Issue 58, Autumn 2023
It is 25 years since we completed the two year construction of the Loch Tummel Hotel. It was a huge and satisfying adventure although the cause of many a sleepless night. We realised from the onset that we couldn’t possibly afford the cost of the traditional route of using a main contractor, but instead we felt we had the necessary expertise to organise the job ourselves, with some professional help, employing the various trades direct. We appointed an excellent but abrasive building manager, Andrew Mackay, who lived on site for the duration of the work as did Neil, my son and now Managing Director, and his wife.
We certainly had our problems. The site, originally part of Loch Tummel, had been created by landfill composed of giant boulders excavated from the 10 kilometre tunnel that feeds water from Loch Errochty to the adjacent hydro-electric power station. This gave us an excellent foundation but caused great difficulties when having to excavate beneath ground level such as was needed under the lift shafts.
A definite low point occurred when we created a standard guest bedroom and bathroom in a wooden outbuilding so that we could be sure that we had the right dimensions. It was altered a few times as we searched for the perfect layout but then, any further tweaking ceased when a labourer burning rubbish nearby managed to set fire and destroy the building. Fortunately we had recorded the details of the last version.
Our next crisis involved the massive waste water treatment plant which had to be sunk deep into the ground. Once we had the hole excavated and the unit carefully positioned, not a simple job, we were preparing to bury it when we had the most ferocious overnight storm. In the morning we were aghast to find the hole full of water and the unit, which had broken away looming high above us as it bobbed around. To add insult to injury one of the workmen, we never discovered who, had painted on its side ‘HMS Tummel’
We completed the project on time and under budget thanks in no small part to Neil’s careful oversight and Andrew’s scrutiny of every detail in every invoice plus his dislike of seeing people ‘standing around doing nothing’.
As the building neared completion I am afraid that I succumbed to vanity and commissioned a stone carved with my initials to be incorporated into the wall high above the entrance. This was brutally criticised by my sons who said it was a waste of money and would never be noticed, but I quite liked the idea that long after I am gone someone might just glance up and wonder who on earth MFW was.
Michael Wells OBE, Chairman
Lochs and Glens Photo Competition
We were overwhelmed at the response to the photo competition that was announced in our Spring edition, not only in the sheer number of entries - well over 500 - but also in the quality of the images.
Technical advances have produced a new democracy in photography. The artistic composition of a photograph has always depended upon the skill of the person pressing the button, but the quality of the resulting image has traditionally been decided by how much the camera costs. But now that has all changed and even the simplest smart-phone can produce images with a degree of resolution once only obtainable with the most expensive cameras.
Judging the 544 photographs was not an easy job and the outcome is not the result of just one person’s taste, but instead it was the culmination of discussions by a panel drawn from our Head Office staff who, to their great credit, were able to whittle down a series of short-lists before finally agreeing to the following conclusions.
Awarded a £200 voucher.
A Monarch in his Glen
Submitted by Debbie Richards of Newport, Monmouthshire
Such a strong Scottish Image. There is no doubting that this Highland bull reigns supreme in his pasture. The power he exudes so effectively contrasts with the ephemeral delicacy of the spring flowers in the foreground. A worthy winner.
Lochs and Glens Photo Competition
1st Runner Up
Awarded a £100 voucher
Three Sisters at The Three Sisters
Submitted by Sheila Munroe of Southend on Sea.
A joyful picture set in a truly stunning location in Glencoe. Remarkably the three Munroe sisters are shown under the rugged crags known as -’The Three Sisters’.
2nd Runner Up
Awarded a £100 voucher.
Submitted by Martin Salt of Warwick.
Perfect Symmetry and perfect timing results in this beautifully serene image
3rd Runner Up
Awarded a £100 voucher.
A Winter’s Afternoon at Ardgartan
Submitted by Barrie IIiffe of Groby, Leicestershire.
The composition of this unusual view of the Ardgartan Hotel works extremely well with the conveniently shaped cloud formation above the dark silhouette of Ben Lomond in the far distance.
Cairngorm Mountain Railway
We were delighted to hear that the Cairngorm Mountain Railway reopened at the start of this year after a four year closure and an upgrade costing £16m
Before its closure an ascent was often included in Lochs and Glens itineraries and was a highly popular experience for our guests, particularly those who had never had the thrill of standing so close to a mountain summit.
However, when the railway was first conceived it was intended to be only for winter use by skiers as a replacement for the ageing White Lady chairlift, and only subsequently did it become such a hit with tourists.
During the 2024 season a journey to the summit will be included in a number of Loch Tummel Hotel holidays itineraries. Guests who are planning an ascent are advised to bring warm clothing, although there is a cafe and gift shop at the summit plus, the unusual combination of an ‘immersive exhibition’ and a gin bar.
Many of our regular guests will be familiar with the Trossachs Pier. It is the place where they will have disembarked from their coach for a cruise along the waters of Loch Katrine. It has been a popular excursion since the early 1840’s when the Water Witch, a craft rowed by eight sturdy lads in kilts, first enabled visitors to enjoy the beauty of this unique loch.
Trossachs pier has scarcely changed during the intervening years, but a look through our image library gives a fascinating insight into the method of transport that visitors were using to travel to the Trossachs.
1900 - Traditional open top horse-drawn carriages
During the early part of the 20th century it was the open-top horse drawn carriage. Visitors will have arrived at Callander railway station, then would be driven along the shores of Lochs Venachar and Achray before the climb up to the pier forecourt.
By the early 1920s the horse carriages had been replaced by a French invention, the notorious motorised charabanc, a noisy, uncomfortable and poorly upholstered vehicle with low backed seats. They were used extensively in holiday resorts for short trips, but were phased out when it emerged that they offered virtually no protection to passengers in the event of an overturning accident, not uncommon with their high centre of gravity - particularly when overloaded by unscrupulous operators.
By the mid 1950’s our final photograph shows that the private motorcar was becoming an increasingly popular method of holiday travel in Scotland, together with the advent of organised coach travel. However, sadly, these were significant factors that led to the closure of Callander’s iconic Victorian railway station in 1965.
So, in the future, should you ever be on a Lochs and Glens coach on the way to the Trossachs Pier, sit back in your well upholstered seat and enjoy the quiet comfort of the ride protected from the elements, although, as ever, we can’t guarantee that it won’t be raining when you get there!
1922 - The short-lived motorised charabancs
1956 - The beginning of the era of general car ownership