Thursday, December 29, 2011

Do you want to do an archaeological dig in Scotland?

On the Island of Colonsay, South of Oban, they have identified over 60 ancient pre-historical sites. They are finding signs of houses, burial sites, and rock shelters as well as bone tools. The dig is also revealing how people may have lived in ancient times.
They will need volunteers next year, and if you would like to apply to the team they'll be happy to hear from you. They will start again in February. Who knows, you might be spotting a 7,000 year old stone tool from the Mesolithic period.

Contact Kilmartin House Museum, at 01546 510278 or email


Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in the West of Scotland
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Oban
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Glencoe
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Fort William
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in the far West of Scotland
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Appin
Port Appin and Lismore B&Bs
Barcaldine B&Bs and hotels
Duror b&bs
Kentallen b&bs
Ballachulish b&bs
Onich b&bs
How to find cottage owners self catering websites

Monday, December 26, 2011

Would you like to buy the Island in Cuil Bay for £395,000?

Cuil Bay is gorgeous. Gillian and I go there just to see that it hasn't changed in the past 10,000 years, or at least since we were there last.

Eilean Balnagowan is the name of the Island in the Cuil Bay, and it is up for sale. 

The Argyll News says, "The 36 acre island is for sale, with outline planning permission for a bothy, a basic shelter. Some shift might be possible from a bothy to a small cottage but would have to be explored with the planners – but the governing concern is obviously to see nothing other than a small, low profile building of the sort you would naturally expect in such a location"
If you are a water diviner then the island is a no brainer. Otherwise if you buy it and expect to find a running stream then you are the no brainer.

The island offers seclusion and tranquillity in an area which is scenically beautiful; not really remote, with the lovely highland village of Port Appin a short trip by boat; relatively sheltered and capable of supporting livestock. Water, remember, there isn't.

The selling agents are CKD Galbraith, through its Stirling office, with Dominic Weddderburn the agent in charge of the sale.

Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in the West of Scotland
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Oban
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Glencoe
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Fort William
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in the far West of Scotland
Holiday accommodation, B&Bs, hotels in Appin
Port Appin and Lismore B&Bs
Barcaldine B&Bs and hotels
Duror b&bs
Kentallen b&bs
Ballachulish b&bs
Onich b&bs
How to find cottage owners self catering websites

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Best and worst times to visit Scotland


Clients often ask us for the best time to come to Scotland. The classic answer is May, end of, it is cool but the weather is usually fair. Surprisingly September is the second most stable month for weather and it is a touch warmer.

Rain in Scotland in April and May is at the lowest of the year in the West coast. The East coast is drier, but these remarks apply mostly to the Fort William area, Glencoe and Oban areas. In some respects the weather and rain in Scotland can be better than in England. The East Coast of Scotland has only 16% more days of rain a year than the driest place in England. Yes, the driest place in England. There are far fewer thunderstorms in Scotland than in England. Yes, far fewer. Rain in the Autumn is the worst of the year, though.

But the rain varies depending upon your exact location. In our cottage we get 50 inches of rain a year - we have a little micro climate around the bay here, whereas in Glencoe itself, about 5 miles away, the rainfall is at tropical levels, over 100 inches a year. The problem is the hill behind us, it sweeps the rain clouds up high so they empty on the other side.

This is November, December and January, but probably everyone knows that already. however these months are cosy, the people are friendly, no queues, no traffic it is much more relaxed. This is the time when people take the get-away-from-it-all breaks. It is also the lowest cost time of year for self catering accommodation, the rates can be half of the normal rates pew week, and most cottage owners will offer short breaks. 

I pity the poor people who try and get accommodation for the New Year during December. Not a hope for most people, but still they try right up to the end of December. Christmas is quieter, but the New Year is the busiest week of the year. Most cottages start to get bookings for the New Year during September. Don't bother with the weather, just enjoy the fun of a Scottish Hogmanay.

