Unravelling Minds : the modern-day ‘think piece’

I’m bored of so-called “think pieces”.  They are everywhere these days, spreading like a virulent disease that is quick to spread but tricky to treat.  They used to be interesting, thought-provoking long-form essays that you’d find in the newspaper.  They’d take the form of a full-page piece which would be well-researched and which would pose an intriguing question. There’d be some discussion, ideas, questions, and references.  They were well-written and the topics varied and carefully chosen, and they’d add something to the selection of news on offer in the paper.  I used to like reading them when I was little, spreading out the big broadsheet my parents had delivered every day – The Glasgow Herald, as it was then.  The essays tended only to appear in the weekend editions, I think.

These days, the art of the thoughtful essay has degenerated into a sort of textual-verbal diarrhoea. The dominance of social media has led many publications and most newspapers to create their own online presence. My own ire at the modern think piece came to a head recently as a result of just such a social media presence – I had clicked ‘like’ on the Guardian’s Facebook page and, as a result, was subsequently bombarded with the inane and tedious ramblings of humanity.  The sorts of things that should take the shape of a quiet thoughtful moment where you turn over events or ideas in your head, perhaps discuss them with a friend or partner, are now being spat out onto the page and presented as ‘insight’.

There’s rarely any real research, certainly nothing that extends beyond asking a couple of mates for their thoughts on the topic of the day.  There are no books or studies or online journals being cited – this would probably interrupt the process of tapping out their innermost thoughts.  The torrent of outright rubbish that fills my timeline has included, recently, some fool whining about how Facebook makes a liar of everyone because people can’t be ‘real’ on it – we have to always be happy and project an image of success and unmitigated joy and this is evil Facebook’s fault and look what they’ve done to us all, we’ve all fallen into the trap of glamorous lies instead of keeping it real.  Honestly – give me a break.  If people chose to look on the bright side rather than moan, then fine.  If people want to have an outlet to get a gripe off their chest, then fine.  But don’t blame Facebook for ‘making’ you do it!

There was one about a father whose baby had fallen ill with a minor ailment.  Off he rushed to hospital with the child where they received some medication and baby thereafter returned to perfect health.  His dilemma? The fear of what might have happened to his child and how it might have affected him.  In other words, he realised in a moment of vulnerability how dearly he loved his child and was glad that the baby was none the worse for a minor infection. Seriously – that was an article.  That’s the sort of thing you discuss with your friends and together you acknowledge that being a parent can be scary and it reminds you how precious your family is.  Maybe you blog it or tweet it but that’s it. It’s not an essay, it’s not worthy of mainstream publication. It’s a just thought. It’s just an experience, we all have them.

The evolution of social media and, along with it, the idea that all ideas and opinions are both worthy and valid, has ruined the think piece.  What happened to editorial judgement?! Who is looking at these things and deciding that they’re fit to be published in mainstream media? When I read my newspaper or magazine, I want to read stimulating articles on a range of topic issues, from politics, to technology, from health to the arts.  I honestly don’t care about the existential crisis of some anonymous random who’s just had his first date night with his wife after the birth of their baby.  This is not earth-shattering news, it’s two people doing what lots of people do when trying to claim back a piece of normality in the topsy-turvy life they now inhabit since baby arrived. Take it to the message boards, where it belongs.

Clearly the simple solution to this is to ‘unlike’ the Facebook page and return to reading the newspaper in the more traditional fashion, selecting those articles which are of interest and passing over the waffle.  But I would like to make an appeal for the return of editorial scrutiny – please?


The Liberation & Joy of Knickerless Cycling

This post is unashamedly focused on the issues faced by women when cycling becomes a little more serious than a quick dash to work or to the shops.  If you are made nervous by the mention of labia or periods, then this is not the post for you!

