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We found Crubenbeg by chance, after staying in rather disappointing accommodation in the Highlands.

Alan and elaine at Crubenbeg House Guest House Newtonmore

What a contrast – friendly hosts, wonderful bedroom and guest sitting area, fantastic breakfasts and good company.  No wonder that since then Alan and I have managed 14 visits and spent a total of 33 nights together at Crubenbeg, although Alan has gone solo and spent a further 4 nights (perhaps I need to redress the balance).

John and Irene treat everyone as a special guest in their home, catering to the individual's particular requirements, even keeping a record of dietary likes and dislikes.  They also consider what you are looking for from your stay with them – with us we are generally looking for good-humoured banter in a country house party atmosphere.  The New Year break is perfect for this and John doesn't really have to work too hard at the banter – we won't forget the time John enquired if we would be arriving in the Roller Skate (our old MX5 to the rest of you).

No matter what you are looking for John and Irene offer lots of help to make sure you have a great time.

One year we planned a cycle trip from our home in Eastern Scotland using the cycle route through the Highlands.  Holiday dates were already fixed, the route and timings calculated (based on the abilities of the shortest legs and weakest link in the cycling duo) and we realised we would be arriving at Crubenbeg in the evening, tired and hungry!  A phone call to John and Irene to explain that our whole trip depended on the answer to two questions – do you have a room for the night ("yes") and are you doing meals that night ("no – but we will easily do that for you").  That meant our trip could take place and they even contacted the other guests staying that evening to let them know that dinner would be available if they wished.  I was also particularly impressed that we managed the entire cycling trip in sunshine – quite how they arranged that I don't know, but much appreciated.

Many businesses like to say that they will go the extra mile for their customers – but I can honestly say that Irene and John do that regularly.  We have been on a number of Walking Weekends at Crubenbeg led by both John and Irene.  These weekends are a great way of exploring somewhere new in good company.  The sight of John waiting for us as we finished walking the Corrieyairack Pass on a hot summer's day is a memory I treasure – particularly as he was bearing ice-cream bars and bottles of water.

Crubenbeg sets the standard in guest houses for us – when we stay in guest houses abroad and say to each other "it's like John and Irene's" then we know we are giving that guest house a 5 star rating.

Finally, we often hear the phrase "arrive as strangers, leave as friends", well I can honestly say that John, Irene and Rajah have become very good friends to us over the years.  There can't be many people who will arrange to meet up with their guesthouse hosts on the other side of the world but that's what we did when John and Irene were travelling in New Zealand in 2010.  John compared their itinerary with ours and worked out that on 17 November we would all be in the Abel Tasman area and so we were able to meet up with them for a meal on the other side of the world.

Nuff said, really.

Elaine & Alan. 2011.