Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Ready when you are!

You know the one about the early bird, well this lucky regular had his pick of 15 of the finest Scottish cask ales as our hard working bar staff prepare for the annual onslaught that is the Clachaig Hogmanay.

We've plenty more in the cellar too, including Williams brothers, Cairngorm, An Teallach & Isle of Skye to name but a few.

With both Nevis Range & Glencoe ski resorts open for business, our Hogmanay guests arriving by the coach load and the promise of great live music in our Boots bar it's shaping up to be another classic.......So come early, or all the worms will have gone!

Sunday, 27 December 2009

Great day for hill running

Back to work at Clachaig today as we ease ourselves out of the all-too-short Christmas shut down. And its been busy too, with plenty of people arriving in the glen that was oh so quiet for just a few days.

Before the daily grin started all over again, there was just time to sneak in a quick hill run. After all, its fine hill running weather!

Heading up the forest road above the Glencoe NTS Visitor Centre

Just about everywhere is still covered in snow making the going fairly easy underfoot. However, some paths, especially where the snow cover is thin, are covered in thick and lethal water ice. The lower section of the path up the Pap of Glencoe is one such path. Careful route planning was required, and the ideal choice seemed to be the seldom visited top of Meall Mor.

Breaking off from the track near the bealach, in search of the edge of the forest and the open hill

The new forest road above the NTS Visitor Centre means that its now much easier to run up towards the bealach. By next year it looks like it'll be on the top, but for now the last section is still on the old track and then its a case of breaking through the forest before hitting the open hill.

Above the forest, Callart hills beyond, heading for the top in deep snow

In just a little over an hour from the car we were at the top, which wasn't bad going given the depth of some of the snow. A cracking wee run!

With the cold weather forecast to last for at least another week, chances are the glen is going to get quite busy in the next few days. Reports from Nevis Range are of good skiing and plenty of sledging. Glencoe Mountain is due to open for the first time tomorrow. Hope to see a fair few of you at the Clachaig Hogmanay Hoolie!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas (& Hogmanay)

Time for probably our last update before that plump chap in the red suit comes to visit us all again. The weather is very much dominating everyone's life at the moment, so here's a Glencoe view on things.

Late this afternoon the glen was looking quite simply STUNNING. Clear blue skies and a covering a white from top to bottom. -5 degrees in Glencoe village, which being by the sea on the west coast coast is unusual.

We asked Icon or Firewood - as it turns out, it was both!

I had to go to Glasgow yesterday, and I have to say that Rannoch Moor was also STUNNING. Ba Loch was frozen and white over with deep snow. On the way home in the mid evening the temperature had dropped to -6 degrees. No wonder I spotted a few deer on the verge, presumably thumbing (hoofing?!) a lift down to the pub for the evening. Apart from a few concerns over black ice, the roads are clear of snow.

Bike ride to Glencoe Village on Sunday

Work to get the car park finished in time for the Hogmanay onslaught has been made a little more tricky, though we're about 98% complete now. And progress on the replacement sign has also slowed down. A grand unveiling for FebruaryFest is now more likely than Hogmanay, though we might get the ironmongery back up tomorrow.

Clachaig closes down for 3 days over Christmas. Its a rare opportunity to ensure that everyone gets a good break, especially as the week that follows is generally the busiest trading week in the calendar year.

Quite what the Scottish weather will throw at us is anyone's guess at this stage. There is a suggestion that the cold spell will continue, and today's MWIS report suggests that it may last until New Year. What we do know is that listening to the doom-mongers on the TV & radio, you'd be as well hiding away for ever more. However, if you're thinking of heading this way there are sources of more reliable information.

For the lastest weather try the Mountain Weather Information Service.

For the latest snow & avalanche conditions see the Scottish Avalanche Info site.

For ski conditions check with Glencoe Mountain and Nevis Range (who were open for snow sports today!)

And for roads information check Traffic Scotland, and especially check the Altnafeadh (by Buachaille Etive Mor) web cams.

Or you could always ask us for some advice!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Going for Gold!

Here at Clachaig we increasingly recognise the need to operate our business so as to minimise our impact on the environment and to operate in a sustainable manner wherever possible. Adopting such a policy has involved taking small steps towards our objectives.

We currently participate in the Green Tourism Business Scheme. The scheme, operated in conjunction with VisitScotland, is a recognition of environmental achievement and is a useful tool in operating a sustainable business.

