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Guest Blog: Hill Running

Posted by Beppo Buchanan-Smith on Aug 22, 2014 4:46:08 PM

The anniversary of the start of First World War has given rise to some interesting television programmes. Many readers may have seen Beppo’s aunt, Dame Mary Corsar, being interviewed after the Drumhead Commemoration. Two of her uncles fell in action.  George Buchanan Smith was mortally wounded at Loos in September 1915. His brother, who was nicknamed ‘Beppo’, was ambushed in East Africa fighting with the Indian Army.

As a small boy I had a keen interest in the Second World War. This curiosity was fostered by playing with soldiers, Action Man and watching numerous war films (most frequently The Great Escape). It wasn’t until I was older that I read Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man, and had my mind opened to the horrendous conditions endured by both sides during the Great War.

Last week I took another look at some of George Buchanan Smith’s poetry. There is no doubt that my generation is made of less stern stuff.  One clear piece of evidence is our recent showing in the Law Breakers (a Scottish hill race). Race results are now freely available on the internet but anyone interested in the performance of the Buchanan-Smiths in this year’s race can save some time by starting at the bottom of the results list! With these thoughts in mind I decided that it was time to remove my bottom from my armchair and get out and do something. So on Sunday I decided to drive over to the Lomonds of Fife Hill Race, which is a run I had not previously attempted.

Hill running, or fell running as it is often alternatively known, is a simple sport. You start at the bottom of a hill. You run to the top of the hill, and then you run back down the hill. Sometimes you run over several hills, but the format is more or less the same. Compared with many other sports you need very little equipment, as a minimum all you need is a pair of trainers, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt or vest. The logistics are also extremely simple and most of the time little organisation is required. You drive there, park in a lane, pay a few quid, get given a race number and four safety pins and you’re all set.

For many years I thought that you had to be either an Olympian or Royal Marine to participate in this sport, until a friend kindly encouraged me try it. Anyone who goes jogging occasionally can run a hill race. In fact anyone who can manage some brisk hillwalking can participate in a hill race. That said I would advise that your try a short race that isn’t too steep on your first attempt. I would also warn you not to be too surprised if the first half of the race takes much longer than the second half.

The hill running community is especially friendly and the organisers (usually local clubs) are always hospitable. The top-level runners and seasoned participants are always welcoming and encouraging. I had the pleasure of meeting Scottish legend Manny Gorman, who was signing copies of his book. Manny is an experienced hill runner and in 2009 he set out on a continuous unmotorised journey to run all of the Scottish mountains that are between 2,500 and 3,000 feet high (these hill are known as the Corbetts). On this expedition he covered a staggering 2,600 miles and 420,000 feet of ascent by foot, cycle and yacht in seventy days. I am looking forward to reading the account of this journey through the Scottish wilderness which I suspect involved fantastic stamina and determination, not to mention plenty of fresh Scottish weather.

Manny arrived at the start and said ‘I am just gonna jog around’. I noticed that he positioned himself at the front of the pack however, and by the time I got back to the village hall he had already got changed (the official results report him in 21st place). I positioned myself cautiously at the rear of the field. One couple from Edinburgh told me that they regularly run the Pentland Skyline Race. It is a race that I always fancy, but feel that it is a little beyond me. It occurred to me that if I could stay in front of them it might be a litmus test of my fitness. I also heard two fellas chatting about a 65km race that they were going to run in Scandinavia next week. They agreed that they would go slowly to ‘loosen themselves up’ but set off slightly more quickly than I expected. I decided that I would try to keep up with them in hope that I could put some distance between myself and the Edinburgh couple.

It was a relatively warm and sunny afternoon but there was a ferocious wind. Like many fell races the Lomonds route goes through some fantastic countryside. The run takes in two peaks, East and West Lomond, which are sometimes known as the Paps of Fife. As I approached East Lomond the South Fife coast and the Firth of Forth revealed itself. The view on the ascent of West Lomond exposed the rolling fields and flatter landscape of Fife. The race continues further west from the summit of West Lomond and takes in one of the steepest descents of any hill race in Scotland. Runners are forced to glissade as if descending a snow slope. There are three forms of glissade. They are the ‘standing glissade’, the ‘sitting glissade’ and the ‘out of control glissade’. This is also the order in which the runner finds themselves descending this slope!

There is a cruel sting in the tail as the descent from West Lomond is followed by a climb back up hill. I managed to stay ahead of the Edinburgh couple and on the final downhill section one of the two chaps destined for Scandinavia pulled a muscle which meant that I was able to pass them. The race was great fun and I can thoroughly recommend it. One of the pleasures of trying a new event is the reward of an inevitable personal best. The race is 16.2km (10 miles) and involves 800m of uphill. I arrived back in 2 hrs 18 mins 11 seconds, and was 137th out of a field of 197 runners. I was relieved to be some way off of the bottom of a results table this time. I also had a wry smile when I spied that a student that I taught last year came in over half an hour behind me!

