Bannerman’s New Ensuite Bathrooms

We’re proud to announce our remaining rooms, the Snug and the Eden rooms, now have completely refurbished ensuite bathrooms and are looking very smart in time for the forthcoming season.  This follows the upgrading of the other two rooms, Macintosh and Fraser last year.  Now all four rooms have new showers, WC, basin and heated towel rail as well as a bright and refreshing finish.  The new bathroom mirrors are fitted with a de-mister so they don’t get steamed up whilst you have a shower and include a sensor light and power socket for shaver or electric toothbrush.

In addition we provide towels and complimentary toiletries from Scottish Fine Soap.  We’re often asked by guests where they can buy them from when they get home, so we’ve provided a link to their site.

The Snug Bathroom

The Snug Bathroom

Of course there’s more to Bannerman Bed and Breakfast than just the bathrooms.  With 4 stylish and comfortable rooms, we offer the comforts of home with the service you need to enjoy your stay.  But the days of queuing in a drafty corridor for the bathroom are long gone.  You may think nostagically for times gone by but our expectations are for higher standards of facilities these days.  We used to think having a basin in a b&b bedroom was quite fancy.  Now we’re looking for an ensuite bathroom with modern facilities.

It’s great to start the day with a refreshing shower followed by a hearty breakfast to set you up for the day.  Whether you are here for sport, a hill-walker or you’ve just enjoyed a busy day of sight-seeing, it’s always good to know there’s a plentiful supply of hot water back at your bed and breakfast so you can spruce up before you go out for the evening.

The Eden Bathroom

The Eden Bathroom

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A Loch Ness Monster soup ladle will add mystery to your soup recipes. A must have addition to the kitchen is thís soup ladle based on our beloved Loch Ness monster, Nessie. You know you want one don’t you?!

Demand for these ladles has been huge and they have appeared all over the world, such is the fascination with the Loch Ness Monster and of course it’s an excellent product.  Who doesn’t want to see our Nessie peeping out of the soup pot!  Supplies are out of stock in many countries but due to be available again in April 2015 so not long to go – try Red Candy in the UK.

So now that you’ve got your Nessie inspired soup ladle, you’ll need the recipe for Scotch Broth.  This is a traditional Scottish soup, made from a bit of everything and designed to be very filling.  Ingredients can be substituted but ideally it’s made the night before to allow the flavour to develop.

Ingredients

75g pearl barley and 75g split pease

1kg of neck or mutton or lamb

1 large onion

1 large leek

1 neep (turnip)

approx 2 litres of water, depending on thickness required

3 carrots

2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley

salt and pepper

Method

Pre-soak the barley and split peas

Chop all the vegetables

Soften the chopped onion in a little cooking oil.  Once softened add the water and meat and boil, skimming off any fatty deposits from the top.

After boiling for about half an hour add the barley and peas and simmer for another 30 minutes

Add the remaining vegetables

Remove the bone, strip off the meat the return this to the pot.

Add parsley before serving, perfect with warm crusty bread.

Delicious and nutritious and very warming after exploring the Scottish countryside.  Don’t let a soup ladle be your only Monstrous experience – come and see the real thing!

How to drink whisky

Do you need advice on the best way to appreciate whisky?  Have you always thought it looks like a good idea but you are confused about the dos and don’ts of whisky-drinking.  Here’s a fascinating article to help you.  It reminds us all that, as with most things in life, it’s not about etiquette or snobbishness,  it’s all about your personal preference.  5 Myth-Busting Ways to Improve Your Whisky Drinking

It’s not surprising that it’s confusing, with hundreds of different malts distilled in Scotland alone.  The industry is currently booming with exports increasing throughout the world.  Along with our cashmere, tweed, fishing and farming produce, you can appreciate  the fruits of our labours thoughout the world.

You can find out a great deal about the industry visiting the many distilleries in Scotland.  Even the smallest are aware of the interest by tourists and most have organised tours of their facilities and the all important tasting session at the end of the visit.   You don’t have to go too far to find the Malt Whisky Trail, with its concentration of 7 distilleries in a few square miles and includes the Speyside Cooperage where they make the barrels for storage.

With so many whiskys to choose you could spend a lifetime finding the one that suits you best, but think what fun you would have trying and testing! Picture yourself in front of a roaring fire, relaxed on a comfortable sofa, nursing a glass of single malt in a heavy crystal glass.  Imagine you are in an advert with David Beckham, being directed by Guy Ritchie.  If this doesn’t convert you to the glamour and coolness of the refined act of whisky drinking, nothing will.  And remember point number 5 in the myth-busting article – Leave a whisky bottle open for too long and it loses its flavour.