Warnings aside, let me begin. I have recently got into cycling. I bought my first road bike in the winter of 2014. Bizarre time to buy a bike, you might think, but I got myself what I think is a pretty decent bargain by waiting for the sales. I am only 5ft tall and short of leg and this is, it seems, a bit of an issue for manufacturers of women’s bikes. (It may be the same for shorter men, I’m not sure). I went onto Evans Cycles and was browsing around feeling a little bewildered and wondering why my options were few when a little pop-up appears and a friendly adviser offered to assist.  I gave him my budget and my desires – no, not those ones, my bike desires (!) – and let him get to work. He came up with a couple of options that were out of budget but this was really because there weren’t many options in my frame size.  As it happened, one of the options, a Specialized Dolce road bike, really appealed to me and it was on sale. I found it elsewhere and then tested Evans on their price match promise – they came up trumps and gave me the bike at the discounted price I’d found elsewhere.  I was lucky – it was the last one they had left in my size.

I’ve had a few mishaps with it, mainly with riding clipless.  This term was a source of endless confusion to me at the beginning because I didn’t understand why the pedals were called clipless pedals when I was wearing special shoes that clipped into said pedals! Anyhoo – I was warned at my bike fit with Evans that I’d fall off, this was certain, they said.  They were right.  I have fallen off a few times and on one occasion I gave myself an absolute cracker of a bruise.  Well…there were 15 bruises in total but the ones on my calf were the most spectacular.  May as well do these things properly…

I’m more attuned to it now and I’m better at remembering to slow, unclip a foot, and then stop, but what I’m finding is that there is an awful lot to learn with road bikes.  You have to learn to ride differently. You really need to use your gears, you have to be very careful and alert to the roads as your skinny little tyres will be far more susceptible to pinch flats from potholes, and then there’s nutrition, maintenance and clothing.  You actually need to pay attention to all of these things – you can’t just hop on and pop off for a ride. You also need to think about safety – where will you be going, how long will you be gone, how much money will you need, do you have enough food and drink, is it the right type of food and drink, do you have any processes in place if you get stuck…and so on, I’ve learned all of this as I’ve gone along and I’ve still got much to learn. No real idea how to change a tyre, for example, though I have tyre levers, a patch kit, a pump and inner tubes.  All the gear…no idea…

What I have learned, to my cost, is that they’re 100% right when they tell you to ride knickerless.  Honestly.  Do it.  I didn’t believe it – it seemed like such a bad idea.  It seemed so impractical.   I thought that it would be far better to wear panties and therefore have a barrier between you and the padded, sweaty shorts that would surely be building up bacteria and so on.  So I persisted with pants, opting normally for a thong.

Do you know what that does?  It chafes.  Maybe if you’re out for 20 miles you’ll be alright. But after that, it’ll chafe. Your labia will be a mess.  You will feel some rubbing and discomfort to start with, but you’ll probably put that down to the pressure from the seating position of a road bike.  You’ll pedal through it and not notice it.  Until a day later when it’s raw and sore and itchy and your poor, poor labia are screaming out for help.

And then there’s the issue of what to do on your period.  It’s fine if you have enough of a flow to wear a tampon or Mooncup but what if you don’t? I opted for seam-free shorts and a panty liner.  Sweet baby jesus, what a dreadful idea.  Not as bad as a thong but really, not good.  I’m still not sure on the solution here – I’ll need to hit some forums and message boards and find out what other ladies do.

But for the time being, my advice is this: don’t wear anything.  Go commando.  Just pop those lovely padded cycling shorts straight on and go for it.  You will not regret it.  It’s so freeing! The circulation of air when you’re out of the saddle is refreshing and comfortable.  There’s nothing rubbing awkwardly anywhere. And the best bit…you’re not itchy and sore for days afterwards.

I believe the issue of pubic hair is a hotly contested topic in the world of women’s cycling – what length brings the least irritation? On that point I can say this: I’ve tried it both ways…shorter and longer…and I have no difference in results either way so I’d suggest that you try it for yourself and see what works best. You may find that a voluminous minge brings you comfort and joy but if a more sparse patch is your preference, try it out and see if you’re comfortable because ultimately, that’s what it’s about, comfort.

And with that, I’m off to degrease and lube up my chain.  Adieu.

