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
I suppose it should be no surprise that another bank holiday weekend is a wash out but then again its not really a "Bank Holiday" here in Scotland and normally the first week in May brings with it the start of real summer. However there is no doubt that over the last few months there has been no real normal weather pattern with spring in full flow in Argyll while the rest of the country has shivered and drowned -- so now when we would normally see sunshine and blue skies I suppose a change is not surprising!
At least there is activity in the garden though as the grass on the golf course has turned green and is in full flourish, the geese have taken flight and headed north, the warmth in the ground has certainly kicked the seeds and plants in the gardens both in green houses and outside but along with that comes the weeds too so it is a busy time simply keeping on top of the grounds keeping it all tidy.
So will this week be a week of sun tan lotion and hard graft over the flower beds or a week of wellies and water standing in converted paddy fields?
Today: After a wonderful dawn yesterday the day simply deteriorated and turned to rain and today looks similar except the dawn will be a bit cloudier and the rain during the day less consistent!
Monday: Remaining cloudy throughout today with some rain at times. The patchy rain turning more persistent during today.
Tuesday: Another cloudy, damp, day with further outbreaks of light rain. The rain will be more persistent towards the north, but southern parts tending to turn dry later.
Wednesday:Bright start but with rain spreading in.
Thursday: Clearing early on then bright with blustery showers. Further rain for a time in the afternoon then finally drying up
Friday: Whilst the wind will be strong it should bring a the start of a change in conditions with drier weather pushing in.
Saturday: Whilst this period will start unsettled due to the strong winds it will seem warmer and drier- hopefully a sign of things to come!
Otter sightings on Eriska are not unheard of and in fact some of our guests are attracted by the thrill of the search. These sensitive and playful mammals hold an irresistible charm over our guests enjoying a relaxing walk along the island’s edge, which has made them a favourite over the years.
Eriska’s coastal environment is ideally suited to their habitation.
Our natural habitat remains untouched by urban development, water pollution or the use of pesticides. Our island location is remote from main roadways, which is one of the greatest threats to their numbers as roadkill deaths are one of their biggest threats. Our coastal and land environments offers food on tap: fish, shellfish, but also birds, small mammals, etc.
However all is now solved with the latest addition the the Eriska family. A year ago we were approached by one of our guests with aproposal to add an Otter sculpture to the beach at Eriska. Whilst at the outset this sounded a rather daft idea it was also the sort of concept which begins to attract support and is one which soon had enough traction to move from dream to reality.
So over the last year Kenneth Robertson has been working on a piece for us - not only was the actual otter sculpture important but insuring it fitted in to the environment and more importantly onto a rock at Otter Point was essential. Several visits later and much hard work from Keneth and his son have now seen the installation on the shore.
I am sure like us vsiitors will be pleased with it and will come to admire and enjoy our new constant and guaranteed resident. he now has three roles, to guard teh entrance to loch creran, to encourgae otters to teh shores and to offer a sighting spot for visitors. Howeer should this still one be to easy to spot here are some handy hints to have the best chance of spotting our eluisove creatures:
•Look for their ideal location: clean water, vegetated banks, and available prey.
•Look out for their distinctive webbed toe prints, or droppings (that may contain fish bones and scales)
•Dawn explorers will have the best chance of spotting them.
•Be still and patient, or walk quietly; keeping upwind.
Take care to avoid disturbing them or their habitat. With no guarantees of a sighting, our island setting itself is worth exploring and enjoying.
When you live somewhere it is often easy to forget how lucky we are with an endless plyground of activities and facilities to use.
But when a guest asks us for suggestions of how to amuse themseves we are never short of ideas.
Eriska caters for a wide range of activities offering complete relaxation to the most fast paced sporting activity to lure a wide-ranging audience. Here’s a quick guide to some of our top attractions:
Our 9-hole golf course is a top sporting island attraction regularly drawing in enthusiasts from all over the UK but with stunning views and challenging holes a few lost balls and wayward shots will not ruin your day!
Invigorate, energise, or relax at our ESPA spa facility that provides a full range of top-to-toe beauty therapies, ideal for those wishing to escape the realities of real life for a few days and be pampered by our trained professionals.
Our 17 metre indoor swimming pool is perfect for those seeking some holiday fun. Wither you’re a more serious swimmer, or just want to splash around with the family our pool is large enough to accommodate all
4. Sport Hall
Our sports hall houses a range of equipment to cater for a variety of indoor activities. With badminton, tennis, indoor bowls, table tennis, a putting green and five aside football, guests have the opportunity to fine tune their skill with some friendly competition.
5. Clay Pigeon Shooting
For those looking for something a little bit different, we offer the thrilling heart-pounding experience of clay pigeon shooting for those visitors with a keen eye and quick reactions from our expert tutor.
