Issue 29, Autumn 2008

As I may have mentioned before, Lochs and Glens are fortunate in that no less than three of its hotels are situated in Scotland's first National Park, the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Its centrepiece is undoubtedly Loch Lomond, considered to be the most beautiful of the Scottish lochs and it is remarkable that despite being close to a number of urban centres it has remained largely unspoilt over the years. Much credit for this must lie with the Friends of Loch Lomond and, in particular, their doughty President, Hannah Stirling, who has been an untiring force for good since the Society's foundation in 1978. Now in her 90's she continues to work as hard as ever for the benefit of the area.

Some of our regular customers, who have come to love Loch Lomond over the years have joined the Friends of Loch Lomond and in return get regular updates of local happenings and how new threats to the fragile environment are being resisted.

Anyone interested in supporting this worthy cause can contact the organisation at; The Secretary, 63 West Princes Street, Helensburgh G84 8BN or for the computer literate: www.lochlomond.org.uk.

In common with many other businesses, rising costs, particularly of fuel and power, are becoming increasingly worrying and cost control without compromising standards has become one of our highest priorities. One scheme we are now considering is the replacement of the hydro-electric plant that for many years supplied power to the Inversnaid Hotel until the mains arrived in the 1950s. It was a primitive affair, cast iron pipes brought water down from the top of the hill to power a generator sited in a small building at the back of the hotel.

I remember George Buchan (whose family owned the Inversnaid Hotel for over half a century before selling it to us in the early 80s) telling me that in the autumn it was common for the lights in the hotel dining room to get progressively dimmer until a waiter was sent up the hill to clear fallen leaves off the inlet pipe.

Thankfully technology has moved on since those days and modern systems are highly efficient and require minimum maintenance and an installation could make the hotel electrically self sufficient -an attractive idea, perhaps even a step towards the carbon neutral holiday we have been hearing about.

Michael Wells

The Cairngorm Funicular Railway

The Cairngorms National Park was created in 2003 and it covers an immense area - almost 4,000 square kilometres and within its borders lies some of the most spectacular landscapes in Britain, from the wild tundra of the high mountain tops to the tranquillity of ancient pinewoods. There is heather moorland, vivid with summer colour, and secluded glens, haunt of red deer and golden eagle. Four of the five highest British mountains and 52 summits over 3,000 ft are within the park's boundaries as well as three major river valleys, the Spey the Dee and the Don.

Until recently only the fittest of hill walkers and skiers willing to brave the Scottish winters were able to enjoy the dramatic views from the top of the Cairngorms, but now, thanks to the Cairngorm Funicular Railway this experience can be enjoyed by all. It is the country's highest and fastest mountain railway with a track that stretches almost 1.25 miles. The spectacular panoramic views from the terrace of the Ptarmigan Restaurant, nestled just under the summit of Cairn Gorm, together with the mountain exhibition and shop, offer an excellent all weather experience that is both memorable and unique.

An ascent of the Funicular is just part of an exciting day excursion that is included on a number of holidays based at the Loch Tummel Hotel during the 2009 season. The day will also include a visit to Aviemore, the famous Highland Resort created by the arrival of the railway in the 19th century and whose growth accelerated substantially during the 1960s when the nearby Cairngorm Ski Centre was first opened and it is now a bustling village throughout the year.

Finally there will be a visit to the fine Georgian town of Granton-on-Spey, the largest settlement in the area and often referred to as the 'Capital of Strathspey'. It is an important centre for the production of Scotland's favourite tipple, whisky, with almost half of the country's distilleries located nearby. Their success is reflected in the town's handsome architecture and a stroll though the town's streets with possibly a stop or two to sample the local product should be pleasantly rewarding!

The Osprey

The reintroduction of the Osprey has been one of the great bird success stories of the 20th century. For over a hundred years Ospreys were absent from Britain following their sustained persecution, but in the 1950s they re-appeared, initially at Loch Garten and, for a while their presence was a closely guarded secret. As their numbers increased they became a tourist attraction with hides and later television cameras arranged to watch the nesting pairs.

Nowadays it is relatively easy to see an Osprey. All of our hotels have loch-side sites and they have been seen from each hotel at one time or another. At one stage two Osprey nests were visible from the Loch Tummel Hotel. They were untidy affairs made of sticks, one was lodged into one of the huge electricity pylons that take power from the Tummel Valley hydro-electric stations to Central Scotland.

The nestlings spend the first seven or eight weeks of their lives confined within the nest and are fed by their mother who stays close by, tearing fish into small pieces that have been caught by her mate. He looks for food by hovering over the water, then diving with wings swept back, thrusting his talons forward at the last minute to grab the unfortunate fish from below the surface.
By the autumn, the young Ospreys leave their nest sites and migrate southwards eventually arriving in West Africa for the winter to fish along the coast and in mangrove swamps.

It seems sad that the Osprey referred to in the attached ring recovery report could well have been one of the young birds admired by our guests from the Loch Awe Hotel terrace as it made its way across the surface of the waters learning the skill of fishing.

Unique Scottish Journeys

For the past five years one of our more popular series of holidays has been the Unique Scottish Journeys. When we first planned the day excursions for these holidays we set out to include experiences that represented the very best of Scotland.

A day in Edinburgh was a must. Arguably the most elegant of European Capital Cities the only criticism heard from our guests is that one visit is not long enough to explore this fascinating destination.

By contrast we include a cruise, more often two, on Scottish lochs. Typically we might include Loch Katrine, the most serene and beautiful of the Scottish fresh water lochs and a second cruise through the spectacular sea lochs that connect Dunoon and Tighnabruich.

Highlight of the week for many guests will be the two hour steam train journey from the Highland town of Fort William through unforgettable scenery to the west coast fishing port of Mallaig. This is the route many will recognise from the Harry Potter films. On the way to Fort William the route passes through the infamous, but darkly beautiful pass of Glencoe.

The final visit is a tour of Cruachan, one of the country's most amazing engineering achievements, a power station buried over a kilometre below ground. At its centre lies a massive cavern, high enough to house the Tower of London! Here turbines convert the power of water into electricity on a vast scale.

Unique Scottish Journeys are included in The Loch Long Hotel programme May to September 2009.

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