“ Ballachulish, near Fort William / The Scottish Highlands / PH49 4HL / Tel: 0871 222 3415 „
Ballachulish (pronounced Balla hool- ish!) was one of the places we used as a base during our Whistle stop tour of the West Coast of Scotland, and I didnt include it in that review as I thought it worthy of its own one! It is about 14 or 15 miles south of Fort William on the A82.
Personally if someone says Ballachulish, as in the well known word association game, I say Ferry, but there is now a large bridge to get you safely across between Loch Linnhe and Loch Leven, and its a lot easier than a ferry.
We had booked a couple of nights at the Isles of Glencoe Hotel through Visit Scotland.com and got a reasonable deal. Originally we were going to go there first but as it had a leisure centre we decided we would treat ourselves to some relaxation at the end of our break. It was the right decision as this was a much better hotel than our first choice! As we drove along the side of Loch Leven looking for the hotel we were pleased to see we had wonderful views to feast our eyes upon whilst we planned our exploring. The hotel is described as almost floating, and the rooms are on decks.
The large car park was made from quite big stones and it was difficult to pull your case! We discovered later help was available if necessary! There was a sign saying coaches, pointing to a second car park which did surprise us! But on our second day there was a German coach party, but as they ate in a separate dining room we were hardly aware they were there! There is also disabled parking and it is possible to park nearer other entrances to make life easier. Arrival was after 3pm and so we staggered in with our cases. We received a wonderfully warm welcome from a very pleasant young man who quickly got our cases transferred to our room. We completed the necessary forms and then were conducted on a short tour. The reception had a small area for wee ones to sit and crayon, and there were comfortable settees overlooking the pool area. We were shown the book to sign in when entering this area to fulfil fire regulations. There was a shelved area with items on sale, and then we went through to the lounge, which had the bar and coffee bar.
What a view the one side was all windows overlooking the loch with Glencoe as a back drop. I was full of praise, and was told You think this is good. Wait till you get to your room! The lounge was full of comfortable settees and huge arm chairs all in a modern style and had a massive feature fireplace in the centre of the room. We climbed the stairs and looked down onto a large dining area, but were told we would be able to eat in the conservatory, but would need to book as they stagger guests to ensure a good service.
Luxurious, describes it well. It was huge on what is called the Top Deck. There was a king size bed, with a lovely fitted cover and also a snug area with a single bed/ day bed and its own TV. There was plenty of room to sit with comfy arm chairs in front of the large windows, and a coffee table. The view looking over the Loch and up to the Paps of Glencoe was fantastic. There was an ironing board and iron in case you had a few wrinkles to sort out! Also a large television which was easy to see whilst snuggled up in bed. A massive wardrobe with shelves and extra drawers and dressing table, gave you more than enough space for clothes. Complimentary tea, coffee, chocolate and biscuits were also available, and were replenished daily. Information about meal times was available and a phone if you needed it.
Our bedroom was on the Top Deck, for a supplement you can also have complimentary dressing gowns, CD player, candles and accessories and a newspaper.
There are other levels including family rooms, Standard deck rooms are on the ground, first and second floors and some are for disabled guests. Economy rooms are smaller and have a view over the peninsular towards Ben Vair. Some of these rooms have French windows and are popular with dog owners. Well behaved dogs are welcome at a charge of £10 per night.
If I hadnt already decided this was a great hotel, the bathroom would have decided it for me! Much larger than our one at home, it had lots of Molton Brown toiletries. I love Molton Brown. Many hotels give you 2 shower gels, 2 soaps and 2 shampoos and perhaps a shower cap, and when youve used them thats it. I object if I am staying 2 nights because you pay the same rate both nights so surely you can be given another shower gel! I know I always take some with me but it is the principle. Sorry Im off on a tangent, back to the bathroom! The toilet was behind the door and had a wall separating it from the bath. There were twin wash basins and Molton Brown soap and hand lotion was attached to the wall so there was as much as you wanted! Over the bath was Shampoo and shower gel in large containers. I knew I was in for some serious pampering! There was a huge heated towel rail, the switch was just outside the bathroom door and lots of lovely fluffy towels. Lovely blue tiles decorated the bathroom.
The swimming pool wasnt huge but was more than adequate and there was a nice Jacuzzi to get yourself all wrinkly! The changing facilities were good and the free shower gel and shampoo were an added bonus. I enjoyed a session in the Sauna and soothed away my aches and pains from sitting in the car for hours.
