Is a White Christmas Guaranteed
I have to admit a bit of pity for the poor television weather reporter this morning who was being pushed and encouraged to predict the weather - not for today, nor tomorrow or even the week ahead but for the weather on Christmas day- ten days away.
Given the accuracy of current forecasting and the variable and changing climate it was little surprise that he managed to avoid the question rather then set himself up to be pillared next week when his- lucky guess- would be mocked. It is amazing that given the fact that we can send a probe to the moon- or at least the Chinese still can- and we have powerful computers to work on building models that can predict the future of a drug or medicine- that we still cannot plug in the variables today and find a matching weather pattern ion the past which will allow us to plan ahead.
Anyway I suppose thats what makes each day different- as I show guests round Eriska and take them into our new sports hall I often remark that it is our answer to predicting the weather tomorrow and indeed whilst it is not the heaviest used facility it does give everybody the opportunity of a game of tennis or badminton whatever the weather outside and whatever the time of year. the latter point is extremely important at this time of year as we approach the shortest day next week and the nights close in- at least by this time next week the days will be starting to get longer and summer will be closer well at least spring will be closer!
So what really is ahead for this week given our experience of the weather forecast over the last 40 years of being here at Eriska?
Today:having had a particularly wet and windy week it looks set to continue today although we have woken to a dry and bright morning it is not set to last!
Monday: Rain spreading east after a bright start. Windy.
Tuesday: Bright start with some sunshine, then clouds increasing with rain spreading by midday, reaching the area during the afternoon, with some heavy bursts. Southerly winds strengthening, gales over the Isles.
Wednesday: Any rain soon clearing then mainly dry with clear spells for a time then clouding over with showers later. Windy at times.
Thursday: Sunny spells and blustery showers, most frequent on the higher grounds , some heavy with hail and thunder, wintry over higher ground.
Friday: Sunny spells and showers then windy with outbreaks of rain overnight
Saturday: Turning much colder with snow showers and severe gales over the weekend
Throwing out items can bring back memories!
Finally after a couple of weeks of staring at a pile of a box of papers in our office I decided to do the task I have been putting off. many years ago- before we arrived the office at Eriska the area to the left of the front door - like many houses - was the washroom- it is now- refurbished and holds the offices and reception of the house. Above our office is an old store where there used to be a water tank, it has been disused for many years and is now a store for old paperwork and documents of importance to the Inland Revenue but , I thought, of little interest to anyone else. Anyway as it is in part of the old house it is an a fairly high ceilinged room but as it used to be the old water closet for the house it is also quite constrained so requires time and patience in getting a ladder in position and help in transporting any materials in either direction.
Anyway yesterday seemed to be quiet and there was a lull in activity - that combined with a great deal of furniture movement due to one of the rooms in the main house being refurbished that I decided to utilise the added hands and move the document pile into its new home and at the same time clear out some of the older material from above the office.
All a really simple task if only it was that simple!
Whilst the store is dry and warm it is also dusty and cramp so once I had squeezed into the space movement remained constricted and I had to double move some of the boxes just to create enough room operate. Then I realized that moving the boxes out of the space may or already had become even more of a challenge than initially thought so we set up a stream to pass simply the paper work down and then replace it with the new documents leaving the original boxes in place. After a strenuous 30 minutes all seemed to be complete until I came across a treasure trove of a box near the bottom.
My eye was first caught by a wages book dating back to 1980 and a quick flick though showed some names I recognized and clearly some I had no recollection of - however interestingly 34 years has seen the top hotel salary increase by 10 times and the bottom salary increase only by 7 times- maybe a sign of the times. I then came across some menus from back in the seventies and whilst some of the dishes are similar there is certainly a few dated elements- fruit cup and mushroom paste are probably not dishes we would serve today but it certainly raised a wry smile from Ross when he was chatting with my Mum about the old times- still porridge and Oatcakes remain timeless!
Then I came across the quote for the tennis court - £5000 in 1980 seemed a bargain but more impressively was all the documentation regarding planning permission to erect a 2.2m fence around the court to form a ball enclosure- one my father was arguing was a deer fence despite it having a 5m gap in one side to let spectators watch the game! A battle he won although the tome of paperwork and letters may not have seemed worthwhile to most it must have been a moral victory to my father.
