Sunday, 31 May 2009

Pain is only weakness leaving the body...

You may recall that a few weeks ago I had a bit of a whinge about lashing rain and even a bit of snow on the Cycling Sportive event over the famous Bealach na Ba. Why can't the weather be a bit better for these events... In future I'll keep my big mouth shut!

Yesterday saw the 2nd in the HandsOnEvents series of Sportives. The location was the Isle of Skye. The forecast was HOT! The more sane riders out there would probably chose the Skye Beag. A mere 48 miles starting in Portree and heading north past the popular Skye landmarks of the Old Man of Storr and the Quirang.

However, being far from sane I opted for the Skye Mor, which adds in a quick tour of the west of Skye, out to Dunvegan and Sligachan, bringing the total to 96 miles and a cumulative ascent of 3000m. Nice! And I don't do 'hot'.

The first leg was fast and furious, thanks to a 'brisk' tail wind. Unfortunately, that brisk tail wind then turned into a brisk head wind for much of the rest of the circuit until Sligachan. Still, it kept the searing heat reflecting off the tarmac under control. Can't say that it was easy going. Good bits and bad bits. And some very bad bits. Especially the long, lonely haul over to Dunvegan. Much pain, much weakness leaving the body. Why, oh why do I do these things?

But before you know it the left turn at Sligachan appears and then a real treat. 30 mph plus in the big ring downwind, slightly downhill on smooth shiny tar back into Portee and the finish line.

Not sure of the official time. There were other things on my mind at the finish, like lying in the shade and trying to straighten my back out, and crying. But the bike computer has a riding time of 5hrs 48 mins (add on a few minutes for the time spent lying on the road in Dunvegan trying to straighten my back out) for 96 miles, making that an average speed of just under 17mph. Oh, and a max speed of 51mph! Must have been the downhill side of those 3000m of climbing.

The "Stolen Bridge" on the Puggy Line in Leacnachan
- part of the 10 Under the Ben Course.

Meanwhile, the other half of the Clachaig board of directors, the one not usually associated with a passion for wearing lycra and getting muddy, was competing in the real bike event of the weekend, 10 Under the Ben.

Reports from Leanachan are that it was another hot one - that's 3 years on the trot. And a busy one, with a thousand or so entries this year. Plenty of stories of tree roots, muddy holes, endless climbs and other deeds of daring biking.

So, if you're at Clachaig this week, just be kind to the 2 sorry looking chaps walking round with a gait like John Wayne. Its been a hard weekend!

Sunshine, more sunshine and the winner is....

It would be true to say that May has been a trifle damp this year – in fact some of our staff are currently receiving treatment for webbed feet. However, the sunshine finally arrived to bless the last weekend of our Mayfest celebrations and the Glen looked simply stunning. It was great to see our customers taking full advantage of the glorious weather and dining ‘al fresco’ (No, not the Italian renaissance painter).....Even the midges stayed away 'til after dinner.

Once the sun went down on Friday night Jock the Box - he's played with the Stranglers you know - wowed the masses in the boots bar with his mesmerising repertoire and the fun continued with The Ghosties, who played to a packed hot-house on Saturday night. We’ve never seen so many ‘redheads’ in the bar…and that was just the blokes…..Remember the sun cream next time lads.

Fort William groove masters ‘Anyone for gravy?’ rounded off the festival with a superb set on Sunday night and it would take Amanda, Piers & Simon to decide which act was the best……

.....and talking of the best, we can now proudly announce the winner of this years ‘Ale of the festival’. It was a tough call with over 35 traditional Scottish ales on show but the public have voted and in true ‘Britains got talent’ style…...drum roll and a long pause to build the tension please.…the winner is…..Williams Bros Brewing company with their world famous heather ale 'Fraoch'

If you missed all the fun you have another chance to sample the atmosphere of our legendary beer festival during OctoberFest. Book early to avoid disappointment, as they say.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Did you win?

