As the Glorious 12th kicked off this month, what better reason to talk about the Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scotica)? A little about hunting Grouse, where you would go in Scotland to find the famour moorland and a mouthwatering recipe from our Head Chef Ross!
The Glorious 12th marks the start of the shooting season for Red Grouse in the UK and many hunters head out for the busiest day of the hunting season! Although it is called the glorious 12th the season doesn't always start on the 12th August! UK law dictates that the start of the season cannot occur on a Sunday, and in that case the start of the season is delayed until the 13th.
Grouse shooting is renowned for being one of the most challenging sports especially when compared to the slower, purpose-reared pheasants. A season last from 12th August to 30th November. Grouse fly fast and low, at speeds of up to 80mph, changing direction at the very last moment. There are two ways of hunting grouse;
1. Driven Grouse
This is more formal with up to 10 guns shooting from butts and hoping for a 50-60 brace day (a brace is 2 birds) in some of the most spectacular scenery. Usually very little walking is required.
2. Walked up Grouse
Hoping for a bag of 10 – 15 brace, 4 to 8 guns walk in line and flush the birds themselves as they walk along. Gun dogs will also work the line fairly close to the guns flushing out any birds sitting very tight. Travelling light is key on a walked up day!
The Red Grouse
The red grouse is a medium-sized game bird. It has a plump body, a short tail and a lightly hook-tipped bill. It is reddish-brown, with its legs and feet covered in pale feathers. They live as part of a flock on the ground and eats fruit. Birds breed in the UK in the uplands of the north and west and are resident all year round, travelling very little in their lives. The population is declining, perhaps linked to diseases and the loss of heather moorland.
The Red Grouse Season is a heavily discussed topic, as the red grouse population is declining, however many argue that without the money spent on the hunting activities the moorland, the habitat would struggle as well. Teams of grouse shooters spend on average of £10,000 to £15,000 for a day’s driven grouse shooting on Scotland’s estates.
Moorland nowadays generally means uncultivated hill land. Rannoch Moor is Scotland's boggy moorland to the west of Loch Rannoch, lying at an average height of 1000 feet / 305 metres above sea level, the moor has many lochans, peat bogs, streams and rocky outcrops. Despite a distinctly damp and peaty appearance, the floor of the moor is made of granite with a upper peat layer reaching depths of up to 20 feet in some places, it is is one of the last remaining wildernesses in Europe.
Rannoch Moor Hill Walks & Cycling
The best way to get a feel for this unique area is to take a train journey on the famous West Highland Railway as the railway line crosses the moorland for 23 miles and rises to over 1,300 ft. There is plenty of challenging and exhilarating walks in the remote hills and cycling routes.
High mountains are also a feature of the moor although these are best left to experienced hill walkers with excellent navigation skills. Lower level paths from the Rannoch Station area include a 9 mile linear tramp through to Corrour and Loch Ossian and also a 7 mile circuit of Loch Ossain. All walkers should be aware of the character of the moor - beautiful but very challenging in bad weather or in winter.
There is also a visitor centre at Rannoch Moor which showcases the beauty and interest of the moor - its evolution, early historical developments, flora and fauna and the importance of the railway to the area.
Ross Stovold's Grouse
Ross has had a busy start at Eriska this summer, however he does have time to share a secret or two with you when it comes to cooking Grouse.
"Grouse is one of my favourite birds and I look forward to the season as much as any. Personally I prefer an older bird as it has a more intense flavour, it is almost like liver with an iron like taste.
Grouse can be paired with strong flavours and is incredibly versatile. At home I roast it simply. To prepare your bird remove the legs by pulling them forwards where they meet the breasts. You will hear a snap, cut through where you have snapped them. The legs yield very little meat, I use them to make sauce.
First slowly 9be patient) caramelise shallots then cut into large chunks, with a small amount of oil (it is important not to cut the chunks too small as they need a reasonable surface area to caramelise not burn!!!)
While the shallotts are cooking, roast the legs in a hot overn to achieve a good golden colour, to the pan add 200ml of red wine vinegar, the best you can afford and reduce until it's sticky.