Even his drawing of the fence in triplicate to scale - using copier carbon paper -was slightly ironic and appeared to have caused the planners final straw to let them accept his plans. In reality achieving planning permission for a 12m high shed to cover the court two years ago seems to have been easier than his initial battle.
Finally we have come across all the quotations for the work on converting Eriska back in 1973. In reality these documents will have little interest to others but have a small place in our heart and I will now have to reduce down the box for common sense but will keep the heart just in case. 40 years of memories will fill more than a box but maybe all that was discovered and unearthed yesterday will be the catalyst for more! We are still appealing for any memories or images of guests stays at Eriska over the last 4 decades and would welcome any more.
Happy new year
Happy new year
May we all have a vision now and then
Of a world where every neighbour is a friend
Happy new year
Happy new year
I am sure many of you will sing this song in your head - Yes - Abba 1980
Why do we celebrate New Year? What is so important with this temporal boundary? We had a look through some old (yes that old) pictures from our long tradition of festive celebrations here at Eriska this week and thought we would look a bit closer at the world wide celebration of New Year as it is a part of our loved festive season on the island!
As we all know the celebration is quite different depending on where you are in the world just before midnight on the 31st December and you may have experienced very different celebrations in today's well travelled world. As much as 24% of the adult population in the UK plan to make the most of their Christmas and New Year periods by traveling elsewhere in the UK during the festive season! Nevertheless, for most people it has been and still is a time celebrated with family and friends - famously expressed through song by Abba and even more famously captured by Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne.
An Ancient Holiday & A Change in Calendar
People have long celebrated New Year’s Day, New Year’s is in fact one of the oldest holidays still celebrated, but the exact date and nature of the festivities has changed over time. It originated thousands of years ago in ancient Babylon, celebrated as an eleven day festival on the first day of spring. Though its location on the calendar has moved around quite a bit throughout Western history. The Julian calendar considered 1st January the first day of the new year, but in Medieval Europe, dates with more religious significance (like Dec. 25, Mar. 25—the traditional date of the Annunciation—and Easter) were marked as New Year’s Day, until Europe gradually made the switch to the Gregorian calendar in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. Historically, people have always celebrated the arrival of the new year, though depending on their community’s conception of when days begin, they might begin the celebration at sundown or at sunrise instead of at midnight. In the 18th and 19thcenturies, Western Europeans and Americans began marking the midnight between Dec. 31 and 1st January by drinking, ringing bells, or shooting off canons or fireworks—but each community kept its own time, so one town’s midnight might not align with the neighboring town’s midnight. When standard time was adopted at the International Meridian Conference in 1884, midnight became the official dividing line between days worldwide.
Bygones and Nostalgia in Scotland
Many customs and traditions (some more common than others), were found online and we thought we would share some of the Scottish ways with you.
The idea of celebrating New Year today is mainly to stay up to see the old year out with a party and welcome the New Year in. Now customs and traditions may be very different even from one town to another. Hogmanay is the Scots word for the last day of the year and is synonymous with the celebration of the New Year in the Scottish manner and is historically known to last for days - In other words no-one celebrates the eve quite like the Scots. Nobody knows for sure where the word 'Hogmanay' came from, but it may have originated from Gaelic or from Norman-French.
Many believe that as Christmas was virtually banned and not celebrated in Scotland for over 400 years from the end of the 17th century until the 1950’s, New Years Eve was therefore a good excuse for some revelry and the excuse to drink whisky and eat good food as everyone were working through the Christmas period.
Auld Lang Syne
Another great tradition is the singing of Robert Burns' Auld Lang Syne (times gone by), a song about love and friendship in the times gone by, sharing a drink to sympbolise friendship.
Auld Lang Syne
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!
For auld lang syne, my jo,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup o' kindness yet
For auld lang syne.
Burns’ ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is sung to celebrate the start of the New Year at the stroke of midnight, not just in Scotland but in many English-speaking countries.
The Guinness Book of World Records lists ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as one of the most frequently sung songs in English. The song is sung or played in many movies, from ‘It's a Wonderful Life’ to ‘When Harry Met Sally.’
To sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ a circle is created and hands are joined with the person on each side of you. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right hand reaches out to the neighbour on the left and vice versa. When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands.
