Gerhard Weidman 1987/8
KCFA member Gerhard Weidmann from Germany made his first fleeting visit to Kinloch Castle in 1987. In 1988 he returned for the first of several annual visits in the Kinloch Castle Hotel which ceased operation in 1995. Here are his recollections.
My first visit to Rum was in June 1987. I was a crew member on a sailing yacht. Heading south on our way back to Oban we had changed our plans and had decided upon Rum instead of Loch Nevis for an anchorage. With the help of our inflatable we went ashore Loch Scresort where we were greeted by the Warden of the isle, who asked us to return to our boat after having had a drink in what he called the ancillary pub inside Kinloch Castle. And would we please take back again to the yacht our waste bag. Having enjoyed two cans of McEwans I was cheeky and curious enough on my way back to enter the castle by its unlocked main door. A short glimpse of the stately hall with all its lavish splendour glimmering vaguely in the haunting light of dusk gave me shudders. I became conscious of my oilskin not matching the interior of the Hall and therefore instead of proceeding any further I closed the door and caught up with the crew – not without having vowed to return as soon as possible.
My first planned visit happened to be in May 1988, when I stayed in the hotel of Kinloch Castle for one whole week. I had phone Iain MacArthur in order to book in advance. Iain and his wife Kathleen had taken over in March 1988 as the new manager couple of the castle.
My first stay in the castle was a most impressive experience. I became a regular in the following years, sometimes accompanied by my son, sometimes by a walking friend, often splitting up the time between hotel and hostel in order to savour both the Edwardian splendour of the hotel in the castle and the joys of walking a wild sea of hills.
What was a day like in the hotel of the castle in those days?
Guests in the hotel stayed on a full board basis with a packed lunch. Breakfast for all guests started at 8.30am. It was a full Scottish breakfast in the dining room and guests were expected to dress informally but neatly. Breakfast, followed by chatting with other guests, roaming round the castle, and changing into walking dress usually brought the time up to 10am. The five course dinner started at 7 pm but guests were expected to assemble informally at about 6.15pm in the Hall, where Iain would wait clad in tartan and offere a sherry to everyone. The open fire in the Hall would be lit, Iain would introduce new guests to one another, and with all the lavish interior around there was no shortage of things to talk about. At about half past seven Iain would start the orchestrion to sound its melodies throughout the castle. In the intervals of music popular around 1900 he would explain the gorgeous instrument manufactured in the Black Forest region in 1896 for the late Queen Victoria to the stunned guests. After that everyone would take his seat at the long polished mahogany table in the mahogany panelled Dining Room. The opulent 5 course dinners enjoyed there were quite an event. I remember how during my week on Rum in 1988 I put on much weight and was not able to do the walks I had planned to do.
Iain and Kathleen MacArthur
After dinner the whole of the party would move to the Smoking Room, where another open fire had been lit by Iain. Kathleen would offer coffee to everyone. Parties in the cosy Smoking Room and the attached Snooker Room used to last till late in the evening. The managers were brilliant hosts making everyone feel at home. As a rule it was not until around 11pm when guests retreated to their bedrooms.
The hotel part of the castle consisted of all stately rooms in the east and south wing. There were eight bedrooms with a double bed and one with a single bed. Of course they had no wash hand basins or any other sanitary instalments as this was not the custom in Edwardian times. Instead all the beautiful original porcelain bowls and cans were ‘on show’ for guests. Dressing gowns were provided by the hotel for each bedroom for guests to pass the corridors for the use of the late Victorian bathrooms. In the hotel days those bathrooms werre an unbeatable attraction. Walking the corridors the shrieks of merriment could be heard from guests experimenting on the six dials for shower (from an overhead cupola), douche (a deluge from a single opening), wave (a neck high ribbon of water), spray (needles around the side), and from below waist height, plunge (a stream at the level of the knees), sitz (a shower from the bottom of the bath) and a jet (a fountain surging up from the floor).
The atmosphere in the hotel part as is the case today in what is called an Edwardian Museum was steeped in lush luxury. But in those days with everything around in use and in perfect working order the feeling of actually living 90 years back in time was certainly a very strong one. Walking the stately rooms as a hotel guest on one’s own in the eerie silence of a castle that in turn was surrounded by the quiet of a remote and trafficless island made one imagine the old stories still being whispered from the walls around. The MacArthurs had a way of intensifying that delicate atmosphere by caring for detail like putting bowls with scented flowers in places, which gave the impression of actually breathing the air of the turn of the century. Last by by no means least it was their caring hospitality to guests of the hostel and hotel alike that made everyone feel like living in a most pleasant live museum.
Gerhard with Kathleen MacArthur and Castle staff
The hotel and hostel in the castle during the MacArthurs’ stay 1988-1994 were advertised nationwide. At the same time extensive and expensive repair work and refurbishments took place to raise the attractiveness of hotel and hostel. With Kathleen as its excellent chef being awarded ‘The Taste of Scotland’ three times the hotel became quite a draw before it was closed in 1995.
Gerhard Weidmann, Koenigswinter November 1999
Gerhard now lives in Bonn, Germany and his family have been members of the KCFA since 1999