Restaurant Review: The Howlin’ Wolf, Glasgow

I recently went to The Howlin’ Wolf on Glasgow’s Bath Street for a spot of lunch with a friend.  I’d heard a lot of good things about the place and it seemed a good way to break up the working day.  The website bills it as a “new Bar, Kitchen & Venue for lovers of Blues, Soul, Homemade Food, Rock N Roll, Cocktails & Tall Tales”. There is a nice pub-restaurant vibe that’s both welcoming and comfortable, and the playlist was right up my street, so no complaints there.  We were quickly shown to a nice table, a booth in the corner near the bar, and presented with menus straight away.

Seeing as this was a break from work, neither of us had drinks so I’m not sure what sort of options there were there but I’m sure there’s a decent range as the venue does seem to function equally as well as a bar.  The menus are split into a lunch menu and a ‘late night bites’ menu for the evening and when you start to browse them to see what you might want, you quickly realise there’s a lot of choice, from pasta, to pizza, to burgers and brisket. I’m never 100% convinced that this is a good thing – I always wonder if it’s not better to do a few things really well than to offer lots of dishes that might not have the same level of detail and attention. There’s a main menu, a sandwich menu, and bar bites.

I worked from the main menu and really liked the sound of a lot of the starters: I’d happily have tried the sweet potato and salmon fishcake with salad and harissa dressing, and even though I’m not wild about haggis, the haggis tempura with a red onion chutney sounds delish.  In the end, I plumped for ‘The Naked Wolf’, a 7oz beef burger with lettuce, tomato and red onion.  It’s £9 but…and this is a big ‘but’ in Glasgow right now…it comes with fries! The current trend seems to be to charge £9 for a burger that comes with no extras so I was please to find that the chips were included.  The describe them as twice-cooked ‘thin cut’ chips – they were not thin cut, they were big, fat, fluffy thick cut chips.  This wasn’t a problem for me, I think I probably prefer a fluffy fry to a skinny chip but I guess it’s worth pointing out that they weren’t as billed.

My friend ordered the brisket which has been roasted for five hours and comes with a creamy mash and seasonal vegetables.  I have to say, when I saw her dish, I had immediate and intense food envy.  I need to stop ordering burgers when I go places because that brisket looked and smelled absolutely delicious.

Overall we were pretty satisfied with the meal – it wasn’t anything special for me, I’d say it was perfectly acceptable but not particularly notable.  But it wasn’t at all bad! What wasn’t great was the service – it seemed to take a bit of time for our food to reach us and consequently, we ended up feeling a bit rushed to get it eaten before we had to hurry back to work.

I think The Howlin’ Wolf is a nice place to hang out – easy going, relaxed and with great music and decent food.  I’d go back and try some other dishes on the menu when I had more time to relax and enjoy the ambiance a bit more. The issue is that Glasgow has quite a lot of these types of bar/restaurant now, flush with the success of the burger trend that’s taken over the city centre, Bath Street and West Regent Street. There’s a lot of competition and some of it is pretty stiff so it’ll be interesting to see how these sorts of places evolve and survive in the years to come.



Restaurant Review: Las Iguanas, Glasgow.

I have to be up front before I begin – I don’t like Mexican food, the spices really disagree with me and so eating Mexican isn’t an enjoyable experience. As a result this isn’t a place I’d normally choose to go but we were there as part of a party for a friend’s birthday and I was confident of finding something on the menu I could manage without generating gastric distress! 

There were seven of us and we arrived ahead of our 7:45pm booking. Despite this, we were still shown through to our table which was ready. Well, mostly – there was one more table to be added onto the end but we didn’t mind and fitted round anyway without anyone being squeezed in a corner. A good start. It was freezing cold so I was glad to be seated in front of the kitchen where I could catch the warmth from the heat lamps on their pass. I also really liked the scatter cushions on our seat which made it feel comfy and homely, somewhere I could relax. 

We were given menus and our drink orders were taken. After a while, when our drink orders didn’t arrive, we cottoned onto a bit of an issue – the dishwasher was broken. The manager was flapping about the place achieving very while the servers were pacing impatiently at the bar watching one of the bar staff take his sweet time over creating the cocktails. He was having a ball, shaking his drinks up in stylish form. Nobody was watching (except those wondering where their drinks were) and it was all highly unnecessary. He certainly didn’t help matters. An obvious solution seemed to be to get someone in the kitchen hand washing glasses but nobody appeared to do this, maybe it’s not an option. 

