This, the 20th issue of Lochs and Glens News, coincides with another company milestone - its 25th Anniversary. It was during the Spring of 1979 that I took a leap into the dark and sold a heavily mortgaged family home and used the proceeds to buy a rather run-down hotel in a small Scottish village. It was just the beginning of an adventure that has been both fulfilling and enjoyable. And now we are about to embark on a new chapter that promises to be as exciting as any that has gone before.
It has been over five years since we completed construction of the Loch Tummel Hotel and, soon after it was up and running, we began to think about a possible sixth property. Around two years ago we started to look in earnest and, since then, have probably considered 50 or more sites. The problem was not so much putting up the building as finding the right location. Until now we have been fortunate in that all Lochs and Glens hotels are in outstanding lochside positions and it was important to us that we find a new site that was as good. And now we think we have done just that. The above picture is just an artist's impression, but it gives an idea of the beauty of the site.
The grounds were originally gardens that once surrounded a mansion that has been long demolished, but there is the potential to restore this parkland to its former glory creating the perfect tranquil environment for our guests.
Of course there is still a great deal to do with designs and consents to be agreed but, if all goes well, we expect to begin construction at the end of this year - I hope to be able to give more definite information in our Autumn edition.
In the meantime we all hope to have the pleasure of welcoming you back to Scotland in one of our other hotels during the coming season.
In April 1979 I arrived in Arrochar with my wife Ann and our two somewhat reluctant sons, Ian and Neil, to take up residence in the Loch Long Hotel having at last fulfilled a long held dream of buying my own hotel.
The change from living in our previous comfortable family home to coping in two hotel rooms was certainly a shock to the system, as were the 15-hour working days which, it soon became clear, would have to become the norm. Between us we covered most of the jobs in the hotel and on arriving back from their primary school Ian and Neil would wearily ask if they were to carry cases or endure an evening on the dishwash! The first season was certainly hard. We had a minimum staff as any available funds were needed to carry out urgent repairs to the leaking roofs and the eradication of the dry rot that seemed to be lurking in every window lintel and joist. My parents-in-law generously offered to move to Scotland for the season to see to the needs of the boys and, during the day my father-in-law moved from room to room with his tool box making up for years of neglect and lack of maintenance. Cash flow was a constant worry. The hotel did have some coach groups booked for the season but it was feast or famine, fully booked on Tuesdays and Thursdays but relying on the erratic passing trade for the rest of the week. However, between us and our small staff we seemed to manage.
One advantage at that time was the closed season which lasted from October until April- five months to recover and as the hotel doors finally shut at the finish of the season there was a definite end-of-term feeling.
By the end of the third year finances improved to the point where we could close the public bar - an area that caused maximum problems for minimum return - and convert the area into additional bedrooms so that the hotel could accommodate three tours nightly instead of two. This considerably eased the hotel's viability to the point where a year or two later we were able to make a successful offer for the Inversnaid Hotel and, thereafter, our gradual expansion continued.
Those early difficult years now seem far away and the two boys who spent their evenings dealing with the never ending supply of dirty dishes are now the company's executive directors.
But, whether I could have convinced them at the time that their labours would one day all be worthwhile, I rather doubt!
Whenever possible we try to have a loch cruise in as many of our itineraries as possible. Loch Lomond, Loch Katrine and the Firth of Clyde have been regularly included but, for some time, we have been trying to arrange something a little further north and at last we have been successful.
Commencing next year, in many of our Inversnaid itineraries we will be including a cruise along the waters of Loch Linnhe, the sea loch that extends north to Fort William and the base of Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
The cruise will depart from the Town Centre Pier on Fort William´s waterfront and our destination will be Seal Island. Enroute we will pass a mussel farm and a working salmon farm where salmon can be seen leaping as we sail slowly past. From the loch there are magnificent views of the south face of Ben Nevis showing this volcanic mountain in all its splendour and changing colours.
Finally we arrive at our destination, Seal Island where there is a natural colony of around 50 ever-present seals.
Loch Linnhe is spectacularly beautiful and we are sure that this 90 minute cruise, together with the accompanying journey across the wilderness of Rannoch Moor and the pass of Glencoe will provide a memorable day's excursion.
We are currently planning a new series of holidays that will include entrances into some of the finest properties owned by the National Trust for Scotland. As an extra bonus with these holidays each guest will receive one year's complimentary membership of the National Trust, giving full access to all of their properties including those in England and Wales. As this would normally cost £34, we hope you will agree that these holidays offer are truly excellent value.
One of the properties to be visited will be Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast. Culzean (pronounced Cullane) was originally a 16th century fortified tower house built by the Kennedy family, but in the late 18th century Robert Adam was commissioned to convert it into the grand romantic castle that we see today. Ownership remained with the Kennedy's until 1945 when most of the building was donated to the National Trust.
The exception was the top floor which was given to General Eisenhower as a token of Scotland´s recognition of his role during World War II. He first came to Culzean in 1946 and was clearly touched by this gift. He visited the castle three more times, once as a President when, for a short while, Culzean was his Scottish #000060 House. His longest stay was during his retirement when he enjoyed painting and walking in the peace and quiet of Culzean´s beautiful gardens.
Miles of Woodland walks take the visitor to the deer park and along the along the cliff top or to the many restored estate buildings, such as the Ruined Arch and Viaduct, the beautiful Camellia House and unique Pagoda. Also of interest are the Gas House, Ice House and Swan Pond. Garden areas include the terraced fountain court and walled garden with its redesigned pleasure garden and impressive reconstructed Victorian Vinery.
In addition to a visit to Culzean a number of other National Trust properties will be included in these holidays, possible choices will include Falkland House & Gardens in Cupar, Hill House in Helensburgh, Gelston Gardens in Cardross, Pollock House and Greenbank Gardens in Glasgow and Gladsones Land in Edinburgh.
These holidays commence in May 2005 and are included in the accompanying programmes in many areas.
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