'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'.. So Charles Dickens began his epic Tale of Two Cities, thus demonstrating polar opposite circumstances and opinions.
Bay Hotels have taken part of the opening sentence of this classic book and given it a twist to come up the tag line 'For The Best of Times'. A noble effort you may think.
Aptly, the Bay Claymore clearly splits opinion right down the centre, with some hating it and some loving it.
The date 1697 is engraved over the portals of this imposing stone built house. It was apparently once the headquarters of the MacFarlane clan, though it was extended in 1994 to provide a similar adjacent frontage joined together by a function room and with further rooms to the sides and rear.
The location is indeed stunning, sat as it is, on the banks of the tidal Loch Long.
If you are lucky, as we were, you may spot sea-eagles (Ospreys – white tailed eagles) soaring above the loch. There are superb mountains just on the other side of the loch with Ben Arthur (more famously known as The Cobbler amongst the walking and climbing community) being both prominent and magnificent in equal measure.
The hotel has everything going for it then, but it seems to me that money needs to be spent to bring it back to its' former glory.
It would be easy to list a string of cosmetic improvements needed, but that would be churlish.
Certainly in our room a new bed and mattress is a requirement whilst the bathroom was a mish-mash of differently aged repairs and decorative 'changes'.
Some rooms have no showers or views and you would need to specifically ask for these when booking.
The entertainment lounge for the nightly vocalists performances was not to my taste, having a 1960's northern Working Men's Club décor, furnishings and ambience. It did have spectacular views of the loch and mountains through big picture windows however.
Similarly, the dining room was a low ceilinged, cavernous canteen of a place.
The bar area was a haven, having high ceilings, intricate plaster cornicing, tall wooden wall panels, comfortable seating, a large fireplace and a relaxed feel.
The breakfasts were really rather good, with fruit, cereals, hot porridge and a five piece cooked breakfast on offer.
The evening meals were quite good too, with choices to be made, and though not cordon bleu quality, it was decent enough. A little too reliant on frozen vegetables and bought in desserts for me, but in catering for numbers, some sacrifice has to be made.
The hotel's main income is derived from coach parties, being owned by the Shearing's group and is well used by National Holidays.
The hotel provides a service at low cost.
The staff were friendly and jolly and all engaged with people, something you don't find everywhere. They were the stand-out feature of my visit.
It has to be said, in the interests of balance and fairness, that many people appeared to be totally satisfied and pleased with the hotel and it's facilities.
A poem, written and sent to the hotel by a customer in 2012 is proudly displayed on the wall in Reception praising it as a 'five star' hotel.
Equally, there were a number of people, like me, who felt that whilst it was ok for the money paid, there was much room for improvement.
Polar opposites, so what would Charles Dickens have made of it, I wonder?