To be honest, we don’t do it just for the plaque on the wall, we are actually committed to sustainable business practices. Take a look at our Environmental Policy to see how we have converted this core belief into action so far. So we are very proud to report, following the last audit, that Clachaig Inn has been awarded the Green Tourism Business Silver Award.

Whilst we are obviously delighted to receive this recognition, we are aware that we can still achieve more and we keep our policies under constant review & actively seek innovative ways to minimise our impact on the environment.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Can you tell what it is yet?

Does anyone know what this is? Here's a clue.

The rotten bits have been chopped out and new oak has been skilfully added back in. Just needs a lick of paint and a trip up to the signwriters. We're expecting delivery of a new post tomorrow and the digger is on standby to get the 4m chunk of wood back into the ground. Chances of it being back in pride of place by Hogmanay are looking slim at the moment but we're working on it.

Thailand or Berneray?

We've always said that the west coast beaches are among the best in the world (when the sun shines, that is!)

So where do you think this one is? Thailand or Berneray? Click here to find out.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


The irony is that the glen is really quiet just now. Ok, you need to choose your days. The weather changes fast, as do the conditions on the mountains. It could be wet and windy. It could be quite pleasant. But when you strike it lucky and get a day like this one so early in the season you know you are truly blessed!

I remember the good old days when you used to complain to the staff that their c.v.s all waxed lyrical about the fact that they wanted to come and work in Glencoe so that could climb all these wonderful mountains, only to find them unable to get out of bed before noon.

But like everything else in life, times they are a changing.

James got out of his bed last Friday and went for a bit of a wander. And I have to say that I am just a little bit envious. Bidean nam Bian is not only looking absolutely fantastic in this shot, there's not a foot print to be seen on the final ridge to the summit.

Winter has arrived in Glencoe!

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Kelpie Seaweed Ale

We’re always keen to improve our product knowledge, so when the chance came up to combine this with a day at the beach rather than at work it seemed too good to be true. So, of course it was.

No lounging around topping up the tan, no beach barbeque, and worse still, not an ice cream van in sight. Instead the morning was spent gathering bladderwrack seaweed.

I dare say it may seem an odd thing to do to some, but for brewer Bruce Williams, it’s just “another day in the office”. Bruce and Scott Williams are behind Williams Brothers Brewing, the guys who for the best part of twenty years have supplied us here at Clachaig with numerous tasty beers. These have ranged from the more familiar ales like 80/-, to the more exotic (and historic) ones including Fraoch (Heather Ale), quite possibly our best selling beer over the years.

But tomorrow’s brew is Kelpie Seaweed Ale. So with that in mind, a short ten-minute drive brought us to the shoreline by Castle Stalker, just in time for low tide. Monty Python fans will of course know it by its alternative name, Castle Aaargh. Maybe we got the odd funny look or two from passers-by, but at least we weren’t subjected to taunts of French knights as the heroes of the film were.

Armed with a handfull of bags, and several pairs of scissors, we set about gathering one of the key ingredients for the brew. Cutting the seaweed rather than pulling it up leaves to roots intact, ensuring there’s plenty of seaweed for the next harvest.

Despite the weather, it has to be said it was a surprisingly pleasant way to spend a morning, and indeed is there a better to improve product knowledge than to occasionally get out and get involved with our local suppliers? Well, that’s my excuse for not working anyway!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

More Car Park Improvements

Ironically, we have just had some of the best autumn weather you could hope for and yet it was our quietest weekends of the year. Lots of snow on the hills, crisp clear days, a big yellow thing in the sky and barely anyone around to witness it. I blame Christmas myself; a couple of days in the year disrupts a good 2 months of trading.

The new enclosed area - the tarred access road will run from the road edge, past the dumper, to the road on the right.

Still, plenty of time to crack on with other jobs that we just don't get the time for during the rest of the year. Like phase 2 of the car park works here at Clachaig Inn. Visitors to Glencoe during 2009 can't help but have noticed that we now have a lovely big car park where once there was just a swamp.

A new sleeper wall parallel to the public road will partially enclose the lower car park

Wonderful improvement to both amenity and visual impact that it was, you still had to get through the original lower car park to get to it. Phase 2 will see more formal parking in the lower car park with an enclosed area, a tarred access road through to the aforementioned new car park, and a more informal area set aside for further parking which can also be used by larger vehicles.

