Issue 39, Autumn 2013

In my 50 odd years in the hotel business I must have met many thousands of guests and in all that time one of the most frequently asked questions has been ‘When is the best time to visit Scotland?’ The truth is that weather patterns vary so much from year to year one can never be sure, but as a generalisation I have to say that the autumn months tend to be the more settled. The countryside is at its best and the autumnal colours here can be quite spectacular.

There is no better way to illustrate the point than our cover photograph. It is of Kenmore, that delightful village at the head of Loch Tay so familiar to guests staying at the Loch Tummel Hotel.

There are still spaces on some of this season’s autumn departures so, if you can get away, do check for availability on our website or have a word with one of our booking office staff.

A little over ten years ago I made the decision to retire and hand over responsibilities to Neil. It was the right time and Neil has more than justified the decision. Initially I missed the buzz of the day to day challenges, but gradually I realised that I was now able to spend more time doing those things for the company that I enjoyed the most, photography - building up the Company photo library - composing these newsletters a couple of times a year and producing and updating the various hotel booklets. It is the research that is the most fascinating aspect, finding new, sometimes surprising historical details about our various hotels. This has been especially true for our latest addition, ‘The Ardgartan Hotel and its Surroundings’, the story of our flagship property that opened last year. It has taken 6 months of research during which time I met many kind and knowledgeable people who helped me in producing what I hope will be an interesting read.

If you would like a copy, the price is just £3.50 including p&p from our head office, or alternatively they are available at the Ardgartan Hotel reception.

Michael Wells O.B.E., Chairman

SS Sir Walter Scott

The popular writings of Sir Walter Scott inspired a great interest in Scotland and all things Scottish. His widely acclaimed poem, The Lady of the Lake, written in 1810 focused attention on the Trossachs in general and the beauty of Loch Katrine in particular. At first it was just the adventurous traveller who came to see this magical place, but as communications improved others soon followed.

The first Loch Katrine pleasure craft to take advantage of these new arrivals was a rowing galley named the Water Witch, which was manned by eight sturdy lads wearing the kilt, much to the delight of visitors. She reigned supreme until 1843, when the first steamer, The Gypsy, arrived resulting in acrimonious argument. However the Gypsy did not last long - she disappeared one night and the redundant oarsmen were suspected of scuttling her and were taken to court. They claimed it was the Water Bull of the loch that was protective towards the galley but destructive to competitors’ boats which it attacked by holing them with its horns. Their Gaelic dialect was beyond the court translator and caused such confusion that the case was thrown out with a verdict that ‘the boat was sunk by persons or things unknown’.

It was a short lived victory for the oarsmen as in 1845 a 30 ton paddle steamer, the Rob Roy was introduced onto the loch and became an immediate success. Demand continued to increase to the extent that a 90 ton replacement was commissioned and launched ten years later. This vessel, also called the Rob Roy was to continue in service for the next 45 years.

As the 19th century came to a close, the arrival of the railway begun to have a dramatic effect on tourist numbers and it became clear that an even larger vessel would be needed to cope with the volume of visitors that were now flocking to the area.

In 1898 two local hoteliers approached William Denny and Brothers at their shipyard in Dumbarton to commission a much more substantial vessel, one that could accommodate 300 passengers. It was to be named the Sir Walter Scott and a price of £2,241 was finally agreed. However, the delivery charge was to be almost as much again - another £2,028! The reason for such a substantial sum resulted from the difficulties involved in transporting such a large vessel to such a remote location.

The Sir Walter Scott was assembled using nuts and bolts at Denny’s shipyard at on the River Leven. Following satisfactory sea trials in 1899 the individual sections were numbered and the vessel dismantled. The pieces were then transported by barge up Loch Lomond to Inversnaid, then taken by horse-drawn carts to Stronachlachar Pier on Loch Katrine where the vessel was re-assembled, this time using rivets. The final touches were applied, the Rob Roy was retired, and the SS Sir Walter Scott commenced its long illustrious career in the spring of 1900.

It is a great tribute to the shipbuilders that the Sir Walter Scott, still under steam, continues to ply the waters of Loch Katrine to this day, although the original elegant lines of the vessel have been somewhat altered by the addition of a wheelhouse and covered area in 2007.

