Scottish Bed and Breakfast versus Hotel – which is best?

Choosing the right place to stay is a key step to planning a great vacation.  You need a comfortable base in a good location for getting around.  Studies show that availability of amenities such as  free Wi-Fi and parking greatly influence traveller’s booking decisions.  Excellent service also tops the list.

For travellers seeking local character, genuine hospitality, and free perks such as homemade breakfasts and snacks, a B&B is the way to go. Where a hotel will often charge or suggest a hefty tip for concierge service, most B&Bs offer these extras free of charge.

There are regional variations on what we call a bed and breakfast.  In the UK a bed and breakfast is a small property with 10 or less guest rooms which provides breakfast but not other meals and is usually run by the owners in their own home.  This can also be a guest house and in other parts of the world this could be called an inn.

If you’ve never been to a city before it’s tempting to book a known hotel brand.  You know what you’ll get and sometimes that fits the bill.  On the other hand you could be missing out on personal service, meeting locals who know the area and the chance to interact with other guests over breakfast.

B&Bs not only provide far more value than hotels; they often offer more affordable rates as well.  Many large hotel chains use complicated pricing policies similar to the supply and demand system used by airlines.  You might have noticed that when there is peak demand, perhaps when there’s an event on the local area, prices jump up.  Budget hotels often advertise headlines rate like £20 per night but finding when these rates are available when you want them can be a challenge.  And sometimes the ‘basic’ price can leap up once you add the items you may expect to be included.  For example breakfast, parking and wifi charges can be added so you find the headline rate of £20 more than doubles.

Of course over the years customer expectations have risen and even only 10 years ago the availability of WIFI was outlandish.  Back in the 1970s my mother ran a bed and breakfast from our family home.  In those days everyone shared the family bathroom, although we were quite luxurious to have a downstairs toilet available for guests as well.  There was no tea or coffee in bedrooms but guests were invited to join us for tea and shortbread in the evening when we heard all about their day.  And for this my mother charged the sum of £1.25 per person per night for bed and breakfast.  Changed days!

Scottish Ballet

Highland Whisky Distilleries – just a glimpse of the vast whisky heritage in Scotland.

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Maybe because it is the largest geographical area, the Highlands is the hardest Whisky region to pin down stylistically. For this reason it is easiest not to consider the Highlands as one large are, but as 4 smaller and much more distinct ones.

North-Highland malts tend to be light bodied, delicate whiskies with complex aromas and a dryish finish sometimes spicy, sometimes with a trace of salt. Northern Highland distilleries are almost all coastal. The most northerly is Old Pulteney, situated about as far north as you can go in Wick, which produces a delicious, fragrant, dry whisky.

Working south along the route of the A9, next comes Clynelish at Brora (built in 1969, beside an earlier distillery who’s whiskies are known as Brora) – a sophisticated and complex whisky older expressions are very highly regarded and the malt deserves to be better known. Perhaps the reason that it is rarely seen as a distillery bottling is that it’s malt is a key component of Johnnie Walker.

The best known of all the Northern Highland malts is Glenmorangie. Glenmorangie, is made at Tain on the Cromarty Firth, and is the most popular malt in Scotland. Over the last decade Glenmorangie pioneered the now often copied process of wood finishing. Althoght this process is not universally popular;  it transformed the company’s commercial success.

The Eastern Highlands produce a number of whiskies that can be confused with those of Speyside.  In the north of the region close to the southern border of Speyside, whiskies which are smooth, sometimes with a little smoke, malty-sweet, such as Macduff, Ardmore, Glen Garioch and Knockdhu are made.

Further south is Fettercairn, and Glencadam, at Brechin, which produces an unusual creamy, fruity malt. The area between the Moray and the Tay has two distilleries of note;Royal Lochnagar and Glendronach. The first is a wonderfully smooth, rich whisky made in the shadow of the mountain of the same name in a distillery established in 1825 The second is also luscious and often sherried.

In the Western Highlands there only two distilleries on the mainland those of Oban and Ben Nevis. Oban is a perfect, sheltered harbour makes it the principal seaport for the Isles and the capital of the West Highlands. Its whisky has a misty, briny character, with a background of heather and peat.