Many runners and hillwalkers visit the Isle of Eriska Hotel each year and it is ideally located for a number of Scottish Hill Races. Most obviously the Beinn Lora Hill Race starts in Benderloch, but the hotel would also make a great base for the Lorne Highland Games Race which is only 3.2km. The Oban Games has a race as does the Taynuilt Games and the Appin Show. There is a much longer and tougher race between Creagan and the Clachaig Inn in Glen Coe (24km) after which the spa would be a fantastic location to recuperate.


Vernon Gayle


Topics: activities in argyl, activities, Guest Blog

Grow Your Own: 5 Vegetables to Sow in August

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Aug 21, 2014 4:47:00 PM

It's been a few months now since Eriska brought their greenhouse back to life, growing fresh vegetables for the kitchen's daily use to add to the guests dining experience, and the Eriska experience as a whole. With a large selection of our vegetable patch ready for harvesting, visitors to our restaurant can literally see their food transform from start to finish.

Alongside our vegetable patch, and a selection of wild herbs and berries, Eriska also welcomed some quail and pigs to the Island this summer, giving our little Scottish Island Retreat a bit of a farm feel much to the delight visitors who have expressed much enthusiasm in Ross's "home-grown" approach.

Though the best months are behind us it's not too late to late to try grow your own vegetable garden. For those looking to try their hand at a bit of gardening but don't know what to grow in August, here's a bit of advice from our professionals:

  • Radish

Radish's are very easy to grow, and ideal for beginners. For those wanting quick results from their labour - radish takes very little time to germinate and are usually ready to harvest after only 4 weeks! These root vegetables can be sown as late as September/October and make a tasty addition to any Salad.

  • Spring Onion

Another delicious addition to a nice garden salad, winter-hardy Spring Onion are ideal to grow in small plots or containers. With sowing possible as late as August/September, a winter crop can be left in the greenhouse over the worst months to produce a spring harvest.

  • Winter Cabbage

It can be difficult finding vegetables that are able to grow during a typical British winter. Winter cabbage is ideal for this, boasting a higher tolerance to the cold than most of their photosynthesising comrades. By planting later summer, you will find them harvestable in the heart of winter can use them in many tasteful coleslaws and salads.

  • Turnip

Though it fairs from the same family as Cabbage (Brasicca), turnip - like radish - is a fast growing crop and is often ready in 5 - 8 weeks, making it another brilliant choice for any beginners. However, if left they become less tender and flavourful so it is best to spread out the sowing of these vegetables to establish a constant flow of fresh, sweet turnips.

  • SwedeEriska_Vegetable_Patch

Though often confused with turnip, swede is much more resiliant to frost. They crop over a longer period, due to being left in the soil over winter, and are usually ready to harvest around 20 weeks after sowing. Another good choice fpr the novice gardener looking for a sweeter flavour.

Though the time for sweet berries and juicy tomatoes is gone for this year, there is still a large selection of herbs, salad leaves and vegetables to sow in august that can lead to a nice winter garden. 

Topics: Eriska Farm

West Coast Weather - Week Commencing 17th August

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Aug 17, 2014 8:30:00 AM

One thing we believe can be agreed on by all who have been residing in our neck of the woods this August is that the west coast weather has been - to be blunt - rubbish!

What usually is the summer's best month has, this year, been a constant array of disappointment, with thick cloud blocking out the sun and casting us into darkness about an hour prematurely in the evenings and frequent rain showers drowning our flora and leaving behind puddles so large we can hardly distinguish them from the pond on the front lawn.


Though we can officially say the summer holidays are over, with the Scottish school's commencing for a new year this week past, we still remain blindly optimistic for our last stretch of summer before the Autumn chills take over

Today: Heavy rain showers sporadically thoughout the day, with some brief spells of sunshine.

Monday: Will remain dry, with frequent sunny intervals in the morning and afternoon.

Tuesday: Expect more sunny spells during the day, with light, breviloquent showers mid-afternoon

Wednesday: Looks to be dry for most of the morning and afternoon, with rain developing in the later half of the day

Thursday:Rain showers predicted to dominate a large part of the day, with moderate winds adding a chill.

Friday: Rain showers and sunny intervals throughout, with things expected to dry up in the evening,

Saturday: The week looks to end on a dreich note, with showers persisting throughout.

The average temperature high for the coming week of 13-14 seems fitting to the stereotype of the weather in the west highlands of Scotland, however residents to the area seem less that willing to accept the end of what has been one of the better scottish summer's in ages - especially with the upcoming Oban Games, which is largely an outdoor event.

