From Inverness I headed south-west, along the Great Glen, to Fort William. Fort William is the only other town of any size in the Highlands, besides Inverness, and is more or less at the foot of the Ben Nevis range. It sits on the edge of Loch Linnhe, Scotland's longest sea loch. It's an incredibly picturesque part of the world.
Accommodation in Fort William was non-existent because of the annual mountain bike World Cup - as usual, I hadn't done my homework! However, I found two hotels about 20 minutes south, along Loch Linnhe, so was able to park myself in the area for a week. I don't normally do hotel reviews but will make an exception here as the difference between the two hotels was unbelievable.
The first, the Holly Tree, was as a hotel should be: comfortable, spacious room, excellent restaurant (seafood to die for!), friendly helpful staff and great views across the loch. Well, they would have been great views if not for the low cloud blanketing everything out. I spent 2 nights/one day there and used it as a rest day basically. I pretty much spent the day in the bar area; playing on the laptop, reading and chatting with the staff. The weather was rubbish so there was no incentive to go sightseeing. The place was booked out for the rest of the week so I had to move on....
....to the Stewart Hotel, about 5 minutes down the road in a little place called Glen Duror, still on Loch Linnhe. The hotel is a couple of miles inland from the loch but still has nice views across farmland with the loch in the far distance. This place makes Fawlty Towers look good. I'd booked in for 4 nights through Expedia so it was paid for in advance. I'd have left otherwise. For the first 2 nights/3 days there was no hot water. At first, this was blamed on the Contiki coach group that was there on the first night (for using all the hot water), but later it was admitted that the boiler was broken. The lack of urgency about getting it fixed was mind boggling.
The whole time I was there my room was not cleaned once. The reason I was given was that I had the room key. Huh? When I asked why the cleaning staff didn't have a master key I was met with blank stares. As far as I could make out there is no cleaning staff.
Breakfast time was a joke. Dirty/used dishes weren't cleared away until everyone had finished and left the restaurant area. When I arrived for breakfast, about 8am, the Contiki group were just loading themselves on to their coach. The breakfast room was still full of their breakfast remains. There was literally nowhere to sit. The bar area was also littered, still, with the night before's dirty glasses. The same thing happened again the next night/morning except this time it was a coach group of French tourists. I heard someone ask for scrambled eggs, instead of the poached variety served as standard. Not possible was the reply. Not possible? Ridiculous. After the first morning I gave up on breakfast, just had cereal and coffee. Even the coffee pot had old coffee stains on it.
The owner/manager had taken off to London for the weekend and left 3 young guys in charge. They were it as far as staff goes and were totally clueless. I overheard one couple demanding a partial refund due to the lack of hot water and the breakfast situation but the "reception" guy (who'd quickly changed from being the "breakfast" guy) kept saying he wasn't authorised to give refunds. The customer demanded to speak to the manager, he wasn't there. So he demanded that he speak to him on the phone. The reception guy called him but then hung up. "He doesn't want to speak to you." Needless to say, that couple left in a fury. I also overheard, twice, the reception guy try to double charge people who'd paid in advance: here's the bill, you can pay cash please.
(I heard all this because the reception/lounge area was the only place there was a wifi signal so I was sat there with my laptop.)
I think the hotel has some sort of arrangement with coach companies who bring their coach loads in for an overnight stay. I can't imagine how else they could stay in business.
I'm not making this up.
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