Now add the roasted legs, 100g of smoked bacon. 750ml chicken stock, a small bunch of thymeand reduce by half. Strain through a fine sieve and season to taste.
You are now left with what is called the crown. Heat a tablespoon of rapeseed oil and a knob of butter in a pan. Colour the skin of the grouse and place in a pre-heated oven on 190C for 4 minutes, takeout of the oven and rest for at least 5 minutes with the breast face down.
Serve it with creamy mashed potato, infused with yeast for a difference - The yeast and potato combination works really well! You need:
- 120g milk
- 40g of butter
- 500g mashed potato (Maris Piper)
Poach the peeled potato in salted water, drain when tender, and pass through your preferred mashing equipment. Warm the milk and butter until it melts and add some fresh or dried yeast to your taste.
Place your mashed potatoes in a pan and beating your milk mixture until you have a creamy potato mixture. If you are looking to impress, you can pass it again to make it ultra smooth.
It is important to do all of this while the potatoes and milk are warm. it they are cold, you have to work them too much and they become sticky.
Saute some kale in butter, warm your sauce, carve the breasts from your crown and season the exposed meat. Gently warm your yeast mash and serve with lots of the smokey sauce!!!"
For a taste of Ross' menu, why not book a table in our Restaurant? Or even better; stay with us the weekend starting 15th November to take part in our Wine Weekend? Ross will be working side by side with Mark O'Bryan to combine the best from the French vineyards and cellars with the best form the gardens and hills of Scotland!
Last week's West Coast Weather didn't offer much opportunity to enjoy recreational activities outdoors at Eriska, with grey and heavy clouds lurking around the coast. That did however not stop eager guests from playing a game of croquet - as a matter of fact it was busy in the patchy rain! The picture above was taken on Thursday (22nd August), it went slightly dark as I was fiddling with some settings on my camera, but I think is shows the little sunshine we had that day! Next week's weather does however look to be dry with some more sunny spells!
Today: a chilly start in places, then a dry bright day with some good sunny spells and it looks to be quite warm in the sunshine, winds will remaining light. Tonight: the sunshine will continue throughout the evening followed by a dry night with some long clear spells. There may be mist or fog patches forming.
Monday: looks to be mainly dry and bright, with some sunny spells and quite warm again. Some rain looks to be spreading from the northwest overnight.
Tuesday: is projected to start with some patchy rain, but becoming drier and brighter from the west.
Wednesday: is projected to be staying dry and bright.
Thursday: looks to be starting out dry start but occasional rain may appear, spreading east.
Friday: although the temperatures looks to stay with us, Friday will become wet and grey. It does however look to be dry overnight.
Saturday: drying overnight, Saturday continues to be dry and cloudy, however the temperatures looks to be staying relatively stable.
With the weather staying relatively dry, why not make the most out of it? If you are staying on the island a trip to the Spa before trying out the many trails Isle of Eriska, or 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. If you are out for the day, Kerrera Tea Garden offer traditional and home cooked foods, including their own baked bread and cakes - the perfect place for a treat after a walk. The Kerrera Ferry Time Table can be found here or you can get the shuttle from Oban to Kerrera.
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!
The last week has been grey and wet at Eriska, which has made the Spa Therapists busy and our front of house staff busy with afternoon teas. Although things looked grey outside, there were moments of admiration as well. We met this little family of ducks which didn't seem to care too much about the weather, and ended up with us thinking that we shouldn't either! Fortunately the West Coast Weather for next week does seem to brighten up a bit compared to the last few days, with better temperatures and a dry weekend coming up.
Today: Starting slightly grey, but a bright day is projected with some sunny spells and showers developing from first light, these fairly light and might even miss Eriska out. Tonight should the showers choose to stop by they look to be dying out late in the evening leaving a dry and possibly sunny evening. Staying mainly dry overnight with some good clear spells.
Monday: A few light showers may continue otherwise dry with bright or sunny spells.
Tuesday: A mainly dry and bright day with sunny spells
Wednesday: is projected to be cloudy with outbreaks of rain
Thursday: looks to be much like Wednesday with clouds and frequent showers throughout.