To return to the menu, several of my friends commented that it was significantly reduced in size since their previous visit. Perhaps the old style was too much for the kitchen to cope with and so a new, slimmed down version was put into action. I didn’t mind and quickly found a burger that was plain and unspiced, meaning I could happily chow down without fear of repercussions! One of our party ordered a beer as we ordered our food. He didn’t get it till after his meal.  

The winning dish of the evening was the fajitas with marinated strip steak. This meal arrived in bits and was first to the table – a selection of dips came on a board and was accompanied by a warm lidded dish of fajitas. It was quite some time before the steak came up (alerting us that all was not entirely well in the kitchen either) but when it did arrive, it looked spectacular. Hot and sizzling, it was topped with peppers and onions and smelled delicious. The fact that the fajitas had been sitting about meant they’d got stuck together but once my friend had prized them apart she was able to assemble and enjoy her meal. My burger, which had been sitting on the pass for a while, came with tasty curly fries and the whole thing was perfectly acceptable. Two of our companions had a lamb dish which looked quite nice but was sadly luke warm, and my husband had the spicy chicken enchilada with refried beans which was short on both chicken and spice. So…the food was sort of okay.  Mixed bag, really, and personally not something I’d go back to try again. 

The restaurant is a chain so you don’t expect much by way of personality and certainly Las Iguanas feels like a chain. That’s about all I can say on ambiance…

We were going to have dessert but then the cake our friend has arranged for the birthday boy was brought out and our server brought plates for us all so we could get stuck in. The drinks were still coming sporadically and a random piña colada was gifted to the birthday boy as nobody had ordered it but it’d showed up anyway. I think our beleaguered waiter was quite relieved that we didn’t order further as when we asked for the bill he was drenched down one side having spilled a tray of drinks over himself and the floor. It was that kind of night!

The bill per head was £22 including service (a little presumptuous given their hiccups!) for two cocktails and a main course each, which was okay-ish. I didn’t feel my burger was worthy of its £10.50 price tag but then Glasgow has much to offer the burger scoffer and so mine felt more of a Wetherspoons effort than a tenner burger! 

Oh – my cocktail was tasty! I had the passion fruit fizz which was Pinot grigiot with passion fruit purée, elderflower and tonic. It was so good I had two! 

The short review is it’s okay but not great and if it’s Mexican you want then perhaps Topolabamba round the corner would be better.  


Restaurant Review: Alston Bar & Beef, Glasgow

we like eating out when we get the opportunity and we like to try new places. Glasgow’s food scene is going from strength to strength with lots of good places popping up on a regular basis, not excluding burger joints of course…! 

Alston Bar & Beef is to be found downstairs at Glasgow’s Central Station. Train stations are not where you expect to find good food but I’d heard promising things about this restaurant and was keen to give it a go. My husband and I booked a table for a Sunday evening and headed on down. 

The first impression you get is that it’s light and bright which is perhaps unexpected for a basement location. There’s clever use of mirrors and plenty of white paint to help create a sense of light and space. The bar is incredibly tempting, well, it is if you’re a gin fan like me! There are rows and rows of different gins of all varieties. I should’ve picked one I’ve never tried but I spotted a bottle of G’Vine and had to have it as its a firm favourite Of mine. 

One Hendrix, one G’Vine and one pint did cost a bit though.  My husband received a mere £3-odds in change from a £20 note so this is perhaps a pay-day treat venue as the food isn’t cheap either. That said, the products you get are good quality so it’s worth it. 

We didn’t realise there was a restaurant area tucked around the corner until we asked the bar staff about our reservation. A super-friendly and welcoming waitress took us through and seated us in a corner. Far from feeling we’d been placed wherever was best for them, we found ourselves in a spacious booth with lots of room. 

I’d fancied the Sunday roast but unfortunately that wasn’t served in the evening so I picked from the main menu instead. There are plenty of options if you’re a steak lover and then there’s a range of other main meals, all of which sound so tempting that trying to choose is pretty tricky. In the end I plumped for the chicken with mash and red wine jus and it did not disappoint. The portion was very generous with precisely the right amount of sauce to match my dish which came with buttery soft baby leeks and little crunchy bits of bacon. 