More photos in due course.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Vroom at the Inn

World trials champion Dougie Lampkin discovered a whole host of new activities on a recent visit to Lochaber and was keen to experience them first hand. Dougie enjoyed an action packed couple of days Kayaking, indoor rock climbing, a fast boat tour, a trip to the local whisky distillery and a spot of ice walling and he now understands why the area is titled the Outdoor Capital of the UK.

Undoubtedly the highlight of his trip was a visit to Glencoe and we were delighted when he dropped into our Boots bar here at Clachaig.

“This is a proper pub, and is a much welcomed sight at the end of what has been one long adventure. Anyone wanting to experience real Scottish hospitality needs to make sure that they include a stop here on their tour.”

The SPEA FIM Trial World Championship series is due to hit Nevis Range in June 2010 and whilst the three-day event will deliver non-stop entertainment throughout what promises to be a weekend to remember, the region has so much more to offer for those who wish to extend their stay in the area.

Best of luck Dougie and look forward to welcoming you back next June, there’s a dram on the house for you....

.....if you win, of course!

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thanks for the Feedback

Feedback from our guests is tremendously useful. We receive feedback from our guests via a variety of avenues.

Firstly, we actively ask for it. We've now got over 600 completed feedback surveys from our 2009 guests at the inn, plus a lot more from our self catering guests. We read it on forums such as Tripadvisor. And sometimes it just comes to us because people want to tell us about their experience. Here's an example that hit the inbox yesterday.

Oak Lodge, Clachaig Chalets, Glencoe

In the last week of October we stayed with you in Oaktree Lodge, and have kept meaning to send an email to say what a wonderful stay we had with you, I am not sure that you have time to read any guest comments in the books you provide, but the staff were fabulous and so welcoming, I have a Scottish friend from Glasgow and she told me the place was magical but only if you were Scottish, well it was magical to us, my children haven't stopped talking about it, the lodge felt like a home from home and we certainly were sad to be going home. Keep on doing what you obviously have off to a fine art, it was a brilliant stay. And we will be back

Fantastic! Stuff like this just keeps us going. We really appreciate the fact that our guests take the time to contact us after their stay to tell us things like this. Thank you.

And now for a commercial break...

You too can book Oak Lodge at Clachaig Chalets.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Free Winter Safety Lectures 2010

Heading to the mountains this coming winter season? Then take note.

In association with the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Clachaig is pleased to be able to present another series of the FREE Winter Mountain Safety Lectures.

Posters are now available. If you'd like one then contact us at Clachaig and we can email you a PDF version for your club/office/shop/community noticeboard. With a new Mountain Safety Advisor on board at the MC of S, this years' series has had a bit of a makeover. (Nice Poster for a start!)

However, the same mix of entertainment, important skills for the hills and quality beer in hand will be delivered FREE of charge. (Ok, the beer's not free!) All lectures start at approx 8pm in the Bidean Lounge Bar.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Eagle of the 9th

When I walked into reception today there was much giggling, fanning of brows and other such girlie nonsense. Nothing new there then. But on further investigation it seems that the common local phenomena known as 'film crew in Glencoe' seems to behind such behaviour.

Morgan & Channing

Maybe its because I'm the other side of 40, maybe its because I've seen it all before (have I told you that me and Harry Potter are best mates?) or maybe it's because I just a numb bloke, but I don't quite get it myself. But, who am I to criticise if our reception staff get all doey eyed and want a photo with Channing Tatum, Jamie Bell and the gang. On the other hand, if Shakira was in town...

Eagle of the 9th sounds a bit like a golf result but a quick Google reveals that I'm probably not being stitched up with this story and it is in fact being filmed on location in Glencoe. Look out for a release some time in 2010.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

A Champion for Real!

Cottages4You is one of the larger operators out there, and they'll help you find a self catering cottage holiday across the UK and into parts of Europe too. (Though we must still recommend that you use Carefree Holidays if its Glencoe that you're planning to visit!)

Betty's delights - heaven is in North Yorkshire

As a reputable and forward thinking operator, they recently set about "Championing Real Britain". They have a point. There's so much that's really good out there, and chances are you'll find much of it in the rural areas. And what about that 'real' element? Haven't we heard that somewhere else recently? Yes, Clachaig adopted the 'real' stance 3 years ago as part of our customer promise to avoid the superficial, transient, over-marketed and faddish rubbish that tends to rule lives in the 21st century. So, Cottages4You asked their customers for some recommendations.

