Issue 49, Autumn 2018

Our featured front page is of Oban, one of the most consistently popular destinations in the Lochs and Glens programme.

Unless the weather is particularly unkind, there is always plenty to do on an Oban day excursion. For the more energetic, a climb up to McCaig's Tower or Pulpit Hill is well worth the effort and will be rewarded with superb views. Often overlooked, is the opportunity of visiting the charming island of Kerrera, just 15 minutes away via a launch from the North Pier. Otherwise, one can simply wander along the pier watching the bustle of the island ferries come and go and the fishing trawlers unload their catch. If you should arrive in Oban on a rainy day, then there are still attractions to be found. For example, the Oban Distillery, one of the oldest in Scotland, is situated in the very heart of the town and is open throughout the year and, best of all, a visit includes a dram of one of the finest malt whiskies to be had!

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After our guests depart from Inversnaid for their day excursions, the hotel takes on quite a different role, that of providing much needed rest and refreshment for the hikers that are walking the West Highland Way. This world famous footpath passes the front door of the hotel. 

Completed in 1980, the path runs for almost 100 miles from Glasgow to Fort William and is usually completed in seven or eight days. When we bought the Hotel in 1984, walkers were few and far between and almost only ever seen in the summer months. However the path’s reputation has grown and it has become internationally famous for its dramatic scenery, attracting walkers even in the out of season months.

To ease the strain in dealing with these multi-national arrivals, a new dedicated walkers’ entrance has just been completed together with an area for leaving muddy boots and wet rucksacks while the owners get some restorative food and drink. Although, having said that, the boots have been remarkably clean and the rucksacks dry during this wonderful summer.

This was the final job in the lengthy and comprehensive refurbishment of the Inversnaid Hotel. When Neil showed me the final cost of the of the work, I pointed out that it was almost exactly 40 times the amount  I originally paid when we purchased the hotel 34 years ago!

Michael Wells OBE, Chairman

Kilchurn Castle

When guests arrive at the Loch Awe Hotel and stroll out onto the terrace for the first time, they immediately notice the remains of an ancient castle at the head of the loch sitting proudly, although somewhat time-worn, against a backdrop of the mighty Beinn Donachain. It may seem to be a familiar image as it is one that has been extensively used for calendars, tourist board advertisements, shortbread boxes and much else. It has also been a favourite subject for artists over the years, perhaps the most famous painting being Turner’s watercolour ‘Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe’ painted in 1801.

Kilchurn Castle was first built in the mid 15th century as the base for the Campbells of Glenorchy, the most powerful branch of the Clan Campbell. It started life as a five storey tower house with a courtyard defended by an outer wall, but by about 1500 an additional range and a hall had been added to the south side of the castle. Further buildings went up during the 1500s and 1600s. When it was built, Kilchurn was on a small island in Loch Awe scarcely larger than the castle itself and was accessed via a low lying causeway. During the 1690’s the castle was converted into barracks capable of housing 200 troops. This involved the addition of a three storey L-shaped block along the north side of the castle.

It survived through many turbulent times including the two Jacobite Risings, until 1740 when the Campbells moved to Taymouth Castle and unsuccessfully attempted to sell Kilchurn to the Government. Twenty years later, lightning struck one of the towers causing extensive damage and the castle was totally abandoned. Evidence of this can still be seen, as a turret brought down at the time lies upside down in the courtyard.

Another truly ferocious storm demolished more of the building in 1879. This was the very same storm that carried away the Tay Bridge together with a train and its 70 passengers that was crossing at the time. It must surely have been the notorious 1,000 year storm.

Hotel guests with an hour or two free might well enjoy a walk to the castle; the view from the top of the remaining tower more than justifies the effort. It is open daily from 9.30am to 5:30pm between 1 April and 30 September.

Eilean Donan Castle

The iconic 13th century Fortress of Eilean Donan Castle is conveniently situated near to the ‘Road to Skye’. In 2019 many of our Highland Hotel tours will visit both the Castle and the Island during one unforgettable day excursion

Readers' Views

I have just come back from my holiday at the Loch Awe Hotel. I just want to say that I had a wonderful time and the staff were wonderful. Darren the coach driver is a credit to the company! I did manage to capture a photo of a White Tailed Eagle on our excursion, which was an experience to remember. I am not a professional photographer, it’s just my hobby, so you can imagine my elated feelings when the bird came in to feed it’s chick. Keep up the good work with the brilliant value for money holidays.

