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The Crags Hotel (Callander)

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Family run hotel ideally situated in the Town Centre of Callander , the Gateway to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Convenient for shops and local activities. 5 minutes from walks to Crags, Bracklinn falls and the meadows riverside walks.

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      27.08.2003 05:28
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      Once again, the Jammaker family (well, Mr and Mrs Jammaker and Mr. Jammaker’s dad!) are on the move! I guess we get about quite a bit really! This time, our destination is Bonnie Scotland, and in particular, the Crags Hotel in Callander, Perthshire. We hadn’t really intended going anywhere this summer, as we are off to Australia in November for our son’s wedding. However, all the best laid plans came to nothing, when my father in law suddenly announced that he had been stationed at Callander during the war, and would like to go back and visit the area again. Hubby has two weeks leave from work in August (I’m off for 6 weeks, as I teach) so we decided to go for it. I first looked for the Dreadnought Hotel, which was where George (father in law) had been billeted. It still exists, but at £99 per person per night for Bed and breakfast, was a little out of our price range! I searched on Smoothhound and sent off a few emails, and then found another site, http://www.incallander.co.uk/, and sent off another load of emails. I was looking for a double (or twin) and a single room, en-suite, for 5 nights, from 10th – 15th August, offering bed and breakfast. Probably due to the lateness of our booking, very few of the hotels and B&B’s that I emailed could do the full 5 nights. Some offered alternative dates, some just apologised for not having accommodation available. We were left with the choice of about 5 hotels and B&B’s, and from those, chose the Crags. Everything was booked by email, and I duly sent off the £75 deposit requested. I received an email when the deposit was received, and a letter of confirmation in the post. So far so good. THE CRAGS ACCORDING TO ON-LINE INFORMATION I have taken the following information from the web site above, and am writing this part of my op prior to our visit, so I will compare the information and our findings when I return. The Crags is categorised as an inn offering Bed and Breakfast, in the centre of Callander, in Perthshire, Scotland. It is described as a “small and comfortable family run hotel ideally situated in Callander Town Centre, the Gateway to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.” There is a handy map printed at the bottom of the page, showing exactly where it is, and how to get to the car park (which appears to be at the rear of the hotel), and a photograph showing the front of it. From the photo, I can fully understand why it is called the Crags! There is also a description of the rooms, and facilities in those rooms. They are described as “cosy” so I quite expect them to be smallish! All the rooms are en-suite and equipped with Colour TV, Clock Radio Alarm, Trouser Press, Hair Drier, and Tea & Coffee Making Facilities. The hotel is fully licensed and the Lounge Bar stocks a wide range of Bottled and Canned Beers, Cider. Malt & Blended Whisky, most popular Spirits, Sherry, Port, Alco pops and House Wine by the glass. etc. (That will suit hubby and father in law then!!) The site states that although evening meals can be arranged, there are a number of good restaurants and pubs close by, which we will probably use for our evening meals, and just take breakfast at the hotel itself. A breakfast menu is included, and I can see us all putting on weight if we wade through it each day! Your choice of Fruit Juice, Grapefruit Segments, Porridge or Cereals *** Traditional Scottish Oatcakes *** grilled Bacon, Pork sausage, Black Pudding, Tomato, Mushrooms and Potato scone Egg - fried, scrambled or poached Boiled Eggs Smoked Haddock with Poached Egg Grilled Summer Isles Oak Smoked Kippers Cold Ham or Orkney Cheese Platter *** Toasted Brown or White Bread with Preserves Their tariff is very easy to follow, although on the site, it does not state that there is a sin gle supplement, which I feel should be there, as father in law was charged extra for single occupancy. We were, however, told this in the original email, and decided to book there anyway. Hubby and I were charged £50.00 per room per night, including breakfast, father in law was charged £35.00 per night. For three nights or less, in high season, the tariff increases to £55.00 per night for a couple. In low season, it goes down to £42.00 per night per couple. So much for the information we had before