Issue 22, Spring 2005
The snow is still on the hills, but the signs of spring are all around and, as I write this, our hotels are getting ready for our programme of Spring Ceilidh Breaks.
These holidays have a uniquely Scottish flavour and include not only daily excursions to enjoy the highland scenery emerging from winter, but as well there will be a Burns dinner including the traditional ode to the haggis followed by an opportunity for our guests to sample this delicious dish. On the final night there will be a highland party, or ceilidh, complete with piper, dancers and general merriment.
This edition's cover picture shows Edinburgh's famous view of the ancient castle towering over Princes Street. A visit to Scotland's beautiful capital has long been a favourite excursion on Lochs and Glens itineraries, and now there is a new place to visit in the city in the form of Scotland's new parliament building at Holyrood, an article on which appears on page two.
Our parliament has been busy with legislation since it's inauguration in 1998 and many of our new laws differ from those that apply in England.
One such regulation that will affect us from May 2006 is the decision to ban smoking in all public areas of licensed premises and this includes our hotels. I know that there will be mixed feelings about this for, although in the recent past we have adopted a policy of having the majority of public rooms smoke-free, we have been able to set aside some areas for the benefit of smokers and this will not now be possible. We hope that these new restrictions will not be too onerous for guests who smoke. With regard to bedrooms, we understand that smoking will be allowed in designated rooms, but we will need to know at the time of booking whether guests wish to reserve a smoking or non-smoking bedroom.
On the subject of reservations I am able to announce that we have finally achieved our ambition of offering the facility of booking online to our computer familiar customers. For those interested please access our web site shown at the head of this page.
But whether you book on-line, by telephone or by email we look forward to welcoming you back to Scotland during the coming season.
Bygone Days at the Loch Awe Hotel
When we purchased the Loch Awe hotel way back in 1989 we were delighted to find that the old visitors books were still in existence. In our experience it is very rare for these documents to survive changes of ownership over the years, and they certainly make interesting reading.
The hotel was built in 1880 to coincide with the opening of the railway line that connected Oban with Glasgow. Early guests arrived by steam train at the hotel's own station and, in those days, there was a passenger lift from the platform to the hotel forecourt!
Many guests travelled with their own staff and early tariffs show the charges for servants' rooms and meals.
The hotel golf course is sometimes mentioned under 'comments', but despite our best endeavours we have been quite unable to find any evidence of it now. It seems unlikely to have been within the immediate hotel grounds - possibly it was on the outskirts of the village. During the two world wars many golf courses were ploughed for cultivation and it seems likely that that was it's fate.
In the period between the wars private motor cars became a more common form of transport - the entry for July 18th 1928 details registration details for Mrs Burt - Marshall, accompanied by maid and chauffeur. The Tight Line public house across the road from the Hotel was originally a complex of buildings that included the coach house, stables, and accommodation for the gardeners and visiting chauffeurs.
Many members of the nobility stayed during this period and Rolls Royce's and Bentleys were often seen parked outside.
Famous film stars were also frequent visitors including on March 22nd 1924 Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and Ivor Novello, the later giving his address as the Strand Palace, London.
In more recent times Kirk Douglas stayed while filming "To Catch a Spy", part of which was made at the Hotel.
During the period 1940 to 1945 there is a predominance of entries from senior service personnel, including many from the Australian, Canadian and American services. No doubt the hotel accommodation was more appealing than that provided at the many nearby military installations!
A visit to Scotland's Capital City has been a highlight in Lochs and Glens Holidays since we first arranged tours. There is so much to see, and often the problem is one of limited time. Princes Street, the Castle, the Royal Mile, or just exploring the fascinating narrow streets with their intriguing array of unusual shops all compete for attention and now there is a new attraction.
The new Scottish Parliament, after all the controversy over delay and overspend is now finally open and visitors are encouraged. Entrance is free, although if you wish to join a guided tour there is a modest charge.
Both the exterior and interior are unique and impressive. Inside, much use is made of a variety of Scottish stone contrasting with stainless steel together with a combination of oak and sycamore. The debating chamber, with it's absence of supporting columns, is particularly awe-inspiring.
Outside, the forecourt is equally unusual. Concrete and grass 'branches' flow out from the leaf shaped buildings connecting them with the parkland beyond. The landscaping includes Scottish wildflowers, trees and shrubs as well as water and lighting features.
The building is easily accessible being situated at the foot of the Royal Mile - about a ten minute walk from Waverley Station.
Immediately opposite the Parliament is a Royal residence, the Palace of Holyrood, and this too is open to the public when not being used by the Royal Family. The entrance charge is a bit more pricey, but the interior a great deal more conventional!
New Hotel Project
The planning application for a new Lochs and Glens Hotel has finally been submitted. It has been a long process, being the first major project planned in Scotland's new National Park.
The proposed site is at Ardgartan which is situated at the foot of Glen Croe where the river Croe flows into Loch Long. At the summit of the Glen is the pass known to many of our guests as The Rest and be Thankful.
Ardgartan House was originally a private mansion, but so far we have been unable to find little about it's early occupants except they were known as the Campbells of Ardgartan.
The deeds show that the owners of the estate are entitled to the use of two pews at services in the 14th century church at nearby Lochgoilhead, but I doubt if this priviledge has been claimed for many a year!
In 1936 the house was bought by the King George Jubilee Trust for use as a youth hostel, but a little over twenty years later the building was demolished and was replaced by a rather brutal looking concrete construction of a design typical of it's time.
However, by the middle of the 90's demand for the hostel declined and it was finally closed in 1998. The building is now in a very dilapidated and sad state.
As previously reported, we hope to be able to begin construction in the late spring with tours commencing at the end of 2006 or possibly early 2007.
St. Andrews, in the Kingdom of Fife, is well known for its long association with the game of golf and for its university, but, as well, it is a popular holiday destination - and for good reason.
Its setting on Scotland's east coast is superb, the long sandy beach being the location for the opening scenes of the film, 'Chariots of Fire'. The Royal and Ancient Golf Club, founded in 1754 is probably the most famous links golf course in the world and this year it is to be the venue for the Open Championship.
The town itself is compact and easily explored. There are many fine buildings to see. The castle now lies in the ruins but enjoys a stunning situation overlooking the coast. It was founded around 1200AD as a home for the Bishop of St Andrews and rebuilt some time in the 14th century.
In the centre of town is the University of St. Andrews, founded in 1412 it is the oldest in Scotland and its most famous current student is, of course, Prince William. In addition to the castle and cathedral a visit to the 900 year old Church of St. Rule is well worth a visit.