Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Half Way

Approaching half way through now. Moments of brilliance visible amongst the chaos. But you have to look carefully.

Organised chaos
Looks vaguely familiar
You can't buy timber like this from Jewsons
Ok, so perhaps it's not a ball pit.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Cosy Corner

The Ossian Lounge is settling in well. Still a few finishing touches to add but apart from a few blank spaces on the walls you'd be hard pushed to spot what they are. The hardest part of your day is definitely going to be getting off the sofas once you've had the Whole Hog Breakfast, the morning papers and a fresh coffee. 

The Ossian Lounge @ Clachaig.
The room is now available throughout the day and evening, as a place to dine away from the hustle and bustle of the bars, or just somewhere to escape with a good book and a coffee in a comfy seat.

The Ossian Lounge can also accommodate small andinformal meetings. Table and seating arrangements can be set out to suit, and the 46" flat screen can easily be hooked up to a laptop with a HDMI cable for a presentation. We're hosting a local meeting on Thursday and will be giving it a first outing. And whilst the term 'meeting' can sound very corporate, remember this is Clachaig, so perhaps think along the lines of planning the next day on the hill, watching some avalanche awareness footage, as much as you do ink blotters, mineral water and PowerPoint.

Monday, 14 November 2011


Windows into the new family day room will allow grown ups to keep an
eye on the kids while they enjoy the new soft play area.

A new minimalist look for the servery.

New sheeting ready for the wood chip wallpaper which will add a homely charm to the atmosphere.

It's all his fault.

A flying start




Friday, 11 November 2011

The Ossian Lounge

Introducing the all new Ossian Lounge.

A sigh of relief today as we reach a milestone with our refurbishement. All the guys (to whom we will collectively refer to as 'the builders') have worked their socks off to get the old breakfast room finished this morning, allowing us plenty of time to get set up for use at tomorrow's breakfast. We even arranged a little power cut last night to ensure that they had an early night and we're fresh for the final push.

There's still a few finishing touches to add, and these will slowy come together over the next week or two. But, we're 98% finished and we're fairly chuffed with the result. Hope you like it too.

Meanwhile, the poor old Boots Bar (don't change it too much we hear you collectively shout) is looking a little forlorn. With the last couple of nights ahead, the fonts have disappeared, the log racks are empty, and a few other bits and pieces are also out of place in readiness for a flying start at 8am on Monday morning.

Watch this space.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Getting Closer

Since taking these pics at lunchtime the room has changed again, with a full team of joiners, electricians, decorators and floorers all hard at it and fighting for space. It's beginning to look pretty damn good!

And we're beginning to think in more detail about closing down the Boots Bar on Sunday. Yikes! If anyone fancies some Clachaig memorabilia, most notably some slightly 2nd hand benches and tables, or perhaps some framed photos featuring Himalayan scenes, then now's the time to put your hand up!

Monday, 7 November 2011

November sunshine

Dry days have been few and far between recently, so when the sun finally comes out to play it's worth taking half an hour to head out and remind yourself of just how good it is living in this spectacular part of the world.

Looking down Glen Coe

Misty Rannoch Moor
Looking towards the Study, Glencoe

The Wee Buachaille

Beinn a Chrulaiste

Autumn mist on the Lairig Gartain.
A saltire flies at half mast outside Sir Jimmy's Glencoe home.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Day 4

A couple of pics from day 4. The changes might appear subtle, but there's a huge amount of change when looking at the detail.

 The stonework is coming along nicely - properly pointed this time.

The real fun at the moment is trying to bring together all the various elements. Wallpaper, paint, furniture, light fittings, carpet... all of which we think are in hand, but which are actually more slippery to pin down than a very slippery eel.

Which colour? 1, 2 or 3?

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Day 2

Busy, busy. Progress looking good on the ground even if in the office we're having a few nightmares over out of stock light fittings and carpets that weren't supposed to need replacing - but do!

 New plasterboard ceilings starting to go onto the framework. Electrician's first fix for the new lighting.

 New lime mortar in the original stone wall now well under way.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Day 1

Day 1. Yikes! No messing about!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Time for a makeover

No, we haven't moved the pool table into the dining room. We're just having a bit of a clear out in anticipation of the builders moving in first thing on Monday morning.

This table, with hidden depths, has been the centre piece of the dining room since May 1984. Not quite a family heirloom, but one of the last remaining bits of furniture in the inn left over from our move northwards all those years ago. Finally, we've decided to reclaim it for the family.