The First Footing
First Footing is from the olden days where one was supposed to bring good luck to people for the coming year. As soon as the 1st of January arrived, people used to wait behind their doors for a dark haired person to arrive. This visitor would carry a piece of coal, a piece of bread, money and greenery. These items were all for good luck - coal for the house to stay warm, bread for everyone in the house to have enough food, money, well so that they would have enough money, and greenery to ensure a healthy long life.
The ‘first foot’ in the house after midnight is still very common is Scotland. To ensure good luck, a first footer should be a dark-haired male. Fair-haired first footers were not particularly welcome after the Viking invasions of ancient times. Much like before, traditional gifts include a lump of coal to lovingly place on the host’s fire, along with shortbread, a black bun and whisky to toast to a Happy New Year. To first foot a household empty-handed is considered grossly discourteous, never mind unlucky!
These traditions and customs are all told in slightly different ways by people and a range of versions are found on the internet. The main lesson during these celebrations is to welcome friends and strangers, with warm hospitality and of course a kiss to wish everyone a Good New Year! The underlying belief is to clear out the vestiges of the old year, have a clean break and welcome in a young, New Year on a happy note! We are sure you knew a lot of these fun 'facts' but 'how Scottish' are you?
At Eriska we have an extensive programme for our New Year Package. Every year we offer a 5 night New Year Package, celebrating together with family and friends, in the good old country house style.
Have you ever heard of the Bremen Musicians?
It was just the other day that one of our guests asked about it as it sits on our mantelpiece in the main hall (pictured on the left). We received 'Die Bremer Stadtmusikanten' as a gift 15 years ago for our 25th anniversary from Mr & Mrs Saake who has been coming back many times since then.
It is a fairytale written by the Brothers Grimm, who some of you might know of already. They were German academics that collected and published a wide range of popular folklores.
Once upon a time...
There once was a man who had a donkey which had carried his sacks to the mill unflaggingly for many long years but was now getting old and weak so that he was becoming more and more unfit for work. The donkey's master was considering whether to stop feeding him but the donkey noticed that there was an ill wind blowing and ran away, setting off for Bremen where he thought he could become a town musician.
When he had covered a short distance he came across a hunting dog lying on the road, yapping like someone who has run himself into the ground. "Well, why are you yapping so, old snarler?" asked the donkey. "Ah", said the dog, "because I am so old and getting weaker every day and can't go hunting any more, my master wanted to kill me but then I took to my heels. But how shall I now earn my living?" "You know what", said the donkey, "I am going to Bremen to become a town musician. Go with me and take up music too. I shall play the lute and you can beat the drums." The dog was happy with this and they went on together.
Before long they came across a cat sitting at the roadside with a face as long as a fiddle. "Well now, what has crossed you, old whisker-face?" said the donkey. "How can I be happy when I am in for it", replied the cat, "just because I am getting on in years, my teeth are getting blunt and I prefer to sit and muse in front of the fire than to chase around after mice, my mistress wanted to drown me; I managed to get away but now I am really in a fix. Where shall I go?" "Go with us to Bremen. You are good at making music at night; you can become a town musician." The cat thought this was a good idea and went with the others.
The three fugitives went past a farmyard where a farm cock was sitting on the gate and crowing with all its might. "Your crowing goes right through us", said the donkey, "what's up?" "I prophesied good weather" said the cock, "because it's the day of our Blessed Lady, on which she washed the little shirt of Baby Jesus and puts it out to dry; but because it is Sunday tomorrow and guests are coming, the housewife has no pity and has told the cook to put me in the soup tomorrow; and she's coming to cut off my head tonight. So now I'm crowing as hard and as long as I can." "Come on, old redhead", said the donkey, "come along with us instead, we are going to Bremen. Anything is better than waiting here to die; you have a good voice and when we play music together there will surely be a place for you." The cock was pleased by this suggestion and all four of them went on together.
But they couldn't reach the city of Bremen in one day and they came to a wood where they decided to spend the night. The donkey and the dog lay down under a large tree; the cat and the cock went up into the branches but the cock flew up to the top of the tree where he felt the safest. Before he fell asleep he looked around in the direction of all four winds and thought he saw a little light shining in the distance; so he called to his friends that there must be a house not so far away since he could see a light shining. Then the donkey said, "We had better go over there for the accommodation here is pretty bad." The dog said he could also do with a few bones with a little meat on them.
