At the tender age of 17 my mother listened diligently as her new manager recited the staff rules to her.
She was not to smoke, drink alcohol or ‘be discovered in bed (or elsewhere)’ with another member of staff. The briefing was endless, with countless such instructions.
This was 1981, and my mother had just arrived at the Isle of Erika hotel on the West coast of Scotland for her first job in hospitality. Situated on a tiny island 500 miles away from her family home, the move was a brave one.
The hotel was owned by a religious family who had something of a reputation for its puritanical stance.
Mum was to stay in the stables (staff accommodation) and to wear the uniform pictured below.
She was to ensure her dress was always ironed and at an appropriate length as to not offend the wealthy guests. Some of whom arrived by private helicopters.
Today you can stay at the Isle of Eriska for a kingly £700 per night. This hefty fee may seem a tad over-the-top. Until, that is, you arrive at this place and take in its majesty.
Situated far from civilisation, the island offers spectacular views across the sea.
The hotel itself is grand in every sense of the word. Built in 1884, its imposing Victorian facade with its castellated turrets was clearly designed to impress.
We enjoyed afternoon tea in the vintage bar next to the conservatory. Old leather-bound volumes lined the shelves and scenic artwork decorated the walls.
Staff were extremely accommodating and enjoyed seeing photographs from my mum’s original 1981 album. Needless to say, the rules made them giggle.
I tucked into a vegan tea comprising avocado, salad and salsa finger sandwiches, warm scones with jam and cream. Plus a plate of vegan chocolate and apple cake, lemon cake, fudge cake and mini cupcakes with sweet buttercream.
Overloaded with sugar, we asked for a doggy bag and strolled around the island. Following a grassy path from the hotel, we soon found a private beach. Not another person was in sight.
Having opted for more modest accommodation, we returned to the car and headed for Oban where we were to spend the next two nights.
Earlier that morning, we had picked up a hire car from Glasgow town centre and set off for our week-long Scottish adventure.
After an hour or so of driving from Glasgow, we stopped off in Luss, situated on the lovely Loch Lomond. Here we enjoyed a stroll and found a bench to devour our breakfast – overnight oats, Scottish variety of course.
After driving a little further we saw signs to the falls of Falloch and decided to stretch the legs once more. Little did we know we were about to stumble upon some spectacular waterfalls.
We parked the car and within moments of walking along the trail heard the gushing of water. The first waterfall was magnificent, the second even more impressive and the successive ones just kept getting better and better.
Water cascaded over the rocks and, had over time, helped shape the stone below, forming a plunge pool of crystal clear water that flowed downhill.
Taking a deep breath we took in the mesmerising scenery. What a great start to the holiday.
Less than an hour later we reached the Isle of Eriska.
Our final stop after our tea on the Isle of Eriska was Ganavan Sands where the rain suddenly decided to pelt down on our windscreen (it does this a lot in Scotland).
So we simply decided to brave the elements and make a dash for the sandy beach.
On leaving the car, we found an interesting footpath along the beach. We ran along it and before we knew it the rain began to ease off.
The ocean views were perfect.
We spent around three hours driving and managed to have some wonderful stop-offs en route.
When we finally arrived at Ulva Villa in Oban, we were exhausted. We were staying in a cosy room with an en-suite for the reasonable cost of £67 per night. I would highly recommend staying here. It was clean, well located and served as a perfect base.