Did you win? Did you enter? Did you even know that we were offering goodies from the cupboard to the lucky winner of our trivial (shouldn't that be triva?) competition?

In answer to these questions...

If you did indeed win, then you'll know by now. Because we've been in touch with Eammon Lyons who was closest with his guess for the number of visitors that had in 2008. The answer was 100,552. We're currently raiding the cupboard and sending a pack of Clachaig branded mugs and fashion wear to Eamonn. Congratulations.

Did you enter? Well, you know the answer to that one too. We'll not name and shame but if some of your answers had been correct then I think we would have pulled the plug a long time since and called it a day. And with others, we'd be rivalling Facebook for net worth. Perhaps they meant 'hits' which seems to translate as some meaningless number somewhere in the millions each time someone visits a page. But thanks for making the effort anyway.

And were you even aware? You would have been if you had signed up to our eNews. You'll find the sign up box on each of our home pages. We only bug you once a month, sometimes not even that, and not only do you be the first in the know for all things 'Glencoe', we also offer some exclusive subscribers only deals.

More prizes and frivolity as soon as we can get around to it.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Big Lusty May

Here she is. Big Lusty May. All the way from Houston. The voting for ale of the festival continues and as we get through more of the ales lined up for Mayfest, its anybody's guess as to who'll come out on top. Big Lusty May perhaps? On top?! Oo, er...! We'll, there's a thought..!

Last night saw the Beer Tasting session with the Isle of Skye Brewery. Clachaig was so busy, even midweek, that we had to move the tasting through to the restaurant area. And things were looking a little embarrassing for a while as there was a slight dearth of Skye ales to taste (not our fault!) Still, interesting trying to see them be constructive about other breweries beers!

Tonight? Music in the Boots Bar with Scott MacDonald.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

MayFest Under Way

Our May Beer Festival got under way at the weekend. Not surprisingly the Whit weekend has proved to be an extremely busy time here in Glencoe, and judging by the number of cars on the road its not just Glencoe that's busy.

It all seems to have passed off without incident, and again the staff at Clachaig been working away like bees in a hive, on their mission to keep everyone happy. The festival has again been well received. We're actively soliciting some feedback on 'ale of festival' and at the moment it looks like a close run thing between the Clachaig ale of choice, Fraoch Heather Ale, and Big Lusty May from Houston Brewery (maybe its the badge the blokes like). However, with a cellar full yet to explore, its a bit early to call it.

We can usually rely on Whit week to bring a bit of good weather. We're still waiting. Amidst the chaos of it all I again decided to take a quick jog up the Pap of Glencoe last night. I know, the view isn't as clear as the last couple of trips up there. (Compare with Stunning Evening & Evening on the Pap.) Not that it matters really. Ipod on, a bit of eclectic high energy and it has to be said fairly gay dance music matched by a bit of extremely loud AC/DC and before you know it you're on the top! Can't recommend the path, though. 3 minutes longer and a complete swamp.

Didn't manage the Pap last week. On Monday afternoon, the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team were called out to the very summit of Bidean nam Bian, the highest peak in Argyll, to go to the aid of a walker who had managed to get all the way up there, but couldn't find a way down again. I think this counts as my highest ever rescue in the glen! You'd have to be standing on the summit cairn to get higher.

Its been a busy spell for the team as well, quite possibly one of the busiest on record with call outs for May now in double digits.

The forecast for the weekend looks like we're in for some warmer weather again. Fingers' crossed.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Glen Nevis River Race

More great ideas for things to do in the area this coming summer... How about dressing up in rubber, blowing up your airbed and jumping into the lower falls at Glen Nevis? Tempting?!

The Glen Nevis River Race has been part of the annual calendar of events for many years, although it wavered for a while in recent years. Good to hear that No Fuss have included the race in their robust calendar of events, along with the classic '10' series of mountain bike endurance events and the Big Ben Nevis Triathlon. Head to Glen Nevis on Saturdaty 18th July to catch the action.