So they set off in the direction of the light and soon it got brighter and larger until they came to a brightly lit robbers' house. Being the largest of the four, the donkey approached the window and looked inside. "What can you see, old grey nag?" asked the cock. "What can I see?" answered the donkey. "A table laid with lovely things to eat and drink, with a band of robbers sitting around and having a good time." "Why can't we do the same", said the cock. "Ooh yes, if only we could be there!" said the donkey. The animals conferred amongst themselves about how they could chase away the robbers and finally they hit on an idea. The donkey would put his front hooves on the window ledge, the dog would jump on the donkey's back, the cat would climb on the dog and the cock would fly up and sit on the cat's head. So they all did this and, at a signal, they began to play their music: the donkey brayed, the dog barked, the cat miaowed and the cock crew. Then fell through the window into the room, shattering the window-pane as they went. The robbers jumped out of their skins at the terrible clamour, thinking it must be a ghost, and fled in great fear to the woods.
Now the four companions sat down at the table and made do with what was left over, eating as if it was their last meal for a month. When the four musicians had finished they put out the light and looked for a place to sleep, each according to his nature and desired comfort. The donkey lay down on the midden, the dog behind the door, the cat on the stove near the warm ashes and the cock sat on a perch; and, because they were tired after their long journey, they were all very soon asleep. Sometime after midnight the robbers noticed from afar that all lights in the house were out and everything seemed to be quiet. So the leader said: "We shouldn't have let ourselves be frightened out of our wits", and asked one of the robbers to go and check up on the house.
The robber found everything quiet, went into the kitchen to make a light, and mistaking the glowing fiery eyes of the cat for live coals, he held a match to them thinking it would light. But the cat was not in a joking mood and jumped at his throat, spitting and scratching. The robber was terrified and tried to run out of the back door but the dog, which was lying there, jumped up and bit him in the leg; and as he ran past the midden in the farmyard the donkey lashed out with his hind hoof; but the cock, who had been roused from his sleep by the din and was now fully awake, called out "cock-a-doodle-doo!" from his perch.
The robber ran back to his leader at full pelt and said "there's a dreadful witch in that house; she spat on me and scratched my face with her long fingers; and by the door there is a man standing with a knife, who stabbed my leg; and in the farmyard there is a black monster which attacked me with a wooden club; and on the roof there is a judge sitting who called out "bring the scoundrel to me"."So I got away as fast as I could." From that time onwards the robbers did not dare to go near the house but the four Bremen Musicians liked it so much that they didn't want to leave again. And they all lived happily ever after.
The next time you visit you might notice them at the top of mantelpiece in the main hall. As you may have experienced already, driving over the bridge to Eriska is almost like a fairytale and the hotel in itself has a rich history! We recently sent out our newsletter which looked at Mr & Mrs Buchanan-Smith's very first day at Eriska on July 1st 1973.. The first day was maybe not so much of a fairytale, but the last 40 years on the Island certainly have been in different ways for many of our guests and also who has- and still work at Isle of Eriska Hotel.
Last week the Three Peaks Yacht Race kicked off in Barmouth! It is one of the oldest and most extraordinary extreme multi-sport endurance races in the world.
We thought we would write a bit about it as we received a fugitive from the storm building up during the race last Friday. At the far right in the above picture lies Driac. As the weather was forecasted to become more challenging over the weekend and the team had experienced some problems, they decided to anchor up at our pier at Eriska. Driac is a Champer & Nicholson 1930 and has an experienced team with skipper Charles Lyster, Crew members; Mr Nick Ray & Mr Vernon Gayle and Runners; Mr Stefan Fritz and Miss Julie Shaunessey.
Each year this classic sporting event combining sailing, running and cycling, challenges intrepid teams to sail from the mid-Wales coastal resort of Barmouth, up the west coast of the UK, to finish in Fort William. Teams of four or five per yacht sailed from Barmouth to Fort William, with two from each crew climbing the highest mountains of Wales, England and Scotland en route, and running the equivalent of three marathons in 3 or 4 days!
