It seems that we've been promising a new website "next week" for the last 3 months, but it's finally happened! The updated Secret Scotland website went live on the 17th February. If you bought a tour guide prior to the 17th, you will need to contact us for a new copy as the old website cannot be accessed to download your Tour itineraries.
With the new website, we have tried to clean up the layout so that the concept of our Scotland tours is easier to understand. One of the all new features is a Testimonials page with links that let you read real reviews that have been written by our clients on their Facebook and Blog pages. I must admit that I don't really understand the Facebook phenomena (I leave that stuff to Aury), but one of its good features is the fact that you can see that the reviews are by real people and, unlike Tripadvisor, it's very easy to spot a fake!
The new website opens up a whole new range of opportunities for us as our web developer, Gordon McLennan, has lots of great ideas for the future. Our meetings always seem to wander off track as we start bouncing ideas off each other and wind up creating fabulous schemes. With Gordon's help, there will be lots of funky new features coming along so keep watching this space.
One of the other benefits of finishing the website update is the fact that we now have more time to do road trips for research into new places for the tours. Our first road trip of 2011 was necessitated by the closure of one of our favourite B&B's in the Oban area, Dun na Mara guesthouse. This property was one of our earliest "finds" back in December 2005 and we had it featured in our free guide to the 12 most memorable B&Bs in Scotland. Dun na Mara really stood out because its owners, Mark and Suzanne, were both originally architects and they had applied their artistic flair to the modernisation of this elegant Edwardian villa.
Mark and Suzanne have now moved onto a new project in Malta. Sadly, the new owner of Dun na Mara is not continuing to operate the house as a B&B. Fortunately, Suzanne gave us some tips on places that could fill the gap and we have found 2 new properties that are worthy contenders for inclusion in our "Most Memorable" list.
We had some free time on this trip so we dropped into the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary in the hope that we might be able to see a few of the seal pups that they rescue. February is actually a bit late for this as the Common Seals (the cuter round headed ones) have their pups during June to August and the Grey seals (which have longer snouts) give birth around September to December. As a result, we had arrived too late and the rescued pups had all been re-introduced to the wild.
Not to worry, the Otters at the Sealife Sanctuary are often more entertaining to watch and give the seal pups a close run when it comes to cuteness. The Sealife centre does cheat a bit as their otters are North American river otters rather than the indigeneous European species found in Scotland. There is a good reason for this, Scottish otters are more or less nocturnal creatures so they don't make for a great visitor spectacle. Unless you find sleeping otters of interest.
Below is a clip of the otters, Lewis and Isla, getting a bit impatient about the slow room service at feeding time.
Certainly not cute, but every bit as interesting are the many varieties of fish in the Aquarium section of the Sealife Sanctuary. There are some seriously ugly varieties of fish and crabs that wouldn't look out of place in an "Alien" movie. We managed to pass an hour very quickly as some of the fish are quite hypnotic to watch. In particular, you can get quite mesmerised by the shoal of Mackerel which continually swim around a circular "race track" tank in the centre of the aquarium.
It can also make you quite hungry as I'm very partial to piece of Sole grilled with lemon and butter.... pass the salt this one's mine!