But Loch Katrine itself is still just as entrancing as it was when Queen Victoria visited and, from next season, you too can experience its unique beauty. A cruise on this iconic boat will be included in a number of Inversnaid and Argartan itineraries during the 2014 season.

Readers’ Views

First Ever Holiday In Scotland

We recently had our first ever holiday in Scotland, and on a friend’s recommendation last year we decided to try Lochs & Glens and so we booked your new hotel “The Ardgartan”. This not only was our first holiday in Scotland, BUT, also the first coach holiday we have ever taken! As you may appreciate being used to driving and being in control of our itinerary I personally didn’t know if I would l ike it & I have to say I didn’t…. I loved it!

Mr & Mrs David Kibble, Dagenham

A Birthday Surprise

After coming back from a lovely 6 days at Loch Awe, we had my 70th and my husbands 75th birthday. Our family took us out for a birthday meal and to our surprise our son presented us with a birthday cake in the form of a Lochs and Glens coach. I thought you might like to see a picture of it. We have travelled with you 6 or 7 times a year for the past ten years.

Mrs J Walker, Keynsham, Bristol

Honest-To-Goodness Value

We have recently returned from Inversnaid, which in actual fact was the first coach tour we have ever experienced, and for that reason we have no comparisons we can make.

But even so, we can not envisage a more perfect introduction to the exceptional hassle-free benefits of booking a holiday through Lochs & Glens Holidays. We were so impressed with the smooth, professional and enthusiastic organisation in every aspect of the journey, accommodation and excursion, which unfortunately made the days slip past too quickly.

For variety, entertainment and honest-to-goodness value, we do not believe that there is anywhere better than Lochs & Glens.

Don and Jeanette Johnson, Kettering

At The Palace

As I briefly mentioned in the last newsletter, my father was awarded on OBE for services to tourism and charity in the New Years honours list. The award was made partly in recognition of the pioneering work that he did to extend the tourist season in Scotland.

In 1979, when my parents bought the Loch Long Hotel, it was customary for tourist hotels to open for the season at Easter then close for around five months in October. Each year he would challenge this convention, by extending the season ever longer. It was no easy task - persuading customers to come in the depths of winter was just the first problem. Cajoling the various attractions, cafes and restaurants to open their doors in the traditional closed period was perhaps an even bigger struggle. I’m glad to say that things have changed a lot since those days and Scotland’s tourist trade is now open for business all year round.

In June, Ian and I went to Buckingham Palace together with our parents for the investiture ceremony. It was a wonderful experience, made all the more special by the Queen who was presenting the awards on that day. After the ceremony my father said how much he would have liked his own parents to have known that their son would, one day, be invited to meet the Queen.

Neil Wells, Managing Director

More Calves

Lochs and Glens guests who have stayed at the Loch Achray Hotel are sure to have seen our wonderful group of highland cattle that live in the adjacent field and I am delighted to report that we have three newborn calves, two girls and a boy, which now need to be named.

Regular readers may recall that on the two past occasions, in 2007 and 2010 when there were new additions to the family, we left it to our guests to produce suitable names, so once again we invite you to submit suggestions. An important factor to bear in mind is that the age of a pedigree highland cow can be determined by the first letter of its name, somewhat in the manner of the old car registration plates. The date letter for 2013 is S so we are looking for three names, preferably with a Scottish flavour beginning with that letter. If the winning contributor is able to get away at the time of the holidays, he or she will be welcome to two complimentary places on a Mountains and Mistletoe break in 2014 to see how the families are getting on.

In the last such competition when there were just two calves, the letter was N and over 1,000 suggestions were received with several entries coming up with the winning combination of Nevis and Nessie. Sadly there could only be one winner which was decided by a draw. Although unlikely with three names this time, a tie will be decided in similar fashion.

Either send your entry by post to the address shown below or email your suggestions to Good luck.


The northernmost city in the United Kingdom, Inverness, is ranked number one for quality of life of all Scottish cities. Historically it was the chief stronghold of the Picts, that enigmatic race that so successfully fought off the Roman invaders before mysteriously disappearing from history. Day excursions to this Capital of the Highlands are included in many Highland Hotel itineraries.

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