Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Two Scottish Icons……….   1 comment

At this time of year we always welcome lots of families and people enjoying the Easter holidays. We also act as something of a Tourist Information Centre for the area too, and as such, I thought I’d give anyone who’s heading this way at the end of the month, a little bit of a heads-up on something that really shouldn’t be missed.

Eilean Donan is often regarded as something of a Scottish icon, but we’re most certainly not the only one! One of my own personal boyhood favourites, and whose decks I have graced many, many times, is the world’s last ocean going paddle-steamer PS WAVERLEY.

Well after a number of years absence, I can tell you that she will once again be visiting the area and offering excursions from Kyle of Lochalsh on the 27th, 28th and 29th of April! If you’ve never had the opportunity to board her and enjoy a trip, well I just can’t recommend it highly enough. If you’ve been on her before, then I’m definitely preaching to the converted!

Built on the Clyde in 1947 to replace the original Waverley that sunk off Dunkirk in 1940, the Waverley was originally built to sail only between Craigen Dorran & Arrochar in West Scotland. She now sails right round Britain offering regular trips on the Clyde, the Thames, the South coast of England and the Bristol Channel.

Although she used to visit up here annually, the last time she graced our shores was back in 2007, and it was during that trip that I managed to get myself in just the right place at just the right time to capture this rare photograph of two of Scotland’s most famous icons together.

PS Waverley & Eilean Donan

 

 

So if you’re up this way on the dates listed above, she’s certainly well worth a visit.

For information, she’ll be doing the following trips from Kyle of Lochalsh :-

  • Wed 27th April – Isle of Raasay, Skye and Mallaig
  • Thursday 28th April – Isle of Raasay and Gairloch
  • Friday 29th April – Isle of Raasay, Skye and Broadford

If you need any further information or to book tickets, go to the Waverley website at

http://www.waverleyexcursions.co.uk

 

HAPPY CRUISING and I might see you on there for a wee dram or two!

 

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Posted April 13, 2011 by eileandonan in News

Clan loyalties run deep…………   5 comments

It’s a well known fact that we Scots possess distinctly (some might say, unnaturally) long memories, and that loyalties, and for that matter, emneties can frequently last for generations if not centuries. This is particularly true when it comes to issues surrounding our Clan system, even today.

Clan MacRae has held a number of allegiencies during its long history, including Clan MacKenzie, Clan MacLennan, and Clan Mathieson. One of the lesser known relationships is the association with Clan Fraser which goes back many many years. In actual fact, visitors to the castle may well have observed, above the front door to the castle, a stone carving, written in Gaelic, see picture below.


Now in English, this would translate as  “Whilst there is a MacRae inside, there will never be a Fraser outside”

Well on Sunday, we had a wonderful visit from some Clan Fraser pipers from Canada, who are currently touring Scotland. Resplendent in their 18th century garb, the group made a wonderful sight for the tourists that were here on the day, and I managed to capture a few shots for you to have a look at.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted April 5, 2011 by eileandonan in News

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Welcome to a new season!   3 comments

As of today, the Visitor Centre is officially open for the 2011 season so it’s clearly time for me to get back into the blogging habit after a rather strange winter!

We woke up to a rather surprising fall of  snow this morning, so winter has clearly decided to drag it’s heals as usual.  Our newly sprung daffodils are none too happy, but it does however make the place look clean and fresh. Huge flakes are falling even as I type.  The whole team seem really pleased to be back to work after their 3 month sabbatical, and have been enjoying some of the changes we’ve been making.

One of the most significant and important changes to the operation has taken place in our ever popular Coffee Shop. After 14 years of service, I decided that the time had come to modernise the whole operation with a new servery which has been specifically designed to better cope with the demands of 320,000 visitors per annum. As regular visitors will know, there are times when a dozen tour buses or more can be parked up in our bus lanes, and as visitor numbers have steadily increased over the years, our previous servery, at times, struggled to cope with the sheer volume of visitors. As much as it was quite poignant watching the old carcass being stripped out, it was fascinating watching the new installation take shape. The whole catering operation has been designed and changed to both raise quality whilst being able to serve people faster and significantly reduce waiting times.

