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.
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.
Our West Coast Weather really offered Eriska's guests a beautiful and warm weekend! Surprising temperatures, sunny and bright evenings - what a way to end September when it started so cold and wet! The good weather looks to stay with us for tomorrow but is becoming slightly cloudy before we again get outbreaks of rain. Nevertheless we seem to have mild temperatures staying throughout the week.
This Evening: it is staying dry and fine this evening with some pleasant late sunshine. Tonight: continues o stay dry with long clear periods although some patchy hill fog forming. Breezy with quite strong easterly winds persisting across coasts and upland areas.
Monday: looks to become dry and bright with sunny intervals but cloud will tend to increase with the best of the sun over north Argyll. Brisk southeasterly wind, strong across many coasts and hills.
Tuesday: is projected to turn rather cloudy with some showery rain, mainly near the west coast.
Wednesday: looks to be cloudy and there will be some showers developing over the next few days.
Thursday: the rain looks to continue, but it looks to be staying mild and windy.
Friday: looks to be cloudy with a few showers but will have some sunny intervals. In the evening the showers will ease.
Saturday: the weather from Friday continues with some sunny spells during the day otherwise cloudy with small showers.
What do you have planned for October? Next week our October rates are running and we look forward to guests enjoying the log fire, reading books in our library bar and going for the afternoon stroll on the island before the evening is too dark and we welcome Bertie and the other badgers for milk and other goodies!
As we do have a considerable wealth in terms of nature and scenic landscapes we wanted to share some of our walking routes with you, perfect for the full day trip, the holiday challenge, and some of the smaller ones near and around our beautiful island!
For the leisurely strolls there are plentiful walks within a short distance of Eriska whether it be the circular walk round the Island of Kerrera or the energetic climb up Ben Cruachan, the office at the hotel can offer guidance, maps and even a Garmin Handheld GPS to insure you are fully equipped.
Ben Cruachan - 14km /8.5 miles - 7 hours - 9 hours
Ben Cruachan is one of the finest Munro's in the southern Highlands, its pointed peak towering above its rocky satellites giving great views. Ranging 1376m above sea level it is quite a challenge. The ridge walk to Stob Daimh makes a great circuit around the Cruachan reservoir. It consists of steep and rocky paths with a small section of easy scrambling. The descent is a grassy slope which can be boggy in the final sections.
The video above shows off some of the incredible views and the challenge of getting to the top and back down the Stob Daihm route.
Only a 30 Min drive from Isle of Eriska, following the A85. Should you wish to use public transport, Ben Cruachan is available by train and bus. Get the train from Connel Ferry to Falls of Cruachan Station (summer only) or the bus service to Ben Cruachan Power Station Visitor Centre.
What to bring...
This one of the more challenging hikes and would be in need of some planning depending on the season, navigation skills and much more! Some of the basics are as follows;
Food & Drink
The actual amount of energy needed depends on a number of factors: your body weight, age, gender plus the distance and total height gain of the walk. In hill walking, your muscles need both carbohydrate and fatty acids. If the available carbohydrate is reduced too much, then you will have to slow down. Good food also provides the motivation to complete - and enjoy - your expedition.
The most important requirement is water. When we exercise, our body temperature is controlled by the evaporation of sweat from the body surface. If your body is dehydrated, then heat can't be dissipated in this way. This can result in the rapid onset of heat exhaustion.
There is definately more planning in these long walk and some essentials are needed;
- Suitable clothing and footwear
- Suitable map, compass and a route plan
- Basic first aid kit
- A watch
Remember that the essentials may vary depending on season! There is much difference between getting heat struck and snow and ice!
Walking on Isle of Lismore (Achnacroish and Salen Circuit) - 9.5km / 5.75 miles - 2.5 hours - 3.5 hours
Lismore, long, narrow, low-lying and fertile, sits neatly in Loch Linnhe in the south-western end of the Great Glen. The island is tranquil and unspoiled, and surrounded on all sides by stunning mountain scenery, from Ben Nevis in the north (snow-covered in winter) and the Glencoe hills, round, in a clockwise direction, to Ben Cruachan, the hills of Mull to the south and Morvern to the west.