The race draws competitors from a wide variety of sporting backgrounds and sailing experience, ranging from off-shore cruising to round-the-world racing. Sailing and sports clubs, military and company teams all enter the race and compete on equal terms. The Race has attracted competitors from all over the UK, Finland, Sweden, Belgium, Eire, Norway, USA, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia.
How the Three Peaks race came to be
H.W. (Bill) Tilman was a famous English mountaineer and explorer and known for his adventures as a climber and sailor. Living in Barmoth the inspiration behind the idea of a race was conceived by his doctor, Rob Haworth.
The actual idea of making it into a race came from Rob Haworth’s partner, Dr Merfyn Jones. Sitting around the kitchen table on a cold winter’s evening in 1976 Rob recounted his idea for his holidays. Merfyn heard him out and then said “wouldn’t it make a marvellous race”. They set out a rough map using kitchen utensils, with bottles to represent the mountains, and worked out the logistics. Merfyn spent his spring break checking out the course, a committee was formed from local people interested in sailing and Bill Tilman was invited to be the race president.
Seven teams took part in the first race in 1977, and it took those entrants just over 5 days to sail 389 miles, climb 11,000 feet and walk or run 73 miles. Unusually monohulls and multihulls raced together without handicap for the first 11 years. This year, today it is a fierce race against time.
The Ultimate Challenge
For the sailors, the Race includes many seamanship problems not normally associated with yacht races: the crossing of Caernarfon Bar, the treacherous Swellies in the Menai Straits, the rounding of the Mull of Kintyre, the whirlpools of the notorious Gulf of Corryvreckan, and finally the narrows at Corran where the ebb will stop the boat dead in the water. Thus a well found boat is needed and much meticulous planning and preparation is required for success. Yachts are not designed for rowing and to get the best out of oars, which many boats carry, special fittings are needed.
The runners, both gentlemen and ladies, include some of the finest fell runners and marathon runners in the country. Generally marathon runners don’t much care for running up and down hills and fell runners are equally adverse to running on roads. The mountains present problems of their own; there is always snow on Ben Nevis, even in June; wind, rain and mist can make conditions atrocious. Added to which many have to do their running in the dark and for those who suffer from sea sickness they do not even start the runs feeling at their best. The faster the yacht sails the quicker the runs come round. For the leading boats the runners usually have to do the first two runs, 24 miles and 48 miles respectively during one 24-hour period.
In 2000, the port of Whitehaven replaced the port of Ravenglass as the port for Scafell Pike. This being further away than the previous port, bicycles are now being used for the first 15 miles to the mountain before the runners are again faced with an extra 2,000ft high mountain pass! The talents of the runners and the sailors must be combined – teamwork is really essential in this race.
The Race is a journey through much of the finest scenery in the UK. Barmouth itself lies at the mouth of the Mawddach estuary described by Wordsworth as “sublime”. When leaving Whitehaven to go to Fort William (approximately 227 sea miles), the teams round the Mull of Kintyre and go into the Sound of Jura, through more beautiful scenery but with many tidal gates to negotiate. The race finishes just north of Fort William at Corpach, the entrance to the Caledonian canal where the sailing is over and skippers can relax. The runners, after checking in with the marshals, set off to the summit of Ben Nevis, finishing when they return to cross the finish line.
Being the ultimate challenge in the UK, the Three Peaks Race has spawned other 3 Peaks yacht races in other part of the world, amongst some; Australia and Hong Kong which has lead 3 Peaks yacht racing to become a genre of its own.
Do you feel like challenging yourself yet? Next year's race has already been planned to start 7th June 2014 - so you have plenty of time to prepare yourself!
This week, we have experinced much of what Eriska and the surrounding area has to offer, but also a lot of the things guests can enjoy while staying with us at the hotel!
On wednesday, the weather allowed for some of our guests with the more atristic nerve to spend time outside capuring the main house.
Did you know, that our hotel was built in 1884 by a branch of stewarts of Appin and the architect Hippolyte Blanc? He was known for his attention to details and for the Scottish Baronial Style. Blanc's work can also be seen in Edinbugh today, where the St Cutberth's Church and the Argyll Tower are amongst some of his works.
