Travel review: Ballachulish Hotel, Scotland

The Segway is, beyond the tiniest shadow of a doubt, the most entertaining form of transport ever invented.

Sunday, 3rd March 2013, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 12th April 2018, 1:31 pm
The Ballachulish Hotel enjoys breathtaking views on the shores of Loch Linnhe and Loch Leven.

Admittedly, I've never tried to get to work on one.

In fact, this bold proclamation is based entirely on just over an hour of carefree hurtling across a picturesque Scottish golf course.

Nevertheless, even after such limited experience (which included one pretty spectacular tumble), I was totally converted and ready to trade in my car, my bike and my nephew's skateboard to get my hands on one.

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And the Segway wasn't the only revelation during our all-too-brief trip north of the border to the tiny village of Ballachulish, near Glencoe.

After some deliberation and much checking of road atlases, we'd decided to drive all the way up and take in what looked to be some pretty spectacular countryside.

While I'll concede the car journey was exhaustingly long (just over six hours to be exact), we certainly weren't disappointed with the views once we'd officially crossed into Scotland.

Driving across endless moorland, between a succession of imposing peaks and finally along the shores of the mirror-like Loch Leven, we both remarked how difficult it was to believe that we were still on the same island.

Picture postcard scenery notwithstanding though, we had both spent more than enough time in the car to last us a good few days and were in need of some respite by the time we arrived at the hotel we that we would be calling home for the next couple of days.

Pulling into the gravelled carpark of the Ballachulish Hotel, we immediately felt a powerful sense of history thanks in no small part to the breathtaking view across the adjoining loch. And as we went inside it became ever clearer that this was a place where character, charm and personality are the primary selling points.

The hotel isn't in the least bit flashy and it certainly isn't modern. What it is is warm, welcoming, incredibly comfortable and full of a tangible sense of pride in its heritage.

We wasted no time in exploring, and quickly discovered two common rooms, both with roaring open fires, pianos, one vintage typewriter, a selection of ageing books and board games and at least three guests quietly snoozing the afternoon away in various corners.

Our own room was very much in keeping with the baronial theme '“ homely and without any razzle dazzle but amazingly cozy and relaxing.

Both the evenings we stayed passed very much the same. A brilliantly-cooked dinner in the huge restaurant overlooking the loch and then a few games of Scrabble next to the open fire. We really did need all that relaxation after the days too, which were all about adventure.

The first morning we rose bright and early and trotted just a few hundred yards away to the fabulously named Dragon's Tooth golf course, right next to the hotel. That's where we both fell in love with Segwaying.

For those of you who don't know, the Segway is a two-wheeled, battery-powered electric vehicle which you control the direction and speed of simply by shifting your balance.

After a couple of minutes of running through the basics and being kitted out with helmets, we were soon whizzing across the course.

We were told the nifty devices only have a top speed of around 12mph, but once you've got the hang of it, it feels like you're flying along and it really is incredibly good fun.

Perhaps a little bit too much fun for me, which gave rise to a regrettable over-exuberance that in turn led to me tumbling from my beloved Segway and crashing to the ground in a rather embarrassing heap.

It wasn't enough to put me off though and I limped back to the hotel dreaming of dumping my trusty car and rattling along the motorway with the wind in my hair all the way home.

With most models coming in at more than £5,000 though, alas, it had to remain a dream.

The next day began rather less energetically when we decide dto take a short drive to the nearby town of Fort William, which holds the questionable distinction of being one of the rainiest places in the UK.

We found shelter from the weather by ducking inside the town's little museum, which turned out to provide a really fascinating and comprehensive insight into the history of the area. After soaking up a bit of culture though, we headed off for what we hoped would be the highlight of the trip '“ an afternoon scaling the heights at the Ice Factor climbing centre.

When we finally found the centre (it's hidden in another tiny village) we were given a run through of the basics by our instructor, strapped in and then got straight into it.

It wasn't just the usual climbing walls though. We also got to take on the Ice Factor's indoor ice climbing '“ a spectacular 50ft wall of sheer ice and snow contained in what is essentially a giant freezer.

We spent most of the day negotiating walls of various difficulties in what was quite honestly one of the most challenging, physically exhausting and exhilarating experiences of our lives. And by the end of it all we were more than ready for home and actually rather grateful that, instead of a Segway, we had a nice, warm car to get us there.

FACTFILE

The Ballachulish Hotel sits on the shores of Loch Linnhe and Loch Leven at the foot of dramatic Glencoe.

It includes the Bulas Bar & Bistro and nearby activities include skiing walking and running trails, climbing, mountain biking and sailing.

Guests at Ballachulish can make full use of the leisure pool and sauna.

Visit www.ballachulish-hotel.co.uk or to book call (0) 1764 651 842 Special offer include 2 nights for just £89 per person.