The Oban whisky stills used are among the smallest in Scotland; the cramped nature of the site is attested to by the odd position of the worm tubs, fed by unusually short lyne arms, and nestled in the ‘vee’ between the roofs of the still house and an adjoining building.

The whiskies of the Central Highlands are a mixed bag. Generally they are lighter-bodied and sweeter that their cousins to the east, but not as sweet as Speysides.

The Central Highland single malts used to be known as ‘Perthshire Whiskies’. Most are found along the valleys of the Tay and its tributaries.  The furthest north is Dalwhinnie, which is almost in Speyside indeed; it is at the very head of the river, over sixty miles from Grantown-on-Spey.

Blair Athol and Edradour whisky distilleries are both near Pitlochrie. The former was founded in the 1790s and was substantially rebuilt in 1949 Edradour is the smallest distillery in Scotland – a happy survivor of the days of ‘farm distilleries’ – yet produces a clean, fresh, attractive and justly popular whisky.

South again is Aberfeldy distillery, on the edge of the pretty town of the same name. Glenturret, at Crieff is one of the claimants to being the oldest distillery, although it was dismantled in the 1920s and is much changed.

And if you are visiting the Highlands, please consider my Bed and Breakfast, Bannerman Bed and Breakfast.

 

For a Great Day Out From Inverness – Visit Rothiemurchus

rothiemurchus

For a great day out from Inverness here’s an idea – visit Rothiemurchus in the Scottish Highlands.  It’s just south of Aviemore and about 45 minutes drive from Inverness.

For centuries nature and people have lived in harmony in Rothiemurchus.  At its heart lies one of the largest areas of natural forest in Britain with an extraordinary variety of wildlife that depends on it for survival.  Eighteen generations of Grants of Rothiemurchus and other families who have put love and care into maintaining the land for over 450 years, mean we can enjoy this unique environment today.

By enjoying Rothiemurchus you can help:  profits from activities, car parking, shops and other commercial activities are ploughed back into the care of this family  owned estate to enable sustainable stewardship of the forest and for wildlife  to thrive.

You can go there simply to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and countryside, take a picnic and make the most of the great outdoors.  Or you may want to take part in the activities available both on land or on the water – canoeing, rafting, photography, pony trekking or archery are just a few examples.

If that sounds way too energetic you can also take in the farm shop and deli, full of local produce and the gift shop to browse.  Plus there’s also the Druie Restaurant Cafe for when you’re ready to rest and enjoy a delicious meal.

It seems quite possible that you will fall in love with this place when you visit, so you’ll be pleased to know you can also book private events here too.  Weddings can be held in the Victorian shooting lodge, set right in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park and featuring it’s own private picturesque loch.

So I hope you’ll be making a plan to see this stunning setting for yourself for yourself.

 

5 Favourite Beaches on the Moray Firth

We are very fortunate to have some beautiful beaches in Scotland and here I’ve picked my 5 favourite beaches on the Moray Firth.  The furthest is about an hour and a quarter’s drive.  Since our weather is frequently described as ‘changeable’ these are not the kind of beaches you’ll find rows of sunloungers for tourists to top up their golden tans even in the height of the summer.  But most of these beaches have fine, golden sand and offer stunning views all around and a great opportunity to stretch your legs and possibly stick a toe in the water if you’re feeling brave.

Nairn Beach

.nairn beachNairn is about half an hour’s drive from here along the Moray coast.  It has been a popular seaside town since Victorian times and recently came 10th in a poll of Britain’s best beaches.  Nairn Beach enjoys one of the sunniest climates in the country and has amazing views across the Moray Firth to the Black Isles and the coastline is home to a resident school of dolphins

 

Lossiemouth – East and West

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East Beach at Lossiemouth

With a choice of two beautiful beaches Lossiemouth is a lovely little town.  Situated on the Moray coast, just over an hour’s drive from here and about 5 miles from Elgin the county town of Moray, Lossiemouth is home to the Royal Air Force and seaside amenities.  The east beach is the first beach you see as you enter the town and is accessed by a wooden pedestrian beach.  The west beach is at the other side of town overlooked by the golf course and caravan park.  If you’re lucky you’ll get a great view of air force jets taking off from the air base.