Yes, they can be a problem in wooded, damp areas. They don't like sunlight but like true Scots they are ready for a fight at any time between the end of May and the end of August. I have to say this, you can believe it or not, but it happens to be the truth. We get very very few midges at the cottage. I've got no idea why, we have not got a single mention of midges in any guest book and no one has complained. Yes, they been bitten elsewhere - come to that we've been bitten elsewhere but not here.

Here the time of year has less to do with the climate than the availability. It can be near impossible to get a short break cottage in mid summer and the school holidays, unless you go to a big complex where they offer several accommodation units and can keep one free for short breaks at a premium price.
However after the end of September and until the end of March, most cottage owners will do a short break for you. You can't always pick the dates you  want - go to the big complexes for that.

This is what makes certain Scotland locations very popular in January, February and March. On our West coast, you can ski in Glencoe, then go up to just north of Fort William for excellent skiing there. The skiing is warmer than in the Cairngorms. 

Overwhelmingly the main interest is in walking, from gentle walks around our own Cuil Bay, to mountain walks and climbs for the high level tyros. But you've got fishing, cycling, canoeing, wild life, historical locations, extreme sports, sightseeing and touring by car - all of them have devotees who come again and again.
One of the key activities is photography, for amateurs and professionals alike.

Hope all this helps.
The best walks in Glencoe    
Ben Nevis, go climb it
Munros are over 3,000 feet
Some Munros are easy
Glencoe rock climbing
Skiing in Glencoe is excellent again
New cycle tracks around Glencoe
There are lovely beaches and bays around Glencoe
Accommodation Fort William
Golf on the West coast
Tour the Highlands

Short breaks in Scotland, Last minute cottage holidays Scotland, Autumn, Winter, Spring
Weather month by month Scotland summer
Weather month by month Scotland Autumn
Weather in Scotland Winter, month by month
Misunderstandings about Scotland's weather
Scotland's rain

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The best and worst delivery services

Sam Rayner is the Managing Director of the family firm, Lakeland. These are the smart people, based in Cumbria, who do the kitchenware. They started as mail order people, now have stores in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee.

I know nothing about Sam Rayner except that I bet he went home one night with a bee in his bonnet about deliveries at Christmas. He probably went to his country cottage somewhere, and ordered something from his firm. Then he found - not the problem, there probably wasn't a big one - but a solution to the overwhelming difficulty facing people waiting for parcels at Christmas. This scheme, EVERY RETAILER should copy.

The big worry is that you will not be in when the delivery arrives. What will happen then? Some people pay up to £60 to have a house sitter stay in all day just waiting for the parcel.

He modified his website a bit, ten minute job, that's all. If you order something from Lakeland, then they ask which of the options would you prefer for delivery if you are not in, (Leaving at a neighbour, putting in the shed, whatever)

This instruction of yours GOES ON TO THE LABEL telling the driver what to do. How easy is that?

I've no idea if Sam did this personally. It is classically the kind of idea which is difficult to get through the layers of management in a company, so I bet he did. If he didn't and it came up from below then he gets congratulations for that as well.

You've never heard of them, I'm sure, but they have started to deliver for some of Amazon's suppliers. If they continue then they will drag Amazon's reputation into the ground. They are cheap, probably the cheapest, to use. By reputation they pay very low wages. They say they are the largest, and quote a long list of eminent names, but nothing on their website seems to be updated from December last year.

You get a "We couldn't deliver" card from an outfit called YODEL. (Told you you didn't know them)
The card gives no address, no name, just a website and a telephone number. They never answer. If you put the reference number into their website it asks you when you want delivery. This also is rubbish because they take no notice of this and deliver next when it suits them. You don't even know who the parcel is from.
The website forums talking about them are full of horror stories. It is actually an outfit which was called Home Delivery Services (HDNL). The managing director has a fine pedigree in business. He gave a lovely interview to the Warehouse trade magazine, and one of the comments this year was:
"Ordered a 32GB IPhone 4 from amazon.
HDNL Delivered it by throwing it over my fence and into my pond."
If you got to and enter their name, There are hundreds of poor reports. 