My husband chose the pulled pork burger which was pretty spectacular – I couldn’t help pinching a tiny bit of the pulled pork off the top of his medium-rare beef patty and it was so tasty! This came with truffle oil chips, again, a generous portion. Our pal chose the pork and an extra side of those tasty truffle chips which were delivered in a little copper pan, presumably because chips can no longer (for some inexplicable reason) be served on the plate! 

Our mains were all substantial and filling but we somehow felt there was room for pudding. Well, there’s always room for pudding, right? Two of us picked the peach Melba concoction of loveliness and the other went for a luscious chocolate pot with salted caramel sauce and pistachio biscotti. Sadly, they had no peaches left. I was pretty gutted about that-it sounded amazing. I went for a selection of ice creams instead and my companion got the Jaffa dessert. Our puddings came in a frosted beer tankard which is a first for me! It did help to keep the ice cream nice and cool. The winner of that round though was the chocolate pot-a beautiful glossy salted caramel sauce over a thick, rich chocolate mousse with a pretty substantial pistachio biscotti. It looked brilliant and went down very well indeed.

The bill for a main and a pudding each along with three alcoholic drinks came to £79 (I think?). I always get horribly confused when it comes to paying bills and trying to work out splits and tips! I’d say it’s a little on the pricey side with regular mains coming in at £13-£17 but with the portion sizes and quality you won’t feel that it isn’t worth it.  We really enjoyed the meal and will definitely be back for more. 


Cycling Lesson 321: I am not strong enough. Yet. 

Yesterday a friend and I went cycling.  She came over to my neck of the woods, never having spent much time here, and selected a route that looked a suitable distance (60+ miles).  I was more than a little terrified at the prospect of riding with her as she’s incredibly fit – the other week she ‘popped out’ for a ride to Edinburgh, from Glasgow. And back!  That’s around 70 miles! The furthest I’d gone before now was 32 miles.

I was right to be worried.  As soon as we set off I could see she was much faster than me.  She was riding in a big gear with a lower cadence, meanwhile I was pedalling furiously on a lower gear just trying to keep up.  I tested the water to see if I could match her with cadence and gearing but it seemed to tire me too fast and I had to switch back to a higher cadence to keep myself from exhausting quickly.

We rode from Dunoon, along Loch Eck and round to Otter Ferry.  The scenery in Argyll & Bute is gorgeous – it really does take a lot to better it. At times I was reminded of our trip to Vancouver where we left the city and explores the Sunshine Coast with friends.  The fringes of Loch Fyne with its stony beaches, rows of evergreen trees and bits of driftwood took me back to our strolls on the stunning Sargent’s beach.  Of course, Argyll is significantly lower on the bear count…!


We stopped in a passing place to munch on our cereal bars and then continued on.  Little did we know, while chowing down, that there was a great pub called the Oyster Catcher just round the corner from where we were! The outdoor tables facing onto the beautiful beach and water tempted us and we stopped for lunch, splitting a kid’s lunch between us with Poppy the pub dog for company.  She only loved us for our chips – and our willingness to share them!

The next bit is where the torture began and I realised, with quite crushing disappointment, that I am just not very good at cycling!  We took the back road from Otter Ferry and followed it along, taking the left turn along the single track road to Glendaruel.  These roads are incredibly steep.  I made a mess of the first hill by choosing too big a gear and so even out of the seat I was struggling to make it and had to stop or risk damaging my chain.  I re-grouped, changed gear and tried again at the next hill.  In the right gear it was definitely better but my legs were so fatigued and I was really, really struggling.  The hills were so steep and seemingly without an end in sight.

I gave up and started trudging up them which is difficult enough when you’re riding clipped and therefore have shoes that are entirely ill-equipped for walking.  The angle of your toes (slightly upward) means walking uphill is a calf-shredding struggle.

As I tramped my way up them with the sun beating down on me I felt so bad for my companion. She was powering her way up them with truly enviable strength and determination. Her grit does not allow her to give up as I had, and her powerful legs churned their way up every hill that she met.  I kept telling her to just go ahead and not wait, I felt I was ruining her ride (though I had warned her in advance of my slowness!).