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Have a wee dram

 

 

 

Inverness Highland Games

Your Guide to the Highland Games in Scotland in 2014

With a bit of planning and co-ordination you could spend your entire holiday attending Highland Games in Scotland in 2014.  In the summer months there’s an event happening most weekend somewhere in Scotland and the spectacle is worth a visit at least once on your holiday.  Highland Games are a great family event celebrating the culture of Scotland with sport, music and dance.  The event can vary in size from a small village gathering to the famous Braemar Highland Gathering which attracts visitors and competitors from all over the world and last year attracted an attendance of around 16,000 people.  That’s not bad for a village with around 900 inhabitants the rest of the year, but clearly the attendance of the Royal Family is a big draw.

Heavy Events

The traditional view of a kilted man up-ending an enormous tree trunk or Tossing the Kayber can be seen at the games.  Inverness holds a unique place in Highland Games history as the Northern Meeting Games of 1822 featured stone lifting – a world first at any Games.  From 12th to 14th September the Highland Strongman Show will return to the Northern Meeting Park and feature the original stone lifting challenge of lifting a 252 pound stone over a 5 foot bar.  This is in addition to the annual Inverness Highland Games on 19th July.

 

Piping and Dancing

The Games are as much about music and dancing as they are about sports.  The impressive sight of competing marching pipe bands can be seen today as well as demonstations of traditional Highland dancing.  Originally clan chieftains would have pitted their pipers against those of other clans and the prestige that cam from success was considerable.    The competitve element is a major attraction in its own right but when combined with the spectacle of Highland dancers and pipers, and the colour and grandour of the scenery which forms the backdrop, attendance of a Highland games becomes a must on any visitor’s Scotland itinerary.

For the full schedule of Highland Games in Scotland in 2014 click for dates and ticket information.

 

 

Eilean Donan Castle, a beautiful drive from Inverness

Highland Weddings

You may already have received your share of wedding invitations for the coming year.  As well as deciding what on earth to wear and what to buy as a wedding gift, you may well also need to find some wedding accommodation to make the most of your stay.  As weddings have changed over the years from the traditional church service followed by a reception in a hotel, they can now be quite self-contained with the wedding service, reception and dance all taking place under the one roof.  There’s a great choice of romantic settings in the Scottish Highlands including luxurious country estates and traditional castles.  There was great excitement in these parts when Madonna chose Skibo Castle, near Dornoch in Sutherland for her marriage to Guy Ritchie.

Tartan Wedding

One of the obvious characteristics of highland weddings is seeing men in traditional Scottish dress.  In the same way that men in formal black tie attire is very smart, formal Highland dress is equally striking.  For men who don’t have a kilt, don’t worry, there are any places you can hire all the gear such as Boarstone Tartans in Inverness.  Not only can you hire a kilt or dinner suit, they can advise you on exactly what you need to order down to where to put your skean dhu.  For ladies the dress code is the same as everywhere else, whether it’s a hat wedding or not.

Highland Fling

Another distinctive part of a typical Scottish wedding is the ceilidh dance which takes place after the wedding reception.  Ideally with a traditional band to play an array of Scottish country music that will have you on your feet for the rest of the night.  Don’t worry if you’re not familiar with Scottish country dancing.  There’s usually a caller to shout instructions and you may find your more familiar than you think with an Eightsome Reel, a Dashing White Sargeant or the Flying Scotsman.  Either way it’s great fun and you wont be surprised if you’re whisked off your feet.

It may seem obvious to many but I thought I’d let you know the 5 essential items I think you need on your Scottish vacation.  If it’s the first time you’ve had a holiday in Scotland here are a few tips.

1. Camera

I’m sure it’s first on your list where-ever you travel, but just in case you didn’t know the scenery in Scotland it’s amongst the best in the world.  Whatever technology you prefer you will find yourself grabbing it at every moment, whether it’s an elusive glimpse of the Loch Ness Monster, a selfie atop a mountain peak or for keeping a diary of all the lovely meals you’ve had and places you’ve stayed.

2. Insect Spray

A good insect repellent is essential to avoid midge bites.  The Scottish midge (pronounced mid-jee) is present during the summer months in the countryside, particularly when you’re near water as they like damp conditions.  Prevalent at dawn and dusk midges are a nuisance if you’re prone to insect bites.  You can also keep ahead of these annoying beasties by checking the midge forecast.

3. Walking Shoes/Boots

If you want to make the most of your time here, you’ll need some good walking shoes.  Whether it’s hiking in the countryside, walking along some of our golden beaches or touring the grounds of a Scottish castle you’ll avoid blisters with some sensible shoes.

