Issue 41, Autumn 2014

In the spring, when we set a competition to find the best description of a Lochs and Glens day excursion, we could not possibly have imagined the scale of response from our readers. Over 400 entries, some handwritten, some typed, but mostly emailed and printed off, arrived on my desk last week as I prepared to put together this autumn's newsletter.

It took a full day to read them all. It was certainly no chore. On the contrary, I was hugely impressed with the standard of writing, but was left with the difficult dilemma of finding a winner. Finally, a short-list was compiled and the entries emailed to others in the Company to help make that final decision. Even then there was no consensus on a single entry and so we have decided there should be joint winners, each being awarded a holiday for two.

Congratulations therefore to Helen Tracy and Denise Langley for their excellent articles. The standard of writing was so good that it seems a shame that other entries on the short-list are not published, and so others will be featured in future editions. The author of each article printed will receive a consolation prize of a £100 voucher redeemable when booking a future Lochs and Glens Holiday.

A few weeks ago I revisited Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast and was pleasantly surprised at the scale and quality of the restoration work that has been carried out to both the castle and gardens in recent times. The gardens in particular are now quite magnificent.

Culzean Castle (pronounced Cullane) has had an interesting history. It was originally converted from a fortified tower by the renowned Robert Adam in the late 18th century for David Kennedy, the Earl of Cassilis, and it remained in the Kennedy family right up until 1945 when, due to inheritance tax difficulties, it was donated to the National Trust.

However, in doing so, the family stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Commander of the Allied Forces during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States when, for a short while, Culzean was his Scottish White House.

There is one final twist to the story. In 2011, William Lindsay, a Las Vegas millionaire who had never visited Scotland, left almost $4million in his will for the refurbishment of the castle and gardens after being inspired by the Eisenhower connection.

The National Trust for Scotland have made excellent use of this unexpected bequest, thus explaining the wonderful transformation that I discovered during my recent visit.

You may be interested to know that the Eisenhower suite is available as a holiday let, although somewhat pricy. Alternatively, you can experience Culzean with Lochs and Glens. A visit to this special place is included in some Loch Achray itineraries next year.

Michael Wells O.B.E, Chairman

 

Competition Joint Winners (Helen Tracy, Yeovil, Somerset)

Today we are having a day to discover Oban. It's my first ever visit and I was interested to hear the information our coach driver gave us about the town as we neared the centre. Sunshine highlighted McCaig's Tower, the Folly at the top of the hill and lent an odd, foreign looking air to an otherwise very Scottish resort. Seagulls were sweeping the harbour, searching for food, not caring whether it was provided by tourists or trawlers.

We were dropped off right in the centre, and I headed towards somewhere with coffee and a view of the water. There is a certain calm in the air in Oban: the shops are busy, as are the streets, without a feeling of push and shove which is prevalent in my home town.

Here, people had time to chat: shop assistants asked "Where are you from?" and actually waited for an answer. Weather was discussed frequently, as this was an unusually warm spell. It seemed as though I was in a different time zone here; slower, kinder and far more enjoyable.

I watched the ferries coming and going, speculating which one would carry my coach party to Mull the next day, en route to Iona, and hoped the weather would hold for the trip.

Several people took the time to stop and chat, pass the time of day, and exchange good mornings. I decided I should climb up to that Tower and view Oban from there.

It was quite a climb, but well worth it! The view is panoramic and spectacular.

By the end of the downward walk back into the centre, I was ready for a well earned lunch.

Fresh sea food never tasted better!

Oban is an easy place to discover on foot: there were interesting shopping opportunities here, apart from the usual Scottish souvenir shops. Many outlets displayed hand made items which make unique gifts. Most of all though, the gift of Oban is the atmosphere - peaceful, calm and welcoming.

Our coach was waiting at the designated pick up point and we set off on the scenic journey back to Loch Awe Hotel. A very warm welcome waited for us there too: smiling staff, warm reception rooms with heart-stopping views and a cup of restorative tea!

A perfect end to a perfect day.

Helen Tracy, Yeovil, Somerset

 

Competition Joint Winners (Denise Langley, Billericay, Essex)

A memorable day out with Lochs and Glens? Aren't they all? Even the comfort stops en route frequently produce encounters to dine out on back home!