We’ve also brought in new tables, and overall, the old place is simply gleaming. Our first customers are already in and enjoying Cappuccinos and freshly baked scones, and I can smell the first wafts of freshly made Leek & Tattie soup drifting through the place. A strengthened kitchen team also offers us the opportunity to continue to develop the whole operation. To give you a wee glimpse, here’s a few photos.

BEFORE

AFTER

AFTER 2

Some of the Coffee Shop team, raring to go!

We’ve also got a few new faces joining the team this year after various retirements and an expanding workforce to help cope with the ever-increasing visitor numbers. Advanced tour bookings for 2011 look very healthy, and we look set to host over 80 weddings this year, a new record. I always breathe a bit of a sigh of relief when we re-open for a new season, as I tend to be working to this deadline with a variety of different projects to complete. Bizarrely, I’ve already started planning next winters projects, with a new roof installation to go on the southern side of the castle, and a complete refurbishment, upgrade and extension planned for our holiday cottage. 2011 will also see the launch of our new on-line shop and hopefully the launch of a new electronic guide application for smartphones, which will be downloadable for visitors before they get here.

On a retail front, after a hugely successful buying trip, we’ve managed to procure some great new products for our Gift Shop, avoiding what I often refer to as the predictable “tartan tat” that seems to fill so many of our country’s gift shop shelves!

All told, we’re absolutely ready for the new season, and myself and the rest of the team look forward to welcoming you all back to Eilean Donan. Make sure to pack some sunshine for when you come!

Posted March 9, 2011 by eileandonan in News

Modern Technology, what do you think?   13 comments

So I need some help and some input please. With nearly 2000 fans on the Facebook page and around 15,000 hits so far on the blog, I’d like to give you the opportunity to help shape a decision I have to take.

Modern technology is advancing at a rapid rate of knots and in this age of electronic communication, it’s often difficult to decide between good initiatives and bad. There is no doubt that today it is much easier for organisations like ours to communicate with our global audience and customers, but how much is too much?

I have the opportunity to introduce a new service at Eilean Donan, but would really appreciate any input you might have before I proceed.

There is now a service which would allow visitors to Eilean Donan, for a relatively small charge to download an “electronic guidebook” application on the castle to their mobile phone, ipod or similar portable electronic device.  Potentially, our visitors could download this facility either before they arrive with us, or do it once on site.

The application could give an overview of the castle’s history and heritage, an outline of specific points or items of interest inside the walls, and any other information of interest that visitors might find useful. It may be less comprehensive than our official guidebook, but it would potentially sit very comfortably alongside it for those that don’t want to end their holiday with a tidy pile of assorted guidebooks from a variety of different locations or attractions.

The great unknown quantity is, just how big an uptake would the initiative produce. Is this something you yourself might use, or is it a step too far?

Any constructive input would be very gratefully received!


Posted January 14, 2011 by eileandonan in News

Hello 2011…..   9 comments

Happy New Year to you all, and I hope you all had a truly wonderful festive season.

Well I’m back in the Eilean Donan saddle after a bit of a lay-off due to my heart attack on the 20th of November, and am just starting to feel a bit more like my old self and looking forward to the year ahead. Thank you for all the messages of support and concern that both myself and my family have received during the last 6 weeks, I’ve really been extremely touched.

There is however, only so much day-time telly a man can physically take, and I have to confess to being a rather impatient patient, so I have returned to work today to try and catch up with all things castle, and give my long-suffering wife some much-needed space!

Had a bit of a bad start to the day as the Visitor Centre boiler has run out of heating oil and the whole place is a bit baltic to be honest, but a few phone calls has sorted the problem, and I’m now waiting for the place to heat up.

