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40 years and still going!

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on May 31, 2014 8:39:00 PM

As I sit here this evening it would have been a very different picture 40 years ago.

On 31st May 1974 Robin and Sheena Buchanan-Smith officially opened Eriska as a hotel. On one side 40 years must seem a lifetime ago and on another it seems to have flown by. Over that time we have been lucky enough to have worked with some wonderful team members who have helped make Eriska what it is today and we have been fortunate enough that so many have crossed our wee rickety bridge to place their trust in us to deliver a relaxing experience.

However the greatest achievement for us as a family is the fact that even after 40 years we are still here and still operating and running Eriska, although sometimes it feels a bit backwards in that Eriska really runs us and operates us! My father always used to highlight how difficult it was to welcome guests who became friends and how challenging it was to continually evolve  and change to meet their needs and demands but in reality the two are intrinsically linked in that Eriska has always been and for as long as we remain involved- always will be- driven to evolve by our guests and the team we work with.

So what has changed over the last 40 years- well we must seem like an oasis of calm this evening compared to 40 years ago- on this night back in 1974 my parents had just held an opening reception for over 100 of the great and good of the area and those who had supported them on the journey from an empty old house back in July 1973 to a vibrant building in May 1974.  The official opening was by Tom Flemming and my mother missed it as she was carving Smoked Salmon in the kitchen.

They then went on to serve dinner for a full house plus some gluttons for punishment non residents who stayed on form the lunchtime reception. It was not only the hotels first night but also the team and more importantly my parents first night.

The tight schedule had left no time for a dry run or practice- they were still painting the diningroom at lunchtime before service and my fathers perfection stopped us having wet paint signs visible (history will now tell if anyone left the reception with more of a mark than they had anticipated!) so when the full diningroom, on a hot summers evening were all waiting for the main course it could be excused that my father became slightly distraught with his wee hostess trolley, old fashioned bone handled carving knife and small pheasants to carve and a baying crowd of hungry visitors. I have never been sure how long tables waited or how generous the portion sizes were but as far as I have been told everybody remembers the evening as ground breaking, the team learnt a great deal, my father never took to carving pheasant out of choice and Eriska was reborn and in truth we have tried never to look back except to reflect on the journey we have taken and look forward on the road ahead. 

The most amazing thing is that a young lady form Oban with no professional cooking experience and a Church of Scotland Minister from St Andrews managed to bind a hotel and island and team together to look after the guests with simple hospitality and peace and quiet. The good news is that little has changed today and these three ingredients remain in our bowl and remain at our core and will for the next 40 years.

Happy Birthday Eriska!

Topics: Eriska, Family Run Hotel, anniversary

New Year at Eriska 2013

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on Dec 6, 2013 6:37:00 PM

A Truly Scottish New Year is as traditional as Turkey at Christmas.

 

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For 20 years we closed Eriska at the end of the summer season and hibernated until the snow drops and daffodils had arrived before Easter. Then all changed in 1993 when we decided to open through the winter and this allowed us to extend into the festive period. It is no secret how perfect Eriska can be at Christmas and it certainly remains one of my favorite times.

However as I sit here today writing out to those joining us over the festive period my mind also tends to wander towards New Year.

I would not be the first to point out that I am not great at Christmas "Good Cheer and merriment" and feel that it has become a bit more commercial than seems necessary - a bit ironic for a hotelier enjoying additional holidays by our guests - but the reasons for Christmas seems to be lost in the consumerism. Not just because if I am in the hotel there can be no family arguments with me at home but really because Eriska - the house - lends itself to that wonderful atmosphere at a houseparty.

Scrooge, bah humbug!
As guests cross the bridge the world stops and worries and plights can be left at the gate, the newspapers seem to dwindle and television becomes full of annual wonderful films and shows which disregard the 24 hour news updates.

New Year however is much more brazen as simply being a time to reflect on years gone by and the last in particular and time to look forward and especially to 2014. Whilst the majority of us will all make ourselves promises - resolutions- we will fairly instantly break at least we have thought forward and even thought forward into the distant future and this can only be positive. On this note it soon becomes clear to me why Eriska is an ideal place for this reflection and contemplation. Those with little to worry about can indulge in enjoyment and those with much to consider can use activities and entertainment to raise their heads and escape the pressures. So whilst it is a full list of activities we plan it is enhanced by the early onset of night, the roaring log fires, the wonderful food and hopefully lengthy peaceful nights sleep, this interjected by the activities, newspapers and supporting weather makes it ideal - so what is planned for New Year 2013/2014.