 

 

 

 

Dornoch

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Dogs love a walk on Dornoch beach

The Royal Burgh of Dornoch is an historic small town on the edge of the Dornoch Firth and just over an hour’s drive from Inverness.  Dornoch beach is an officially designated E.C. Bathing Beach and has been given rural ‘Seaside Award’ Status 2012 as a clean bathing beach. Miles of golden sand stretch from Dornoch Point heading past Embo beach to the mouth of Loch Fleet National Nature Reserve.

 

 Rosemarkie

 

rosemarkie beachRosemarkie fronts on a wide, picturesque bay, with views of Fort George and the Moray coastline across the Moray Firth. Rosemarkie has one of the finest beaches on the Moray Firth Coast Line. At the southern end of the beach is Chanonry Point, reputed to be the best location on the United Kingdom mainland from which to see dolphins.

 

 

 

Loch Ness at Dores Village

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Loch Ness at the Dores Inn

Strictly speak this isn’t a beach but it’s still a favourite shore to walk the dog.  If you park your car at the Dores Inn, you’ll find yourself at the edge of Loch Ness with stunning views in front of you.  The shoreline is stones, rather than sand, but it’s a great place for a walk before or after lunch at the lovely pub, the Dores Inn.  After a bracing walk it’s always nice to warm yourself next to the log burning stove.

Eden Court Theatre is a real gem of a theatre and is only a stone’s throw away from here.  As an all in one venue serving not only Inverness but the whole of the Highlands, it’s a community theatre, arts centre and cinema.  With it’s striking modern building situated on the banks of the River Ness, people come from far and wide to see a huge range of shows, from comedy to drama to music and dance.

eden court

Eden Court Theatre

It originally opened in 1976, with an 80-foot wide stage with a motorised centre which can be adapted for different performances or moved back to reveal an orchestra pit for 60 musicians. The horseshoe shaped auditorium comfortably seats 830 or for smaller scale performances, with the upper tiers dark, it has the feel of a more intimate theatre.  The theatre is sited in the grounds of what had been the official residence of the Bishops of Moray. Built in the nineteenth century for Bishop Robert Eden, the house was incorporated into the new arts centre.By the turn of the century it was apparent that the existing buildings were no longer adequate. Eden Court was successfully attracting visitors from all over the region not just to watch but also to take part in community events and the arts education activities on offer. Following a major appeal and two years of closure Eden Court reopened in November 2007 as the one of the best equipped arts centres in the country. The Victorian Bishop’s Palace and 1976 theatre, both Grade A Listed, were retained and two new extensions added providing a second theatre, two new cinemas, two dance and drama studios and three floors of purpose built dressing rooms, into what is now the biggest arts centre in Scotland.

Whatever your taste in arts, you’ll find something of interest at Eden Court Theatre.  In the last few years I’ve enjoyed the ballet, cinema, concerts and comedy acts.  In one year I managed to see performances by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Proclaimers, Michael Macintyre and a number of great films.  It’s also a great spot for meeting people, with a comfortable cafe overlooking the riverside open all day.

 

Take a Full on Adventure

To make your holiday in Scotland trully memorable, Full on Adventure is a great suggestion for a unique experience.  Full on Adventure is a company less than 45 minutes drive from here, who are innovators of adventure in the Highlands of Scotland.  Based in Aviemore, at the hub of the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands, they have a passion for outdoor adventures and wild experiences.

They work throughout Scotland, the UK and beyond. Whether it’s White Water Adventure River Tubing, Rafting, Canyoning, Mountain Biking, Climbing, Scrambling, adventure sports coaching or guiding – whether it’s fun, the thrill of adventure or a physical challenge you’re looking for, there’s something for everyone.