we went. Now all we have to do is wait for 10th August, and the 420 mile journey. I have the AA route printed out in readiness, and now all that remains to do is pack! THE CRAGS HOTEL FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE 1) THE JOURNEY We set off at 6.45 am on the hottest day ever recorded! Thank goodness the car has air conditioning! Following the AA preferred route, we joined the M25, turned right onto the M11, continued on the A14 to join up with the A1 and continued northwards. When Leolover, my daughter, was at York University, this was the route we used when visiting her, so we are pretty much acquainted with this road. In our old car, we would take around 5 hours to do the trip. In the current “Golden Chariot” (Champagne gold coloured Ford Focus) we could barely believe it when we arrived at Markham Moor services, which was where we had planned to stop for breakfast, within 2 hours! Replete with the Early Breakfast, and a refreshing pot of tea, and with the temperatures beginning to rise rapidly, we set off once again on the A1, branching off on to the A66 At Scotch Corner. It was beginning to become obvious that the clouds gathering above the Pennines held more than a little rain, but luckily we missed the worst of it. We did catch the aftermath of a few downpours though, in evidence as lakes across the road in places, which slowed us down considerably on this stretch of our journey. We pulled o ver into a lay-by for a quick coffee from the flask and a few minutes shut-eye for the driver, and reached the M6 at Penrith at around noon. We had already decided to stop at the Gretna services, just over the Scottish border, in order to refill the car with petrol, and off-load those cups of tea! Here, you are greeted with a Scottish Bagpipe player, and can have your photo taken with him if you want to. Unfortunately, we were also greeted with swarms of storm ants, so we kept our visit to a minimum. The final part of the journey through Southern Scotland along the M73 and M74, circuiting Glasgow, and then continuing along the A80 and A9, branching off towards Callander at Dunblane, took about 2 hours, and we finally arrived at about 3 pm. We drove along the main Callander to Stirling road as directed, and the Crags was easy to find on the right hand side of the road. Thereafter we took our directions from the hardware shop on the corner. Screw-its. One could hardly forget that name could one? THE HOTEL The car park was at the rear of the hotel, so we turned right at Screw-its, then right again, and into the grounds. You could probably park about 6 cars in there at most, but there was on-street parking at both the front and rear of the building. During our stay we always managed to get into the car park, although it was a bit of a squeeze sometimes. We were greeted by Avril Nieto, completed all the formalities with a minimum of fuss, and then shown by Peter Nieto to our rooms. They were both on the second floor, and there was no lift, so the accommodation would not be suitable for those unable to climb! As expected, the rooms were quite small, but nevertheless, comfortable. Hubby and I had a double room, which also housed a 2-drawer dressing table, 2 bedside tables, an armchair, tea and coffee making equipment, and a trouser press. We had an en-suite shower room and toilet with washbasin. Towels were also provi ded, and here I must say that I have never been provided with such big, soft, white, fluffy towels! I have bath sheets at home, but these towels were something else. They were also replenished every other day, which was great. The toilet………….now how can I describe the toilet? It worked, that is for sure. It was one of those electrically shredding toilets (don’t ask me what I mean, I’ve never seen one before.) You know the vibrations you get on an aircraft about to take off? Well this was something similar! It scared the life out of me at first, and I’m pretty sure it must have woken the dead when we flushed, but it did work. And as I never heard any of the other guests flushing, I can only hope that they couldn’t hear me! We didn’t have a wardrobe, instead we had a walk-in cupboard type thing built under the eaves. I say walk-in very loosely. I am only 4 ft 11 tall, and I had to duck to get in! Most people would have to crawl in I reckon! However, it housed all our hanging clothes, all our shoes, both suitcases, and any other odds and ends we accumulated! So all in all, so long as you remembered about the low entrance when coming out, it was perfectly adequate. The bed was extremely comfortable, and I really didn’t need to have taken my own pillow, but I always do when staying somewhere in this country anyway! The one thing missing was a remote control for the TV, but we managed manually! I expect