The refurb starts here!

Wish Ye Were Here

Here's a cracking reminder of what Lochaber looks like when the sun actually shines...

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Clachaig Christmas Party Night

Join us for The Clachaig Christmas Party! 

 Stuff the turkey - it's a hog roast at Clachaig

We never do things by half here at Clachaig and to celebrate the re-opening of the refurbished Boots Bar we introduce the inaugural Clachaig Christmas Party Night.

With a definite Clachaig spin on festive food we’ve decided to stuff the turkey and go the whole hog….quite literally!

We'll have a Hog Roast Buffet, live music, Santa complete with a bulging sack and not a Brussels sprout in sight. Perfect for your Xmas party with friends, family or colleagues

Tuesday 20th December - £19.95 per person and the evening will include

  • Refectory style dining in the new look Boots Bar
  • Complimentary glass of Mulled Wine on arrival
  • 3 course buffet style menu (7pm to 8.30pm) Homemade soup, hog roast & all the trimmings – stuffing, apple sauce, baked potatoes. Desserts include our legendary ‘boozy’ trifle.
  •  Live music from Shananigan  - plus a guest appearance from one of our old 'acts'  out of retirement especially for the evening
  • a fun, informal and positively relaxed Clachaig Boots Bar style night out
  • not your usual Christmas Fayre, but a Clachaig spin on Festive Food
Special accommodation tariff on a bed & breakfast basis at £25 per person if the taxi bill home again is looking a bit steep.

Contact Us now to book your table. 

Time flies..., when you're hard at it!

The last month has just flown by, as we've all been so busy with any number of jobs. We've had a succession of things breaking down or just giving up. At the end of a long and busy season we all feel a bit knackered, but quite why drains, roofs, and boilers should also get the end of season blues is anyone's guess.

And then there's Octoberfest, as we run through the last beer festival of the year. Unfortunately the autumn has been a little damp this year, and so getting out and about in the fantastic autumn scenery has been, whilst still possible, a little more gore-tex clad than most would prefer. Not that it's put a dampener on the festival itself. Numbers are slightly down on previous years, but the beers are still selling through nicely, with some of our newer (and brand new) brands proving to be the most popular.

 The Boots Bar - but how will it look on 3rd December?

But of all the things that we've been busy with this month, the most demanding has been our refurbishment plans. Much of the preparation work is now done, and we're now busy placing orders and planning the logistics of how it will all come together.

Not surprisingly, balancing budgets has been a huge challenge. However, we've been very determined not to compromise on the scope and the quality of the work, especially where the Boots Bar is concerned. The one thing that we've realised from these last few months is that if we're going to refresh the image, then we have to get it right. Actually, we knew that long before we made our intentions public, but it's been the over riding message of the feedback we've received so far. So in the final programme, we'll be concentrating on the Boots Bar and the Dining Room, whilst simply refreshing the Bidean Lounge Bar.

Changing times ahead too for the Snug Bar.

As of Monday morning coming (31st October) we'll be hard at it. We've given ourselves 2 weeks to give the Dining Room a complete makeover. Breakfasts in the meantime will be served in the Bidean Lounge.

The Boots Bar will be closing it's doors at the close of play on Saturday 12th November, and we hope to be back in business on Saturday 3rd December. Changes are that we'll still have some finishing touches to add, and will probably be hoping that the paint will be dry by the time we open the doors, but it's a plan...!

To mark the official re-opening, and also to ensure that we all get the chance to relax in time for Christmas, plans for a Clachaig Christmas Party are coming together for Tuesday 20th December. We reckon that you'll see enough turkey over Christmas, and so in true Clachaig style, dinner will feature a hog roast, and will be served in the Boots Bar. We hope that we'll see you there!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Slowly slowly catchy monkey

The end of September already, which all things considered is a bit shocking considering that our big plans for giving Clachaig a makeover are due to get under way in a matter of a few weeks. However, whilst it does seem to be getting ever closer, and there seems to be many unanswered questions, we're actually more organised than we might let on. We hope!

Only highly skilled trained professionals will be employed on the refurbishment

Today should see a big milestone passed, as it's the deadline for the return of tenders. The day we find out how much it all might cost, assuming of course, that we remembered to write down everything we wanted in the tender documents.

Who remembers this? Is it time for a return of the piano to the Boots Bar?