Well after a hectic frantic Christmas week guest will arrive on the Sunday afternoon and hopefully by 6pm we will be able to hoist the drawbridge and start our festivities. The first evening is always a chance for auld acquaintances to recapture memories and for new visitors to bed into the house and settle in. On Monday we will spend the day catching up and relaxing with an afternoon Triathalon for those who remain energetic or those looking to work off Christmas Pudding- although in reality it remains a simple and fun afternoon of activites with something for everyone.

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Then on Tuesday- Hogmanay- we always reflect on the year gone by with a grand quiz of the year and a bottle of bubbly to celebrate then a treasure hunt round the island to allow further exploration and work up an appetite for the wonderful Dinner Ross has planned taking us up to the bells. Traditionally we have  a piper to join us before 12 with a piped eightsome- the last of 2013 and then the bells. Over the years we have been early , late and even on time but in reality it makes little difference as nobody outside the building needs to know although as we open the curtains at 12 it is always nice to hear the horns and sirens drifting across the water from Oban - although occasionally it  can be drowned out by the howling wind or driving rain.

winter golf

Then Wednesday is the first day of a New Year, a slower start with a Champagne Brunch all morning or however long guests want although some seem keen to start the New Year and others prefer slightly less gusto on the morning after! Then at One we start the first Eriska Golf Championship which is traditionally run whatever the weather and certainly need more good humour and enthusiasm than expertise although we can be guaranteed great competition for the wonderful prizes! 

Then more relaxation before the Dinner Dance and Paddy Shaw and his band whirl away the cobwebs and start 2014 in style.

Previously we used to make this the last day of New Year but as we get another days holiday in Scotland  and guest found it hard fining petrol and stops on the way home we thought it was best to make the most of it and on Thursday we have a quiet day of refection with a traditional lunch of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding and an afternoon of Egyptian PT ( a term handed down through my family)egyptian pt resized 600 involving lying flat and still with your eyes closed for a couple of hours to recharge the batteries and insuring a full charge before the last dinner and departure on Friday morning making the weekend pass like a flash and all the resolutions still in tact or at least nearly.

So for those that thought we relaxed and do nothing all winter then think again and for those looking for a break with a difference then maybe Hogamnay at Eriska is worth considering!

Topics: Family Run Hotel, Scottish Weather, Argyll Weather, Celebrate, castle, accomodation

Weather forecast wc 1st December

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on Dec 1, 2013 8:32:00 AM

How times have changed over 40 years!

When I was talking with some guests last night and reminiscing on years gone by they mentioned that they had always enjoyed discussions with my father. In particular they remembered him circulating the diningroom at breakfasts and giving his weather forecast for the day ahead. Oh how times have changed as today we simply print out a forecast form the BBC and place it on every bodies breakfast table. There are however three reasons for this- firstly I am not as good a forecaster as my father and would inevitably get it wrong, secondly we believe guests are slightly more reserved and would prefer to find the forecast in their own time and finally there are more interesting things to both tell guests about the area and about the world than simply Eriska's forecast and now with the plethora of indoor non weather dependent facilities on site there is less importance on the day ahead and the potential weather.

So why- I hear you ask- do we continue to forecast the weather ahead- again it is good for those who area bout to visit us to grasp what clothes to bring and what to expect, and it keeps those who like to know what we are up to up to date with all on Eriska. Like last week when heavy gales were reported on the west coast we can assure you that the wind lasted strongly for about an hour and then passed and the rain was as predicted by our forecast as nothing more than expected for this time of year.

So what can we expect for the first week of December?

Today:As I walked down the hill today it was remarkably mild, the wind had disappeared and the sky seems clear so the rest of the day should remain dry with some sunshine.

Monday: A mainly dry bright day with variable cloud amounts but this breaking to allow some sunny intervals, best across coastal hills

Tuesday: Mainly dry with some bright or sunny spells. It will be cloudy over northern hills with more persistent rain later. Freshening southwesterly winds. 

Wednesday: Cloudy with outbreaks of rain with stronger winds pushing in and brining the temperature down

Thursday: Drier, brighter but colder .

Friday: Again windy  with rain, turning to snow, especially on higher ground, before clearing later in the day.

Saturday:A band of rain will spread southwards during the weekend giving snow over high ground but clearer, colder and windy conditions will follow from the northwest with showers, these falling as snow.

 

 

Topics: Family Run Hotel, Scottish Weather, weather, weather forecast, Argyll Weather, West Coast Weather, weather in the west highlands of scotland, west highland weather, Celebrate

40 years memories in a box!

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on Oct 30, 2013 8:33:00 AM

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. 

Topics: Family Run Hotel, anniversary, History, Celebrate