There is a network of little-used old footpaths which criss-cross the island and make possible a variety of different routes. All could be done in a day from the mainland.
This fine circuit starts at Achnacroish, the 'capital' of the beautiful island of Lismore and landing point for the Oban car ferry. It follows sections of both the southeast and northwest coastline of the island and offers wonderful views as well as a cafe at the half way point.
First section of path can be boggy but the rest of the walk follows tracks and minor roads. A short section of track at Salen can be impassable at very high tides. For detailed walk descriptions follow this link
Only a 20 minute drive from Isle of Eriska is Port Appin where the ferry takes you over to Lismore. Leave the car on the main land and the ferry takes you across for £1.60 per person every full hour and leaves back every half hour.
What to bring...
Good shoes although it may be mainly flat, good shoes are a walker's best friend! A small rucksack with an extra dry layer is always recommended. Halfway through the circuit you will reach the Lismore Heritage Centre and cafe where you can enjoy tea and cakes. If you are more of the packed lunch kind of person the hotel can provide packed lunches with fruit and sandwiches.
Beinn Lora - 5.5km / 3.4 Miles or 15.5KM / 9.6 Miles - 2.5 hours - 4.5 hours
Beinn Lora may only be 308 metres high but its position means that the magnificent views from its summit match those from many a Munro. The approach uses way marked forestry walks but the section before the final pull up to the top is a swamp. If you have four legged friends bring them with you, they are good help on the steepest parts and excellent walking company.
The walk can be started from the hotel or from the Beinn Lora car park in Beinn Lora which is part of Barcaldine. Benderloch is the nearest town or village. The car park is situated next to Ledaig Motors filling station or 'Pink Shop' in the centre of Benderloch on the A828 Oban to Fort William road and the sign for Beinn Lora is visible from the road. This is the start of two woodland walks with steep climbs but fantastic views over the Lynn of Lorne.
Only 4 miles from the hotel, following the A828, one can be at the foot of Beinn Lora within a swift 10 minutes by car or approximately 1 hour if one decides to walk from the hotel.
When starting from the car park one can start by walking left or right (both taking you up to the same point), the only difference is that the path to the right will be steeper t first before it becomes flatter midway, the path leading left will start off slightly easier but become steep at the top. Personally we believe the best views are from the path to the right! If you follow this link, it will take you through the walk step by step. On a sunny day you look straight onto Lismore in the background.
What to bring...
Good shoes, some areas of this walk is quite rocky and a solid thick sole in your shoes will help a lot. A small rucksack for a packed lunch is essential, and should you have a sweet tooth the 'pink shop' is conveniently placed at the bottom for those who like to bring that little extra treat. Your camera! This 'little' hill has some stunning views not to be missed! Also do you have four legged friends bring them too, they are great for pulling you up the hills!
Walking on Isle of Kerrera - 9.65km / 6 miles - 2.5 hours - 3.5 hours
Take a trip to Kerrera to hike around the circular 6 mile route cutting across to the other side of the island to enjoy views of Mull and Lismore. Kerrera is the island which is visible directly from Oban Bay. Kerrera is quite a large island and can be compared with Scarba, Seil and Luing, it is however scarcely populated and provides excellent shelter for the Oban harbour. The current population is around 35 people.
Starting from the ferry terminal, this route heads south along the east coast of the island. The bay on your left-hand side here is called Horseshoe Bay. It was here in 1249 that King Alexander II died while attempting to re-take western Scotland from the Norwegians.
On reaching the south of the island the route passes a tea shop, the only source of refreshments and public toilets on the walk, then leaves the main track to visit Gylen Castle and the southern shore of the island, with good views out to sea.