We finally found the downhill section and what a downhill it was!  With twists, turns, hairpins, potholes, and loose gravel, it wasn’t quite one for just letting go and powering down but it was absolutely exhilarating and I loved the cool breeze in my face as I flew down the hills.  When we paused to survey the scene we could see a beautiful big, smooth and shiny A road.  How we longed for its gentle undulations and gloriously slick surface.

That said, once we were down there it was a bit hillier than I’d expected and I felt well and truly out of gas. I had hoped to do a much longer ride but I found myself fumbling with my pedal trying to get clipped in and my left leg was seemingly so fatigued that it was lazily brushing my top tube as I pedalled on.

I urged my companion to go, go, go and not to be held back by me.  Riding on a little bit, I felt a twinge of hunger and so stopped to feast on my final cereal bar.  I had only 15 miles left but those 15 miles were over the back road from Glendaruel to Sandbank. Anyone that knows the area knows that even taking the car over parts of that road can be a struggle!

I was reaching breaking point and wasn’t convinced that my cereal bar and electrolyte drink were really going to see me through this last section.  I decided to give it a bash, clipped my left foot in and pushed off.  My right foot slipped and I tried to steady myself and try again.  Against, it missed the clip.  Frustrated, I tried to keep my nerve and avoid the slow crash to the ground, and tried again, and again.  The cleat just wasn’t clipping in. I stopped before gravity made the decision for me and examined my cleat – it was mashed with bits of plastic hanging off the side and the cleat bent into a weird shape.

Presumably trudging up hills was not what those shoes are designed for and the damage had been done then.  What anyone local to the area will also know is that mobile signal to the area is terrible which I was about to find out very quickly as I marched up and down the road waving my phone in the air, willing it to receive at least one little bar.

When it finally did, I let out a little yelp and furiously typed out a text to my husband – I’m on the Glendaruel road! I need help!  “ploop” – it had sent!  The relief was palpable till I realised I had actually sent something quite alarming and knew that my poor husband was probably now panicking that I was lying in the road in the blazing sun, gently frying as a fox gnawed on my leg.  I composed a more detail-rich text: “broken shoe, can’t clip in, need to be collected, try some friends. Not injured!”

Naturally my measly bar of signal had now vanished and was refusing to return. After what seemed like an eternity, the little bar flashed up and I quickly sent that message and one to my riding companion letting her know my situation. The poor soul had been sat at the top of a hill, napping, for an age!

As I sat by the roadside with the sun on my back, sipping the last of my electrolyte drink, I willed each and every passing car to be my rescue vehicle.  Each one that approached was not one I recognised.  Then, suddenly, I saw what I thought was my friend’s green Citroen.  Was it her? Could it really be her?!  YES!  It’s her and my husband!  They’ve found me!

What a happy moment! They managed to fit me and the bike in the back and we were off! A really disappointing way for the ride to end, I wish it could have been different, but it taught me a lot.

1. I am not strong enough. I need to do some training on the turbo pushing bigger gears to get more power into my thighs.

2. I need a little more gear on my bike. I’ve still not got the pump attached, I need a bigger saddle bag so I can fit in other bits and bobs such as painkillers and extra food.

3. If I am stuck I need to think more carefully before hitting send on a text in an area with dodgy signal! It needs to include the nature of my issue (am I injured or not), where I am, contact details of people who may be able to help, and what I’ve got on me…i.e. do I need more water etc.

4.  You can get away with eating and riding – that was a real surprise to me, I had half expected it to induce a washing-machine stomach and it didn’t! Huzzah.

In short, although my ride ended prematurely and it was, for that hilly segment, really quite dispiriting, there was a lot to learn from it. Given that I only bought the bike in late October and riding was made pretty impossible in November, January and February but some really rotten winter weather, I’m doing not bad.  The truth about getting on a road bike is that it’s a much steeper learning curve than a ‘normal’ bike.  There’s a lot to learn about technique, nutrition, training and mechanics and it shouldn’t be underestimated.