Have a guess who tops the Food & Drink section in Scotland.

Go on, have a guess! Bowled over yet again by the continuous support and encouragement we receive from or customers! Its absolutely fantastic.

Though I'm not sure which is the more stunning news; that Clachaig tops the list in Scotland, or that we come in a couple of places behind Betty's Tea Room in the nationwide listing. You have to understand that as a boy I spent my Saturday mornings heading into York to browse the latest releases at Red Rhino Records in Gillygate before heading across to St Helen's Square to drool longingly at the cakes in the windows at Betty's. A visit, invariably involving vanilla slice, was a treat indeed! So its a bit like winning an Oscar and being at the awards ceremony with Clint Eastwood!
Real People, Real Hospitality, Real Craic!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Team Moose, Doon Broon and other nonsense.

Just a thought, but does anyone remember our "Doon Broon" t-shirts? it was just one of many silly ideas, our little homage to climbing brand Think Pink and Clachaig, crossed with an education at Newcastle University and some Newcastle Brown Ale. Amazingly, the shirts were a big hit and we sold loads of them. The forerunner to our cheeky little homage to Carlsberg that we're retailing now (and we're on the 5th print run of these since we launched them earlier this year!) I couldn't find a shirt to show you but I'll keep looking.

Chances are that these guys remember the shirts. The photo appeared on my Facebook pages this last week - a blast from the past so to speak. And they too had their own little homage, and I do still have my Team Moose sweatshirt. (can anyone spot a young Proclaimer in that photo?)

Friday, 6 November 2009

Bonfire Night

About 300 folk gathered on the lawns at the Onich Hotel last night to enjoy the best of bonfire night celebrations. It was a cracking evening in a cracking location. I know its a terribly British thing to keep going on about the weather but the weather gods did at last take pity on us West coasters for once.

With a full moon and stars above and the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore, the setting was perfect. Add in a firework display, a decent sized bonfire, some mulled wine and a BBQ and you've got the recipe for a great event.

Many thanks to everyone at the Onich for laying it on. (And apologies for the quality of my photos).

If you're in the area next weekend (Saturday 14th November) then you might want to pop along to the Ballachulish Quarry for the annual firework display. The back drop of the cliffs make it another good venue.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Now that's something you don't see every day

Yes, not one but two computer screens in the front office at Clachaig! And yes, you would have said now that's something you don't see every day. But not any longer. All change. You'd better get used to it.

We've just spent the last 2 and a half days installing a brand new Property Management System here at Clachaig. Its been a fairly intensive couple of days. Firstly came the computer with all its settings and set up, plus network wiring. And then the software installation. But all of that was a doddle compared to actually working out how it works! My head now hurts. A lot! And so do my eyes.

We're busy transferring all the bookings currently held across from the oversized reservation books to the computerised system. I don't think we'll have it all done in time to throw the old books on the bonfire tonight, but maybe we'll still have a ceremonial burning of the books to mark the point at which we joined the 21st century.

And apart from 'computer says no' (cough) being a more common response to your enquiries, what else is there to expect from this quantum leap forward? Well, online booking is just a week or two away now. Give us a chance to get on top of things and we'll have real time online room booking before you can say, 'do you have any availability at Hogmanay, per chance'. (The answer is sorry, no.)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Donate to the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team, and it won’t cost you a penny!

The Clachaig Inn has long been associated with the GMRT, one of the busiest mountain rescue teams in the country. Whilst made up entirely of volunteers, the team relies heavily on donations to keep running, and for many years we’ve had collection tins in the bars at Clachaig.

However, in an attempt to do more, we’ve set up a scheme to allow you good folk out there to help us raise more funds every time you shop online. And the best bit? It won’t cost you a single penny! Furthermore, it only takes a few seconds of your time. “How?” You may ask. See our web site for more details.

So, get the kids to bed, light the fire, grab a drink, and get your Christmas shopping sorted from the comfort of your armchair. Sure, your credit cards might take a hit, but take some comfort in the knowledge that at the same time you’ve helped a worthy cause.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Where's this?

Another puzzler for you. This time, can you tell us where this photo was taken? And when?

If you're interested in more photos of old Glencoe then take a peek at the GlencoeScotland web site.