Gylen Castle (the name means 'Castle of Fountains') has a shorter history than most Scottish castles: built in 1582 by MacDougalls of Dunollie (just north of Oban), destroyed by the Covenanters under General Leslie in 1647 and restored in 2006, the work being financed by Historic Scotland and the worldwide MacDougall clan.
The return route, still with plenty of interest and good views, starts parallel to the western shore of the island, but a little higher on an old drovers' road, before cutting across the hilly interior of the island to return to the ferry terminal
It takes only 20 minutes by car from Eriska following the A828 to Oban. The Kerrera Ferry Time Table can be found here or you can get the small shuttle from Oban to Kerrera.
What to bring...
If you are out for the day, a packed lunch is good to have - if you let us know in advance we can provide some lovely packed lunches for the whole family. If you check in advance, Kerrera Tea Garden may be open and can offer traditional and home cooked foods, including their own baked bread and cakes - the perfect place for a treat after a walk.
Walking on Isle of Eriska - From 30 mins to 1.5 hours
Eriska itself is a 300 acre paradise. The Island sits at the mouth of Loch Creran, a Marine Site designated Special Area Conservation. Part of the charm of Eriska is the ability it offers to explore the estate and enjoy the island as if it were your own. From the formal ground to the western seaboard to the rugged hill side, the whole estate has a charm and is genuinely interesting and exciting to explore whether you are a nature and wildlife devotee or simply keen to walk and wander the many paths and trails in search of peace and tranquillity.
It is easy to do simply walk till you meet the sea, turn left or right and when you reach the bridge or the Pier simply head back to the main house. Alternatively pick up a map of the island and guide yourself around using the white posts which mark the trails and stop off at the information points to learn about the flora, fauna and wildlife as you explore Eriska.
A map of the island is available from reception but also through this link.
The Easy Walk
Mainly flat, and will not require much preparation. You can walk down to the pier, across the golf course, or past the driving range, walking towards the west side of the island. Terrain is mainly flat with accessible paths.
The Moderate Walk
The moderate option would take you down to the heronry, back up to the cairn and down the path above the hotel. In this loop the paths are easily recognisable with some hills and uneven surfaces as you go along.
The Scrambly Walk
Takes you along the shoreline on the west side of the island and down towards Mrs B's house. You can start by walking down to the pier and along the shoreline, or walk through the putting range and down the path following the white signs (this one is slightly easier to walk). Further down you will see Wache, he sits on the stone watching over the island and its guests. For this walk, keep an eye on the tides!
Hill Skills Summary
For the shorter walks on the island
Like most walks in the countryside always let people know where you go, dress for the weather and, bring a camera, borrow a pair of wellies from the main entrance if you were so unlucky to forget shoes or misinterpret the weather for your stay (nearly impossible if you follow our West Coast Weather blog each week). Is the weather warm, remember to bring a bottle of water with you! Follow these simple 'rules' and you will, without a doubt, enjoy your walk!
For the longer walks
Food & Drink
In hill walking, your muscles need both carbohydrate and fatty acids. If the available carbohydrate is reduced too much, then you will have to slow down. Good food also provides the motivation to complete - and enjoy - your expedition. If you in advance are planning to go for hill walks while you are here let us know and we can provide packed lunches with delicious sandwiches, fruit and a bottle of water. The most important requirement is water! When we exercise, our body temperature is controlled by the evaporation of sweat from the body surface.
Footwear & Clothing
Walking boots should be like a good friend - supportive without being irritating. Your shoes for the longer walk should therefore be;
- Water proof
- High enough to support your ankle.
- Padded - the insole and upper lining should give a firm but comfortable support to the whole foot.
Always bring the appropriate layers depending on season and destination! Having extra dry layers can make such a difference.
Some of the Essentials
- Suitable map, compass and a route plan
- Basic first aid kit
- A watch
- A torch
For more information on hill skills visit the British Mountaineering Council!
Todays fads are not always tomorrows trends...
