Issue 40, Spring 2014

One attraction that has been regularly featured in our itineraries throughout the past 30 years is Inveraray, the black and white Argyll town featured in this edition's cover photo.

Taken from the bell tower, the picture shows the town's favoured situation on the western shore of Loch Fyne. Although visits to Inveraray are generally just a part of a longer day excursion, there is plenty to see in this picturesque burgh. Not to be missed is the old town jail as well the Maritime Heritage Museum based around the iron sailing ship, Arctic Penguin, just visible in this picture alongside the pier.

Just as we were going to press, TripAdvisor, the world's largest hotel review website, published its list of the top 25 hotels in the UK for 2014. We were delighted to see that the Ardgartan Hotel came 16th overall and, furthermore, was the highest placed Scottish hotel. Last year, we were particularly pleased when the Loch Achray Hotel achieved 14th place in the Budget Hotel category, which we felt was quite an a achievement, but this year was all the more satisfying when I saw that, only one ahead of us on the list, was the £900 per night Le Manoir Aux Quat Saisons by Raymond Blanc! Of course the two hotels are very different, but the score reflects how much the guests enjoyed their stay and wanted to share their experience. In any event I would like to thank all of you who took the time to write a review on line. We greatly appreciate it.

Since completing the construction of the Loch Tummel Hotel in the late 90's we have had one enduring regret about its original design - the dimensions of the pillars in the entertainment room which, unfortunately, tended to impede our guests' view of the evening entertainment. Not a mistake exactly as there seemed to be no alternative at the time. Over the years guests have commented on the problem, but I am now pleased to report that a solution has been found by our architect and new slim-line pillars were incorporated in the £200,000 refurbishment that finished in January.

All in all it has been a busy time for my son, Managing Director Neil but, once the season is under way, we are looking forward to our annual week's mountain walking. Last year it was to the unseasonably cold and snowy Alpujarras. We are hoping for kinder weather in Pyrenees this year!

Michael Wells O.B.E., Chairman

Two Great Railway Excursions

For most people there is something quite nostalgic about a steam-train journey. Add stunning highland scenery and you have the ingredients for an unforgettable day excursion. Just such a day will be included in several of the Loch Tummel Hotel itineraries during the 2015 season. The 90 minute trip through the Cairngorms National Park begins at Aviemore and stops at the beautifully restored stations of Boat of Garten and Broomhill. Broomhill incidentally was used as the Glenbogle Station in the BBC series 'Monarch of the Glen'.

The Strathspey Railway is a small section of what was once the Aviemore to Forres line which opened in 1863 and closed 102 years later, a victim of the Beeching axe. Despite significant engineering problems the 36 mile line had, remarkably, taken less than two years to construct, the most challenging section being the crossing of the infamous Dava Moor where the line reached a summit of 1,050 feet. Snow and winds with the ensuing problem of drifting was an ever present danger. The arctic winter of 1880-81 was particularly memorable. On 17th December a train became snowbound south of Dava and had to be abandoned.

The passengers managed to reach Dava station before the storm increased in intensity, but the train was completely buried, and when it was later located, the snow lay 60 feet above the coaches. An up train, carrying passengers and cattle was also caught on the other side of the station and whilst the passengers escaped, the cattle refused to leave the shelter of the trucks, and subsequently died by suffocation. A relief train sent to rescue passengers from the station also became stuck. You will be relieved to read that the section that forms the Strathspey railway stops well short of Dava Moor!

Our second railway excursion, although not steam-hauled is a longer journey. From boarding at Inverness to disembarking at Kyle of Lochalsh is 82 miles and takes a leisurely ½ hours. The scenery is beautiful throughout, even dramatic in places. It has been described, somewhat poetically, as a symphony in three parts, pastoral, mountain and sea.

In comparison to the Forres line, construction of the track was slow and difficult. Commenced in 1865 it would take another 32 years before the entire line was opened, due in part to the number of sections that needed to be cut through solid rock.

This line too was threatened with closure in the 1960's but, after an efficient campaign, it was fortunately reprieved.

there is the added attraction of not one, but two model railway layouts, one in the old signal box and the other in the Kyle Line Museum at the station.

A number of holidays to the Highland Hotel will include this fascinating day excursion next season.

90 Years Ago

Recently we came across this photograph in the company archives. It is the staff group at the Inversnaid hotel in the mid 1920's. It is interesting to speculate about their various jobs. The back row must have been the grooms and their assistants that would have been required to look after the 60 odd horses that, in those days, were needed for the busy coaching service to Stronachlachar. The young boys in the caps were surely pages or porters. There are not as many waitresses and cooks as one would expect, perhaps others were on duty. The head waiter is presumably the gentleman in the bow tie and the ferry boat captain is unmistakable in the middle of the front row. The housekeeper and receptionists would be the ladies in the obligatory black dresses, but what about the moustached gentleman with the buttonhole in the front row? The head gardener I wonder. There was certainly extensive vegetable and cut flower gardens at the time.

Scotland At Its Best

We always try to arrange excursions with a circular route. It's not always possible to avoid retracing steps, but one that does and also goes through some truly stunning highland scenery is our Oban, Glencoe and Rannoch Moor day trip from Inversnaid.

The excursion starts and ends with a ferry crossing between the hotel and Inveruglas. There is a stop in Oban with time to have lunch and explore a little of this traditional resort and fishing port before re-boarding the coach and travelling north to Ballachullish where there are fine views of Britain's highest peak, Ben Nevis.

We return to the hotel through the infamous 'Glen o' Weeping', Glencoe and then across the starkly beautiful wilderness of Rannoch Moor.

The Triplets Are Named

Congratulations to Mrs Canning from Braintree who came up with the winning names for our three new Loch Achray calves and so wins a Lochs and Glens Holiday for two. Her choice of names: for the girls Skye and Shona and for the boy, Stirling.