Alternatively, try this one. An excellent photo of the road through the gorge being hacked out and a couple of the road past Sir Jimmy's house.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

What's Missing?

Here's a classic view of the West Face of Aonach Dubh from the paddock, in autumn colours. But isn't there something missing? Here's a clue.

Can you tell what it is? Answers on a postcard to...

Meanwhile, Octoberfest continues in full swing. Busy, busy...

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Autumn Beer Festival

Regular visitors to Clachaig are well aware of our unique weather patterns and given the wet summer we've just had it's anyones guess what autumn will throw at us, so we were pleasantly surprised last Friday, the first day of our Autumn beer festival, to wake to a beautiful day, not a breath of wind, the sun high in the sky and the Glen packed with walkers and climbers making the most of the glorious weather.

In our Boots Bar we had the fires lit and all 15 hand pulls primed for action with a great selection of beer from Williams Bros, Hebridean, Cairngorm, Traditional Scottish Ales, Houston, and Isle of Skye breweries.

Opening night's entertainment saw the return of old Clachaig favourites, the Marauders. Hailing from Glasgow they rocked the Boots Bar, so loud they almost knocked the whisky bottles off the top shelf!!

Saturday we added new additions to the hand pulls, the most exciting being a new ale from Traditional Scottish Ales, Aleoween! Brewed with fresh pumpkin to produce exciting almond and caramel flavours, the pints flew over the bar! Music came from the madcap local bunch 'Anyone for Gravy' A great night was had by all. Sunday was a more casual affair with Scott MacDonald playing his laid back tunes.

Tuesday we welcomed whisky specialist Gerry Brown from Gordon & Macphail who entertained a very knowledgeable group of visitors including residents from Holland & the USA on the complexities of our national drink.

Ale Masterclass was presented by Dixie Taylor from Isle of Skye brewery who educated, entertained & amused a packed Snug bar on Thursday night.

A great start to Octoberfest and the good news is we have plenty more great beers and events over the next couple of weeks so we look forward to seeing you!

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Monday, 5 October 2009

What Next For White Corries?

Regurgitating stuff from elsewhere on the web is something we try to avoid. However, as this story really isn't ours at all (though it is very pertinent to Glencoe, Scotland) it seems most appropriate to simply point you in the right direction...

Ok, so it's a cracking day at Nevis Range, but I couldn't immediately put my hands on a Glencoe ski photo.

The Press & Journal reported on Saturday that the future of White Corries, the Glencoe ski area and the oldest of the Scottish ski 'resorts', is in doubt. And not for the first time.

You can read the full story on this link.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Glencoe Icon or Firewood?

Time for a bit of feedback, please. We know you're reading. The counter tells us you are. Yes, nearly 10,000 of you so far this year. So, how about just leaving us a comment at the foot of this item? We need to know whether you think this sign is an iconic part of Clachaig and should be preserved, or whether we're just being a bit sentimental and it would make a rather hefty chunk of firewood.

October already and despite the fact that we're still very busy we've been tunring our attentions to some of the many jobs that we need to get stuck in to in the 'quiet' season. We've got a few fairly major items on the list and we're working through each to try and allocate a priority and a budget. Don't like to say too much as when it doesn't happen, for whatever reason, it doesn't look too good.

However, this sign has definitely been on the list for a few years now. A few patches, repaints and a little bit of wishful thinking isn't going to stop the rot after decades of exposure to the Glencoe weather. Time to consider its future!

P.S. If you're not sure which way to vote; icon/firewood why not take a peak at Flickr, search for Clachaig and see how often it appears?!

Monday, 28 September 2009

The Postscript

I think I've done some stupid things in my time. Everything from marathons, to the Ben Nevis Race, to 24 hour endurance rides. But, in retrospect, the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Cyclocross Race could quite well have topped the list.

Finish line and still smiling - must have been good!

I mean, just where is the sense in carrying a bike up 3 dirty great big hills and then trying to ride down them, especially when the bike is lacking all those modern luxuries such as suspension and disc brakes to make riding back down again comfortable, and perhaps even safe?

About 500 riders lined up in a tiny Dales village yesterday morning, all dressed in lycra and wearing nervous grins and deep heat in abundance. The start is like a road race, with the bunch moving fast & furious through to Horton in Ribblesdale. After a very quick few road miles the route then turns uphill, on rough farm tracks and then out onto the fell. Last time I was here was about 25 years ago and I was disappearing underground down Long Churn Cave. This time we were pushing, sweating grunting over the top of it, bound for Simon Fell and the summit of Ingleborough.

