It’s come to that time of year when the weather is starting to pick up, the schools are finishing up for the summer and tourists are flooding into cities all around the world.
Short summer breaks are just what you need to escape the monotony of every-day life. For those planning on joining us at the West Coast this summer, here's some activities on and around Eriska to help plan the perfect getaway itinerary:
Thing to do on the Island
The main house is set in the centre of the island and is surrounded by an abundance of flora and wildlife wherein lies a selection of nature paths for our guests to explore. From all points of the island there are amazing views to be witnessed, and with each walk varying in length both casual walkers and experienced hikers have the chance to behold the wonders of the Island.
For those wishing to really take advantage of the Island experience, we offer a wide range of activities so that there’s always something for everyone: relax and regenerate at our stables spa, complete with swimming pool, sauna and hot tub for an escape of pure luxury; test your skill on our 9-hole golf course and driving range, or build up a sweat in our indoor sport facility with a spot of tennis, badminton, football and more.
Our 300 acre island is home to more than just the estate; many birds and animals reside in the depths of the vegetation that are unlikely to be spotted in a metropolitan setting. Many a guest have the enjoyment of waking up in the morning to the harmonies of several species of birds chirping in the distance and often spot deer, otters, badgers and seals while exploring the islands depths. For the keen birdwatchers, we have over 100 species of birds on and around the island including the rare white-tailed sea eagle which has been said to make an appearance by our golf course
For those looking for something a little unusual, we offer the fast-paced heart-pounding experience of clay pigeon shooting. Test your skill with a rifle as the clays are sent soaring through the air, along with our experienced instructor.
Activities and Places to Visit near Eriska
- Sea Life Centre
Located only a mile from Benderloch, you don't have to go too far to have a fun afternoon.The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary homes a variety of different and interesting fish and aquatic animals, offering frequent talks, feedings and displays each day to help you get better acquainted with your favourites
Our neighbours down at Tralee Bay offer a great variety of quirky activities to try. Explore their vast hilly terrain and fantastic open views as you guide your segway through some of Scotland's most scenic countryside or attempt to walk on water in one of the huge 2 meter water walkers. With activities for all ages, it truly is a great family day out!
Charter your own boat to take you around the Isles from Eriska's own Pier. Coastal Connection offer a selection of different Island tours ideal for couples and large groups, allowing you to witness the beauty of the west coast from a whole different perspective.
For those looking to go on a bit of an adventure, Stramash offer a plethora of outdoor activities for a wide range of skill sets. Archery, Coastering, Sailing and Kayaking are just a few of the things you can try in many of the local stunning settings around the Argyll area
Eriska offers the perfect getaway; it’s location in the West Coast of Scotland places it right in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, offering beautiful picturesque scenery and tranquility and with the vast range of activities both on and around the Island our guests will never lack something to do.
Our popular three-night breaks offers the perfect amount of time to explore and indulge, with rates starting at just £585.00 per person. And with our pay before you stay option, you can save a further 10% on top of this.
It's that time of year again when the Island truly comes alive.
With the season broken in nicely, the notorious wildlife of Eriska is making it's triumphant return for 2014 bringing with it the magic that makes Eriska special to so many of our guests.
Though our friends in the animal kingdom never truly left us - most notably Bertie and his friends, who suffered through thunder storms and gale-like winds all winter to get their daily helping of peanuts and milk - the rest of the island natives are beginning to come out of hiding
Otter Point, in particular, is showing signs of life with our cheeky semi-aquatic compatriots frequenting our stony-shores. Many of these playful creatures have been spotted by guests over the last few days, as well as island resident Mrs B who was lucky enough to capture the above pictures for us.
As suggested by it's name, Otter Point is a sight notorious for spotting otters and last year become home to the bronze sculpture, Wache, that was placed in tribute to mark Eriska's 40th year as a hotel, making it an increasingly popular spot for our guests.
Wache, our bronze otter sculpture, was made by Kenneth Robertson last summer using advanced techniques to give it its flawless life-like shape that was moulded to fit a particular rock at Otter Point.
It was placed as a "Guardian to the Island" to mark Eriska's 40th year and subsequently named by our competition winner, Dr. Joe Myers, who came up with the name "Wache" which is an old Scots terms meaning "Eternal Watcher".
Since his placement on the island, Wache has become a popular sighting point for our guests and is frequently mistaken for a real otter to approaching visitors!
Tips for Spotting Otter's on the Island
Eriska’s coastal environment is ideally suited to otter's habitation.
Our natural habitat remains untouched by urban development, water pollution or the use of pesticides. Our island location is remote from main roadways and our coastal and land environments offers food on tap: fish and shellfish as well as birds and small mammals.
