You may well wonder what on earth the strange object is that is shown on our front page this month. Well, it's the new Falkirk Wheel, the centrepiece of the £84.5 million Millennium Link project that will reconnect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals between Glasgow and Edinburgh. This amazing structure, the first of its kind in the world, is 115ft high and replaces the original flight of locks that was built in the Victorian age. It is able to lift loads of 600 tons - eight or more boats at a time.
I am delighted that we have been able to arrange visits to the Wheel in many of our Inversnaid holidays next year. Not only will there be a guided tour, but guests will be able to take a short cruise along the canal before entering one of the giant caissons to experience the lift for themselves.
Next year, I shall be 65 and am taking things a little easier at Head Office, confident to leave the day to day running in the hands of my sons Ian and Neil. However, I continue to look for that elusive 6th hotel. We have been fortunate so far to find properties in such wonderful waterside locations, but it is proving very difficult to discover another site that is as good. We live in hope!
Neil has been working hard on our new website, www.lochsandglens.com. I may be biased, but I have to say I think it is as good as any holiday website I have seen. Nevertheless, we would be grateful for any feedback from our guests regarding its ease of use.
In the past I have been reluctant to put too much faith in this form of contact with our customers, preferring more traditional methods, but have been truly surprised at the speed of growth in the use of this facility. We completed our first website at the beginning of 2000. During May of that year it was accessed 200 times. A year later, the monthly number had risen to 28,000 and during last month alone it was accessed almost 70,000 times!
Of the total of just under 1,000,000 internet contacts in the past two years, overwhelmingly they have been by computer users in the UK. However, in addition, people from over 30 countries have looked at its pages, including, I see, 28 from Tonga and 22 from Cambodia! I am not sure if this means we should expect a more international clientele in the future - I rather suspect it's just curiosity.
In our last issue of Lochs & Glens News we included an item that featured postcards sent from the Inversnaid Hotel around 100 years ago.
This time we have cards from our Loch Awe Hotel collection. Again, these were originally posted at the beginning of the last century. Although the pictures showing the building as it was all that time ago are interesting, just as fascinating in to read what was written on the back.
As now, the weather featured largely in the correspondence, but some cards include requests for the writer to be met at a railway station at a certain time the following day!
It seems astonishing now that the postal service, and the rail service for that matter, could have been so reliable with such early technology - changed days!
Here is a selection of what was written:
July, 1908 - This is where we are spending the last few days of our holidays. We have had a glorious time. Everything A1. We have managed 80 miles each day motoring. Kind love to all.
May, 1902 - We have had tea at this hotel. Have had a beautiful day, but it is clouding over now. We coached to Portsonachan then took the steamer here. Love to all.
May, 1903 - I hope you are well. Perhaps you may like to see a picture of Loch Awe. It is very beautiful I hope to bring you a specimen of a flower which I understand will not grow in England. Kind Regards.
August 1907 - Thank you for your sweet letter. Was so glad you have heard from your dear ones. We have had a really glorious holiday and have thoroughly enjoyed each and every day. Looking forward to seeing you and have a jolly chat.
June, 1904 - Can you meet me tomorrow. I expect to arrive at the station at 6.30. With fondest love.
July, 1906 - Mr. Armstrong will not hear of me leaving today, so after a lot of arguing I have promised to stay until Monday morning although I badly wanted to reach home today. I do hope you are all right. Shall come home Monday full speed.
July, 1903 - I write a few lines to tell you that I am having a grand time of it. Loch Awe is a wonderful place and I like it much better than last year. I remain Yours.
September, 1902 - We have had very bad weather so for. Only two decent afternoons since we came. Tom arrived yesterday. He is annoyed because I said his costume suggested the Music Hall stage. Best Love
May, 1901 - Dear John. Ask father for a sixpence. Granny.
One of the first acts to be passed by our new parliament in Edinburgh was the creation of Scotland's first National Park.
It is to be called the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and it will cover an area of over 500 square miles. It has been described as one of the most majestically beautiful locations in the United Kingdom, and we are delighted at the move, as it will ensure that the unique natural beauty of the area will be preserved for all time. This is of great importance to us as, within the parks' borders, no less than three of the Lochs and Glens Hotels are situated - The Loch Long, The Loch Achray and Inversnaid.
At the heart of this special area is Britain's largest area of fresh water, Loch Lomond, shown left. Arrochar, home of the Loch Long Hotel is located just over the range of hills on the left of the picture. Inversnaid lies directly ahead, towards the top of the loch and Loch Achray is beyond Ben Lomond, the predominant mountain on the right.
Cruachan Power Station by Loch Awe can truly be described as one of the hidden wonders of the highlands. We introduced a tour of this remarkable project four years ago and it has proved to be one of our most popular and fascinating excursions.
The turbines are situated in a massive cavern buried more than half a mile below ground. The space inside is large enough to house the Tower of London, and here, electricity is generated by water from the Cruachan reservoir high above in the hills.
The stations design is quite unusual as during periods of low demand, when there is a surplus of power in the National Grid, electricity is used to pump water back up to the reservoir from Loch Awe, ready to meet the peak demands the following day.
Remarkably, a generator can go from standing still to its full power output of 100,000 kilowatts in just two minutes.
The tour takes our guests on an unforgettable journey by electric bus through tunnels carved from solid rock. Here you will find yourself in a different world - a place so warm that sub- tropical plants grow.
Your accompanying guide will indeed ensure that you have a truly Awesome experience!
A tour of Cruachan is included in many Loch Awe Hotel itineraries.
Lochs & Glens Holidays, School Road, Gartocharn, Dunbartonshire, G83 8RW.
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