Today we went out with a client of ours who will be coming back to stay with us later in the summer to look at all that the West Coast of Scotland can offer! We were picked up by Struan from Costal Connection who took us over by boat to Kingairloch - only a 25 minute journey accross from Eriska. Kingairloch is a 14,000 acre highland estate and is home to a wide range of animals, birds and flora throughout the year and also feature the Boat House restaurant, serving exquisit seasonal cuisine - all grown or captured on the estate.
But what is exquisite cuisine withouth Scotlands national beverage?
We got back onto the boat and set our course towards Oban to visit the Oban Distillery. Oban Distillery is one of Scotland's oldest sources of single malt scotch whisky and are proud of their Oban 14 year old Single Malt with its hints of honey,smoke, citrus orange and sea salt. Well worth a visit if you are staying with us.
What are you doing for the World Whisky Day this weekend on Saturday 18th?
Are you one of the lucky ones coming to our tutored whisky tasting session on Saturday at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Golf? It is open to residents of the Hotel and any residents dining with us in the evening.
The session will allow our guests and diners to nose their way through the range of exclusive bottles of Eriska malt we have had especially made for our residents - From the ten year old malt of Islay to the 10 year old Speyside, we will highlight the characteristics of each bottle and the complete trilogy with the Sherry Wood Cask of 14 year old Speyside.
Come stay with us this weekend for an exciting evening, or book a table in the restaurant. we need a 24h notice for bookings with our restaurant.You can book with us by pressing the button below.
This week I have been in London working with our sales team helping to - or at least hoping to - spread the word about Eriska to potential visitors. Its amazing the even after 40 years how many people who have been in the travel trade still have never heard of Eriska, been to the west coast of Scotland or even been north of Hadrians Wall so I have been trying to do my wee bit for us all.
However I am often confronted by the question about who our typical guest is and what they normally do and whilst this is an easy answer to reach as I am never short of suggestions for guests it is also very difficult as we have no "typical" Guest as every one is different and each market place is so different. However in truth - whilst each visitor to Eriska may be here for a different reason and they partake in a huge variety of activities or even inactivities the majority do come for relaxation and recuperation, hoping to leave us less tired, stressed and harassed than when they arrived.
However when I got back I had a brief look round the dining room- if only to satisfy myself that my answer earlier about the ecclectic clientele was correct- but it soon became clearly that a trend is emerging which I was previously unaware of- Eriska is the Perfect Scottish Honeymoon Destination. However given it was a English Bank Holiday and the fact that just over two years ago there was a Royal Wedding- I should maybe not have been surprised to see the number of honeymoon couples in the dining room- almost half.
However whilst this shows a new trend, and on the face of it it should make our lives simple it is far from simple as the age groups vary- the level of activities enjoyed varies and this simply enures that we need to treat each couple individually and tailor their breaks to ther needs or simply insure that they have nothing arranged and are simply free to enjoy the island and their first few days of married life- and recuoperate for what may have been the most stressful day of their life so far!
It is our role at Eriska to create an atmosphere in which couples enjoy a unique private celebration marking the start of your marriage the most distinctive experience that will stay a treasured memory forever. Honeymoons should be unique- most only ever have one and therefore most people have no first hand experiece of what to expect but probably also have lots of expectation!
Whether the package includes all the cliched bottle of champagne awaiting their arrival, a romantic room service dinner and a relaxing couples full-body massage at our ESPA spa or simply a clear diary and no plans we can adapt and change . Honeymooners can indulge in the lavish luxury of a traditional country manor or the idyllic woodland privacy of our luxury outdoor spa suites, complete with private garden and Jacuzzi. But in short they create their perfect experience from our range of sporting activities, exceptional spa treatments and services, and award-winning culinary menus. Unwind in the comfort of our hotel and enjoy a romantic daytime stroll on our grounds taking in the breathe taking mountainous scenery, or romantic evening wander absorbing the star-bound sky.
The experiences are endless, we have however had to offer special honeymoon packages simply to give ideas to guest of what we can do although in reality most create a package having discussed it with the team at Eriska. Anyway its really rewarding to the team to be able to make a mark on couples first few days of married life and gives a real sense of purpose when we see then start to relax and unwind and then enjoy all that Eriska has to offer
Spring and a middle-aged man’s thoughts…
Each year I look up the method by which the date of Easter is derived but, try as I might, I can never commit it to memory. It does feel like Easter is early this year however. We have passed the equinox (equal periods of night and day) and longer days are coming our way. The clocks have sprung forward, so it is fair to say that spring is with us.
