Friday, 15 November 2013

The Great Outdoors Awards

Over the moon! Yes, that's pretty much the response to winning the Pub Restaurant or Cafe category at The Great Outdoors Awards, announced in Kendal this week.

In this game, as I suspect is the case in any other, a little bit of recognition can go a long way. For the most part this comes from lots of happy faces leaving the Boots Bar after another great Saturday night out in Glencoe. However, when it comes in the form of an award such as this, then it certainly delivers an extra boost for morale, particularly as it was decided by a public vote.

So, unaccustomed to public speaking as I am, if there is a thank you speech to be done then it must surely start with large amounts of gratitude to all the staff who keep Clachaig going, from day to day, from month to month and from year to year. At times it's hard graft. But equally, at times, it's great fun. New faces come, whilst others move on. The alumni is now huge, and spread around the world. But the one constant is the effort that goes in to keeping Clachaig as, well, Clachaig.

And there's also a huge thank you to all our customers (and particularly the ones that voted!) Without your support there'd be no award, and no Clachaig. As we approach our 30 year anniversary at Clachaig, our promise must be that we'll keep on doing it while you keep on coming. For a few more years at least!

On a slightly more self effacing note, I can't help but think that all the various businesses nominated in the awards, and there were lots of them from various sectors trading in and around "The Great Outdoors", were winners. I suspect that anyone who has their favourite jacket, their coveted piece of gucci kit, or their favourite walk with the pub/cafe/restaurant at the end of it will know what I mean. There's nothing quite like getting out in the fresh air and experiencing The Great Outdoors and being part of the culture that goes with it.

Speeches over. Back to the day job. Now, what to do with this..?

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Thanks for your feedback

We encourage all of our accommodation guests, both at the inn and those staying in our self catering chalets and cottages, to complete a feedback form. Knowing what a business's customers think about it is nothing new, and it probably comes as no surprise that we find it an invaluable means of making sure that we keep on providing the best service possible.

Having just returned from a trip that involved a national budget hotel chain, an airport car park company and a budget airline, and having found my inbox full of requests for relentless box-ticking online surveys asking for my opinion on these, it left me wondering just who reads this stuff and what action is taken as a result.

Well, I can't really say. But for our own part, all of our forms are reviewed as soon as they are received. Time is sometimes of the essence. For example, occasionally there might be some maintenance issues that we have yet to pick up on, and this gives us chance to rectify these straight away.

Thereafter, the forms are collated and scored, weekly for the inn, monthly for self catering. This gives us a 'satisfaction index',and whilst the actual number is an arbitrary score, the consistency over a period of time is the real value.

The forms are reviewed at the weekly manager's meeting, which usually means that each one is read by two directors, the general manager and the assistant manager. We can't say that we always agree with everyone's opinion, but we can say that if you write it, we read it. It does make a difference.

The reality is that it's actually a real boost reading through the many positive comments we receive. Quite often, it's hard to see the wood for the trees, particularly towards the end of a long season. Here's a handful of our favourites that made us smile from this week's selection...

I have been coming for over 40 years and it gets better and better!
Room 2. 11th October

Room 25. 10th October

Fantastic stay! Fantastic place! Thank you. (smiley face).
Room 4. 8th October.

We were made to feel really welcome from the start. 
Room 19. 5th October.

Check in staff member was funny, very helpful, efficient, and sorted out everything with minimum fuss and maximum sense of humour - Perfect!
Room?, 6th October.

And our pick of the week, which speaks volumes for the Clachaig tradition....

My dad was here about 70 years ago - a very basic hostel, and my husband was here about 40 years ago - a hotel. They both found the welcome and hospitality unchanged. Will bring the next generation. 
Room 23. 10th October.

So, as we rapidly approach the end of another year here at Clachaig, many thanks for all your feedback. We'll keep on doing our thing here in Glencoe, so long as you keep on coming - and telling us how we did.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

No. 5 Commando - Clachaig in 1940.