I don't want you to go out of business, but raise your prices get rid of the low paying customers, recruit better staff and management, don't set them such tough targets, then start to copy Lakeland's system.

Actually, you can't do that. Your existing customer base will never stand for it. Once you are in a hole like this you cannot dig yourself out. Best to start again. 
ps. Don't ever believe you can solve an image problem by just changing the brand identity.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New page about Castles in the area on our website

Inside Dunstaffnage castle walls, near Oban. Seat of the MacDougalls, taken by Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century with the help of both the MacDonalds and the Campbells. The MacDonalds were later rewarded by The Bruce by being given the lands of Duror and Glencoe. The Campbells took over the castle, and Inverlochy casltle by Fort William as well.

If I put in a link to the new website page from here, it helps Google to find it and list it. Here is  some of the text.
Castles in the Highlands of the West of Scotland

From North to South, Eilean Donan castle, Urquhart castle, by Loch ness, down to Inverlochy castle and Stalker castle on Loch Linnhe, on to Dunstaffnage castleand Dunollie castle both near Oban, Duart castle on Mull. Three castles on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, Mingary castle, Tioram castle and Ardtornish castle

These are some of the finest medieval castles in the Highlands of West Scotland. Most of the Scotland castles date from before 13th century, and were once built in wood, at the time of the Vikings raids.

Everyone photographs Edinburgh castle, with all its gift shops for tourists but the essence of Scotland is to be found in medieval castles such as Dunstaffnage castle, near Oban,  or its neighbour Dunollie castle.

Inverlochy castle is right beside the Highland town of Fort William.
Castle Urquhart towers above Loch Ness and a long way to the North of it lies Eilean Donan Castle.

Gillian and I love, in particular, the remote Tioram castle in Moidart.  Its neighbour is Mingary castle in Ardnamurchan. Ardtornish castle is by the Lochaline ferry to Mull.

On the island of Mull a short ferry crossing from Oban is Duart castle. The nearest castle to our cottage is 20 minutes away, one of the most photographed in Scotland, Castle Stalker.

Click on the page links to each of the West of Scotland castles for some of its story.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Highland cattle to the rescue in Loch Arkaig

A little colony of rare butterflies has grown again this year at a remote loch. About 30 minutes to the North-west of Fort William is the gorgeous Loch Arkaig.  Called the Allt Mhuic butterfly, they've found 15 chequered skippers, whatever they are. In 2005 there were only 38, and by 2009 they found only 3 but then there was a recovery of sorts, to 8, and now they've found 15.

They sent in Highland cattle to graze the area, and this let plants flourish, which the butterflies loved. With this limited success, they are going to try the same thing again in other areas. 

The approach to Loch Arkaig takes you past several scenic sites - the Commando Memorial, Caledonian Canal and Loch Lochy. In the Mile Dorcha, or 'Dark Mile' you pass the picturesque Caig (Chai-Aig) Falls and out to Loch Arkaig. Arkaig is a beatiful Loch, with many types of trees along its shore
The French funds, the treasure of Prince Charlie, the Bonnie One, is supposedly hidden near here.


The story they don't tell you about the Glencoe Massacre
History around the cottage in Appin
Did the Vikings stage a battle in Glencoe?
The Pictish broch in Lismore
West of Scotland millions of years ago
Robert the Bruce and the Ardchattan parliament
Robert the Bruce and the Knights Templar
The story of the MacDonalds of Glencoe
Ancient roads of the Highlands
Glencoe, the 4th Wonder of Scotland
Castles in the Glencoe area

Lochside cottage near Glencoe in the Highlands of Scotland
  • Short Breaks Glencoe
  • Stories about Appin villages blog