Unlike the cities and towns of Scotland, Eriska is a perfect location to enjoy the local night skies. There’s minimal light pollution and good sightlines to enjoy a clear view of the stars, planets and the occasional satellite casually passing by. On a really clear night you really do see it all
7. Nature trails
Eriska offers walkers and the photographers among us the perfect setting to explore and enjoy the local scenery and wildlife. Alternatively, for those wanting to burn off some energy through our island woodlands or venture further afield we have bicycles ready to hire
With over 100 different species of birds on the island, the early birds among our guests will be kept occupied looking out for some of our favourites at their most active and vocal.
9. Boat Trips
Absorb a spectacular seaview tour of our West Coast island and local marine wildlife and all departing from our own pier!
Eriska and the surrounding Argyll coastline is the perfect location for some of the best secluded shore and sea fishing opportunities in Scotland.
West coast phenomenom are not few nor far between so each I am never surprised with what I discover- it's one of the charms of living on Eriska!
As I walked home the other night I noticed two figures on the ground by the hotel- two guests lying on their back gazing up at the dark skies above. Initially I thought something tragic had happened and then I noticed they were looking at an ipad screen and enjoying the view . After a brief discussion I found out that they were lying looking at the dark skies- a natural occurance with little or no light source close by casuing pollution and working out the sights and shapes with the help of a trusty app!
Unlike the big cities (i.e Glasgow, Manchester and London) where you’d be lucky to see more than just Orion’s belt on a good night, Argyll has very little light pollution so on a clear night you really do see it all: stars, planets and the occasional satellite casually moving in-between.
As well as all the usual constellations that can generally be seen from anywhere in the northern hemisphere, like Ursa Major (which is partly made up of the “Big Dipper” or “Plough”), Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia and Draco; those out stargazing locally get to enjoy some truly phenomenal sights without having to use a telescope.
Being consumed by complete darkness at night allows a great view of small clusters of new born stars resulting from a supernova; the edge of the Milky Way and an a whole other galaxy in the Andromeda cluster. Even without a powerful telescope it is possible to make out shapes and details if the skies are clear although the use of any form of magnification is always
going to help the star gazers. In addition you can also enquire in the office and there is always a helpful guide on hand to assist or at least point you in the right direction or ipad address!
So before the nights get too short and the days too long it is worth getting out of cities to see the real dark skies
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)
It's no April fool there is really a whale in the Bay!
This was a common phrase in Argyll over the easter weekend. and to date our underwater visitor remains in the bay, he is however not always easy to spot! Indeed two of our guests on Sunday set off for Oban Airport and a planned trip in the skies. A clever entrepreneur not only decided to base himself over Easter Weekend at the airport and take visitors up in his plane to see Argyll but more importantly chose a stunning weekend- one in a million bank holiday weekends seem dry and sunny- and consequently some great shots of the area were possible.
However despite flying down towards Islay, out to Mull and Duart and then on up the greta glen to see Castle Stalker and the Coran narrows they returned in time for Afternoon tea to show off their shots. As we looked through the array of shots which really not only showed off the area but also the scale of Argyll we asked in an innocent manner if they had seen the Whale in Oban Bay. Despite a quick precursory look at the Oban views no whale seemed present so the immediatley got back in their car and set off for Oban in search of the Whale.
No sooner had they departed than it seemed they were back and pleased as punch to have been able to capture the images the trip in the plane had failed to offer.
Indeed whilst they were simply not unique shots they will probably never again see either a whale in oban Bay or Oban basking in Easter sunshine as we have this last week!
All in all it has been a great spell of weather but given the lack of foiliage on the trees and bushes it has also been a really interesting few weeks of wildlife spotting. Firstly the badgers have woken from their winter sleep and are now back- the clock change on Sunday did not seem to concern them- on their summer schedule with visits every evening, the otter has been spotted by the 5th Green on the golf course, the Sea Eagles are circling the driving range and the golf course remains inundated with geese - who clearly are enjoying the sunbathing before their long flight north and who could blame them - seem a constant target.
So in addition to these foreign and unusual visitors the island is really starting to wake up with bird song each morning alerting us to spring. The binocular collection has never been busier and whilst it can be cold sitting birding the views and sitings have been worth the wait and certainly reinforced what a wildlife treasure trove Eriska really is.
I am sure like everyone else in the Uk we have been surprised by the weather over the last 7 days although maybe at Eriska we have been surprised for different reasons. Whilst everyone has been buried under snow and near arctic conditions we have been basking in sunshine and enjoying another week of sunshine. It was very windy mid week and we were without power for a few hours but nothing like the central belt or even Arran which seems to have born the brunt of the weather and the tail end of winter.