The climb was purgatory. I was drowning in snot, not having much fun and ready to pack it all in. But then came the descent to Cold Cotes. Oh yes! Back in business and smiling again!

Back on tar again and heading round towards Whernside, came the most bizarre moment of the race. A small group of riders, all huddled together in a little chain gang, lead out by some chap with a babyseat complete with 2 year old on the back. No one saw how he got on carrying it up Whernside!

By comparison to Ingleborough, the ascent of Whernside was a doddle. Well, easier anyway. The descent off the other side slightly more interesting. I passed a fair few punctures, broken bits of bike and at least one broken collar bone.

Nearing the road again at Ribble Head

Then the home run. From the iconic Ribble Head viaduct there's another blisteringly fast road section back to Horton. And then it all goes horribly wrong again. A left turn up a narrow cobbled lane and a 450m climb upwards, ever upwards to the summit of Pen-y-ghent. I quickly rang out of gears but somehow managed to keep on turning the pedals to the final steepening. All the while, far more able riders than I were hurtling back at us at ridiculous speeds over the cobbles - this was an out and back section.

The summit came and went. All there was to do now was finish. Back down that track, hanging on for dear life all the while, memories of a recent trip over the handle bars trying to break the concentration, and then a quick road sprint.

Crossing the line - an emotional experience!

4 hours, 45 minutes after starting, came the joy of crossing the finish line. Mission accomplished. Race finished. And completed in under 5 hours. You beauty!

A few more pics here, courtesy of my support crew!

Friday, 25 September 2009

A little bit of madness for the weekend?

So, how would you like your madness served this weekend?

Me, I'll be heading off to the Yorkshire Dales to compete in THE event in the annual Cyclocross calendar. Anyone know anything about cyclocross? No, me either. All I know is that I've got an entry for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Cyclocross race and that I'll have to bike / run with bike on shoulder up / down Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent covering 38 miles in the process. And I've got a lurgie which I'm struggling to shake off.

But still, how hard can 38 miles be. T'is but a short training ride. And 5000ft of uphill. Well, they're more molehills than they are mountains! The Ben Nevis Race must be 4500ft and I did that no bother. So, sounds like its going to be a walk in the park, then!

Closer to home, the madness this weekend will be of the WET variety, with the Glen Etive River Race. Yes, I pinched the photo from their web site but if this is anything to go by I'm a little disappointed that I won't be around as it looks like some excellent spectator sport action.

See the web site for details and catch anyone who competes and lives to tell the tale at Clachaig Inn afterwards for the prize giving.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Silent Night

I wish! At the risk of sounding like a whinging Bill Oddie, I'd say that there's not much silent about the nights here in the glen at the moment.

First there's the screeching of the owls as they come out to hunt at night. They obviously think its a good idea to sit on trees at opposite ends of the garden and have a screeching conversation till the small hours!

Then there's these fellas. The rut must be on given the barks echoing across the lower glen in the twilight hours. And to top it all, the local pine marten now thinks its funny to come round during the night and leave a poo on the doorstep.

And if Bill Oddie turns up then that really will be the last straw. Kate Humble on the other hand is more than welcome...

P.S. Thanks to Alex at Lochaber Light for continued use of the photos. He has a fantastic collection.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Late Availability Glencoe Accommodation

Have you found yourself with time on your hands, the desire to get away for a few days and that nagging feeling that you could have done so much more if only you'd planned a little better? Well, if this is you, perhaps you should be checking the new late availability pages on the Carefree Self Catering Holidays, Glencoe web site.

Come home to a real fire at Arvonie - Lochside Cottage

The new page is designed to offer an indication of the self catering properties available in the next 2 weeks, and may (or may not) also offer some excellent late availability discounts on specific dates, whether it be a 3 night short break or a full weeks self catering holiday.

Worth creating a bookmark for!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Why does my pint cost so much?

So why does your pint cost so much these days? Well, here's just one of any number of costs arising out of the the so called 'red tape' that is slowly but surely trying to strangle the life out of small businesses.

Free Beer? Responsible?!

