The Fishing Hotel

Not A Fishing Hotel
ffaucon peregryn

I think the fishing hotel I remember actually staying in was in Harris. There were big shabby rooms, and it was quiet. I was not fishing – I have never been fishing, except perhaps off piers in Stromness when I was of tender years – but I was travelling by bicycle. The next night we caught the ferry back to Oban. It was a night boat. It docked at five in the morning, and there was a young man employed by MacBraynes to patrol the cabin corridors banging on the walls and shouting to wake the passengers ‘Four o’clock in the morning!’ He did this with unwelcome relish.

Other than that the fishing hotel is a sort of archetype or myth. There was the Cross Keys, somewhere along Offa’s Dyke, in a village where the border between England and Wales ran down the main street. The Cross Keys was in England, I think. Everyone was in there, watching the football; the goalkeeper had just been knocked out. It was the hotel where the judges used to stay on circuit journeys. I have no idea if there was any fishing. It had big shabby rooms and plenty of scope for drying your socks on the radiators. I was walking that time.

There is a novel by Mary Stewart set in a fishing hotel in Skye. People keep getting murdered in that one, but I think not in the hotel. There is John Macnab, but I’m sure they don’t stay in a hotel. There is Huntingtower – I think that may be the Urquelle for this image of the fishing hotel. It must be quiet, and there may be people there who fish, though this is clearly not essential. There should be bacon and eggs for breakfast. It must not be flash in any way, nor dainty. Chocolates may not be left on any pillow. There ought to be a pile of ancient paperbacks in a corner of the bar.

I am on holiday this week. I required sleep and food and hills to walk on. I consulted my authorities and they have directed me to the Peak District. I do not know if it will prove to be a fishing hotel. Obviously it cannot be the archetypal Fishing Hotel, the Platonic Idea. That is beyond us. It hovers above the mundane, just out of sight, like midges over a trout stream. It appears every hundred years in a Highland settlement to the astonishment of benighted travellers. In the bar, after dinner, you can nod quietly to Lord Cockburn and Sir Walter Scott and the Bailie Nicol Jarvie on holiday. There are big shabby rooms.

Herself: Fishing hotels – Navidale House, Helmsdale, was one. It was quiet, never rowdy, people got up early to go out fishing, the kitchen could produce sandwiches any time -for your supper, for instance – and one evening, after the three bairns were abed, we repaired to the bar, where we had a very entertaining discourse with the water bailiff.
Peregryn: Of course! You are right, that is the lurking archetype. Even though I associate it mainly with milk and shortbread for supper, before you went off to carouse with the water bailiff. The sandwiches seem to have passed me by. The water in the hotel taps was peat-brown, probably the same colour as the water supervised by the bailiff.

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