the duvet was comfy too, but considering the heat all week, the most we used was a top sheet anyway! The duvet was relegated to the armchair each night. The window in our room was a bit on the small side, but we had the benefit of not getting the sun after mid-day. It was opened to its maximum for the entire stay, but we did not really get much of a breeze in our room at all. Father in law’s room was a twin bedded room, with all the same facilities that we had. His window looked out onto the main road at the front of the hotel. A lot of traffic passed along that road, and I think, for me, that room would have been too noisy. Luckily, George is a little on the deaf side! Avril and Peter have only recently taken on the Crags, and are in the process of refurbishing. At present there are only 6 guest bedrooms, but when finished, they plan to have 4 more. The guest lounge is also being re-done, so, although the bar was opened during the evening, you had to sit in an alcove in the corner of the breakfast restaurant, so we tended to go out instead. When it is finished, it would be nice to sit downstairs in the lounge. They have also decided to concentrate on just bed and breakfast, so evening meals were not available, but this was not a problem, as there were a number of eating places close by. Breakfasts were great. You could go down at any time between 8.30 and 10.30, and the food was as good as the menu suggests. Hubby had the smoked haddock most days, and the portions were very generous indeed. I’m a sausage, bacon and tomato person myself, and always had more than enough on my plate. There were several different cereals, grapefruit segments, fruit juices etc to serve yourself with first, and plenty of toast afterwards, which was replenished if required. There was a good variety of jams and marmalades, and a choice of butter or Flora spread. Tea and coffee was topped up as required. Most days, we only needed a scone and cuppa during the afternoon after having such a good breakfast. THINGS TO DO IN THE AREA We crammed a lot into our 4-day stay there. Callander itself is interesting, housing the Rob Roy museum among other things. There are also a number of unusual shops in Callander, and once again, I did a fair amount of Christmas shopping! As the whole area is surrounded by mountains, we could not get a good signal for the mobile from our room, but that didn't bother us undul y. There was a payphone in the entrance hall had we been desperate to contact someone. Our evening meal was usually taken at the Riverside Inn, a couple of hundred yards down the main street. They had a good variety on the menu, at very reasonable prices. We took the Sir Walter Scott Steam boat trip on Loch Katrine, which lasted nearly 2 hours, and passed stunning scenery. We visited the Queen Elizabeth Park, wandering through the forests down to spectacular waterfalls. We visited the Ancient Priory on an island in the middle of Lake Monteith, the only “Lake” in Scotland. All the rest are called Lochs. We drove through the Trossachs area, circling Loch Earn and Loch Tay, sat on the banks of the Tay River at the site of the Blackwatch Memorial, and wandered through the Hermitage Site near Dunkeld. On our final day, we made it to the northern shores of Loch Lomond. The three fold up deckchairs came out of the boot on numerous occasions! As we had Father in law with us, we didn’t get to do as much walking as we would have liked, although we did leave him with his newspaper a couple of times whilst we wandered off to explore a little. We will definitely go back to the area again, this time on our own, so that we can do a lot more on-foot exploration, rather than the “sit in the car” variety. WOULD I RECOMMEND THE CRAGS? In spite of the fact that the hotel was in the middle of refurbishment, yes, I would recommend it. We were comfortable, well fed, and happy. The Crags is a good base from which to explore this part of Scotland, and offered good value for what we paid. Next door to the hotel is a cottage which is also owned by the Nietos, which houses up to 6 people, and costs £300 a week at peak time. You can view this cottage on the website, and I think this looks extremely good value for money. There were several other B&Bs and small hotels in Callander, all roughly the same size, some cheaper and some much more expensive than the Crags. For a comfortable, centrally positioned, reasonably priced hotel, I think the Crags was well worth what we paid. I would have no hesitation in going there again. Next holiday……Australia, here we come! Address: Crags Hotel, 101 Main St, Callander, FK17 8BQ E-mail: nieto@btinternet.com Phone : +44 (0)330257 Fax: +44 (0)339997 Website: http://www.incallander.co.uk/cragsbb.htm

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