Here's a fine glimpse from a time gone by. We're well aware of the commando training that was based at Achnacarry (which is now commemorated by the Commando Memorial above Spean Bridge), but it seems that Clachaig was also involved too. We can just imagine those rugby songs being belted out in the wee bar after some gruelling training on the hills. Many thanks, Nick, for sending this in.

Hi All,

As a frequent visitor to Fort William (every November for the Annual Gathering of Commandos & Remembrance Services), I always try and pay at least one visit to Clachaig Inn during my trip...

Whilst carrying out research for the Commando Veterans Association (CVA), I came across a mention of the Clachaig Inn, in the obituary of Geoffrey Rees-Jones and thought you'd like another anecdote to add to the Inn's History page.


Geoffrey Rees-Jones

Obituary courtesy of The Telegraph, 4th October 2004.

Geoffrey Rees-Jones, who has died aged 90, was a founder member of No.5 Commando and a Welsh international rugby player; a pioneer in the training of Special Forces during the Second World War, he subsequently had a distinguished career in the academic world.

Rees-Jones joined No5 Commando in July 1940 at its inception. The War Office was concerned by the lack of mountain troops and asked that soldiers with a knowledge of climbing come forward. Rees-Jones volunteered and was stationed at the Clachaig Hotel in Glencoe where he and his comrades ran a course for several months and proved to the War Office that ordinary soldiers could be turned into mountaineers. Comrades remember that he had a fine tenor voice and an inexhaustible repertoire of rugby songs.

In May 1942, Rees-Jones accompanied No5 Commando, part of 29 Infantry Brigade, in the invasion of Madagascar in an operation against the Vichy French. His objective was a large battery which covered the beach, for its capture would enable the main force to take the port of Diego Suarez from the rear.

Rees-Jones led the first two landing craft and, at 2am, was the first of his unit ashore. "We caught the French fast asleep," he said afterwards. "There was a proper scrap, but we took the battery without a casualty."

No5 Commando returned to England via Cape Town, where Rees-Jones's second-in-command was taken ill with polio. The doctors wished to keep him, but he wanted to come home and get married. Rees-Jones organised a commando raid on the hospital, kidnapped his friend and brought him back in a troopship.

In December, Rees-Jones was posted as an instructor to the newly formed Commando Mountain and Snow Warfare Training Centre (CMSWTC) at Braemar, in the Cairngorms. The commandant was Frank Smythe, the Himalayan mountaineer, and the chief instructor John Hunt (later leader of the successful Everest expedition of 1953).

In 1943, CMSWTC moved to North Wales and, under the command of Rees-Jones, the Lovat Scouts were trained as a mountaineering battalion. The War Office, however, decided that the commandos needed more shore work and that the training centre should become a cliff assault school.
Rees-Jones moved the centre to St Ives, Cornwall, to train in cliff assaults in preparation for D-Day and pioneered the concept of using small boats (dories) to land commandos on otherwise inaccessible cliffs. He made use of the north and south coasts, depending on the direction of the wind.
He was an extraordinary innovator, and all sorts of gadgets were produced in the blacksmith's shop in St Ives. The most significant was the "grip fast", a metal ring with big hooks attached which made a belay point on cliff tops. It could also operate on sand, and could anchor a "Death Slide" rig which took a considerable load.

Cliff assaults at night provided training of the most exacting sort. The dories would bump against the Carrack Gladden cliffs at Hawk's Point and the climbers would attempt to assault the cliffs and the steep slope above. Men who fell into the sea had to swim for Carbis Bay beach in the blackout.
"We did demonstrations," Rees-Jones recalled, "to a lot of bloody generals in the stupidest places." The accident rate was high. Early in 1944, Rees-Jones and Professor Noel Odell (remembered for his part in the ill-fated British Everest Expedition of 1924) were doing a coastal reconnaissance when they were stopped by a policeman who had taken them for spies.