Friday: is projected to be mainly cloudy and dry continuing into Saturday.
Saturday: looks to carry on the clouds and staying dry, leaving us with a nice and dry weekend.
It is coming to the end of the summer and as we know, mushroom behaviour is much affected by the wet weather. With a very wet summer we see the mushrooms popping up along the side of the road now - remember the red ones are usually not for eating! We would encourage you to pack a light rain coat to enjoy walks down to the pier and along the shoreline to see Wache, and the wild life the island homes. If you do go foraging, remember to bring a book and don't pick them if you are not sure what they are!
Unsure about what to do when coming to Eriska? Have a look at our new website - there are many things to see and do if you have a look at the activities page!
As you may have noticed staying on the west coast of Scotland, the weather changes fast and you may have not brought with you the clothes for it. Although we offer our guests wellies and do our weather blog every week, coming prepared to meet the rain isn't always good enough and one feel like doing most things indoor at least sheltered from wind and rain.
As the weather might sometimes set a stopper to the outdoor activities in Scotland we thought we would give you some that could be enjoyed within the hotel and spa and some that could be enjoyed indoors if you have a day planned away from the hotel.
At the hotel;
November Wine Weekend
If you have planned an autumn escape (when the weather is perhaps cold and wet) why not book in for the annual November Wine Weekend? The weekend evolve around tutored tastings in the hotel with amazing wines and beautifully prepared food. You would also get the opportunity to meet other keen diners and experiencing the ultimate way of obtaining new knowledge! The cost of the full weekend to include Dinner, Bed and Breakfast on two evenings, and the matched gastronomic dinner on the Saturday night is £400.00 per person. You can enquire about our Wine Weekend here.
Spa & Relax
A Spa & relax day is recommended for Couples or the Mother & Daughter weekend. Our Treatment Programmes and Day Packages can be booked in advance and would the ultimate way to spend the day. Programmes range from 130 minutes to 200 minutes and includes a focus on total relaxation of the body and therapeutic detoxification. Arrive earlier to take advantage of our ozone indoor heated pool, sauna and steam room to relax your muscles before your treatments. A break is also incorporated where you can enjoy a spa inspired lunch together.
The Library Bar
"It is amazing how relaxed one becomes when one enters the library bar with a newspaper and order a cup of coffee". Whether you want to catch up on the news, relax with your favourite book, or even pick up an unexplored book from our own library.. Our library has a lot of treasures for the eager reader. Spending the day inside with a book is something we all do too rarely and can be a very easy form of relaxation. Is the weather really challenging, take your book with you and enjoy the log fire in the main hall. We would personally recommend Treasure Island, Kidnapped, or Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stephenson.
Away for the day;
Although hidden from the rest of the world, Isle of Eriska is not too far away from local and regional attractions. We would recommend the following to make a day out of it, with no wellies or rain coats required;
In and around Oban
1st Stop: Oban’s War & Peace Museum
Contains a fascinating collection of artefacts and photographs depicting the rich cultural history of the busy port town and its people.
Sits on the water's edge in the very heart of Oban. Views over Oban Bay to Kerrera and the Mull and Morvern Hills are magnificent. Ee-Usk is regarded as one of the best seafood restaurants in the country
2nd Stop: Oban Distillery
Right in the heart of Oban, nestling beneath the steep cliff that overlooks the town, one of Scotland's oldest sources of single malt scotch whisky is but a stone's throw from the sea.
Glencoe Visitor Centre & Ice Factor
Glencoe is a magical place where true Highland Hospitality combines with world famous scenery, poignant history and some of the best things to see and do Scotland has to offer. And perhaps more recently has become known to some through the release of Skyfall. This daytrip may require a little packed snack.
Glencoe Visitor Centre is a multi-award winning Visitor Centre and Building, encompassing a shop - with lots of interesting local products, a café - with fabulous home baking, an information point - including weather forecasts for climbers & walkers and advice on routes, a viewing platform, and an education room which often features additional exhibitions.
