Monday, 31 August 2009

In need of a bigger blackboard

The last weekend of August is always a hectic and busy weekend here at Clachaig. The weather has been miserable of late and this weekend was no exception!! As horrible as the weather was it was nice and cosy in the boots bar, and with a full range of cask-conditioned ales and 170 different malts to choose from, it was never going to dampen the spirits of the Clachaig faithful!

Friday night was a great night, with the Shananigin boys raising the roof with their folky, rocky vibes. Their really funny guys and not half bad musically so a fantastic night was had by all. Ale of the night was Red Cuillin, brewed by the Isle of Skye Brewery it is a classic, smooth and malty, very moreish. As our customers found out!!

Saturday night saw Clachaig favourite Davie Tait grace the Boots Bar stage with his eclectic mix of folk and rock classics, with a couple of more leftfield numbers thrown in. With a full range of 15 cask ales on offer, and all tasting great, it was hard to pick the ale of the night. But once again proving to be a really wonderful tipple, was Cairngorm Brewery’s Trade Winds. A really citrusy refreshing pint, perfect for the session, the pints flew off the bar!

All in all a fantastic weekend was had by all, if only the sun had put his hat on!

Friday, 28 August 2009

The Final Countdown

Anyone planning walking up Ben Nevis next Saturday? Well, if you are can you let me know because I've got a couple of Mars Bars and perhaps a Bacon Double Cheeseburger that I'd like you to carry up there for me. Yes, a week tomorrow its Ben Nevis Race day.

Nearing the end - 2006
The training is now all but over and its now down to taking it easy and making the final preparations for race day. Its weird. I know I can can get up and down within a sensible time. I've just done it twice in the last couple of weeks. And I've done the race 8 times before over the last 21 years (7 of them in the last 9 years). But even so, pre race nerves can still get the better of me.

Even more weird is the fact that the the pressure is on and yet the only person I'll be racing against on Saturday is myself. I've not got any one else to beat, and the only time that matters is my time. But that's the Ben Race for you. Kind of gets under your skin.

Post race cramp - 2005

All I have to do is avoid all the lurgies floating round for another week. And to avoid doing stupid things like going over on an ankle. Speaking of which, I got in my last half Ben on Wednesday evening. Again the weather was miserable and the grassy bank (the short cut down from the Red Burn at half height) was as wet and slippy as it can be. My descent was very tentative; nothing stupid now. And then having made it safely to the bottom I went over on one ankle and then the other within 100m. Great!

So, the final countdown. One more week to go. Tune again next week to see how it all went.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Self Catering Short Breaks

With August rapidly racing to a close we're beginning to focus on the autumn season here in Glencoe. And with this in mind we've just launched our Self Catering Short Break tariff for the 2009/2010 season.

A cracking time to visit Glencoe.

Based on a minimum 3 night stay in our chalets, lodges and cottages, our short break offers present a great opportunity to take a few days out and recharge your batteries, without eating into your annual leave.

With 4 and 5 star properties to choose from, plus the added benefits of our fully inclusive tariffs, our very special Welcome Pack, and our advance food order service, why not book yourself a Carefree Self Catering Holiday?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Discovering new beaches

Its been a wet old week, even by Glencoe standards. Boats have been sailing past the office windows and Trench Foot is more of a concern than Swine Flu. And with more rain in the forecast, but a glimmer of hope in between, we set off in search of blue skies...

The beach near Smirisary.

It all seemed a bit pointless as we drove over the Ballachulish Bridge. The car was buffeted by the wind and the latest passing squall pelted the car with yet more rain. But, in the belief that the foecast weather window would appear we pressed on.

We stopped for soup and a sandwich at the NTS Visitor Centre at Glenfinnan. And then as we climbed up the hill heading west towards Lochailort, the skies, at last, began to look less threatending. We parked up at the end of the road past Glenuig, with the intention of finding a beach we'd always missed on our previous visits to Smirisary.

The path is fairly easy to follow, though in parts extremely rough underfoot. And, it has to be said, its probably one of the wettest paths I've been on in recent years, especially after the monsoon. Think waders, not wellies. But the views are absolutely fantastic, high above the sea and looking out towards the Small Isles. The sun had put in a brief appearance, and all was well with the world again.

The beach is a cracking spot, typical of the west coast beaches. With a fresh breeze and a bit of sunshine, you could literally feel the batteries being recharged. A stunning and rather discreet little corner of Lochaber.

For more details of the walk and a downloadable map, see the Walk Highlands web site.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Out of the dark ages...

... and into the 21st Century.

The first week of November will see us take a quantum leap forward in the way we do things at Clachaig Inn and Carefree Self Catering Holidays. Once everyone has gone home after Octoberfest, we be busy installing a new Property Management System, along with online booking software.

Great, so what does that mean?

Basically, our reservations will be all on computer rather than based on the good old trusty reservation book and mighty pencil. And once that happens, all the rest follows. Like knowing who you are, what you want and what we can offer, all at the touch of a button.

This is probably one of the most significant investment decisions we've taken in recent years and we're optimistic that both business and customers will so see the benefits. Our current research shows that over 40% of our accommodation business is repeat business, rising to over 50% when you look at the shoulder and winter seasons, and so it makes sense that we know who you are and what you like.

Enough for the moment. Now pass me my quill....

Thursday, 13 August 2009

The virtues of wearing a helmet

Enjoyed the pleasures of a trip to Dalbeattie forest, near Dumfries, over the weekend and took wee Sam and Jodie round some of the highlights of the red /blue 'taster' mountain bike routes. Being part of the 7 Stanes, the forest offers some excellent biking and I decided to test whether it was indeed for 'all abilities'.