4. All Weather gear

I’ve lived in the UK all my life.  It’s only since running a bed an breakfast and meeting visitors from all over the world that I’ve realised why the British are obsessed with the weather and why the rest of the world is puzzled by this.  It’s because it’s so much more changeable on our small island.  In this country we can’t plan to have a picnic in 2 weeks time.  We wait to see the weather forecast for tomorrow and then decide.  In the Scottish Highlands it’s particularly changeable but the good part is if you keep your plans flexible you can often travel out of the rain and make the most of the sunshine.  For that reason I suggest sunglasses, hat, an umbrella, a waterproof jacket and layered clothing.

5. An Adventurous Spirit

Like visiting any country for the first time, your experience will be so much more memorable if you embrace the culture.  You may find our roads a little smaller than you’re used to and the weather’s a little unpredictable but if you try the local food, visit local events and find out about local customs your holiday will be all the more special.  Ask your host questions and you’ll find there’s so much to see and do, as soon as your holiday is coming to an end you’ll be planning your next trip.

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Easter in Inverness

For some Easter is an important religious festival and for some it’s a holiday and an excuse to eat chocolate.  Whatever your beliefs it’s an opportunity to spend time with family and enjoy the slightly warmer temperatures.  Here in Inverness it marks the start of the tourist season when many of the attractions and places of interest open their doors to the public or extend their opening times for larger numbers of visitors.

Brodie Castle and Dunrobin Castle are now open for the summer season and both fascinating places to visit.  There are more trips available at Jacobite Cruises on Loch Ness and Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre has extended the opening hours.  Within Inverness the Floral Hall and Museum and Art Gallery are both worth a visit.  We also have a great selection of shops both familiar chains and independent stores particularly in the Victorian Market.  Today I caught the first glimpse of the open top hop on, hop off city bus tour which also marks the start of more visitors.

The Great Easter Egg Hunt

To get into the spirit of Easter the GREAT Easter Egg Hunt will take place on Friday 18th and Saturday 19th April from 11am-4pm in the town centre of Inverness.  You can follow a set of cracking clues to find hidden eggs in shop windows – 5 in the old town and 5 in Eastgate Centre.  Pick up your entry form and clues on the day from the the Falcon Square entrance at Eastgate’s or the Tolbooth Steeple (opposite the Town House).   Entertainment on the day includes giant Easter bunnies & teddies and the Madhatter & friend doing circus tricks.  Crafty Monkeys will be there with ceramic Easter egg painting as well as a fantastic face painter.   Out on Falcon Square Velocity will have their fun new bike track set up for all ages to enjoy.   Lots going on for ALL the family to enjoy in Inverness city centre this Easter.  All correct entries will be entered into a draw to win one of four £50 Eastgate shopping vouchers.

 

Cruise on Loch Ness – a fabulous way to go monster hunting

As the clocks change to British Summer Time this weekend it marks the start of the new season for many tourist attractions, including a cruise on Loch Ness. Although open 12 months of the year Jacobite Cruises start their summer schedule this month with more trips scheduled and more places to start the tour.  You don’t need to have your own transport to get to Loch Ness as there are pick up points from the town centre by coach and the option to sail from Tomnahurich Bridge on the Caledonian Canal, which is less than 10 minutes walk from here.

Jacobite Loch Ness Cruises is a 5 star rated tourist attraction by VisitScotland and gets rave reviews from our guests.  For visitors to Inverness, Loch Ness is a must-see place to visit and a cruise on the loch gives you fantastic views of the stunning scenery around Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle which you can’t see when travelling by road.  There are options as well to visit the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit as part of your trip.

With various options on how long you want to travel on a boat cruise, many of the trips include a visit to Urquhart Castle which is included in the price.  Urquhart Castle is a ruinned castle built on the banks of Loch Ness around 700 AD.  Again this gives the opportunity for unique views of the Loch that can’t be seen from the road as the castle is built into the cliff.

If you’re wondering “What can I do on my Jacobite Cruise?” here’s some suggestions.  Well first of all there’s just breathing in the fine fresh air and drinking in the vast, never-ending views of one of the most iconic lochs in the world.  You can take some great photographs from inside and outside the cabin or you can relax with a Costa coffee and a snack.  If you need to be warmed from the Loch Ness breeze, you can try some Scottish whisky or a lovely hot chocolate.  You can watch for hidden happenings on the sonar screen or listen to the commentary pointing out landmarks around the loch.

So are you ready for some monster hunting?

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Loch Ness

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The view of Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

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.  It doesn’t usually provide 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.

Beware tempting offers

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.