Spring, the season when a middle-aged man’s thoughts turn to hillwalking.
Hillwalking options in Scotland are legend. In a nutshell Scotland has 284 mountains over 3,000ft above sea level. This dwarfs the four in England, eight in Wales and seven in Eire. At this stage it is worth pointing out that the measurement and classification of mountains is an activity that is fraught and there are various (generally quite tedious in my view) disagreements regarding definitions. Using any definition of what constitutes a mountain Scotland has many more.
There are some alluring aspects to the Scottish hills. The most important is that they are invariably set in scenic locations. Their remote nature restricts the numbers of visitors, so they are a great place to enjoy a little solitude. Most of the summits can be reached on foot without any technical climbing, and virtually all of them can be undertaken as one-day trips. Many of the hills are relatively family friendly and the summits are accessible for both the young and the old. Caution is required however, as the weather can change rapidly in the hills making the environment hostile.
Many readers will have already hiked in the Scottish mountains and know a fair amount about their history and location, and therefore might like to skip the forthcoming passage. The Scottish mountains that are over 3,000ft (913m) and are known as ‘Munros’. Sir Hugh Munro was the author of the first table of Scottish mountains back in 1891. There is a distinction between ‘Munros’, which are the separate mountains, and ‘tops’ which are all of the pronounced points or peaks that exceed 3,000ft.
What constitutes a separate mountain has been the subject of many heated discussions.
There is no definitive set of criteria and such distinction as does exist is based on the drop in height, the distance between adjacent summits, their character, the nature of the intervening ground and the time taken to travel from one to another.
Walkers who are in the process of ticking off, or bagging each peak are often called ‘tickers’ or ‘baggers’, whilst those that have achieved the feat are called ‘completers’. Munro managed to climb most but not all of the peaks. It is widely held that the first person to complete the list was the Reverend A.E. Robertson, however some interesting detective work from my former University colleague Dr Robin Campbell has cast doubt on this fact. Therefore Ronald Burn might be the first person to have completed the Munro list.
This Easter we experienced a fantastic spell of weather that was ideal for Scottish hill walking. A high pressure system seemed to have parked itself over Scotland. We managed to get to the summit of several Munros that we had not visited previously. Despite there being some very cold easterly winds, the skies were blue and we could see for miles. On the way home from this trip we dropped in to visit our family on the Isle of Eriska.
Eriska is a fantastic base from which to undertake some hillwalking day trips. Beinn Sgulaird is a short drive from the hotel. One guide book describes this as ‘an easy traverse for a lazy afternoon with fine coastal views of Benderloch and Appin’. The views are indeed spectacular but the ease of this trip will depend on your fitness, it is about 4 miles and 3050ft of assent. The four Munros that tower above Loch Awe (Ben Cruachan, Stob Diamh, Beinn a’ Chochuill and Beinn Eunaich) also make for easy day trips from the hotel. Slightly longer drives clockwise to Glen Coe, or anti-clockwise to Tyndrum open up a wealth of other options for bagging Munros.
There are a number of quaint Munro related records. These include the fasted completion, completing the list multiple times and the first completion in a single winter. A while ago I was told that most people finish their Munro list on Ben More on Mull which is also easily accessible from the hotel. I wonder who will be the first completer to celebrate at Eriska?
Vernon Gayle EON ( Eriska's Official kNowledge)
Given all the press that Arran has had over the last week due to the lack of power it only seems right to highlight a good reason to visit the island.
Arran distillery is one of the youngest in Scotland and indeed the only dstillery on the Island.
In 1994 Arran Distillers was founded by Harold Currie, former director of Chivas with the intention of building a distillery on Arran the following year production strarted.There used to be about fifty distilleries on the island, but most of them were "moonlight" or illegal distilleries although clesarly these have been absent for some time indeed!!
The distyillery was small and compact so initially a large proportion of the casks were stored in the warehouses of Springbank, due to a lack of room . However, the distillery now has a revolutionary storage warehouse, on site, that allows easier access to barrels. The distillery offers a cask purchase scheme which offers private individuals the opportunity to own their own cask of whisky, which can be stored on site at the distillery.