Full on Adventure

Kayaking on the River Spey

Excellent Coaching

For all Adventure activities, training courses and tours you’ll receive excellent coaching and guiding from the experienced and qualified team. The best quality equipment is provided as well.  By travelling widely they have collected great ideas from overseas and adapted them for Scotland. Very often this involves adding thick wetsuits and the best quality warm kit to ensure the activities work in our variable climate.

For the passed 5 years Full On Adventure have teamed up with Rothiemurchus estate to offer a range of watersports activities on the local estate. Families and groups that visit Rothiemurchus can now take part in exciting activities only 5 minutes out of Aviemore. In 2012 they opened a new base and heated indoor changing rooms on Rothiemurchus at Inverdruie. This base is on the ski road just minutes from Aviemore centre, next to the tennis club and over the road from Tree Zone.

You can see for yourself there are plenty of 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor from families and adult groups and so you can see how popular these awesome activities are with the best instructors and the highest quality equipment. Now Aviemore is really exploding as the real adventure hub of the Scottish highlands, with so much to do in the area this really is a great place to visit on your adventures.

Exploring Caithness & Sutherland

If you use Inverness as a base for your holiday, exploring Caithness & Sutherland is one of the things you should do whilst staying here.  The wide expanses of the north Highlands offer a sense of space and tranquility unlike that found anywhere else.  The area includes three National Scenic Areas – Scotland’s finest landscapes.

Three dramatically different coasts await you.  The east cost entices with glittering estuaries, salmon rivers, historical fishing villages and lovely woodlands.  The rugged splendour of north west Sutherland inspires world class geology, breath-taking mountains and a rich natural environment.  As you travel across the top coast, the landscape becomes gentler and gives way to fertile farmlands and the rich archeological hertitage of Caithness, where you will find the most northly point on the British mainland and stunning sea views.

Spring or early summer are the best time for nesting seabirds and abundant wildflowers.  Summer brings a chance to see ospreys fishing and seal pups sunning themselves on sand banks.  Stags in the rut and spectacular colours of woodlands and hillside are a treat for the autumn, while crisp beautiful sunny days and impressive crashing sotrms make a visit in the winter a real pleasure to be savoured roun the fire at nights.

Many visitors have looked at our map of the north of Scotlands whilst staying here and thought they could drive north, across the top, down the west coast and across country back to Inverness in one day.  But unless you want to spend the entire day driving, and through some challenging roads, it’s way too much to do in one day.  There are so many places to visit, here’s just a few:

Dunrobin Castle – on of the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, Dunrobin Castle dates back to the early 1300s.  Home to the Earls and later the Dukes of Sutherland, the castle is perched on a high terrace with beautiful walled gardens.  Daily falconry displays take place on the lawns. Open April – October.

Dunnet Head – Dunnet Head is the most northerly point on the UK mainland.  The few miles between the village to the lighthouse offer magnificent cliff-top views of Orkney.  In early summer, the cliffs are alive with seabirds such as fulmar and puffins.  Dunnet Head is managed by the RSPB.

Stacks of Duncansby – Duncansby offers a dramatic experience.  These imposing pyramidal stacks have been isolated by the retreat of the cliffs.  Superb views can be had from the coastal path where the best views of huge seabird colonies can be gained.

Scottish Natural Heritage provide a great deal of information on Scotland’s nature and how you can enjoy the great outdoors.

Exploring Caithness and Sutherland

Enjoy the Scottish Landscape

Inverness Half Marathon Accommodation in a Perfect Location

If you’re still looking for bed and breakfast accommodation for the Inverness Half Marathon on 9th March 2014, then Bannerman Bed and Breakfast is just what you’re looking for.   With both the start and the finish of the race only a few minutes walk away, then this is a great base for you to prepare for and recuperate from the race.

Inverness Marathon

The race start is in the Bught Park at 12.30 on 9th and the finish is in the Queen’s Park Stadium in the Inverness Sports Centre both of which are a short walk from here.  In addition to the Half Marathon there’s also a 5K fun race for all the family and the 5K team attack.