However, as with all things originating from Fort William, don't believe all the guff that they tell you. True, the race started out life as a fund raising event for the local mountain rescue team. But the original incarnation of the river race was actually in 1969 on the River Coe, and the local team was the Glencoe Mountain Rescue Team.

I don't suppose there's too many of the original event programmes kicking around, but we happen to have one. And a highly entertaining read it is too. Note that "competitive spirits may be obtained from the marquee adjoining the Clachaig Inn". There's also some top tips on identifying the favourite (pictured), and No Fuss competitors would do well to take note of 30 years of experience!

Friday, 15 May 2009

The man from the BBC

It's been such a busy week that we nearly forgot to say that the BBC film crew were through last weekend, interviewing 'Munro Baggers' in the Boots Bar for a programme about well..., Munros.

Nick Crane - the man from the BBC

All seemed to go quite well until it got a bit busy in the bar. So we grabbed this bloke, gave him to wear a Clachaig t-shirt (looking good, Nick) and told him to get on with serving some pints!

Good to have Nick and the crew back again - last seen here at Clachaig in March 2007. See the Blog entry.

If we can find out when it's due to be screened we will, of course, let you know.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

SeaXplorer - boat trips out of Ballachulish

The kind and generous folk who run Vertical Descents in Onich and who also run SeaXplorer fast boat trips from just down the road in Ballachulish offered a familiarisation trip for the staff at Clachaig. With a date set some weeks in advance, it was a lottery as to whether we'd be regretting it on the day, or smearing on the sun cream.

St John's Church by the A82 at Ballachulish

As luck would have it, it turned out to be the latter (good work Isi - can you also make the sun shine 3 weeks on Thursday, please?) Hard to imagine better conditions for our boat ride round Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe.

All aboard - the boat is moored at the pier by the Isles of Glencoe hotel

The meeting point is at the Ballachulish Visitor Centre car park. Very handy for free parking, toilets and the obligatory coffee and cakes after your trip. You can also book your trip here. Fetching blue suits and life jackets are available for all. If you think its a bit of overkill wait till the bow wave starts blowing over the rib at 30 knots!

Isi modelling the latest in marine fashion

We've known our guides, Dave and Simon, for many years, and the enthusiasm, knowledge, skill and humour they demonstrated throughout the trip came as no surprise. First up was a trip round the corner to the Burial Isle, followed by a quick spin round Loch Leven to take in the superb views back to Glencoe.

We then set off under the Ballachulish Bridge, leaving Loch Leven behind and heading across Loch Linnhe to the Morven coastline towards Kingairloch. This part of Lochaber is a great place to visit any time but from the water on a blue sky day its just fantastic. No sign of the sea eagles that frequent these coasts but plenty of other wildlife, from feral goats (on the land that is), porpoise, birds galore and the not-as-common, common seal.

The burial isle, with Ben Vhair beyond

Loch Linnhe was like a mill pond making warp speed a very exhilarating experience. Unlike my last trip on a rib out of Mallaig to the isle of Rum. At the time it was blowing the proverbial 'hoolie' in the Sound of Sleat. Head to toe waterproofs, a handrail and a big padded cushion were definitely required on that occasion!

The final leg took us round the small island of Balnagowan, just off Cuil Bay, before heading back up towards Ballachulish. The final bit of fun is a creel that the SeaXplorer guys have in the water off the Holly Tree Hotel. Pot luck as to what you find in it. One large prawn and a couple of dog fish in our case!

Warp speed on Loch Linnhe - Ben Nevis just visible with spring snow

The whole point of the trip was to get us enthusing about so that we could tell you. And it did exactly that. Its a great way of spending a couple of ours, even if you'd generally not consider yourself to be someone seen in a boat very often. everything you need is provided (but do take warm clothes and a camera) and as well as seeing loads, you'll also learn loads. We can't recommend it enough!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Stunning evening

The trauma of snows of Saturday is behind me now. A glorious day here in the glen again. Spent the morning on a fast rib ride round Loch Leven and Loch Linnhe. (Hopefully more on that tomorrow). And most of the afternoon with Glencoe Mountain Rescue looking for a 'lost' person on the West Highland Way.