- Denise Barker, Norwich, Norfolk

Thank you so much for our wonderful holiday to the Loch Awe Hotel. It was absolutely beautiful looking over the loch and mountains every morning. We had a lovely time and will definitely be saving up to go again. I would also like to say that Nigel our coach driver made the holiday with his knowledge of the area and his humour. All the staff at the hotel were amazing. Thank you so much again.

- Kelly and Lee Wragge, Totton, Hampshire

Just wanted to let you know what a fab-u-lous time we had in Fort William and the surrounding area. Thanks to both drivers, Tam & Morag. First day we woke to a blanket of snow and I was over the moon, I can’t wait for the next one. Will book again without question. The photo of a stag in the bushes was taken along the road at Dores.

- Barbara Squires, Abingdon, Oxfordshire

 

If you have a photo taken on a Lochs and Glens Holiday that you would like to share with our readers, please email it to photos@lochs.com or send it to us at Lochs and Glens Holidays, School Road, Gartocharn, Dunbartonshire, G83 8RW.

Loch Awe Beginnings

When I get the email that tells me a new newsletter will soon be due for publication, I look through my in-tray to see what interesting snippets of information have come to light during the previous six months. Often these are items relating to company hotels that have been sent to us by our guests and they are always warmly welcomed.

The above is one such item. It is of considerable interest as it must have been published very soon after the Loch Awe Hotel was built. The proprietor is shown as Duncan Fraser who came to own the hotel as a result of a surprising course of events. He was previously known as ‘Boots’ Fraser, due to his job as a porter and shoe cleaner at the Ardeonaig Hotel which, together with the lands for miles around, was owned by the Earl of Breadalbane.

Once a year the Earl’s numerous tenants gathered at the Ardeonaig Hotel to pay their annual rent but, on one occasion, as a result of an unacceptable increase in the amounts due, the Earl’s factor was attacked by several irate residents. Despite being heavily outnumbered he survived, but only with the help of ‘Boots’ Fraser. When the Earl heard of Fraser’s heroics he decided to reward him by promising to give him the next vacant hotel tenancy which happened to be at the Dalmally Hotel. Here he was a great success and with increasing tourism, he prospered.

In 1880 the railway arrived and Duncan immediately realised the tremendous impact it would have on tourism. With the help of his benefactor, the Earl of Breadalbane, he managed to raise the £7,000 necessary to construct the Loch Awe Hotel.

Duncan Fraser had three daughters and the oldest one, Jessie, married Duncan’s assistant, Thomas Currie. In due course Jessie and Thomas took over the management and together they elevated the Loch Awe Hotel to be a very high class establishment frequented by the rich and famous.

The hotel remained in Duncan Fraser’s family until 1943 when his trustees sold it to the Loch Awe Hotel company which, sadly, went into liquidation in 1960.

Pet Fawn, Inversnaid Hotel

Recently Neil asked if I would update the video ‘Lochs and Glens Hotels as they were’. This is the feature that appears on the screen when the guest televisions are first switched on. It is the right time for an upgrade as technical standards have moved on considerably since the original recording was made over 10 years ago and, many new images depicting our hotels and their surroundings in past times have been found.

As I looked through our extensive collection of old postcards I came across this 1952 card that had first stirred my curiosity when it was found soon after we purchased the Inversnaid Hotel in 1984. At that time the previous owner, George Buchan, still lived close by. He had worked, man and boy, at the hotel since the mid nineteen thirties and, if anyone new the story behind the picture, it would be him.

Apparently a newly born fawn, abandoned by its mother, had been found by a work party of German prisoners of war clearing wood on the lochside. They gave him to the hotel manager who promptly christened him ‘Bambi’ and hand reared him until he became a faithful companion, reputedly swimming across the loch following his master on the hotel ferry. It was a favourite of the residents who fed him titbits until the day he disgraced himself by putting his now well developed antlers to use and butting a guest in the rear. Sadly his punishment was swift - sent on the afternoon steamer to the butcher in Balloch and, as food was still in short supply during the war austerity of the time, venison appeared on the menu shortly after. A sad story, but now he will always be remembered by the card simply entitled ‘Pet Fawn, Inversnaid Hotel, Loch Lomond.