Mashed helmet

And I'm pleased to report that it was. Sam had a great time on the run back in to the car park, blasting along on his little single speed Giant Animator round switchbacks, over lumps and bumps, going with the gentle gradient. But I saw an odd thing. Something I rarely see these days. A couple riding the trails without helmets.

Move on a couple of days to last night, and to the club night weekly Wednesday evening ride. Fantastic. Making the best use of the ever decreasing evening light, we opted for one last go at the Devil's Staircase. Its a real classic, rising from the head of Glencoe over and down to Kinlochleven. Catch it in the late evening and you can concentrate on the riding and not have to worry about dodging the West Highland Way walkers.

All was going so well. A little bit of testoserone and adrenalin mixed up with some of the best natural biking going. And so to the last obstacle. One I've ridden dozens of times. Descending a greasy convex slab I knew I'd cracked it when I hit the deep rut in the peat that marks the exit line. And then wumppphhh... My world flew by like a camera mounted in a crashing rally car.Sky, rock, dirt, sky... nothing.

I'd clipped a boulder, which in turn fell down into the rut jamming solid. My front wheel came to a resounding sudden stop and I cart wheeled into a flying head butt of the Devil's Staircase's finest rocks.

There was some seeing of stars, spitting of blood, and moments of disbelief, but we all eventually got home and its now just another notch on the bike frame, counting the crashes that really hurt. But on closer inspection of my helmet, it really did what it was supposed to do. A golf ball sized stone was lodged between the vents, collapsing the polystyrene which is also cracked around the rim. If I hadn't been wearing it then I think that today's West Highland Wayers would have been treated to brain soup up at the Pen Stock.

So, the moral of this tale; Don't even think of riding without a helmet.

And does anyone know a good plastic surgeon who can sort my nose out?

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Food for thought – if you have the stomach for it!

Must be a slow news week when the origin of our ‘adopted’ or should that be ‘adapted’ national dish is questioned in the Times. We have never laid claim to ‘inventing’ it, however, check the DNA of anyone North of the border and you’ll discover that traces of minced lamb, spices & oatmeal go back generations.

According to The World Burns Club.

"Back in the days when hunting was a means of basic survival, all parts of the dead animal had to be used. The skins were used as clothing, the gut and tissue used as thread for sewing, with the main carcass and organs used as food. The bulk content meat was often dried or salted and proved suitable for a long "shelf life" The innards and organs of the beast were the most perishable parts and had to be consumed first.

Someone, somewhere, sometime, recognised that the stomach made an excellent cooking vessel, and that mixing the organs with spices and meal, placing them in this natural "pot" and cooking the contents provided a highly nutritional and tasty meal. This basic method of cooking has been traced back to Greek and Roman times.

The name "Haggis" however has its origins in more recent history and links are shown to Scandinavian "hag" meaning to "hew" or the French "hageur" - "to cut" or German "hackwurst" meaning "minced sausage" Who knows !

It is difficult to identify exactly when the great Scottish "haggis" as described by Burns, came to be. For sure, in his day, and during the 18th century, the now famous meal was regularly served in Scotland as a tasty, and very healthy meal. It is only from here in Scotland that you can savour a genuine Scottish haggis".

So there you have it!....Here at Clachaig we serve the best Haggis in the Country. Our customers can testify to that as our chef’s handle around 100kg every week. Freshly culled by Macsween - guardian of our national dish - and flown in by Letterfinlay game services.

Enough said, but take heed.....

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.

Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,

Like taps o' thrissle.

…..Or something like that!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Best Walkers Pub

We're delighted to hear that Clachaig Inn has been voted Best Pub for Walkers in a poll run by popular walking web site, Walk Highlands.

The Walk Highlands web site is a relative new comer to the scene, but has seen massive growth in traffic to become perhaps the leading resource site for walking information in the Highlands. We provide a number of links to it and recommend it for anyone looking for information on walks in the area.

Useful features include seeing routes on O.S. maps (always a winner for any would be guide) and GPS interactive options. And its not just popular walks either, with some real surprises for routes in Lochaber. For example, try Brecklet Trail in Ballachulish or for the more adventurous a cracking round trip at Kingairloch. Well worth a browse!

Seeing off the competition from such worthy adversaries as the Kingshouse, the Drovers and the Applecross Inn puts a wry smile on our faces. But it also reminds us that all that hard work that all our management and staff put in to keeping Clachaig running, particularly through these hectic mid-summer weeks, is recognised.

Thanks very much! We'll keep grafting if you keep voting.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Another cracking weekend

The August bank holiday weekend is always a great weekend here at Clachaig and this one was no exception. With live music on each night and a fantastic array of Scottish cask ales to sample, the poor weather was quickly forgotten about. Friday had Davie Tait play the Boots Bar, a firm Clachaig favourite, he didn’t disappoint with his eclectic mix of folk, rock and everything in between.

Saturday was the big one and we had a debut gig from Perthite Country and Western group, the Humble Hobos. Described as “Johnny Cash on speed” they were always going to be interesting! They played a fantastic set which everybody in the bar couldn’t help but enjoy. The ale of the night was Glencoe Wild Oat Stout from Traditional Scottish Ales. A relatively new edition to the Clachaig ale pumps, this 100% organic ale went down a treat.

To end a great weekend the White Rose boys brought the house down with their traditional scottish thang. Each time they play they seem to get better and better!

See you all next year!