Here’s some handy hints to have the best chance of spotting them:
Look for their ideal location: clean water, vegetated banks with available prey.
Look out for their distinctive webbed toe prints, or their distinctive odour (likened to jasmine tea!)
Dawn explorers will have the best chance of spotting them.
Be still and patient, or walk quietly; keeping upwind (wind can carry your scent which may alert them to your presence)
Other Otter Locations near Eriska
The west coast of Scotland is well known for offering sightings of wildlife not commonly seen in bigger towns and cities. From Oban there are a selection of boat tours dedicated to sea-life watching as well as frequent ferries to the Isle of Mull who's coastline is littered with Otters when the tide is in.
However, for those not too fussed about trying to catch a distant glance of Otter's in their natural habitat, the Scottish Sea-life Sanctuary in Benderloch homes a few and even hosts a couple of "Meet and Greet's" throughout the day to give you a closer look and learn more about their eating and living habits.
So for those in the area in the near future, we would definitely recommend taking your chances out by the coast to try your luck at spotting one of these fantastic animals and visit Wache who continues to guard the island at Otter Point!
Destination film location!
On hearing about the reforming of Monty Python last week our thoughts immediately turned to the Holy Grail Film, which was shot close to Eriska so we thought it would be appropriate to highlight some of the local locations used in well known films- some you may be aware of and others may be news to you but if you see the films again you may be able to look out for local sights and panoramas!
We have listed some of the local films although we must also stress that they are in no particular order- some involved Eriska others simply had us watching the final results and spotting locations!
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Clancy Brown
Synopsis: An immortal medieval Scotsman, Conor MacLeod, must face his fellow immortal peers in battle until only one remains to claim “The Prize”
Locations: Some of this was shot at the head of Loch Creran - indeed I remember seeing a sign in the local shop for extras - £5 per day or £10 if you had a horse! It may have seemed like easy money but I am told it invoved hordes running down a hill in the battle at the start of the movie where Connor and Kurgan first meet but it took several takes so also involved several trudges back up the hill to start the sequence again.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Director: Terry Gilliam & Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle
Synopsis: A comical slapstick take on the tale of King Arthur and his Knights, as they embark on a quest for the holy grail
Locations: Castle Stalker, Appin (Castle of Aaargh) which is now a well visited site for pilgrims on the Monty Python circuit.
Director: Mel Gibson
Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
Synopsis: A take on the story of William Wallace as he leads Scotland against the English, based loosely on historic fact.
Locations: Aonach Eagach (opening sequence) this is a stunning walk- but not for the fainthearted as there were no special effects used to highlight the drop on either side of the ridge. A lot of the film was then shot in Glen Nevis behind Fort William and indeed the village scenes were all sited here.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint
Synopsis: The best story ever told. The third in the series, Harry Potter enters his third year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry while the convicted Murderer Sirius Black, who escapes from the wizard prison, Azkaban, is coming after him
Locations: This was shot in Glen Coe especially the long vistas looking towards Hagrids Hut and indeed Hagrid and many of the grown ups were based here at Eriska; However the most memorable images are probably of Glenfiddan Viaduct and Loch Shiel (Hogwarts Lake – most notably the Dementor Scene at the end)
Ring of Bright Water (1969)
Director: Jack Couffer
Starring: Bill Travers, Virginia McKenna
Synopsis: A fictional adaptation of the autobiography by Gavin Maxwell, about a man and his pet otter.
Locations: A very local film based in story line about Oban and shot on the Isle of Seil (Ellenabeich & Easdale) and in Oban (North Pier).
Eye of the Needle (1981)
Director: Richard Marquand
Starring: Donald Sutherland, Kate Nelligan, Stephen McKenna
Synopsis: Set during WW2, about a German Spy trying to flee Britain with key information about D-Day who gets involved with the wife of a crippled man on a Scottish Island off the west coast as he waits to be collected. Adapted from the novel by Ken Follett
Locations: This was shot in the area but the most notable land mark is Connel Bridge which features quite heavily .
Morvern Callar (2002)
Director: Lynne Ramsay
Starring: Samantha Morton, Kathleen McDermott
Synopsis: Following the death of her boyfriend, a shop clerk – Morvern Callar – passes off his unpublished novel as her own and uses the money he saved for his funeral to escape her dreary life Scotland
Locations: Oban was transformed into a winter wonderland in March for the filming however it also coincided with the Foot and Mouth epidemic so as we had no cows or livestock on the island and the film crew had been restricted for movement much was shot actually here on the island!
Director: Jon Amiel
Starring: Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Synopsis: After a priceless piece of art goes missing, an insurance agent, “Gin” is sent to go after and capture the thief, “Mac” by trying to entrap him, Claiming to be a thief too and promising to help him go after a valuable Chinese Mask from a well-guarded palace.