The night before D-Day, Rees-Jones escorted a raiding party up a Normandy cliff to capture a shore battery. After attending Staff College, he was posted to Germany as brigade major of 4 Commando Brigade and was mentioned in dispatches.

Geoffrey Rees-Jones was born at Ipswich on July 8 1914 and educated at Ipswich School, where he had a notable academic and sporting career. He took an open scholarship to University College, Oxford, where he read Physics and won three Blues for rugby. He also represented his college in rugby, cricket, athletics and chess.

Rees-Jones was capped five times for Wales as a wing three-quarter. He owed his success above all to his speed; it was said that he could run 100 yards in 10 seconds with his football boots on. He secured a place among the immortals of Welsh rugby in 1935 by going over twice and scoring the winning try two minutes from time to give Wales victory over the All Blacks by 13 points to 12. In the celebrations that followed, he helped to push a piano over a hotel balcony.

His first teaching appointment was at Eastbourne College, where he taught maths and physics and was himself taught climbing by the chemistry master. He moved to Marlborough College in 1938, but the outbreak of war intervened and he enlisted in the Royal Corps of Signals.

After the war, Rees-Jones returned to Marlborough as a housemaster, again teaching maths and physics, and also taking charge of rugby. In 1954 he moved to the Isle of Wight, serving for nearly four years as Headmaster of Bembridge School.

Rees-Jones went to the Isle of Man in 1958 to take up the post of Principal of King William's College, which he held for 21 years until his retirement in 1979. He made an outstanding contribution to the college, raising academic standards, improving facilities and attracting pupils from across the world.

Geoffrey Rees-Jones died on September 13. He married Unity Sanders in 1950 on All Fools' Day, and they took the joke further by going to the Scilly Isles for their honeymoon. She predeceased him and he is survived by their son and daughter.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

On horseback to Castle Arghhh...

Recently we reported about our staff canyoning adventures courtesy of Vertical Descents. Much fun was had and we were definitely inspired to advise guests of what to do in the area if you don’t want to trudge up a hill. And as we want to provide great service, we thought we had to apply ourselves and explore other activities too…, very selflessly, just to advise the guests of course…

As hard rocks and cold water are not every bodies cup of tea , Loes organised an activity of the equine variety at Lettershuna Riding Centre where she has her cheeky cob Charlie in livery.

In 4 small groups we headed off to Lettershuna in Appin where we mounted our trusted steeds to go for an hour long guided walk out on Appin Bay.

Timed to coincide with low tides the ride took us on to the beach and past Castle Stalker, with one ride being so lucky as to be able to cross behind it. This was a challenge for Jamie who did the guiding on foot and who’s wellies were about to fill up with salty water but we all a managed to come back with dry feet.

Most of the rides took place in walk with the odd trot, which was received with mixed responses,
seeing some colleagues ending up with both hands and knees on either side of their heads, some hanging on to the reins for dear life and others taking it all in their (fast) stride 

Feedback was that everybody had a great time and some are already planning rides in the near future.
If you want to enjoy a ride on Appin beach with one of these lovely ponies in the company of Jamie Craig, please contact Lettershuna Riding Centre.

Lettershuna Riding Centre is situated 20 miles north of Oban and 25 miles south of Fort William on the A828 opposite the Island of Shuna.

You can book a ½ hour ride (mostly used for the wee-est amongst us) at £20 pp, an hour ride at £30 pp or a 2 hour ride for the more experience riders who are comfortable with trot and canter at £50pp

Tel: 0845 806 0332  -
Outside UK Tel: +44 1631 730227 
or email them at

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Naked Ice Climber Caption Competition

Thanks to everyone who entered our caption competition. It was supposed to be easy for us. We get a couple of dozen entries, have a chuckle, select a really funny one and make someone happy with the grand prize of a bottle of Benromach 10 year old single malt. (Mmmm..., nice!)