Officially, we re-open for the new season on the 1st of March, which experience tells me, will be upon us before we know it, so there’s lots of things to do before then. That said, we had a really good response to our limited winter opening trial during November and December, so we’re going to maintain the three days a week (Tuesday, Thursday & Sunday) opening through February for those early-season visitors.

The 2011 season looks potentially very promising with advance group bookings and wedding reservations both way ahead of previous years. The last few years have been the most successful in our long history, but we never take things for granted and are always looking for new ways to try to improve the visitor experience. Of late, much of this effort has focussed on the development of the Visitor Centre facilities, and the final part of that particular jigsaw will be the installation of a brand new Servery in the Coffee Shop, due to take place in early February, just in time for the new season. The development focus will then move for the next 4 or 5 years back to the castle itself.

We have a roof to replace, probably in October/November; some much needed conservation and restoration work to do; the archaeology project to develop; and hopefully, the opening up of some new previously closed areas of the castle to progress so plenty of variety to keep me busy.

The next few weeks will therefore be geared towards getting everything ready for another great season, and the team and I look forward to welcoming you back to Eilean Donan through 2011.

Oh it’s nice to be back!!! Catch up soon!


Posted January 5, 2011 by eileandonan in News

An affair of the heart.   9 comments

I feel as though I’ve been neglecting both the Facebook page and the Eilean Donan Blog lately, although in my defence, things have been a little out of my control…….

At 11.00am on Saturday 20th of November, I had a rather inconvenient and very unexpected heart attack, which came as something of a shock, and landed me in hospital for a stretch. Without going into too much detail, I’m now resting at home having had a bit of surgery, and am hoping to start a gradual return to work at some point next week, all being well.

I’d just like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you for all the messages of support and offers of help that both myself and my family have received over the last 10 days. I can’t begin to find the words to tell you how much we’ve appreciated it.

Anyway, I hope to re-start things real soon, and apologies again for the recent lack of posts.

Happy St Andrews Day.

David

Posted November 30, 2010 by eileandonan in News

Winter projects   1 comment

Good morning folks, I’ve been a bit busy with one thing and another and suddenly realised that it’s been some time since my last blog. The first snow has kissed the peaks, and winter is definitely on its way! The operation has been closed for a fortnight now, but the experiment with the limited winter opening of the castle has certainly been a success. Hundreds of people have taken advantage of it, and I can already see that we’re going to have to extend the service next winter. It’s nice not to have to disappoint people who have come a long way to see us.

On a personal note, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with as usual. People often comment on the fact that I must enjoy the winter months and have a nice quiet, easy life! This always makes me laugh, as in actual fact in many ways I’m actually busier than normal with a variety of different projects to progress. The winter closure months are critical to us as it’s really the only time we have to continue  the development of the operation, and this year is no different. As well as the annual maintainance and general house-keeping work that has to be done, I’m working on a number of other issues, including

  • The launch of our new on-line shop.
  • The installation of a brand new purpose built servery for the Coffee Shop.
  • An upgrade and complete refurbishment of our holiday cottage including a new extension.
  • The preparation for the opening of a new area within the castle itself.
  • Roof repairs to the service areas of the castle.
  • Launch of a brand new web-cam service.
  • Electrical over-haul in the castle.

Staff start to return to work about 14 to 15 weeks after we close, and I’m always amazed as to just how quickly that time goes in. I start the winter with a considerable job-list, and always seem to have a struggle to complete it by February when recruitment challenges start to take priority. Never a dull moment in the life of a Castle Keeper, and I wouldn’t have it any other way to be honest!

The end of season staff party was a great success last week with more than a few memorable moments to treasure! I’ll post up a few photos on the Facebook page once I’ve collected the bribery payments from those in question! To give you a wee taste, we had appearances from a magician, two Sumo wrestlers and a rather dodgey looking Elvis! But thats another story for another time!

Hope you’re all well, bye bye for now!

Posted November 16, 2010 by eileandonan in News

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