tooth fungi, while some species of puffball have only been recorded in Scotland. More information on Scottish Fungi can be found here
As well as collecting fungi to eat, many species can only be named by detailed inspection, supplemented by microscopic examination. Collecting is thus essential for identification. The first step is to determine the spore colour by placing the mushroom on paper or glass and waiting a few hours. Beautiful shapes are formed as the ‘rain’ of spores reflects the patterns of the gills or pores. As the spores accumulate, their colour can be seen.
Most naturalists begin foraying with the main flush of fruit bodies in August and carry on until mid-October. Several fungi continue to fruit into November or even December, unaffected by frost, and possibly have a second fruiting. Fungi growing on wood may be at their best in winter, even when there have been flurries of snow. Many fungi start fruiting before August, e.g. May for chanterelles in the Borders. Other species are found only in the spring, e.g. lorel. If one really wishes to get to know more fungi, collecting all year round is necessary. The Scottish Wild Mushroom Code can be found here.
Ten things you didn't know about mushrooms
- The ancient Egyptians saw mushrooms as a plant of immortality and a food that was only fit for Royalty
- Roman soldiers ate them before going into battle because they believed mushrooms would increase their strength
- A portabella mushroom usually contains more potassium than a banana
- The ancient Greeks believed that mushrooms had magical healing powers
- Mushrooms are 90% water
- They were first cultivated commercially in France in the late 19th century
- Some scientists believe that mushrooms spores, which are made of chitin, the hardest naturally-made substance on Earth, could be capable of space travel
- The largest living organism found was a honey mushroom, which covered 3.4 square miles of land in the Blue Mountains in eastern Oregon
- People in mid 15th century Europe believed mushrooms were grown by evil spirits
- The fairy rings at Stonehenge are some of the world’s oldest living mushroom colonies and can be seen from the air.
Mushrooms on the menu - Choosing the right wine
Mushrooms don't have a singular flavour profile. They range from the mildest of button mushrooms to flavoursome porcini. Each which suggests a different wine pairing, from lighter-bodied and more delicate for the former to fuller-bodied and more powerful for the latter. The following might help you make the right choice when dining;
Earthy mushrooms, such as black trumpets, chanterelles and shiitakes go best with earthy reds such as Burgundy, nebbiolo and pinot noir.
Meaty mushrooms, such as morels, cremini, porchini and portobello's go better with meaty wines such as pinot noir (sometimes), syrah/shiraz and sagniovese.
We asked our somelier to recommend some of our wines to go with mushrooms. We chose to give you a value for money option and 'the special treat' option, and we came up with the following;
For the light and more delicate flavours, a Burgundy, a more matuderd and aged wine;
1. ALOXE-CORTON “LES CHAILLOTS”1er CRU Domaine Louis Latour 2005 (£50.00)
2. CHÂTEAU CORTON GRANCEY Domaine Louis Latour 2002 (£90.00)
For the more meaty mushrooms, a Barolo, the older the better;
1. BAROLO PIEMONTE Massolino, Piemonte 2008 (£120.00)
2. BARBARESCO Gaja Piemonte 2007 (£140.00)
Barolo is one of the most complex, aromatic and delicious red wines in the world, and they are something different, you would be treating yourself buying both these bottles!
Somelier's dream wine;
CHAPELLE CHAMBERTIN GRAND CRU Domaine Trapet 2000 - a wine to come in very small batches, in other words not the everyday wine, and a bottle to be enjoyed!
P.S. when you encounter milder mushrooms in butter or cream sauces, a full-bodied white can be the way to go!
Eriska's entire wine list offers outstanding value for money to diners, particularly when you compare our wine pricing with other top restaurants. Our comprehensive wine list runs to 40 pages and provides extensive options both geographically and in terms of price. You can click on the button below check availability in the restaurant or on the Eriska Wine Weekend to experience a matched wine and dine event with our Head Chef Ross Stovold and Master of Wine, Mark O'Bryen in November!
Did you know that Otters watches the health of our aquatic resources?
Where otters thrive, the water resources are healthy for human. Otters are the apex indicator species of the water habitat and our water resources, and can be seen as critical indicators of our human condition.
As you may know, over the years history and memorable dates have been marked by the addition of items to Eriska. The year the house was built, 1884, an oak tree was planted by the south east corner of the house and indeed it remains strong and vibrant today- indeed it sports a delightful swing seat. In 1984 to make the house one hundredth birthday another oak was planted on the south west corner by the croquet lawn and despite a few years with little growth it is now well established and beginning to dominate that area.
So to mark and celebrate our 40th Anniversary this year we decided to mark it by adding a permanent new "Guardian of Eriska" in the shape of a 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. Several visits later and much hard work from Keneth and his son. Wache now sits at Otter Point cast in wonderful bronze.
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out get our friend a name. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced last Sunday; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher' - a name that ideally suits him as he sits on the rocky surface on the west side of the Island watching the loch.
We therefore thought we would introduce you to our winner and asked how she came about the name Wache. And indeed did we end up with a worthy winner!
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organization 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 and has since 1995 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.
How did you come up with the name Wache?
"My very dear friends, Victoria & Douglas Miller live near Oban. They know of my love for otters and tell me from time to time of seeing otters around that region. In fact, they mentioned to me about the bronze statue even before the competition was announced. When you posted the competition on your Facebook wall, Vicki wrote and asked me what name I would suggest. I told her 'Wache' because it means "Eternal watcher" in the old Scottish tongue."
Wache will hold three roles as Eriska's guardian:
To guard the entrance to Loch Creran.
To encourage otters to the shores.
To offer a sighting spot for visitors that come to Eriska.
If you are coming to visit us soon or in the future, take a walk to Otter Point and say hello to Wache. He sits on a truly beautiful spot on the island which is perfect for sunsets and taking pictures. Maybe he will bring some of his friends to our shores? If you're lucky you might spot them, it's just another great reason to bring your camera to Eriska.
Wache will have his name engraved on a plaque together with Dr. Jo's and when finished it will be displayed for everyone to see. We will make sure to keep you all updated on our progress. And again, congratulations to you Jo!