In a world of ever changing needs and skills it is often worth occasionally taking a step back and seeing what really matters - not short term trends but long term values. Eriska is now entering its fifth decade under the guise of a hotel. It was established simply back in the early seventies to offer a warmth and hospitality to those who chose to stay with us and today this core remains at our heart.
However we have over the years strived to achieve this in many ways-
Some well planned and programmed others chanced upon and cobbled together but always we have tried to blend our three ingredients- the place the people who visit and finally the team we work with- to create the best final product. We spend hours looking at the guest profiles, we spend every penny we earn to improve the place investing and finally we value our team but in this pursuit of success we sometimes both lose touch with our core and miss out on the simple fixes and most important opportunities.
So when we do gain the chance to simply walk out our back door and look around, stop and enjoy the environment, pause and soak up where we live it is not surprising that it keeps bringing us back to the basics and even more importantly the simple things upon which Eriska was established. To some when we come across these Eureka moments it seems like an obvious "No Brainer" - to others it is to simple to matter - and to others it may seem like a pointless crusade and time wasting concept- to the final category I would suggest Eriska is not for you!
When Eriska first started it was not only a country house hotel but more a working farm and its largest producer of its own raw material - we had dairy herd that produced- milk, butter cheese and cream, hens for eggs and gardens for vegetables. A very large Deep Freeze to benefit the heavy summer harvests and hold for a longer winter , and also to take account of the lack of regular summer supplies. Today we have had to give up the farm but the garden still produces herbs and salads along with the orchard looking after apples and pears for a couple of months of the year.
We can access world markets and get regular deliveries but are we really catering for our customers bringing products and ingredients from across the world - are we selling ourselves best showcasing the world to the world or would we be better showcasing Eriska and Scotland to the world.
It seems a simple and logical step in our pursuit to be unique and individual that we take what we believe is best and showcase this, and even more logical would be that the best fresh produce would be that which has come out of the ground most recently and traveled fewest miles. So under the guidance of our New Head Chef Ross Stovold and his team we have set about changing our view from the kitchen. Luckily this is supported by a resurgence in foraging - although in our view forgaing is not only about trapsing round the island looking for produce but also about working with local businesses to help and encourge them to deliver products we want and where necessary it is up to us to support them as we persuade them to go do a different route to market.
So it is probably no surprise to hear that Eriska was yesterday Awarded its latest award by Visit Scotland of "Taste our Best". This is a new scheme both supported and backed by the Scottish Government which highlights properties which showcase more than 40% of their menu from the locality. Although apparently the locality to the customer ranges greatly but for ease in this excersise- and I am sure nothing to do with the push for independence- Local means Scottish.!
However the scheme does not stop a simply awarding a plaque but also offers feedback to business about where they could make a difference and has been linked to the Food and Drink suppliers with a website to help identify other potential producers which may currently be anonymous and unknown. We were delighted to not only be one of the first to be recognised but more imporantly that this recognition aligns so clearly with our principles. Hopefully the scheme will take off and be a great success and that will require the customers to grasp and support it too.
In the meantime it is out on the island between showers, to pick more Brambles and Chantarelle otherwise we will have some hungry guests tonight!
Earlier this summer we wrote about the Three Peaks Race - From Barmouth to Fort William via Isle of Eriska, and Mr Gayle and his crew had to seek shelter at Eriska at the end of June 2013 as a storm was building up and the race had to be aborted. Driac was left in Eriska's care until now. Mr Gayle has been so nice to write about Driac's beautiful journey back to its permanent home to Milford Haven:
As a Edinburgh resident, it is noticable that the Edinburgh festival is over, children are back at school, and in a few weeks time the autumn breeze will blow summer leaves.
On reflection 2013 proved to be a great summer to visit the west coast. We had an almost unprecedented long spell of sunny days and very little rain. My summer ended with a memorable sailing trip departing from Eriska.
It was starting to get dark and a greyish light began to bathe Lismore. We had finished our supper and the tide had begun to go south. Visitors to the Island earlier in the summer might have noticed Driac, a pre-War wooden yacht, on one of the hotel's moorings. I was tasked with skippering the delivery passage back to her permanent home in Milford Haven.