 

 

 

Bannerman Bed and Breakfast is a small, stylish bed and breakfast with 4 comfortable bedrooms.  Each room has ensuite facilities, flat-screen TV with DVD player, clock/radio/ipod dock, hairdryer, tea/coffee and free wifi.  Free off-road parking is available.  We are walking distance from the town centre as well as a perfect location for the marathon.

A healthy start to the day

A healthy start to the day 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we frequently welcome runners here, we are accustomed to encouraging nervous runners on race day and provide a nutritious breakfast including a filling bowl of porridge to help get you round the route.

The Global Energy Inverness ½ Marathon starts along the banks of the River Ness near the centre of Inverness, the Highland capital.  It then follows the river, running beneath the dramatic outline of Inverness Castle. A warm welcome finally awaits all runners as they approach the finish line on entering the city’s Queen’s Park Stadium – achieved by over 3400 runners in 2013 and many others over the decades it has been staged.  So the challenge is there: a beautiful run over a course suitable for all levels of ability. We invite you to take your place on the start line on Sunday 9th March in 2014 – so why don’t you come along and join in the fun!

Vegetarian Breakfast

New Vegetarian Breakfast

Coming soon … our new vegetarian breakfast choice, Home-made Vegetable Slice!

Vegetarian Breakfast
A delicious option for a healthy start to the day.

Made with vegetables, porridge oats, pine nuts and spinach this new additional to the breakfast menu will be available soon.  This is the third prototype I’ve made recently and even though I say it myself it’s delicious.  As an alternative to the usual meat options for breakfast like the Full Highland Breakfast, this is both healthy and tasty but not at all heavy.  The vegetable slice will be served with mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and a fried egg.

 

 

I am still putting a few finishing touches to our new breakfast menu but will be launching this in the next few weeks.  We already offer vegetarian options like vegetarian sausages served with mushrooms, tomatoes and egg and the fried egg sandwich.  Try this as a great start to the day and there’s nothing healthier than porridge to start your day.  A great favourite with marathon runners and all you non-athletes.  We will be offering all your favourites on the current menu with some new enhanced dishes.

You may choose to eat vegetarian food for a variety of reasons, whether it’s religious or moral grounds or for health reasons you’ll find plenty of choice here.  Of course there’s still the traditional Full Highland breakfast comprising steak sausage, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and egg which is hugely popular.  But if you’re here for a few days you can try something different each day.  We are happy to cater for special diets and if you let us know in advance we can get alternatives for your breakfast such as glutein free bread and muesli and soya milk.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, as the say, so let’s get the day off to a great start and let you make the most of your holiday.

 

Escape the Winter Weather

Sick of the rain and floods?  Fed up with wearing wellies?  Then head north to Inverness and escape the floods.  Believe it or not the Highlands are experiencing great weather for the time of year.  Yes of course there’s the odd shower of rain… or windy day but on the whole the snow is where we like it to be, in the mountains.  Last week I cut the grass here at Bannerman Bed and Breakfast, at least a month earlier than normal and in January the north of Scotland experienced less than average rainfall.

A Walk round the Ness Islands

Here’s Barney enjoying a beautiful walk through the Bught Park and then around the Ness Islands, only a short walk from Bannerman Bed and Breakfast.
Barney on the Ness Islands Barney in the Bught
If you’re tired of staying indoors because the weather is so bad and the news is full of doom and gloom, there are places in the UK where you can get away from it all.  Our thoughts are with those affected by the terrible weather and we hope everyone keeps safe but the whole of the UK is not affected by the storms and the conditions in the north of the country are much better.   There are great skiing conditions in the Cairngorms and the Nevis Mountain Range.  The salmon fishing season is already underway and we’ve seen fisherman in the River Ness waist deep in the water in the last couple of weeks.
Of course you don’t have to be enjoying the outdoors.  If that’s not for you, there’s plenty in the area that can be enjoyed from inside.  Inverness has a fantastic choice of restaurants and bars and a selection of shops to meet every budget.  With Eden Court Theatre only a few minutes walk from here and a number of pubs featuring live music, there’s entertainment for all.
Need I say more, head for the A9…