Once the returns have been collated we get just a few brief days to go through them, analyse the detail, and check the piggy bank. By the end of next week we hope to be in a position to award a contract. From then on, there's just 3 weeks lead time allowed. Once Octoberfest closing night is done and dusted, the works begin.

Refurbishing is a subtle and tender process requiring great precision and skill.

With the Boots Bar, Bidean Lounge Bar and the Breakfast/Dining Room on our hit list, we're planning to  phase the work in 3 different stages. November into December is a quiet time of year for us, but we still tick over, and can still manage some fairly busy weekends. By phasing the work, we hope to ensure that we'll be open throughout, offering our usual hospitality, and be able to feed and water our customers right up to our traditional 3 day closure for Christmas Eve.

Rae and her temporary Lounge Bar may well be making a long overdue comeback!

The plan is:

Week commencing Monday 31st October.
Dining room works commence, with a target reopening of Friday 11th November. during this period we will serve breakfasts in the Bidean Lounge Bar. The bars will be unaffected.

Week commencing Monday 14th November.
Boots Bar works commence, with a target for reopening of Friday 2nd December. During this period the action will move to the Bidean Lounge Bar, with additional dining space being available in our swanky new dining room. Breakfast service will revert back to the dining room.

Week commencing Monday 5th December
Bidean Lounge Bar works commence, with a target reopening of Friday 16th December. During this period the swanky new Boots Bar will no doubt be the big draw, and, as a result, few will care that the Lounge Bar is closed. The swanky new restaurant will be available for breakfasts, and will also be available for any families with children who are unable to use the age restricted Boots Bar.

It's a 'fluid' plan. It could change at any time. It could just vary only slightly. Who knows!  If one area isn't finished, the next one won't start, as we don't really want the builders in over Christmas. We'll endeavour to keep our customers up to date throughout (Facebook is the best place to get current information), and we will work hard to ensure that the impact on our customers is kept to an absolute minimum.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Don't Go Changing

We recently let slip in our monthly eNews that we are planning a bit of a makeover at Clachaig this coming autumn. Never ones to sit on our laurels, the time is now right to re-invigorate the public areas again. Most notably, the Bidean Lounge Bar, the dining room, and the Boots Bar.

And rather than simply drop this on you in November, we decided it would be a good idea to float the idea with you first. We asked for your feedback, and mostly using our Facebook page, we got a good few comments straight away. Fair to say that the overriding message was "Don't go changing", with some responses being a little more emphatic than others.

The Grog & Gruel, Fort William - the same, but different.
The issue then, is quite what would constitute a 'change'. Well, we're not spilling the beans yet. Not entirely anyway, and that's mostly because it's what you might call a 'fluid situation'. That's right, the plans haven't been finalised yet.

You know you've done it right when customers think something might be different but aren't sure quite what it is!

From the tone of some of the comments received you'd think that we were about to change the Boots Bar into a wine bar. We don't blame you, and it's actually pretty fantastic to hear that there are so many loyal fans who take such an active interest in the place. But, would we? Would we really? We've spent the last 27 years creating the atmosphere at Clachaig. You might not see Ed & Guy so much these days. That's mostly because Gordon and the team do such a fantastic job without us. But we're still here, hidden in a little black hole in a dark corner of Clachaig, only let out on special occasions. And we're still as committed to ever as making Clachaig your number one 'escape to the hills (but with a little comfort and beer)' destination.

It's more than 20 years since the Boots Bar saw any real change. It's due for a little TLC and we're confident that regardless of how much of a die hard Boots Bar fan you are, you'll still love the place come Christmas. Maybe even a little more? Much of the work will be cosmetic, giving the place a bit of a lift, making it a little more comfortable and a little more inviting.

We've already been trialling a few ideas. Have you noticed the new table and benches being tested to ensure that they are man enough for the job? (They fell apart last week!) Have you spotted the changes to the whisky displays on the back gantry. (We've increased the range by a further 40 malts). We're not just firing from the hip with this refurbishment. There's a lot of thought gone into it over a long period of time, and we've still got a long way to go.

We went through a similar process last year with The Grog & Gruel in Fort William. Established in 1994, the pub had a very strong identity and a very loyal following. However, after 16 years we reckoned that a makeover was long overdue. The problem was how to refresh the feel of the alehouse whilst keeping very much to the distinctive style; improve it without really changing it. At times it felt like a huge leap of faith, but we reckon we pulled it off quite well in the end, and it's far to say that we've had nothing but complements about the new look ever since. So, it is possible.