But it didn't turn out that way. Maybe it was all that naked flesh that just got you too excited. Maybe it was the prospect of a free bottle of whisky. Whatever, the couple of dozen entries has run into the hundreds, and it's made a simple task nigh on impossible! Our 'last call for entries' brought in 145 additional suggestions just on its own.

There's also 45 (at the last count) more posts to be found in the comments area of our original blog entry as well. Rescue Choppers indeed, madam!

So, with apologies to anyone that we've missed, we've tried to include all the entries here for you to browse, including various references to cracks and cravasses and having a 3rd ice tool. We've cut and pasted from email, and we've taken some screen shots from Facebook. Please don't shout at us if you can't see yours, we did read them all.

And, oh how we've laughed. Productivity has fallen considerably in June as we've been rolling around the floor at your many captions. Maybe we should be introducing a stand up comedy night in the Boots Bar, as clearly we have so many comedians as customers. 

Choosing "the best" for the prize simply hasn't been possible. The best solution was to put the ones that really made us giggle into a metaphorical hat and put out a winner. 

And the winner is....

Iain Robertson
Glencoe MRT currently warning of dangerous cracks in the ice.  

Nice one Iain. Get in touch and claim your prize. 

We also have some t-shirts for...

Charles GordonFirst Ascent of the Shrivel Devil. Not hard but very severe. (N-HVS).

Alistair Woodburne
Don't look now Rick, but is that a crack in the ice! ;)

Wee Thumb 
After 15 years of winter climbing, Rick should have known that ice screws are not pink
(Not sure if that's a name or part of the joke!)

Peter ToddHard climb, but he rose to the occasion

and finally a cheeky one from
Francis Healy-mcadam  
Tight rope, tight rope, slack rope, slack rope, tight rope, tight rope! Slack! Slack! Tight! Tight! Faster!! Faster!!!......."

Thanks to everyone who joined in with the crack (!) on this occasion. You're all heroes and it's you that makes Clachaig what it is.



Don't look now Rick, but is that a crack in the ice! ;)
Alistair Woodburne

Expose yourself to Glencoe
Michael Gomez.

The Iceman Cometh
Gavin Black

So that’s crampons, ice axe and...aye, sacs.
Robin Smith

You’ve all hard of the person who stuck their tongue to a lamp post – err has anybody got any warm water ..............
Sue Hanson

After 15 years of winter climbing, Rick should have known that ice screws are not pink
Wee Thumb

Hard climb, but he rose to the occasion
Peter Todd

“By anchoring point #5, it is now possible to pivot 360 Degrees “
“Who needs Spider Man”
“MR Winky needs a helmet”
“5 points &  2 helmets”
“ enjoying the Beauty of Glencoe….tackling the west face of Aonach Dubh….mistaking Elliot’s Downfall for your wife….PRICELESS
 Joe Lyon

From where I'm standing, this must be the south face!
Andy Holmes

Everything is red from the cold: I'm beginning to look like the five of diamonds ...

"Wow! I seem to have developed a third ice pick! That could come in very handy!"
 Sorry :)
Did I forget something?

Hands, knees and boomp-a-daisy.
just to keep it clean.
Marie Weir

Gives him an extra digit for his carabiner.
Regards Jims

"It was only now that Rick regretted his parents' decision to have him circumcised...'
 Robert Dann 

Hows about, "It's not my tongue that's stuck this time..."
All the best,

“Pardon me, do you happen to have any Grey Poupon?”
Butt of course!!”

Craig S. 

No hot water in shower again.

Gathering new bar nibbles - frozen nuts!
L Weir

"Why did I have to say to her I'll do anything. Flowers. Flowers!"
Andy Colvin

Sadly for Dave, he had misunderstood the pre-climb brief.He was actually told to 'head up for the Bluff'!
Stephen MacPhee

Hope this center peg holds out

Adele Leek