Issue 38, Spring 2013

Our cover picture for this edition is of Mallaig, the most westerly harbour on the British mainland. It is also an important fishing port and as well, the terminus of the West Highland Railway line. But the reason for it being featured here, is that it will be the point of embarkation for a series of cruises to Inner Hebridean islands that have been arranged as day excursions in some of the 2014 season’s Highland Hotel holidays.

This is a new venture for Lochs and Glens and one that we hope will prove popular with our guests. The islands visited will vary according to the day of the week, as not all of these Small Isles, as they are known, have a daily service. As an example, on a Monday sailing, after departure from Mallaig, the ferry calls at the islands of Eigg, Rum and Canna, then back again to Rum, Eigg and Mallaig.

This schedule offers an interesting choice to our guests. They can either stay on board for the entire trip and just enjoy the splendid scenery or, if they wish and if the weather is fair, they can disembark at Rum, then re-board the ship on its homeward journey. This would give time to see more of this beautiful little island and perhaps visit the nearby Kinloch Castle. There is even a chance of refreshment in the tearoom of the village shop.

Whilst on board it is quite likely that guests will be able to enjoy some whale or dolphin watching. Minke Whales are the most common to visit these waters and are often seen working in groups feeding on shoals of fish. Orca Whales, or Killer Whales as they are better known, are regular visitors in the springtime. They are considerably larger, up to 8 metres in length, and quite distinctive with their black and white markings.

As with all Lochs and Glens excursions, we judge their success on guest reaction and, if you do choose to book one of these holidays, we look forward with interest as to how you found the experience.

Michael Wells O.B.E., Chairman

A Beautiful Loch Lomond-Side Walk

An increasing number of our guests like to have a break from coach travel in order to enjoy some time walking in the beautiful Scottish countryside. It is easy enough to do. Just pick a day with a favourable weather forecast, make sure you have suitable footwear and a small rucksack, purchase a picnic lunch from the hotel and just set off.

Inversnaid is well suited for such a day. It is situated right on the West Highland Way and some of the most scenic sections of this famous long distance walk are close by.

Perhaps the better direction is to the north, that is, turn right and keep to the loch shore when you leave the hotel. After a few hundred yards you will arrive at the old hotel boathouse and a little further on, you will see a path branching off to the right into the RSPB reserve.

Either go straight on or, if you are feeling fit, take this detour into the reserve. It will lead you steeply uphill and needs plenty of effort, but there is the reward of wonderful views from the summit, as well as the possibility of spotting one or more of the reserve’s star species - Black Grouse, Pied Flycatcher, Redstart, Twite or Wood Warbler.

From the summit the path meanders through the reserve eventually rejoining the West Highland Way once again. Turn right and continue for about another 20 minutes when, after some steep rocky steps, you will see a track leading off to the left. This will take you to Rob Roy’s Cave, the alleged hideout of the notorious Scottish hero and outlaw.

Back on the main path, if you are lucky enough to be walking in springtime, your senses are soon to be assailed by the sight of swathes of bluebells and the scent of wild garlic and quite possibly, the distinctive odour from a family of feral goats, descendants of a herd abandoned by their owners two centuries ago.

Further on you will arrive at the deserted settlement of Pollochro, not much remains of the few houses that once stood there, the last inhabitant left around the beginning of the 20th century. He is reputed to have been one of the Hotel’s grooms, who walked to his work each day in all weathers!

There is just another mile and a half or so to walk before you arrive at an open grassy area - an ideal destination to have the picnic lunch. It is here that the route of the West Highland Way leaves the shoreline and ascends to the right of a distinctive hill known as Creag a Mhadaidh.

Rest awhile in this tranquil spot for, by the time you have retraced your steps to the hotel to enjoy a well-earned dinner, you will have covered about 7 miles.

Readers’ Views

A Holiday To Remember

I am writing to thank you for our wonderful holiday at the Highland Hotel Fort William. From the moment we stepped onto the Lochs and Glens Coach we were on holiday. Our driver - what a lovely pleasant man, he looked after us all so well. This is the second holiday with Lochs & Glens, the first being Loch Awe which we also enjoyed. I think this one topped that in the scenery we saw and the places we went to. Lochs & Glens seem to have the balance just right and whatever age group there is something for all. Look forward to choosing another holiday with you when the new brochure comes out as it was such good value for money.

Wendy & Colin Ball, Belper

The View Of The Loch Was One You Could Only Dream About

We have just returned from your newly opened hotel at Ardgartan. It is amazing, everything was perfect, we had a lovely spacious room with a marvellous bathroom, wonderfully comfortable beds and first class food. The service was superb, no waiting for the staff, they were always there if you needed them. The view of the Loch was one you could only dream about. We had two excellent drivers who took us on three lovely days out, on top of which we had five days of continuous sunshine. To sum it all up - there is only one word, PERFECT. Thank you to all concerned.

Pauline & Charles Bray, Nottingham

The Falkirk Wheel

Perhaps the most ambitious Scottish project planned for the Millennium celebrations was the £84.5m restoration of canal navigability right across the country linking the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. This had not been possible for more than 70 years, but with the increase in recreational canal use the prospect of linking Edinburgh and Glasgow by water became more and more appealing.

Various restoration proposals had been put forward over the years, but the seemingly impossible obstacle was how to reconnect the two separate canals at Falkirk. Originally they had been linked by a flight of 11 locks, but as the canals fell into disuse in the 1930’s, they had been filled in and worse, built over.

Many ideas as to how these locks could be replaced were considered and the final outcome was The Falkirk Wheel, a stunning piece of working sculpture that successfully combines function and design.

A day excursion including a visit to this fascinating attraction will be included in many of the Inversnaid Hotel’s itineraries during the coming season. On the journey there guests will notice a prominent landmark on the summit of Abbey Craig not far from Stirling. This monument commemorates Sir William Wallace (immortalised in the film Braveheart) who is lionised for defeating the English army 700 years ago during the Scottish War of Independence.

On arriving at the Falkirk Wheel the highlight of the day will undoubtedly be an exhilarating 50 minute boat trip that ascends 35 metres in one of the gondolas to enter the Union Canal. The boat will then continue through the 180 metre Rough Castle Tunnel above which sits the Antonine Wall, the lesser known of the two long distance Roman walls.

Back at the Visitors Centre there is plenty of information to absorb about the history of the canal system, as well as some interesting facts regarding the construction of the wheel itself, such as; the design is so well balanced that remarkably, just 1.5kwh of electricity is required to complete a turn of the twin 600 ton gondolas. That’s the equivalent of boiling 8 household kettles. However for those guests not interested in the technical stuff there is always the gift shop and cafe!

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