The exercise room had moved into the adjoining building which was the home of Lochaber water sports. I was not feeling in the need of more exercise as we had walked our socks off so to speak exploring the west coast, so cant report on this facility. It was possible to hire rowing boats, luxury yachts or take a ride on a Rib-ride rubber dinghy type boat. Bikes were available for hire too, and inside the hotel was a display of lots of local places to visit and a Ranger was available to help you plan walks etc. You could enjoy a less strenuous walk around the grounds and along the shore of the Loch, which we did but the Scottish midge can become a nuisance when it decides to feast upon you! There was a play area for children with good strong looking swings and climbing frames which fitted well into the wooded area.
If pampering was more in your line they could arrange a session nearby for Spa treatments, facials and massage at a discount of 10% for guests.
We had booked Bed and Breakfast so were given the option of a paying a reduced price for dinner, otherwise the Table dhote dinner menu is £25.50.
Dinner was from 6.30 9.30pm and the dress code is informal, although most people did change and were smart but casual. The dinner menu is changed daily, and the choice was excellent. One evening I had a cream of vegetable soup garnished with olive oil and chopped parsley, another night I had chicken liver pate with a cranberry tartlet. I was trying to watch my cholesterol and sampled the poached lemon sole although the creamy sauce wasnt the best choice! The Roast Argyll Lamb with a red wine jus melted in the mouth. Main meals were served with new potatoes and two other vegetables or a salad. If you wanted a specialty fish or steak there was a supplement. There was a good choice of sweet or cheese and biscuits and a varied wine menu. The menu tends to use local produce with a modern slant. Everything was nicely presented and the portions were good. Coffee could be taken at the table or back in the lounge and many types were available, as was an extensive range of malts! I didnt sample them, but my husband did! It was lovely to eat in a no smoking restaurant, there was an area for those who needed it off the lounge, and we noticed one young woman leaving the table and her partner between courses! The one evening there was live music with a man playing his accordian with a wide range of songs, there were some of our favourites from the 60's as well as Scottish tunes.
Breakfast was a wonder to behold and was served between 7.30 and 9.30am. Having stayed at a hotel with the basic cooked breakfast and only fruit juice, cereal and toast if you wanted continental this was something else. The buffet table positively groaned, there were several fruit juices, numerous cereals, bowls to make your own muesli with every fruit, nut etc imaginable. Fresh and tinned fruits, yogurts, different muffins, American style pancakes with maple syrup, cold meats, cheeses, rolls, breads, toasters if you wanted to toast the bread, croissants etc. There was also a self service cooked area and chefs available if you wanted an egg fried in a special way! I usually have fruit and a roll and maybe cheese or jam, but I sampled all sorts of delicious things purely so I could report back how good they were!
Just in case this wasnt enough there were Bistro meals available from 11am 6pm, with things like homemade soup and a roll for £1.95. Tortilla with unusual fillings from £4.95, lots of other snacks or simply scones with jam and cream along with a delicious coffee.
The glass conservatory looked out over the Loch and as we dined we watched a heron poaching a fish.
The Isles of Glencoe hotel is part of a group of four called the Freedom Glen hotels. It is possible to Dine Around at one of the others with a charge at the Lodge on the Loch of an extra £10 per couple, but no extra at the Ballachulish or the Oban Caledonian. We didnt try this out but it seemed a good idea if you were staying longer.
Some of the staff were from overseas but all spoke English, and some could converse in other languages with guests. All the staff were smart, friendly and very helpful.
All good things come to an end of course we had to check out and pay! We had a fairly good deal and the total bill including dinner with a bottle of wine both nights came to just under £200.00 for the two of us.
Prices varied with the type of room and time of year, the Top Deck charges were £90 - £120 per person per night DBB. The cheapest was the Economy room for £59.50 - £90 pppn for DBB, with a range of prices in between. In the Family rooms children go free with a charge of £7.50 for their dinner. There is no single supplement unless it is a very busy time when a charge of £35 applies. There were also board games for children in case they got "bored!".
They also gave us a wee card to give to a friend and if they book we would receive £30 of Marks & Spencers vouchers. Or if you give a friends name and address you get a voucher for £5 off your next stay. Wed love to go back perhaps later in the year when the leaves are turning so perhaps next year well manage a few more days relaxing in the beautiful setting of the Isles of Glencoe.
Almost afloat, the Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre nestles on the side of a peninsula reaching into Loch Leven. This friendly, modern 4 star hotel offers everything you dream of on holiday; spacious bedrooms with loch and mountain-views and a relaxed, convivial ambience.