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February 24, 2012

A jaunt to Tobermory for me today in the sunshine. What a pleasure. Snuffy came too, cuddled up in her basket in the passengers footwell. I feel for her missing out on the views ! Even having a dog in the car brings out the tour-guide in me.

I inspect properties up the west coast from time to time for a wonderful company called Alastair Sawday’s ( who specialise in producing guides for top end holiday accommodation with character ! It’s not enough (nor even necessary) to be 5 Star, but it has it has to be unique – different.  The company began, I believe, as a personal reaction on Alastair’s part to the plethora of high graded holiday accommodation that is formulaic and dull. He felt, that like himself, there were a great many people out there looking for something with a bit more personality and pizzazz. Hence the Guides and a successful business !

The work suits me perfectly: I’m nosey, have worked in the decorative arts for a lot of my adult life and and enjoy finding examples of  ‘best practice’  in the world of tourism. I love meeting people too and this is a key to a wonderful world of great personalities doing some curious and interesting  things, sometimes in the back of beyond !

I visited two properties today up near Tobermory , both of which were fabulous in entirely different ways. It’s an inspiration visiting some of these places -and a great relief to be able to genuinely rave about them. Another pleasure for me is writing up the reports. It’s of little use me writing neutral, polite generalities as the folk in Sawdays need colour -a sense of the place in order to decide whether or not the property is suitable for inclusion. This gives me full scope for theatricals: either arms-flung-wide enthusiasm and operatics or Old Testament lightning bolts and death by faint praise.

I had lunch in the Western Isles Hotel, which has to be one of my favourite hotels. For those of you who don’t know it, look at the website, . The location is probably world class, towering as it does above Tobermory Bay. It’s one of these rambling and comfortable big Victorian places that somehow has survived the ravages of the last century and mass tourism. It’s gone through a bit of the doldrums for the past few years but now has hugely enthusiatic new owners who are trying to bring it back to what it deserves to be. Brave souls -the costs of running, never mind renovating a place like that must be eye watering.

That said, it is a place that every visitor to Mull (Nay, Scotland !) should visit, if only to enjoy the views and to have lunch. Today I sat in the sun- flooded Bistro overlooking the harbour enjoying  ‘Steak and kidney suet pudding with rich pan jus and home made chips’ (£9.50) and ‘Chocolate fudge cake with hot chocolate sauce’ (£4.95). I was in heaven. I can’t remember when I last saw suet pudding on a menu and the chocolate fudge cake, instead of the lumpen stodge you are usually offered, was delicate and light. It almost felt healthy. I think the talanted chef, Ruedi, who comes originally from Germany, is behind the excellent menu.

And so, I returned to Iona thisevening a contented man: a car drive through the most fabulous scenery, good company (even if curled up asleep in the footwell), visits to imaginative, beautiful and best-practice holiday accommodation with charming hosts and a meal to reassure that all’s well in the world.

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