Regrettably however I neither took my own advice last week nor my wife's advice this morning and proceeded as normal to light my monthly bonfire to burn rubbish and clearings from a weekend of work in the garden. However no sooner had I succeeded in getting the light to take than I was running with buckets of water and beating the ground with a brush to try and contain my now rampant muir burn.
In reality it was contained nearly by the cliffface and I was simply concerned that it might jump and head for the sports hall but when Anne appeared over the hill concerned that my house was on fire and explaining that the phone was not being answered- so they had imagined the worst- and the main hotel was engulfed in smoke maybe it was not quite as contained as I had initially imagined.
Anyway the ground is dry- I can vouch for this- and with the wind at its back the fire was moving quite quickly but after a few minutes of worry and a few buckets of water it was all nearly under control so next time I promise to listen to my wife! But is the cold front set to change or stay the same for the week ahead?
Today: After a cold night it will be dry with some sunshine. Staying cold and windy.
Monday: After a cold and frosty start to the day it will stay dry with only a few clouds overhead.
Tuesday:The dry weather will continue with sunny spells. The best of the sunshine again towards the West . Still feeling cold although easterly winds will be lighter.
Wednesday: Staying dry and cold with lighter easterly winds. There will be sunny spells by day with sharp frosts at nights.
Thursday:Starting dry and cold with some sunny spells, though a few snow showers possible,
Friday: Cloudier, windier and more unsettled conditions are then likely to spread in from the west, slowly heading northeastwards during the Easter Weekend.
Saturday: This rain may be preceded by snow, but it is certainly changing with cloud pushing in and tempertures rising along with precipitation! Typical Bank Holiday weather!
There are many reasons to live on the west coast of Scotland and walking to work last night as the sun dipped down behind the western mountain tips and the sky turned from blue to red was certainly one of those reasons. occassionally the sunsets on the west coast of scotland can be as spectacular as any where in the world and indeed the clarity and color can rival even the best- true we may have to wait for these to occur but when they do they are worth the wait!
In truth we have had a wonderful week of cold but dry still and sunny weather. Normally when my mother goes on holiday we can expect good weather but when she set off last weekend and the rain was pouring down we had begun to wonder if the old addage was going to hold true but it has come good in the end. So wil it continue?
Today: After a cold night the clear skies will leave a frost that will take time to clear and it will continue mainly dry and cold, though isolated wintry flurries possible on higher ground.
Monday: Rather cloudy at times but some clear intervals, with a frost for most parts, this sharp under clearer skies again perhaps a wintry flurry or two.
Tuesday: A bright, cold and mostly dry day with some sunny spells, although perhaps still some wintry showers
Wednesday: Mostly settled, fine and generally dry weather persisting with sunny intervals and light winds.
Thursday: It will continue with cold temperatures but a bit of cloud will push in and start to warm the morning up but with it also comes the risk of rain!
Friday:Rain to start and then brighter, colder and more showery conditions should follow from noon onwards
Saturday: The weekend should start mainly dry but rather cold despite sunny spells, however there is an increasing likelihood of more unsettled and breezier conditions developing
We are now well into the season with half term and weekend escapes.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are already half way through February and the days are creeping out. It almost seems that every day I am having to push the clocks back that operate our lights outside so that we are not lighting an already day light carpark and clearly we are not wasting electricity, but the other side of Spring sees us cutting the grass for the first time and providing it remains warm and dry no doubt the weekly chores on the golf course will start to run.
The good news however last week with our wet Thursday was that we saw the backs- or should I say underside- of our golf course visitors- 200 geese can certainly make an impression and whilst they fertilised the fairways and ate the rough back they obeyed the signs and stayed off the greens --in the most part! So the rain washed most of it on and now with a bit or warmth it will become bright vibrant grass!
So what have we got ahead for the weather this week-
Today: After a cloudy start it should start brightening up through noon and into the afternoon.
Monday: A little drizzle across high hills to start the day otherwise dry and mostly cloudy. A few cloud breaks possible later in the day
Tuesday: A dry day everywhere with most places starting cloudy. Brightening up through the morning with some sunshine for the afternoon
Wednesday: A mainly dry and settled period with bright and sunny spells. Frost and fog expected after dark which could be slow to lift and clear. Winds will be mostly light.
Thursday: Conditions are expected to be cold, mostly dry but rather cloudy and breezy, with the best of any brighter weather across inland areas.
Friday:The cloud at dawn will be thick enough at times to produce some wintry showers at day break, with some thicker cloud also spreading into the southwest at times giving some outbreaks of rain and hill snow.
Saturday: Slightly warmer than Friday with a breeze lifting the temperatures on shore but still a threat of rain in the afternoon.