Issue 30, Spring 2009

Our cover picture this month is of our Loch Awe Hotel with the iconic ruins of Kilchurn castle in the foreground. The five storey tower house was built in about 1450 and has had a long and turbulent history.

The castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and interested guests can visit it from the hotel. A relaxed stroll to the castle and back would take about 2 hours and the walk is described in the booklet 'Walking from Lochs and Glens Hotels', excellent value I should add, and obtainable from all of our hotels.

Until 1817 when the Loch Awe water level was lowered Kilchurn castle was situated on an island scarcely larger than itself. Between 1715 and 1745, during the Jacobite Rebellion it was requisitioned by the government and, shortly after that, it was badly damaged by lightning and was abandoned.

Further extensive destruction took place during the night of the 28th December, 1879 by the same violent storm that destroyed the Tay Railway Bridge taking all of the passengers and crew of the train that happened to be passing across it at the time to a watery grave.

We are just approaching the Company's 30th anniversary. It was in May 1979 that I arrived at the Loch Long Hotel with my family. I had purchased it for the sum of £70,000 - a huge amount it seemed to me at the time and only affordable by loans from family and a kindly bank manager - it was in the days when banks were local and sympathetic. Thank goodness we no longer need their support in these difficult times!

The first two years were a great struggle with success constantly in doubt - no days off, minimum staff and our 11 and 12 year old sons expected to go straight from school into the kitchen wash-up or carrying cases during evenings and weekends.

The company has changed beyond recognition since those early days and those two long suffering children are now the company's executive Directors with the traumas of their hard working youth, hopefully, long forgotten.

Our new-look brochure is included with this newsletter. I hope you like it and will find something of interest that will tempt you to return to our beautiful country this year. We look forward to welcoming you.

Michael Wells - Chairman

Rescue at Tummel Bridge

Guests waking up at the Loch Tummel Hotel one morning last September were astonished to see an Air Sea Rescue Helicopter parked on the hotel's front lawn, although some of them might have had a clue that something unusual had been happening from the noise during the previous night.

The helicopter had been called out for a most unusual rescue and, in the darkness, one of the rotor blades had made contact with the mountainside and the hotel lawn was apparently the only suitable site to make an emergency landing.

They had been looking for a 73 year old widow who was fulfilling the dying wish of her husband who had asked that his ashes be scattered on the summit of the 3,554ft Schiehallion - one of Perthshire's highest peaks - a daunting task at any age!

The lady, who was accompanied by her son, had became separated from him in the mist and, on his descent, he reported her missing. By this time darkness had descended and, after the initial helicopter was damaged, a second one was summoned from RAF Leuchars, but she could still not be found.

In the morning mountain rescue teams began combing the mountain, but apparently she had sheltered on the peak overnight and, at first light, had managed to descend the seldom climbed North Face and had walked to Kinloch Rannoch where she checked herself into the doctor's surgery.

Luckily she had suffered no ill effects, but she did have to endure a lambasting from mountain rescue experts who were shocked that two inexperienced walkers with no maps, no torches and no navigational equipment should have considered such a hazardous undertaking. But fortunately all's well that ends well.

Pictured here is Ieuan Jenkins, Assistant Manager Yvonne's 3 year old son enjoying the excitement of the occasion.

Balmoral and Royal Deeside

Balmoral has been a retreat for royalty since 1848 when it was first rented to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. They enjoyed their stay so much that they negotiated its purchase four years later for the sum of £30,000. Prince Albert immediately began making plans for a new and much bigger castle fit for royalty and this was completed in 1856 on a site within 100 yards of the original castle.

Together with Sandringham, Balmoral has always been the private property of the monarch and not part of the Royal Estate.

This created something of a problem in 1936 when Edward VIII abdicated as king in somewhat acrimonious circumstances and he was not prepared for it to pass automatically on to his brother, George VI.

George was therefore obliged to purchase both Sandringham and Balmoral from Edward in order that both properties could remain as royal retreats for the monarch's family, as they still do to this day.

Balmoral is open to visitors during the summer when the royal family are not in residence and I am delighted to say that Lochs and Glens are including a visit in a number of Loch Tummel Holidays during the coming season.

These visits will be part of a day excursion that includes some of the most spectacular scenery to be found in this special part of the famous Grampian Mountain range, as well as the highland towns of Pitlochry, Blairgowrie and Dunkeld. The route will also cross the pass known as the Devils Elbow, at 2,200 ft. one of the highest points on a British main road as well as passing alongside the renowned Meikleour Beech Hedge.

It is 100 ft high and 580 yrds long and is the highest and longest hedge in the world. Finally there will be a stop in the lovely village of Braemar. All in all an unforgettable day!

Isle of Iona

For such a small island, just 3 1/2 by 1 1/2 miles, Iona is a very special and magicalplace. Each year, many people make their way here and, in doing so they follow in the footsteps of pilgrims who have been coming to this cradle of Scottish Christianity, for more than 1,600 years.

A day excursion to Iona begins with a journey to Oban in time to catch the morning ferry to the Island of Mull. The 45 minute crossing is best enjoyed from the promenade deck. The views are superb as the ferry weaves its way between the mainland and the islands of Kerrera, Lismore and Mull.

As you pass the southern tip of Lismore be sure to look out for Lady's Rock, a small outcrop submerged at high tide. It was here that in 1523 Lachlan Cattenach the Laird of Duart Castle is said to have marooned his wife Elizabeth, who he blamed for failing to produce a male heir, expecting her to be 'accidentally' drowned as the tide came in. Some time later, having accepted an invitation to a banquet at Inveraray Castle he discovered Elizabeth with her brother at the high table, she having been rescued from her fate by a passing fisherman. Lachlan was allowed to leave unharmed but, thirty years later, he was found murdered in Edinburgh.

The ferry lands passengers at the small hamlet of Craignure on the Isle of Mull where the journey continues for 37 miles along a wonderfully scenic road to Fionnphort. Here the coach is left and passengers make their way onto the small ferry boat that will take them across to Iona. From the landing stage it is just a short walk to Iona Abbey. It is difficult to believe today that this stood as a crumbling ruin from the late 1500s until the 8th Duke of Argyll started preservation work in 1874.

On the way to the Abbey be sure to visit the ruins of the Iona Nunnery for, despite its delapidated appearance, this is actually one of the best preserved medieval nunneries in Britain.

When Lochs and Glens Holidays upgraded their fleet of vehicles some time ago to give more passenger space, the additional vehicle length prevented the coaches from using the road to Fionnphort due to one tight corner. I am delighted to say that this problem has been resolved by the local council and in 2009 this highly popular day excursion is once again being included in a number of Loch Awe Hotel itineraries.

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