Issue 33, Autumn 2010

This is the 33rd time I have sat at the keyboard to compile an edition of Lochs and Glens News. So much has changed in technology since Issue No. 1 was sent out in 1994 to just 25,000 of our past guests. In those days the process of preparation was quite labour intensive. Words and photographs were sent to the printers, only for the text to be re-typed and the photographs sent on to a specialist company for scanning. Proofs went back and forth by post for alteration and rechecking and, when the printed copies were finally received, it was up to our office staff to pack the envelopes, then print the labels.

In those days our head office was at the Loch Awe Hotel and the only effective method of using the office printer to prepare 25,000 address labels was to perch the machine on a table by the balustrade on the top floor of the main staircase and allow the printed copies to descend three floors to the carpet below. The resulting weight of paper was needed to prevent the machine jamming as it continued its task throughout the night. In the morning the labels were peeled off and a stamp affixed to each envelope. All of this done by our busy staff between taking bookings.

Now the process is so much simpler. I write the newsletter on a home computer then send it, complete with images, for printing. A machine now packs the 100,000 envelopes together with the brochure and soon thereafter one should be delivered through your letterbox.

As computers have helped with our mailing, so they have with many other areas of our business. Long gone are the drawers of index cards and manual holiday booking sheets and thankfully, long gone is the need to subject the vital information required by our coach drivers and hotel managements to the vagaries of the postal system. All of these improved methods help us maintain efficiency and eliminate error.

But no technical innovation can help with the most important element of our business, that of providing hospitality to our guests in a friendly and efficient manner at a price that represents value for money. This principle is unchanged and has long been the cornerstone of our company. I hope and trust that we will continue to be able to achieve this aim despite the demanding economic conditions which seem to present us with so many unexpected and knotty challenges.

Our new 128 room hotel on the lochside in Glen Croe is finally under construction (more details on the back page). Neil, my son and the company's Managing Director, is supervising construction. As we did when building the Loch Tummel Hotel, we dispense with a main contractor finding it more efficient and flexible to engage tradesmen direct.

It is an onerous responsibility, but despite the pressures Neil did manage to join me in North Africa earlier this year where we hired a guide and a mule with his muleteer for an exhilarating trek in the High Atlas mountains.

Now Neil has returned to his busy office and I to my relative indolence in virtual retirement but, having just passed the 56th anniversary of my first day at work (as a clerk in London's County Hall), there are no pangs of conscience.

Michael Wells - Chairman

The Grouse Experience

We are delighted to announce that tours around the original Glenturret Distillery will once again be included in a number of Inversnaid and Loch Achray Hotel holidays during 2011.

Glenturret was officially established in 1775, although as far back as 1717 the distillery had been under the control of illicit distillers unwilling to pay taxes to the English crown. Whisky was produced continuously at the site until the premises were closed for the duration of the First World War, following which it reopened briefly, only to close again in the 1920s due to a combination of the depression and the introduction of prohibition in the USA.

It remained shut until 1957 when it was reopened by the whisky enthusiast James Fairlie whose aim was to produce a malt in the traditional fashion. Since then the distillery has gone from strength to strength.

During the tour you will see how the Glenturret single malt is produced, and how whiskies are married together to make Scotland's favourite brand, The Famous Grouse and afterwards, for those with a taste for it, a complimentary "wee dram" will be offered. Slangevar!

The Edinburgh Tattoo

One of the highlights of the Lochs and Glens calendar over past years has surely been the annual series of visits to the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the month of August.

It is undoubtedly the most spectacular show in the world, enjoyed by an international television audience of 100 million. There is, however, no substitute for being there in person as part of an audience.

The event is staged on the Edinburgh Esplanade in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, that mighty fortress with its long and turbulent history. Much damaged and often changing hands in the long and unishing wars of independence against England, it has presided over Scotland's Capital in its present form since 1356.

Performances begin at dusk when the great oak gates of the Castle sweep open and, to the swell of the pipes and drums, the massed bands march out in their hundreds across the drawbridge, flanked by effigies of William Wallace and Robert The Bruce. Emotions run high: this matchless spectacle unfailingly enthrals, symbolising the Scotland that everyone holds dear in their heart.

Every Edinburgh Tattoo begins with this vivid and intensely emotional display. For these are Scotland's finest fighting men (pipers and drummers are soldiers first, musicians second) playing the stirring tunes that over centuries have given courage and inspiration on battlefields in every corner of the globe.

There follows a blend of home and international talent so that the show is always fresh, exciting and alive, even for the many faithful fans who never miss a yearly visit. Over some 60 years of the Tattoo they would have seen performers from more than 40 countries - from Australia to Canada, Africa to Fiji, France to Nepal, The Netherlands to the United States. These international guest performers bring another dimension to a familiar pageant, but it is the pipes and drums, which serve as the emotional core of the Tattoo which Scots love fiercely and visitors quickly take to their own hearts.

Tattoo visits have been consistently popular with Lochs and Glens Guests over the years, but if there has been any criticism it has been directed at the lack of space in the seating area, and now even this niggle should be eliminated in 2011 by the construction of a brand new £16 million grandstand which, it is promised, will provide an additional 30% of space per seat!

2011 Tattoo visits are planned for itineraries at the Loch Long, Inversnaid, Loch Achray and Loch Tummel Hotels and bookings have already opened.

Ardgartan Hotel

Lochs and Glens news readers with long memories may recall Issue 20 when I wrote of a spectacular 70 acre site in Glen Croe which we had just acquired with the intention of building a 128 room hotel on the site of a derelict youth hostel.

That was in the Spring of 2004. By the autumn issue I was expressing disappointment at the pace of the planning application and said that I feared more delays were possible. But never did I imagine that it would be six more years before construction finally began.

Delays were due to the need to fulfil a surprisingly wide array of planning requirements. Understandable perhaps considering the sensitivity of the site's location in Scotland's premier National Park.

Protected species of bats found in the building due to be demolished were an initial problem. A tree census with details of species and girth had to be made - a not insignificant challenge considering he extent of the grounds. Squirrel feeders were erected throughout the site, velcro tape being carefully positioned to capture the animals' hair so that the proportion of red squirrels against grey could be assessed. An archaeologist was commissioned to excavate the site to see if there was any evidence of previous habitation. And so on. But mercifully all of the interested agencies were at last satisfied and work began.

This is a huge project for us which will not be completed until the end of next year and it is unlikely that any holidays can be arranged until early 2012.

As I said six years ago, but this time with rather more conviction, we expect to be able to give some positive progress reports in forthcoming editions.

More Calves to be Named

In 2007 we invited suggestions for names for two calves born to our much loved Highland cows, Fenella and Fiona who live in the field at the Loch Achray Hotel. Over 1000 entries were received with several readers suggesting "Kyle" and "Katrine" as they are now known.

Well, Fenella and Fiona have given birth once again, but on this occasion the visiting bull was very much darker giving the calves (a boy and a girl) a quite different look and, as before, we would like to ask our readers for their ideas for suitable names.

An important factor to bear in mind is that the age of pedigree Highland Cattle can be determined by the first letter of their names, in much the same manner as the old car number plates. The date letter for 2010 is N, so we are looking for two names, preferably with a Scottish flavour, beginning with that letter.

If the winning contributor is able to get away, he or she would be welcome to a complimentary Mountains and Mistletoe break at the Loch Achray Hotel this autumn to see how the families are getting on. A draw will be held in the event of more than one winning entry.

Please email suggestions to: cows@lochsandglens.com or send a letter. The winner will be contacted in due course and the result published in the next newsletter.

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