But cycling really is the most freeing, wonderful experience, flying through the beautiful countryside with the sun in your face and the wind in your hair. Plus, you can hop off at any moment to capture the views on your phone or stop in at a nice pub for lunch.  Go on – do it.  Outdoors is free.

Bridge of Orchy Hotel: review

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged anything here so I intend to revive the site and post more regularly on whatever I’m up to at the time. This time, I am reviewing our recent trip to the Bridge of Orchy Hotel

Firstly, thanks must go to Visit Scotland who provided the trip. I had entered a competition on their website and the generous prize was a 2-night stay at the 4* hotel with dinner, bed and breakfast all thrown in. 

Our journey there was more eventful than expected as Sat Nav Lady directed me down a single track road which was winding, full of blind summits and bends, very poorly surfaced and had passing places that were essentially ditches! However, we got there and she presumably chose that route as it was fewer miles than the beautifully surfaced and incredibly scenic A-road! 

As I stepped out of the car and into the hail, I realised that the jacket I’d carefully laid out on the sofa for the trip was still exactly where I’d left it. All I had to protect me from the elements was a cotton hoodie. This dilemma was solved, however, almost as soon as we checked in. Our reception was very friendly and she offered me one of her own jackets so that we could go walking, which was very kind.

We were given the choice of two rooms, with the advice that the one with the river view would probably be our preference. We were really surprised to be given a choice and we’re delighted to take the recommended room which did indeed have excellent views of the river. 

The room was bright and airy with full height sliding doors that opened out onto a little deck. Painted white and with wooden flooring, the room felt very fresh and it was certainly suitable for the many hill walking guests it must receive. When you come into the room there is a section with plenty of hanging space and shelves, a drying shelf where you can put your wet and muddy walking boots and tea & coffee making facilities. 

The ensuite had a large shower room and everything was fresh, modern and in excellent working order. We had bedside tables with lamps, motion sensitive lighting in the ensuite and entrance vestibule, a TV and an iPod dock, so everything that we needed. 

There is no wifi in the room but if you need to check in on your email or post some photos pf your incredible surroundings, you’ll find wifi in the bar, along with an interesting selection of ales, a TV and some newspapers. The seating area to the front of the hotel could probably do with a bit of tarting up but its perfectly acceptable as it stands. The area next to the bar looks to have been decorated more recently and its a cosy space to relax. 

The food is great – if you do nothing else there, you should eat! The generous portions more than justify the reasonable prices and the quality is excellent. Being there for two nights we tried a few different things. On the first night we went all out and had a three course meal. I had goats cheese bon bons with caramelised onions and micro herbs. All classic flavours, really well presented and very tasty. My main course was fillet of pork with crushed new potatoes and Stornaway black pudding, vegetables and a jus. The portion was very generous and the whole thing was incredibly tasty – the mix of flavours with the pork, black pudding and crushed potatoes was perfect and complemented by the jus that brought all the elements together. By the time I got to the desert menu, I could only really contemplate a little ice cream, as much as the pannacotta tempted me. However, even the simple three flavours of ice cream was well-thought out. I had a quenelle each of strawberry, chocolate and vanilla ice cream and each sat atop a complementary flavour. Beneath the vanilla ice cream was a toffee sauce, the strawberry scoop was perched atop a little blob of rich chocolate sauce and the chocolate ice was served with a little cream and raspberry. All in, it was a level of attention to detail that I hadn’t expected when I ordered some ice cream. 

My husband had the fish and chips which was also generously portioned; his piece of fish was massive and encased in a golden crispy batter.  The fish inside was thick and perfectly cooked and the triple cooked chips were both crunchy and as fluffy as you’d expect. His sticky toffee pudding was roughly the size of my pillow and was absolutely delicious! 

In short, there’s much to recommend about this roadside hotel that goes beyond its convenience for those tramping their way round the West Highland Way.  The scenery is spectacular and was made prettier for us by the snow that fell thickly and steadily throughout Sunday morning, but what shone through most of all was the hospitality. The staff were friendly, welcoming and incredibly helpful. They were only too happy to do whatever they could for you and it made the whole experience thoroughly enjoyable. 

Go there, arrive hungry and book a riverside room in the modern extension.  You won’t regret it.