For the adventurous, Ice Factor offer rock and bouldering walls were designed following extensive consultation with the Mountaineering Council, a number of guides, instructors and mountain rescue teams. This ensures that whether you are a complete beginner looking to take your first steps on the rock, or a gnarly hard-core climber looking to push your grade, Ice Factor has a range of routes, grades and challenges to suit - and it is all inside!!
Late Lunch: The Creagan Inn
On the way back why not stop for a later lunch at the Creagan Inn? Built in 1740 (1745 was the year of the Jacobite rebellion) this lochside village inn is almost as old as the Kings Inn in Glencoe; the famous glen used in the James Bond film Skyfall. Enjoy bar meals, local seafood, real cask ales, malt whiskies and even cocktails; including of course the famous James Bond ‘Vesper’ Martini Cocktail.
After a long day out, you can return to the hotel, have a relaxing dip in the Jacuzzi and a swim and get ready for a sumptuous dinner in our 3AA Rosette Restaurant.
The restaurant is also open to non residents and you can enquire about availability in advance here or by calling us on Tel: +44 (0)1631 720 371.
Another picture describing the west coast weather from the last week. Clouds with a few rays of sun and frequent showers! Looking at what's in store for us next week it looks like summer unfortunately left early this year leaving us to pack with us that extra waterproof layer when going for a walk or just out to the car at the start of the week.
Today: It has been a rather cloudy morning with scattered showers projected (and as I write this I can see the drops start falling outside...). Showers looks to be turning heavier and more frequent throughout the day, perhaps with a rumble of thunder. The evening looks to be drier as the showers will ease.
Monday: looks to be mostly dry with sunny spells to start the day, some showers building but well scattered and a few places staying dry.
Tuesday: is projected to be sunnier, with lighter winds and less frequent showers.
Wednesday: looks to be much like the Tuesday with sunny spells and dryer grounds.
Thursday: is projected to be cloudier with light rain throughout the day.
Friday: looks to be another cloudy day with the showers lingering, which looks to become heavier overnight and might leave us with a very wet Saturday morning.
Saturday: looks to end the week just like it started, cloudy with showers and a few sunny spells. The rain looks to be continuing over night.
Although this week's weather doesn't look like the ideal holiday there is no shortage of things to get up to when the weather doesn't allow us to work up a sun burn while playing a game of putting or having afternoon tea on the front lawn! Keep an eye out for the next blog post to see what you can get up to on the rainy days this week - there are many ways of avoiding the wet cat situation when on holiday!
We are welcoming August with very shifting weather. The West Coast Weather for the last week has been difficult to plan around but has brightened up significantly in the evenings, making them perfect for pre-dinner walks. The next week on the west coast does however seem to be a bit colder, with continuing showers and
This Evening and Tonight: the showers have died out and left some evening sunshine. It might however be clouding over in the east later with some rain developing.
Monday: a cloudy start across the east with a few light showers. Brightening up from the west by the afternoon with just a few showers, which looks to be passing us. Somewhat warm temperatures will continue.
Tuesday: looks to become quite cloudy with possible showers
Wednesday: starting with a bright morning and looks to be mainly dry but with some showers developing in the afternoon. A few rays of sun are likely to be coming through as well.
Thursday: is projected to be quite cloudy in the early morning, but brightening up later during the day before the showers return midday.
Friday: looks to be slightly warmer despite the clouds and heavier showers.
Saturday: pretty similar to Friday, but with lighter showers continuing during the night.
Although the weather forecasts have been quite discouraging the evenings have brightened up significantly, leaving the eager camera enthusiasts with great opportunities to capture the Eriska wildlife and the beautiful colours Scottish nature has to offer.
If you have taken any pictures of the beautiful nature on and around Eriska you would like to share, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and a little bit about why or when you took it and I will share them on our Pinterest profile.
We are delighted to be able to announce our Autumn wine event at Eriska for the weekend commencing on Friday 15th November!
This year we are to be joined by Mark O'Bryen MW Regional Sales Manager for Taittinger Champagne for a weekend of exquisite gastronomy and bubbles with real character at Eriska. But first a little about Champaigne Taittinger!
