Saturday, January 05, 2008

Hogmanay in Fort William

Faced with a dismal menu of TV programmes over the New Year break, not having tickets for the Glasgow Hogmanay celebrations and the weather across the central belt looking very bleak indeed, we headed north to Fort William and potentially better weather, maybe even some of the white stuff. Setting off just after lunch, we arrived at about half past three, just as the sun was starting to go down.

Loch Linnhe Sunset on HogmanayLoch Linnhe Sunset On Hogmanay


As usual we left it to the last minute to decide on going. That and the fact that our wireless router had given up the ghost left us with very little choice of accommodation and not much in the way of a means to locate more options.

Anyway, Lorna ploughed though her pile of old business cards and tourist information brochures and called one we'd stayed at some years before, Blythdale, and which we'd remembered as being okay with some pretty good views out over Loch Linnhe, but they didn't have any room and suggested we try their neighbour at Balcarres. Luckily they had a room but, being the New Year and with them touting the fact that they had a four-star rating from the Scottish Tourist Agency, it wasn't that cheap but we took it anyway.

Unfortunately we couldn't really recommend Balcarres to anyone planning on staying in Fort William. Their web site makes it look not too bad and the owner was pleasant enough but the accommodation is definitely in need of a bit of renovation. The decor looked like it was last done in the 1980s, there were damp patches in one corner of the room, the bathroom radiator didn't work at all, there were mould stains round the shower and the TV was so old, the remote didn't work very well at all.

I've no idea when they got their four-star rating but it's in serious need of re-evaluation. We've stayed in two-star B&Bs with better facilities, etc. We even had to ask for fresh towels on the second day. These comments have been passed on to the tourist agency.

Eating Out

We booked a table at the Highland Star Chinese restaurant on High Street as we'd eaten there before a few times and it had always been pretty good. It was quieter than we'd expected but that could have been because of the time of year. It's usually packed during the main summer season.

Still, the food was good as usual and the service quick and friendly. The menu is pretty straightforward Chinese fair with nothing extraordinary on offer but it's always been good in the past and it's happily free of MSG as I usually get a pretty severe headache next day after eating anything tainted by it. If you fancy a Chinese meal in Fort William, then I'd recommend it.

The Entertainment

So, well fed and looking for some entertainment to see us through the bells, we wandered down High Street to see what was on offer. We already knew that there was a Hogmanay Ceilidh on at the Nevis Centre but it was ticket only and was predicted to be a sell out as it had been the previous couple of years. If we'd known we were going to Fort William earlier in the year, then we might have tried to get tickets. However, there were quite a few lads wandering around town in formal Highland Dress, obviously heading for the Ceilidh so it may well have been too posh for the likes of us.

With quite a few of the local bars staying open over the bells, we opted for the Ben Nevis Bar. It certainly seemed the liveliest and we've spent a few good nights in there before with some good live music acts as well. This time it was a disco and I know that sounds bad, almost as bad as karaoke, but it was actually quite a good night. I think we called it a night about one thirty and trudged wearily, or was was that wobbily, back to our bed.

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