Though not to worry, guests to the Island can take shelter this week in our spa and experience pure bliss with one of our luxurious pamper days which will help you forget all about the gloomy scottish weather!

Topics: weather forecast

Relais and Chateaux 60th Anniversary

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Aug 13, 2014 3:21:41 PM

The name "Relais and Chateaux" today is the pinnacle of top-notch, luxurious hospitality throughout the world. The fellowship, which originated in France in the 1950s set out with the mission "to spread its unique art de vivre across the globe by selecting outstanding properties with a truly unique character." and now holds over 500 members in its ranks.


This month marked Relais and Chateaux 60th anniversary: an occassion celebrated globally across the 60 countries containing a R&C property, and this week Eriska were proud to help mark the occassion with a special tasting menu showcasing the best of Scottish produce and our chef, Ross Stovold's, ability to transform it into something extraordinary.

Along with the meal guests to the hotel had the option to have matched wines, which were carefully selected to optimise the flavours and textures of each dish and deliver a true fine-dining experience true of and Relais and Chateaux property. The wines selected were all from different regions of France, as tribute to Relais and Chateaux origins.

The night was a tremendous success and enjoyed by all in attendance. We at Eriska were thrilled to be a part of the celebration and congratulate Relais and Chateaux on their immense success, wishing them a happy anniversary with many more to come!

Photo by Glen Montgomery, F&B Manager

Topics: Relais and Chateaux

West Coast Weather - Week Commencing 3rd August

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Aug 3, 2014 3:39:11 PM

Ther weather forecast last week was a rollercoaster of ups and downs.

With things constantly changing from picturesque summer days to what seems like tropic rainstorms at the blink of an eye, the populus of the West Coast got a bit of a nasty shock on more than one occasion when leaving their homes unprepaired for the frequent changes.



And with more troublesome showers on the way, this week we recommend stocking up on waterproofs to ensure you're not caught out.

Today: Rain showers, with some promise of sunshine. Today looks to be rather gloomy with brief dry spells in the early evening.

Monday: With a bit of a dull start to the day, things are due to improve - drying up later morning with some sunny intervals in the late afternoon

Tuesday: Sporadic rain showers through the day

Wednesday: More rain will persist today, broken up by occasional patches of sunshine.

Thursday: Looks to be mainly unchanged

Friday: Heavy rain predicted to dominate most of the day. Some sunny intervals are due to break up the afternoon

Saturday: The week is due, this week, to end on a wet note - with more showers, some sunshine.

Now may be a good time to rest from a summer of exploring the great outdoors. For those seeking something to do in a luxurious and relaxing environment, we recommend a visit to our very own private Island and stopping by for a bite of afternoon tea and a nice massage.



Topics: Scottish Weather, weather, weather forecast, Argyll Weather, West Coast Weather, Warm West Coast Weather, weather in the west highlands of scotland

West Coast Weather - Week Commencing 20th July

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Jul 20, 2014 3:52:00 PM

It's been a chaotic whirlwind of ups and downs this week, as the weather failed to make up its mind with the forecast: sending us outside in light clothes with promises of sunshine only to surprise us with a downpour later.

Jellyfish by Eriska Pier

Earlier in the week we had heard reports of potential thunderstorms coming our way, though things are looking to be a bit clearer than initially expected, giving us enough opportunity to get outside and explore.

Today: Cloudy and overcast, with occasional showers in the afternoon.

Monday: Things will remain dry, with sunny intervals throughout the afternoon

Tuesday: Another cloudy day ahead with brief patches of sunshine.

Wednesday: Looks to remain mainly unchanged, though expect some light showers in the evening.

Thursday: Today will start off dry, with frequent burst of sunshine, with rain showers dominating in the afternoon.

Friday: Intermittent sunshine and showers throughout the day.

Saturday: Predicted to be drizzly for the best part of the day.

With enough dry spells to allow for a lengthy trip outdoors -without having the worry of incapacitating heat - we recommend those coming to the area enjoy a nice bike ride along the Oban to Fort William cycle path. With Eriska being only two miles from the path, guests can enjoy the nice scenic route from Benderloch to Port Appin with relative ease and enjoy a bite to eat at the one of the few cafes and bars on route.

Topics: Isle of Eriska Hotel, Scottish Weather, weather, weather forecast, Argyll Weather, West Coast Weather, Warm West Coast Weather, west highland weather, activities in argyl, cycling near oban, west coast cycling

Isle of Eriska 40th Anniversary Competition

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Jul 18, 2014 10:31:00 AM

In May this year Eriska celebrated its 40 years of welcoming guests through their doors.