Too late then to follow the original plan of a 'half' ben (nevis) and so opted for another trip up the Pap of Glencoe. 51 mins up this time. And another stunning view from the top.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Bealach Na Ba

So, remember the bit on Friday when I joked about snow and bike rides? Oh dear! Don't get fooled by the photo. That's how it should look according to the PR on the HandsOnEvents web site. It wasn't quite like that on Saturday.

It was an early rise to get up to Shieldaig in time for the 10.30am start. And it rained hard all the way. Driving down through Glen Shiel was more like winter than winter. Snow down to low levels and a howling wind to boot. The weather looked little better at the start line. Never before has it been so difficult to get out of the car and get on a bike.

The headwind and the lashing rain over the first leg was just the warm up for the climb itself. Once onto the ascent of the highest road pass in the UK, it turned to hail. And 50 minutes later crossing over the summit it was indeed snowing. Oh joy!

But come the village of Applecross, at the bottom of the most amazing few miles of road proving that moutain bikes go downhill much much faster than road bikes, the sun started to shine, the crowds cheered and the wind swung round to follow us. Life was sweet again!

A great event. A lovely part of the world. Get on your bike and go see it!

Friday, 8 May 2009

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...

Yes, we're well into May and we're rapidly approaching the longest day of the year. And no surprise that the prevailing weather reminds me of, er..., well, Christmas. After 4 days of high winds and monsoon rain, its gone one better today, with snow down to quite low levels on the west face of Aonach Dubh.

Not good news for the BBC who were planning on taking a hike up Bidean today with Alan Hinkes, getting some footage for their new programme on the Munros. (They'll be in the Boots Bar with Nick Crane tomorrow looking for some 'baggers' to interview).

And not good news for me either, as I'm heading out on a Cycle Sportif ride over the highest road pass in Britain, the Bealach na Ba. Snow chains for bikes I wonder (and heated underpants for bike riders perhaps)? This neck of the woods up by Applecross has also just had a good airing on the telly with Monty Halls' programme. Funny, every time I saw it the sun was out.

Anyway, with the snow lying on the hills we thought that this would be a good opportunity to persuade you to book a self catering holiday in Glencoe this Christmas, when no doubt it'll be shorts weather and the sun will be out! See the web site for further details.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

35 years and counting...

So there we are waxing lyrical about how the Daynes family are celebrating 25 years at Clachaig, only to be upstaged by our longest serving member of the Clachaig team.

It seems we have another 10 years to go before we catch up with Doris, Clachaig's keeper of the books. Doris let slip that she came to work at Clachaig in May 1974, for Rory MacDonald (who originally hung the now famous No Hawkers, No Campbells sign in reception) and hasn't been able to escape since.

There's not much that Doris hasn't seen here at Clachaig over the last 35 years. However, we did manage to surprise her with a big bunch of flowers, a bottle of bubbly and a '3 Sisters of Glencoe' cake (made by another of our multi-talented office staff). Not much got done that afternoon!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Fishy Tale!

When it comes to lost property we’ve probably seen it all over the last 25 years. From ill advised bobble hats, gloves, jackets, boots & walking poles to mobile phones, wallets, specs & car keys, you wouldn’t believe the things our customers leave behind.

We recently received a desperate email from one of our self-catering guests trying to locate her sons pet sharks. The poor lad was beside himself as he had inadvertently left them behind in the bath. With the theme from Jaws ringing in their ears our housekeeping staff were pleasantly surprised to find they were only the plastic toy variety. They were quickly dispatched courtesy of the Royal Mail – you should have seen the look we got from the local postmistress when she asked what the contents were.

Happily they are reunited with their grateful owner who kindly sent us a little thank you note…Say Ahhh!