Locations: Although much was based overseas there was a section shot at Duart Castle (Mac’s hideout), and the main characters were based here at Eriska for the shoot.
Director: Michael Apted
Starring: Dougray Scott, Kate Winslet, Saffron Burrows, Jeremy Northam
Synopsis: During WW2, a young genius is recruited to help crack an enemy code that will help solve the mysterious disappearance of the woman he loves.
Locations: It was shot in and around Oban with the climax being at Tigh Beg Croft (Loch Feochan). the main cast were based here at Eriska.
Local Hero (1983)
Director: Bill Forsyth
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Peter Piegert, Fulton Mackay, Peter Capaldi
Synopsis: An American Oil company send a representative to a small Scottish village in the hopes of securing rights to build an oil refinery, however things don’t go as planned when a local hermit, Ben – who owns a beach which is crucial to the plans – is unwilling to sell his property, leading the company representative to negotiate with Ben on his own terms.
Locations: Although not entirely local as it was on knoydart it remaisn a favourite scottish film for us so had to be included. Morar Beach, Mallaig was famous for beach scenes and northern lights- which we can see from Eriska too- occasionally
When Eight Bells Toll (1971)
Director: Etienne Perier
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley
Synopsis: A british secret agent, Philip Calvert, is sent on a mission to investiage the disappearance of a ship carrying £8 million in gold near the coast of Scotland.
Locations: although back in the earlier days this did establish Duart Castle and Tobermory as film locations as well as Fingal’s Cave (Staffa )
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris
Synopsis: Bond's loyalty to M is tested when her past comes back to haunt her. Whilst MI6 comes under attack, 007 must track down and destroy the threat, no matter how personal the cost. It sees him return to his childhood home and reaffirm his love of Scotland although the house was never here!
Locations: Glen Coe and Glen Etive are linked to the car drive and very apt as he was again back in his Aston Martin
From Russia with Love (1963)
Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Robert Shaw, Lotte Lenya
Synopsis: James Bond willingly falls into an assassination ploy involving a naive Russian beauty in order to retrieve a Soviet encryption device that was stolen by SPECTRE.
Locations: Several locations in Argyll& Bute with sea scenes south of Oban in particular the finale helicopter & Boat chase scene although you have to feel for the poor crew who get thrown overboard into the sea.
Earlier this year we launched our 'name the otter contest' and last week we welcomed Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie to unveil the plaque underneath our friend on the rock. You may remember we set out to name the bronze otter sitting on the rock at Otter Point at Eriska, in conjunction with our 40th anniversary as a Hotel. You may remember we announced the winner, Jo Thompson? if not here's a quick recap!
The Bronze Sculpture
Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. This took several visits and much hard work from Kenneth and his son.
Dr. Jo Thompson & 'Name the Otter Contest'
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out to get our friend a name earlier in the summer. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher'.
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organisation overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution. Since 1995 Jo has been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species. Through her work she also met Victoria Miller from Oban, which is how Jo found out about our little contest!
As we mentioned above we received Mr & Mrs Miller and Cassie last week to unveil the plaque we got made for Wache this summer. They have had Basenjis for years, and on the top picture you see them with their Basenji, Cassie - the whole reason Jo found out about our otter contest! Unfortunately Jo could not come with us to unveil the plaque being attached to the rock so they brought Cassie instead!
The First Meeting
Victoria met Jo through and online forum and a mutual friend. They met for the first time in person when Jo was speaking at the Hope4Apes conference in London 2010, hosted by Sir David Attenborough. Helena Lane (fellow breeder) and Victoria travelled to London to meet with Jo Thompson to discuss the possibility of importing one of Jo’s Lukuru Basenji puppies. The following year (September 2011), Cassie was imported into the UK - the first Congolese Native Basenji since the early foundation stock. Although born in the USA, Cassie was bred from pure Native stock brought back by Jo from a conservation area in the Democratic Republic of Congo where there are no other dogs except the Native Basenjis. Cassie is the first truly African Basenji to arrive in the UK for 70 years!
"Cassie had 7 pups this summer, 31st July, which is why the visit has had to wait! Cassie and the pups are healthy and enjoy life off the west coast of Scotland", Victoria assures me. "Cassie's parents are on the other side of the planet, living the 'American Dream' with Jo". All this talk about Basenjis, you have to start wondering about the breed itself.
The size of a Fox Terrier, the Basenji has a wrinkled brow, prick ears, pliant skin, short tight curled tail, very short coat and wash themselves like a cat. They are a hunting dog capable of very high speeds who point and flush game, but their most unique features are they are barkless and carry no dog odours, a most useful asset when they are in pursuit of game who do not easily pick up their scent. Discovered in the African Congo with Pygmy hunters, early explorers called the dogs after the tribes that owned them or the area in which they were found, such as Zande dogs or Congo terriers. The native tribes used the dogs (which often wore large bells around their necks) as pack hunters, driving game into nets.