We've just paid our annual license fee, the first under the new Act, which took effect from 1st September. Cost? £700. How much did it cost under the old regime? £86 - and that was for 3 years. And that's not to mention the cost of the premises license application - about £5000 when we added it all up. And then there's the cost of training. Several personal licenses, including re-training for both Clachaig directors after nearly 20 years each as licencees. £125 per course (and must be retrained every 5 years). And on it goes.

And judging by this little promotion we came across last week, it seems that some have different interpretations of what 'responsible' alcohol retailing actually means!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Munro: Mountain Man

If mountains are your thing then perhaps you might want to reach for the Sky Plus remote and set record for this coming Sunday night, 20th September, BBC 4.

Stob Coire nan Lochan, Glencoe

Our man at the Beeb advises that Munro: Mountain Man will be screened this weekend. Look out for bearded, bobble hat wearing, map case swinging Munro baggers being interviewed in the Boots Bar at Clachaig Inn, Glencoe.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Above the clouds

See when you throw back those curtains in the morning, when you unzip that tent, and you see the cloud down low blocking out any view of the mountains, and think I'll just have another 40 winks, no point getting going too early this morning...?

Looking up the glen towards Buachaille Etive Mor & Rannoch Moor
Image Copyright James Roddie

Well think again! Be inspired by our staff here at Clachaig who work tirelessly through into the wee small hours, keeping your glasses topped up, and then rise again at the crack of dawn to go and back a hill or 3 before we've even popped the first paracetamol.

Early morning sunlight on Sgorr Dhearg above Ballachulish
Image copyright James Roddie

With a change in the weather from the August monsoons, the cabin fever has been kicked, and one of our number at least has been out with his camera taking some fantastic photos of Glencoe in all its glory.


Monday, 14 September 2009

National Cycle Route No. 7

At long last, some cracking weather. The word about some big blue skies and some glorious sunshine must have got out as it looked like every available parking space in the glen was full this weekend.

In search of some family friendly biking, we found ourselves a bit off the patch, down the A82 & A84 towards Stirling, in the small village of Strathyre.

Here you can pick up the National Cycle Route No. 7 and follow relatively low gradient and easy trails all the way into Callander. Well away from the traffic, its a scenic ride round the far side of Loch Lubnaig and then down past the Falls of Leny.

The Cycle Route continues on through the Trossachs to the south, or through Glen Ogle and to Killin to the north, and I can see us coming back to explore some of these other sections in due course. Stopping off at the top of Glen Ogle and then riding down the old railway line, bypassing Lochearnhead and then heading on the Balquidder looks a favourite for the next visit.

The only problem with the plan is getting back to the car once you've reached your destination. However, for me its a chance to get the legs working again with a sprint back along the track. And with a play park by the river in Callander, and sweet shops that sell huge gobstoppers, it wasn't really an issue for us!

Friday, 11 September 2009

All who wander...

Finally, after weeks of unrelenting bad weather, the sun has come out. The glen looks magnificent again. Time to clear a space in the diary and go wander.

Its taken a few days to start feeling human again. The Ben Race and then the rescue call out on Sunday really took it out of me. But with another big event on the horizon, I was keen to get back to the training as soon as my aching body would allow. And what better way than to head over Corran Ferry with the cross bike and ride the Liddesdale & Kingairloch Loop. 40 miles of some of the best countryside and cycling that the west coast can throw at you.

The ride starts off with a good warm up along the main road to Strontian (I say main road, but the only traffic that passes you is the half dozen cars every hour when the ferry comes in.) Its a good spin round to Glen Tarbert and then the work starts as you climb, invariably into a westerly headwind through some typically remote and rugged and Highland scenery. But its short lived and you're soon spinning out in top gear heading down to the junction to Lochaline.

The real killer on this loop is Liddesdale. A long and not insubstantial climb that really builds stamina and gets your heart rate high. Once at the summit its big gear again. Look out for the left turn down the minor road (at this point you might wonder how much more minor it can get) to Kingairloch.

By the time you've covered the 4 miles to Kingairloch you'll be picking the flies out of your teeth. To my mind its one of the best bits of road riding in Scotland. Dipping, swooping, turning and all generally heading back to sea level. The first house you pass definitely leaves you with the impression that you're in banjo plucking country. And as you descend, the scenery softens, until finally you're down by the water in an idyllic sheltered bay, amidst the few houses and one church that is Kingairloch.

Sensible folk will of course plan their visit to tie in with opening hours at the Kingairloch Boathouse Restaurant run by former Glencoe residents Kurt & Susan.