But our number one highlight has to be our trip to Edinburgh (worthy of a visit in its own right) on the day we visited the Royal Yacht Britannia. From its legendary Rolls Royce to its crazy Wombat, the whole experience was unforgettable.

We expected opulence and grandeur on board, and the Queen's Dining Room (elegantly laid with sparkling lead crystal and highly polished silver) was certainly impressive. But of course any ship that carries its own limousine on board is bound to be rather special.

Yet even more memorable, perhaps, were the comfort and homeliness of the ship - I almost wished I'd taken my slippers! We never dreamed we'd see inside the Queen's bedroom, but the Royal Yacht surprised us and the room itself was pretty, dainty, modest and simple, with a small desk and a single bed for Her Majesty. And throughout the ship unexpected little touches left us in no doubt that this was first and foremost a real home for the Royal Family…and yet home for its many crew members, too. Their quarters, also modest and simple, were rather more cramped and rather less pretty, but the on-board commentary gave us a genuine feel for the lives and duties of the sailors on board. Theirs was certainly an interesting and demanding job!

There was something fascinating around every tight corner and through every narrow doorway. Lifebelts and shiny brass bells were to be expected, of course, but our favourite accessories included the wooden barrel containing the sailors' rum rations (lettered in brass 'The Queen, God Bless Her') and the neat and colourful flag locker (with a folded flag for every occasion!)

Naturally we treated ourselves to coffee and cake in the Royal Deck Tea Room - who could refuse? And no visit to the Royal Yacht would be complete without a slice of Britannia's Lemon Drizzle Cake, so yummy that the recipe is now published online for us all to recreate at home!

But I expect you're wondering about the Wombat. Well, he's large and furry and lives in the Officers' Mess - but let Lochs and Glens whisk you off to Edinburgh and you can go and discover the Wombat's story for yourself…

Denise Langley, Billericay, Essex

Inversnaid - Evolution of the Hotel

When we purchased the Inversnaid Hotel just over 30 years ago, there had been only four previous owners since the original hotel opened in 1820. Each family had expanded the business with a variety of building extensions, the whole process being documented by that 19th century invention, the picture postcard.

There were probably more cards produced of the Inversnaid than any other hotel in Scotland. It was a favourite subject of photographers, no doubt due to its scenic location. Over the years we have gathered together at least two hundred different views of the building, the great majority being published between 1902 and 1914, known as the golden age of postcards, when it became the fashion to exchange cards with friends and relatives, not because either party had actually been to the place shown on the card, but because it had an appealing picture. The craze stopped abruptly at the outbreak of war and never really caught on in quite the same way again.

Just occasionally a gem of a card comes to light that was produced before this period, such as the three shown above. They are very few and far between, but are the most revealing in seeing just how the hotel evolved.

Staffa

Approaching the island of Staffa for the first time is an unforgettable experience. The famous Fingal's Cave, immortalised by Mendelsson in his Hebridean Overture, is immediately obvious flanked by the great basalt columns which make the island so unique.

Now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, the island is a protected nature reserve with puffins, sometimes known as Sea Parrots, being the main wildlife attraction.

Despite being only half a mile long and completely uninhabited, Staffa has been a source of inspiration for countless visiting artists over the centuries.

Famous visitors to the island have included Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the artist J M W Turner, and poets and writers Keats, Wordsworth, Tennyson and Sir Walter Scott.

And now you too can visit Staffa. A cruise to the island is to be included in a number of Loch Awe Hotel itineraries in 2015. As usual, details in the accompanying brochure.

Ally Gibson

Ally Gibson, our popular manageress at the Loch Awe Hotel is shown here with husband James shortly after their wedding at the Falls of Lora in the Spring. The ceremony was followed by a reception at the Loch Awe Village Hall and they honeymooned aboard a cruise liner in the Mediterranean.

Ally first started work in the bar of the Loch Awe Hotel in 2007 where her talents were quickly spotted and she was given the opportunity of working in other hotel departments in order to develop her management potential. After a successful period as a relief manager at the Loch Long Hotel she was appointed to her present position back at Loch Awe.

We wish them both every happiness and success.