That's about all that we've got to say for the moment. As plans progress we'll keep you updated, so join us on Facebook, or sign up for our eNewsletter. But be warned. We've got a wicked sense of humour and we might just drop in a few red herrings and the odd curve ball out of the left field. Sorry, that's all for now. Got to dash as the crystal chandelier delivery has just arrived.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Sea Kayaking with Paddle Lochaber

Nervous laughs all round as we got into our sea kayaks for the first time. Getting a comfortable seating position didn't take too long and it seemed stable enough, but there again we were still on the grass by the bays at Ballachulish. Next came the tricky bit, getting into them on the water!

The team manoeuvres into the raft formation.

Paddle Lochaber are based in Ballachulish and is run by Mark, a typically easy going and knowledgeable  enthusiast for the sport. He offers a variety of courses, for the complete beginners right through to the experts looking for a certification. The half day introductory session is a bargain at £35, with all equipment (wet suits too) included. Both Ed (director) and Gordon GM) had been lamenting for a while that they should really get out onto the water, and following a chance meeting at Clachaig's recent whisky tasting session, 2 spaces were booked. Brave talk, aided by the water of life, leading to fearing for life out on the water?

 Ballachulish Bridge, the Ardgour hills beyond.

In no time at all, our little group of kayaking novices were out on the water in a perfect sheltered bay adjacent to Ballachulish village. Mark's laid back coaching style ensured that we were under no pressure to do more than we were comfortable with, and very soon we were all manoeuvring about the bay, albeit with the finesse of a fully laden supertanker.

 Further out on Loch Leven, heading for St. John's.

With our new found confidence we then set off on a tour of Loch Leven. We did seem to have chosen a fairly stunning day for it, with plenty of sunshine, but we all got the feeling that exploring the coastline would have been as much fun even without the sun.

In between the coaching on paddling techniques Mark dropped in plenty of bits of historical interest as we passed various landmarks, not least of which was the significance of the Ballachulish Slate Quarry which it has to be said, is best seen from the water.

Towards Glencoe and the Pap of Glencoe

Herons, common seals, salmon farms, mussel farms, the Burial Isle,... and just a real pleasure being out on the water. Fantastic! I no time at all the morning session was over and we were safely back at the launch site.

Gordon - last seen heading towards Oban

However, Ed decided that it was time to see whether getting out of a capsized boat really was as simple as Mark suggested it was, even if you're 6 ft 2in and feel like you're well and truly wedged into your boat. It is! And not only that, it's surprisingly easy to get back into your kayak again once in the water too, though it has to be said, that this doesn't usually form part of the half day introductory session!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A bath with a view (and what a view!)

A bit out of left field this one, but this was a photograph that we thought was worth sharing, in a location that many of our readers have probably visited.

I must have been to the summit of Ben Nevis 50 times. I haven't counted them, but it's a reasonable guestimate. I've run the Ben Nevis Race 10 times now; my 11th is only a month or so away. And for each year I tend to average 3 training runs to the summit in advance of the race itself. So that's 4 a year for 10 years. Add to that the numerous other ascents including traverses in from the Carn Mor Dearg arrete and several winter routes back in the days when I did such things and it must add at least 10 more.

No wonder then that it's all very familiar up there. Even in a thick mist it's usually quite easy to tell where you are by the easily recognisable rocks and features. And this year I've found myself remarking on how the rocks on the path and the scree on the Red Burn have moved since last year, as each one is so familiar.

So what a breath of fresh air to discover something new on the very summit.

I'd met a couple of pals on the summit, as you do at 8.30pm on a Tuesday evening. They'd come up from the CMD and we quite literally arrived at the summit cairn at exactly the same time. It was all fairly quiet, very warm and perfectly still, so we sat and chatted a while. Another group arrived from the CMD with much drama about being dehydrated and I made the rather glib comment that they should visit the spring that lies close to the ruins of the observatory. Unsurprisingly, this led to disbelief that such a thing existed, and as I'd never seen it myself we went looking.

And there it is. There's a very evident path in the summit stones leading off towards the Steall side the mountain, zig-zagging down past the spring, and ending at the old holding tank. If it had been full of water, I would have been sat in it, enjoying the view, and preferably with a cold beer and some bubble bath.

It's not really surprising that a permanent building on the summit of the mountain would require some sort of nearby regular water supply. What is surprising is that the timber tank is still just sat there, 100 years on, exposed to the elements and the finest weather the Scottish climate can throw at it.

And what a night it was too! What a pleasure to be up there.