To mark the occasion, we launched a competition offering one lucky individual the opportunity to win exclusive use of the Island for 40 hours for up to 40 guests.

Old Eriska

A big congratulations to our winner, who interestingly enough is distantly related to the family that lived on the Island at the turn of the century and who will be joining us later this year with a section of guests to re-live the experience of her ancestors as they did at the beginning of the 20th century.

We thank everyone who entered the competition and to show our appreciation we will be in touch with all the participants with an exclusive offer soon!

Topics: 5 star retreat scotland, castle, Exclusive Use, luxury hotels scotland, luxury 5 star hotels, #eriska40years, Eriska Competition

West Coast Weather - Week Commencing 13th July

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Jul 13, 2014 2:08:00 PM

It's been a picturesque week with plenty of sunshine adorning the West Coast and bringing out the features that make this part of Scotland truly unique. Though most of the locals are adorning a slight redish-tint to their skin; having been caught out by the heat!

View from Lismore cropped resized 600

But unfortunately our streak of good luck ran a little low with the weather taking a turn for the worst yesterday and ending the week on a downpour.

Today: A cloudy start to the day, with things brightening up later in the afternoon.

Monday: Light sporadic showers of rain expected in the morning getting more consistent and heavier as the day progresses

Tuesday: Things look to remain dry throughout, with some sunny intervals in the afternoon

Wednesday: Following a dry morning, periodic light rain showers will make an appearance in the afternoon with brief patches of sunshine.

Thursday: White cloud to dominate, with temperatures reaching their high teens

Friday: Heavy rain showers and burst of sunshine predicted for most of the day

Saturday: Looks to remain unchanged, with the week ending on a bit of wet note.

For those coming to visit the West Coast this week, we advise proper planning to ensure you make the most of the dry weather. For those looking for activities to keep them out the rain, we would recommend a trip to Cruachan Power Station, located on the shores of Loch Awe. As well as a being an engineering marvel, the hollow mountain homes a cavern in its centre which claims to be large enough to fit the Tower of London!

Topics: Scottish Weather, weather, weather forecast, Argyll Weather, West Coast Weather, Warm West Coast Weather, weather in the west highlands of scotland, west highland weather, activities in argyl, activities, West Highlands Walks

Eriska's Hilltop Reserves

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Jul 6, 2014 3:40:00 PM

Without further ado...Eriska Hilltop Reserve

After what seemed like endless work, we here at the Isle of Eriska are proud to announce the completion of the Island's newest feature: two Hilltop Reserves

From Summer 2013, Eriska has been carefully executing plans to add two new self catering lodges onto the Island to offer guests a new type of escape on our luxurious Scottish Island

Witness our progress over the last year, with our Hilltop scrapbook; documenting the creation of the Hilltop Reserves from start to finish:

Topics: 5 star retreat scotland, Isle of Eriska Hotel, scenery, accomodation, Island, hilltop reserves, self catering, luxury self catering, luxury self catering scotland

West Coast Weather - Week Commencing 6th July

Posted by Deborah Jaconelli on Jul 6, 2014 10:25:00 AM

When it rains it pours.The West Coast weather, this week, has been a bit up and down, with heavy rain taking us by surprise on more than one occasion. However, the sun was more than generous nearing the end of the week, with temperatures peaking in the high teens , really emphasising the features that make Scotland unique.

Eriska Beach

With the forecast last week originally promising an abundance of rain, we were delighted when the sun came out fighting for the weekend and hope that next weeks less-than-promising forecast will follow suit.

Today: Lots of sunshine today, with brief showers in the early afternoon and cold south western winds

Monday: Rain showers and sunny intervals throughout the day

Tuesday: Heavy rain predicted in the morning and early afternoon, with things clearing up as the day continues. Sunshine is due to make an apperance in the evening

Wednesday: White cloud to dominate, with brief periods of sunshine in the morning, though thins are expected to remain dry.

Thursday: Another dry day, with more burst of sunshine throughout.

Friday: Looks to be another cloudy day with rain expected in the evening

Saturday: The week ends on a gloomy note with rain persisting throughout the day, broken by sporadic bursts of sunshine. Though things are due to clear up in the evening.

There seems to be enough promise of sunshine to plan some more outdoor activities to spite the rain! For those coming to the area we would recommend looking at the available activities hosted by our friends over at Stamash. Archery, Coastering and Kayaking are just an example of what they offer in the Argyll area, making for a great day out!

Photograph by Glen Montgomery, F&B Manager

Topics: isle of eriska, Scottish Weather, weather, weather forecast, Argyll Weather, West Coast Weather, Warm West Coast Weather, weather in the west highlands of scotland, west highland weather, scottish sunset, activities in argyl, activities, Island