As we let go of the mooring a thought crossed my mind. There was a chance that I could become remembered as 'that fella who ran aground in that old wooden boat'. There are a line of rocks between the shore and Airds Point that are a submerged banana skin which I could easily slip on. I knew that there was plenty of water underneath the yacht's keel and I kept a nervous eye on the depth sounder. What could possibly go wrong?
We motored out past the familiar outline of Glas Eilean. I breathed a sigh of relief that we had not gone aground, and then in a few moments we got the sails up and we were on our way. My plan was to get as far south in one chunk as possible. We had plenty of fuel and were relatively well victualled. Mrs B had kindly slipped us a parcel containing some homemade provisions (a large shepherd's pie, a tarte, a fruit cake, and a marmalade sponge). Aunts are definitely the Patron Saints of nephews!
We gently passaged south, soon passing Oban and then Kerrera. Before too long we were down at Insh Island, and as we passed down the coast of Seil I went below to put the kettle on. Shortly after we could make out the profile of Easdale. I remembered having dinner at the hotel with dear old Mr B one December. The next day we took the wee ferry over to Easdale along with the islander's giant Christmas tree! I understand that Easdale was once owned by a former Chairman of the philately company Stanley Gibbons, and that they produced Easdale stamps.
The lighthouse on Fladda and its slightly lower yeoman on Dubh Sgeir, stood like dutiful sentries guarding the entry to the Sound of Luing. With the lights behind us we passaged down the eastern coastlines of Lunga and Scarba, with Luing on our port side. Two flashes from the light on Reisa an t-Struith suddenly popped out over the dark horizon with the crystal clarity of a pair of diamond earrings. When the north end of Jura was on our beam we had the first thirty odd miles in the bag. I decided that it was time for me to go below and get my head down.
We were able to undertake the complete passage in three large chunks. The first leg ended when we put in at Rathlin Island (just off the Northern Irish coast). After a night alongside we went a little way down the Irish coast before crossing over to Holyhead, where wesheltered from a southerly gale for twenty four hours. We then reached Milford Haven on the third and final push, having logged a total of 432 miles.
The autumn is a good time to start planning the next year's adventures and holidays. I hope to do a little more background reading, as what little I do always uncovers something interesting. For example I have only just discovered that Eriska is the Gaelic for water-nymph island. Here are some ideas for Eriska guests with yachting and outdoor tendencies.
The Firth of Lorn is often overlooked as a cruising ground. I highly recommend visiting the Cuan Sound. The Loch Melfort area is definitely worthy of a visit, and both Loch Spelve on Mull and Loch Aline on the Morven peninsula provide picturesque anchorages. I frequently fantasise about undertaking a malt whisky cruise. After sampling the many delights of Islay, and the distilleries on Jura and Mull, the hotel and spa would make an ideal location for a spot of pampering and recovery. Ben More and the Paps of Jura provide possibilities for combining yachting and hillwalking and can easily be visited within a loop that includes a visit to the hotel. The more spiritually minded might like a trip to Iona, or even the more local site of the monastery on Lismore that was established in 564AD.
Some years ago I was on a sailing trip in the US, up in New England. A friendly group of locals told me that their buddy was planning a transatlantic trip from Portland Maine to Portland in England. Another of their friends had sailed from Yarmouth Maine to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight. I knew that there are also towns called Belfast, Bangor and Portsmouth in Maine, but a quick look at my atlas revealed that there is also a coastal town called Port Clyde. They also have a North Berwick, but it is inland and therefore would be an impractical departure point. I wonder if a cacographic lager enthusiast might enjoy a passage starting in Tenants Harbour Maine, on a quest to get home for some Caledonian amber nectar?
These thoughts of transatlantic adventures aside, more realistically I fancy trying Eriskay to Eriska. I suspect that it would be about seventy miles, and in the prevailing south-westerly winds it would be ideal for an old boat like Driac that sails best with the wind on her beam.