The Champagne house was formed back in 1932 by Pierre Taittinger, firmly linking the wines with gastronomy which ethos of the strong connection between wines and food continue to today. The house has grown and developed over the years and faced many challenges but Taittinger Champagne is now firmly back under the control of the family having been bought back in 1996, and they have set about evolving the brand and insuring the consistency of the wines not ignoring their history. You can read more about their history here.
Château de la Marquetterie or the 'Cradle of Champagne Taittinger' is found nestled in the heart of the champenois vineyards just west of the village of Pierry. The estate was built in 1734 in the style of Louis XV, clinging to the hillside covered in vineyards. Château de la Marquetterie has been the property of Champagne Taittinger since 1932 and has seen many historic figures before this time such as Jacues Cazotte, and further building on the work of friar Dom Oduart, who developed the Champagne methods Champagne is known for today.
Mark who will be joining us at Isle of Eriska in November to hold the tutored tastings became a Master of Wine in 1996 and is one of around 250 Masters of Wine in the world. As a a roving ambassador for Taittinger Champagne he will be speaking about the world famous Taittinger. The event will be based round a Saturday gastronomic dinner where Mark and Head Chef Ross Stovold will combine to match the best from the French vineyards and cellars with the best form the gardens and hills of Scotland. In the afternoon Mark will run a brief tutored tasting of the champagne highlighting the key differences of the house and its plans for the future.
The cost of the weekend to include Dinner, Bed and Breakfast on two evenings, and the matched gastronomic dinner on the Saturday night will be £400 per person. You can find more information and enquire about the wine weekend by clicking on the button below.
Last week started with absolutely lovely warm temperatures and clear blue skies - West Coast Weather with a difference! Although some clouds did eventually catch up with us the temperatures were mild. The mild temperatures looks to be continuing, however the rain looks to be catching up with us for last week..
Today: there will be the odd heavy showers lingering into the evening but most places becoming dry with some late sunny spells. With light winds and clear spells some mist and fog patches are possible through the early hours today.
Monday: looks to be start with some early mist and fog patches but will soon clear to leave a bright day with some sunshine but also the occasional heavy, slow moving shower with a risk of thunder and good temperatures.
Tuesday: is predicted to provide some sunny periods and fewer showers.
Wednesday: Tuesday's weather seems to continue but feeling fresher later during the day.
Thursday: looks to be cloudy and muggy on with rain to clear leaving a brighter evening.
Friday: looks to keep the rain coming and the temperatures up with a few sunny spells throughout the day.
Saturday: looks to get a slight drop in temperatures and possibilities for thunder, otherwise a few sunny spells look to be coming through during the day.
A slightly humid week is projected. Time to hydrate and appreciate the few days of 'real summer' we do get on the West Coast of Scotland lies ahead!
We are very excited to welcome Ross Stovold to Isle of Eriska this week!
Ross Stovold previously held the position as head chef at Alimentum in Cambridge. Alimentum is a 50 cover restaurant which currently holds 3 AA Rosettes and a Michelin Star. He also has a range of good quality businesses on his list of achievements, most recently Sat Bains in Nottingham and the New Angel in Devon. Ross' focus is on bringing a training and development ethos to the kitchen at Eriska.
Part of Ross' concept is to employ four apprentices in his team alongside a strong top level, leaving him time to train and work with the juniors in an endeavour to grow our own chefs of the future.
Our kitchen team focuses on the use of the freshest, local produce in a way which develops and enhances the flavours and taste of our through manipulating as little as possible. Ross will continue to work closely with local suppliers to ensure the best of Scottish produce is presented on our Menu.
Our dinner menu changes on a daily basis and offers a choice of starters and a choice of main courses, one a fish from the surrounding waters another a meat dish from the hills surrounding the island and a final vegetarian alternative inspired by one of the gardens or larders close at hand. But what is excellent food without wine...
Our comprehensive wine list accompanies the best of Scottish produce and 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. Our wine list provides personal recommendations that are favourites of Eriska's Owner, Senior Hotel Manager and Sommelier, and we believe that you are likely to find some interesting options here that may even become one of your own favourites!