From here on you're in the home straight. Although its not straight. It twists and turns, hugging the coast as it goes. On this trip I saw porpoises rising, herons galore, skuas (at least I think they were skuas), wild goats (they look pretty angry anyway) and a buzzard. On previous trips I've come across deer blocking my path and even watched otters playing in the sea.

So, while ever Corran Ferry is free to foot passengers and bikes, take your car and park at the slip, and take half an hour or a full day to explore the other side. You don't have to go beyond Argour, but the further you go, the more hooked you'll become.

All who wander are not lost!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

The Glen of Weeping

The Glen of Weeping is weeping today!

The white streaks down the hill sides are not so much down to the fact that its been raining so much, as the fact that the wind whips the water straight back up the mountains as soon as it pours over a waterfall!

Still, there's a real sense of hope amongst the locals just now. After weeks and weeks of rain there's just a chance that we might see a few dry, even bright, days after this particularly storm passes by later today.

Can't wait till the summer comes!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Perfect Recovery

The perfect recovery to soothe those aches and pains after running up and down Ben Nevis? Go on, what do you think?

A nice relaxing evening; cold bottle of Heather Ale from the fridge, a big bag of Kettle chips, another log on the fire and a cracking bit of drama on the telly? Sounds good?

I could have done with one of these last night - just to get down the hill!

How about being called out to search for a missing walker in the Mamores, wandering around in the dark on a wind blown hillside in yet more pouring rain, only to hit the 'wall' at about 650m realising that the tank is in fact still empty and then taking twice as long to get back down the hill.

Why do these things to myself?!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

9 down, 12 to go

It had to happen really. Although we've had a few cloudy and even slightly damp Ben Nevis Races in the last 10 years, none of them have been particularly bad. Time then for a truly foul one perhaps? (Though it has to be said that my first run in 1988 was pretty horrendous!)

A quarter of a century of stupidity!?
Glasgow Marathon 1985. It rained all day then, too!

As ever, its the getting going that takes the greatest effort. But once you're wet, your wet and from that point on its easy. With the rain unrelenting, and the wind building, the park at Claggan was a quagmire from the outset. Marching out behind the pipe band brought a bit of a snigger, Not too clever walking through ankle deep puddly mud in a pair of brogues whilst playing a drum. Good on 'em!

News at the start line was of 30 mph winds on the summit, visibility down to 50 feet and a wind chill of -3 degrees. And 475 foolish runners all lined up ready to go and get first hand experience of it.

And so round the park, out of the gate and up the tarmac towards Achtintee, then the start of the climb up the summit of Britain's highest. All felt good and the decision not to wear a jacket for fear of overheating lower down was the right one. At Windy Corner, the true nature of the weather began to show. Water was streaming down everywhere. The burns were full. The wind began to feel a bit cold. But as my problem tends to be overheating and dehydration, this suited me just fine, and the rest of the climb felt good. Crossing the summit plateau was entertaining. Just like running into a hosepipe in a wind tunnel.

Wee Willie was in position at the top of Gardyloo Gully and I duly handed over my little gift of a whisky miniature. Seems I wasn't the only one marking 40 years of Gardyloo service and Willie received a fair collection of whisky.

At the turn all was still going well. With 1 hr 40 minutes gone I felt my target of under 2.5hrs was still possible. And the run down felt good too. The water flowing down the slopes by the Red Burn make the hard pack surface softer and easier to move on. I'd been concerned that the grassy bank might get the better of me with steep slippy slopes and tired legs. With other runners sliding down the grass on either side of me, I found a line straight down the flowing water and this proved to be a grippy if rather messy means of getting the best descent.

Then the home stretch. Tired legs started to make themselves known. Hitting the tarmac again at Achintee is never funny and this year was no exception. Purgatory! Just how slow can a run get before its officially classed a walk?!

All in all, despite some of the most filthy mountain weather September can muster, this year went well. And the only disappointment was my time. Still can't work out where the minutes went, but at 2hr 33 mins Iwas 5 minutes slower than I thought I was on for and than I would have preferred. But hey, there's always next year!

Sorry, no photos. Spectators were mysteriously a little thin on the ground. So in the meantime I thought I'd inlcude this one just to demostrate that I've been doing stupid things and suffering for it for at least 24 years. (Notice how I out sprint Mickey Mouse to the line!)