My final idea for an adventure came to me during a vivid dream on that first night when I went below for a snooze. As I dozed I must have had a few things rumbling around my mind. The week before I had re-read Roger Oliver's book on his voyage around Britain and Eire. In the dream we had sailed around Britain, starting and ending at Eriska. We picked up the hotel's mooring and then rowed ashore. Beppo was on the beach with Dibley, his trusty labrador. As we stepped ashore Beppo said "good evening Gentlemen, I have had your dinner jackets cleaned". That would have been a most stylish end to a great voyage!
Happy adventuring in 2014, Vernon Gayle
Read more about the Three Peaks Race here
A rather wet morning at Isle of Eriska today! This week's West Coast Weather took us a bit by surprise with some really nice and sunny days - it was actually quite warm at the start, however as you can see above the autumn weather was just around the corner! But as they say, the glass is half full, not half empty - we are enjoying the beautiful autumn colours!
Today: a cloudy start with outbreaks of rain, these heavy and driven along on strong to gale force south-westerly winds. It may become brighter with frequent blustery showers later in the day. Winds will continue going west to north-westerly but staying strong to gale force. Tonight: showers will continue overnight and these most frequent over Argyll and Kintyre.
Monday: looks to become bright with blustery showers these mainly over Argyll where they will be wintry on the mountains. Staying windy with gales in the isles.
Tuesday: is projected to be a bright day with showers and continuing strong winds.
Wednesday: looks promising with more sunshine and just a few showers and much lighter winds.
Thursday: is projected to cloud over again, with patchy rain.
Friday: looks to offer heavy clouds, however it looks as if it may stay dry, which continues over night.
Saturday: is projected to stay cloudy, but with patches of rain and slightly warmer temperatures compared to the other days in the week.
Autumn colours and strong winds, leave the umbrella and pack your best water proofs to enjoy the island and the beautiful colours Eriska has to offer! Have you had a day of hiking there is no better way to relax than to spend it in our sauna or steam room at the Stables Spa. Sauna's and steam rooms are known for their relaxation, and research also tells us that sauna's can help muscle spasms, seasonal affective disorders, and high stress levels. Coming to Eriska soon? If you are going for treatments in the spa, our therapists recommend using the steam room and sauna beforehand to open up the pores and relax the muscles, an easy way of getting even more out of your pampering and relaxation.
During this week's West Coast Weather we have definitely had a mix between seasons. Beautiful colours, heavy rain, sunshine, and 'strong' winds. The picture above was taken driving towards Eriska on Friday evening. Beautiful colours of orange and pink towards north west and ice blue in the south. Next week's West Coast Weather looks to become quite similar with some days staying dry, sunshine at the start of the week and outbreaks of rain.
Today: a bright day with sunny spells but also some showers. The showers will be much more isolated and Eriska looks like it may stay clear. We have our fingers crossed. Tonight: some mist patches may form particularly around the lochs. Light winds and colder temperatures.
Monday: is projected to be a bright day with sunny spells developing despite a few showers continuing to affect the Ayrshire area at times with light winds.
Tuesday: looks to be mainly dry and bright with moderate northerly winds.
Wednesday: a bright start but clouding over with outbreaks of rain
Thursday: looks to become quite cloudy wet and windy.
Friday: looks to become mainly dry and cloudy with moderate temperatures.
Saturday: although the Friday looks to stay dry, Saturday is projected to become cloudy and wet, with lighter showers throughout and slightly increasing winds.
Another week with unpredictable weather ahead, but we keep smiling as long as we have a few rays of sun! Last Thursday was sunny and quite a comfortable day spent outside on the island. If you are arriving to Eriska this week, bring light waterproofs, a jacket would be sufficient, umbrella's and wellies are as always available at the entrance of the hotel in all shapes and sizes if you religiously keep to the morning, afternoon or evening walk.