The whisky of Arran is mostly used to produce their Single Malt Whisky, but a small proportion also goes into the production of their range of blended whiskies : Lochranza Blend, Robert Burns Blend and Arran Gold Single Malt Whisky Cream Liqueur.
Arran is a unique island known as 'Scotland in Miniature', for it has all of the scenery of Scotland, with mountains and lowlands, glens, lochs and royal castles (including one at Lochranza). Early in the 19th century there were more than 50 whisky distilleries on Arran, most of them illegal and carefully hidden from the eyes of the taxmen. The malt was acclaimed at the time as the best in Scotland, only rivalled by those from the 'Glen of Livet'.
They use only the traditional methods of distilling, with wooden washbacks and copper stills designed to our exact specification. The location - just outside Lochranza- offers perfect water for whisky production, cleansed by granite and softened by peat as it comes down from the mountain above. The atmosphere of sea breezes and clear mountain air together with the warm flow of the Gulf Stream matures the Arran Malt to perfection in earth floored warehouses.
They use no peat in the production process and no caramel for artificial colouring - unlike most other whisky companies.
As a result our products are rightly described as 'the true spirit of nature'.
The colour is yellow (straw) with greenish glints.
The nose is close to malted barley and the fragrances are issued from the distillation (spices) with however slight chocolate hints, coming from the ageing in sherry casks.
Firm, rounded, light to medium.
The palate is full and mellow and confirms the nose.
The finish is long and sweet-bitter and goes on on notes evoking nuts vanilla and barley.
'Good Evening Mr Bond'
Tonight we hosted our very first James Bond Martini Masterclass. The scene was set with the Martini glasses on chill, the ice ready to be shaken and stirred and our resident mixologist on hand to transport the guests back to 1954, Duke's Bar where Ian Flemming created Casino Royale and the famous Vesper Martini.
It was during the 2006 Casino Royale blockbuster that Daniel Craig really brought the Vesper Martini to the mainstream when he ordered a Dry Martini..."three measures of Gordon's, one of Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice and add a thin slice of lemon peel." Despite his initial precision and following a nasty run-in with the 'baddies' James Bond proceeds to order another martini, but when challenged by the bartender on this occasion to his preference over shaken or stirred, Bond replies "Does it look like I give a damn?
Which leads us to the basis for our Martini Masterclass...Was Bond right not to give a damn??
Although 007 specifies Gordon's in his concoction, we opted for Tanqueray 10...At the time that Flemming invented this drink, Gordon's was a very different gin; now you're better off using something with a little more 'kick'. Vodka was the same way, so we opted for smooth as silk Belvedere. Finally, Lillet, which is a beautiful French Apertif made from a blend of wine, liqueurs, fruits and herbs and has a distinctive orange flavour to it and makes a fruitier alternative to your average vermouth.
Our recipient for the martinis this evening were Australian natives and told of how hard it is to obtain Lillet at home, I even found out that we obtained our very own bottle from Bordeaux! I can't help but think that this makes our little concoction even more of a luxury treat as it something that will be very hard to recreate once you leave our island.
Armed with plenty of 007 knowledge having visited some of the sets of Bond films close to Eriska, watched the dvds in their suite and even taken the boat adventure to see Duart Castle on Mull they were ready for the next phase of their training.
First up, was what we like to call the 'Alternative Vesper Martin', the martini Bond was likely to be served when not giving a damn...three measures of Tanquery 10, one of Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet was controversially stirred with ice and served with a thin slice of orange peel to compliment the Lillet. Our guests took their first tentative sip and remarked on how the orange peel affected the martini flavour.
Finally, we created the Vesper...three measures of Tanqueray 10, one of Vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet, shaken over ice and served with a thin slice of lemon peel, a drink to make even the most suavest of killers weak at the knees!
So...was Bond right not to give a damn??
Our guests were divided; one preferred the chilled, clean and bitter taste of the Vesper whereas the other opted for the warming, fruitier alternative. Either way both agreed that it was a
drink not for the faint hearted and suitable for anyone about to start a mission!
With one Materclass under our Oddjob Bowler Hat we are now ready to take on the next guests who dare to take on the thrill of the James Bond Experience. For now though the Martini glasses will stay on chill, and the ice will remain un-shaken and un-stirred!