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Progress Report Number Nine

Posted by Stuart and Susannah Macpherson - 15:21 on 14 January 2013

 Progress Report Dec 2012

 “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us” Charles Dickens A Tale of Two Cities 1859.

I find myself wondering if Charles Dickens was a hotelier in the Highlands before being regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period.

 It was certainly a roller coaster of a year (no not as eloquently put at Dickens but it is what it is)! It started with Susannah being diagnosed with more cancer and subject to another gruelling schedule of chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy. At the same time the hotel was enjoying its best financial year thanks to some timely weddings and a troublesome water mains renewal that stretched from Strathpeffer to Garve. This gave several May Gurney employees the need to be resident at Coul House on and off for three or four months. The “Strathpuffer” (the annual 24 hour mountain bike endurance test for the crazy fools who seem to enjoy the weather the more extreme it gets!) was hosted once again in the local forest in early January which always brings us welcome business in one of our quietest months of the year.         

The new phone system I talked of in last year’s letter continued to be a source of consternation throughout most of the year. It uses what is called VOIP (voice over internet protocol). Believe me, when I say that it has been a major headache. We lost contact with the outside world on several occasions. Some might say that is not a bad thing but who knows how much business we lost through it! I had to remind myself on several occasions what possessed me to buy such a phone system! Nowadays we need wifi to meet the needs and expectations of the majority of travellers. The new phone system was somehow relevant to that, but in what way now I can`t remember, so we persevered!!!!! Charlie and Rory crawled through the tiny attic spaces of the entire house installing modems for the phone company to try and keep the costs manageable. Thankfully we now have a fairly reliable wifi service throughout…most of the time! As for the digital phone system well I am still trying to figure out how to use the hold feature properly.     


The big project for this year was the installation of a new biomass wood pellet boiler. It came in its own heat cabin with back-up oil boiler, pellet and water storage. Costly, yes, but with the government`s 20 year, renewable heat incentive on offer it was a matter of let`s do it now before the incentives go! The old oil boilers we had were 30 plus years old and costing more each year in maintenance (a bit like the wife) oops! Sorry darling only joking! The challenge was how to finance it (the boiler not my darling wife). The bank would not entertain the idea at all and trying to find the money proved as tricky as looking for dog doo in the autumn leaves! I knew it was there - I just could not find it initially. However the Carbon Trust and The Energy Saving Trust came to the rescue and the boiler is now up and running.

As usual I have run out of space and I limit myself to one page so as not to bore you too much! So thank you once again for your continued support and for being such fantastic guests, roll on 2013.

Yours sincerely,

         Proud owners  

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Coul House Hotel, Contin, Ross & Cromarty, Scotland IV14 9ES E: T: +44 (0)1997 421487