Early attempts to bring Basenjis to England in the late 1800s and early 1900s were unsuccessful because the dogs all succumbed to distemper. In the 1930s, a few dogs were successfully brought back to England and became the foundation (along with subsequent imports from the Congo and Sudan) of the breed outside of Africa. The name Basenji, or "bush thing," was chosen. The early imports attracted much attention, and soon after the Basenji was brought to America. The breed's popularity as both a pet and show dog grew modestly but steadily. In the 1950s, a surge of popularity occurred as a result of a book and movie featuring a Basenji!
All this talk about Basenjis, what is your relationship to the otter side of things?
"As you can see I took my otter t-shirt out for the occasion! No really, my relationship with otters is mainly through Jo, however living in the West Coast of Scotland, you can’t help but have an affinity with the local wildlife and otters are a truly special creature.”
We can't say anything else than that we agree with you! At Eriska the is an abundance of wildlife, such as red deer, badgers, birds and otters (!) in such tranquille surroundings - what is there not to love!
We want to thank you both for coming to see the plaque unveiled and of course for bringing Cassie along!
If you are looking to cure the 'winter' blues why not check out our 3 night rates this month, visit Wache, have some heavenly delicious food in our restaurant and a soak in the Jacuzzi in the Stables Spa.
Did you know that Otters watches the health of our aquatic resources?
Where otters thrive, the water resources are healthy for human. Otters are the apex indicator species of the water habitat and our water resources, and can be seen as critical indicators of our human condition.
As you may know, over the years history and memorable dates have been marked by the addition of items to Eriska. The year the house was built, 1884, an oak tree was planted by the south east corner of the house and indeed it remains strong and vibrant today- indeed it sports a delightful swing seat. In 1984 to make the house one hundredth birthday another oak was planted on the south west corner by the croquet lawn and despite a few years with little growth it is now well established and beginning to dominate that area.
So to mark and celebrate our 40th Anniversary this year we decided to mark it by adding a permanent new "Guardian of Eriska" in the shape of a Bronze Sculpture. Wache was made by bronze sculptor Kenneth Robertson, using advanced techniques, initially creating a wire meshed mould which was then cast as a simple albino plaster. Ensuring he fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential and it was moulded to fit a particular rock looking a specific way to guard the island. Several visits later and much hard work from Keneth and his son. Wache now sits at Otter Point cast in wonderful bronze.
We felt our sculpture needed a name and so we set out get our friend a name. After a few weeks of collecting name suggestions and votes, a name was announced last Sunday; Wache was sent in by Dr. Jo Myers Thompson, and is old Scottish for 'Eternal Watcher' - a name that ideally suits him as he sits on the rocky surface on the west side of the Island watching the loch.
We therefore thought we would introduce you to our winner and asked how she came about the name Wache. And indeed did we end up with a worthy winner!
Dr. Jo Myers Thompson is the Executive Director of the Lukuru Wildlife Research Foundation, a not-for-profit umbrella organization overseeing a variety of conservation efforts in the deep heart of equatorial Africa. By profession, she is a primatologist and naturalist.
Jo received her doctorate degree from the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and is a contributing author to several books about ecology, distribution and evolution and has since 1995 been involved with otter conservation, which started with her raising an infant Congo Clawless Otter. At that time, the species had recently been declared extinct. However, that classification was based on absence of reports not absence of the otters. So, she was launched into the world of otter conservation as the world expert on the Congo Clawless Otter species.
How did you come up with the name Wache?
"My very dear friends, Victoria & Douglas Miller live near Oban. They know of my love for otters and tell me from time to time of seeing otters around that region. In fact, they mentioned to me about the bronze statue even before the competition was announced. When you posted the competition on your Facebook wall, Vicki wrote and asked me what name I would suggest. I told her 'Wache' because it means "Eternal watcher" in the old Scottish tongue."
Wache will hold three roles as Eriska's guardian:
To guard the entrance to Loch Creran.
To encourage otters to the shores.
To offer a sighting spot for visitors that come to Eriska.
If you are coming to visit us soon or in the future, take a walk to Otter Point and say hello to Wache. He sits on a truly beautiful spot on the island which is perfect for sunsets and taking pictures. Maybe he will bring some of his friends to our shores? If you're lucky you might spot them, it's just another great reason to bring your camera to Eriska.
Wache will have his name engraved on a plaque together with Dr. Jo's and when finished it will be displayed for everyone to see. We will make sure to keep you all updated on our progress. And again, congratulations to you Jo!