by PAULA DAVIES
THEIR house has 18 bed rooms. They charge 35s. each for bed and breakfast or £17 10s. a week full board. They are six nuns of the Order of St. Joseph of Cluny, which, over the years, has had the good sense to provide decent accommodation for travellers. And if travellers have turned into tourists so much the better. Founded in 1807 during the French Revolution the Order has been fairly revolutionary all the w itself aay along the line. Unlike some Orders which by have been carried away the excitements of Vatican the the C nuns in Cluny Order have changed only small details of their habit and way of life. Sister Stanislaus, manager of one of the Order's guest houses Scotland, w in Scotlho, using the name of Sister Anne, graced the Ideal Home Exhibition recently, says that her Orderhas always been "Very sensible. Our founder was living 100 years ahead of her time," she told me. "The nuns in our Order have always had a considerable amount of personal responsibility. Visiting relatives has always been accepted and we didn't have all this business of only going out in pairs. We must also be the only Order of nuns to run a co-educational boarding school. You must admit that that is a little out of the ordinary?" Sister Stanislaus, although she would never admit it, is a trifle out of the ordinary herself. After all, it is not exactly usual to find nuns running hotels even if they call them guest houses for the sake of "nun-like" respectability. Certainly they have been criticised for this kind of business operation which some people have described as "no work for nuns." At Trochrague, where Sister Stanislaus manages the house, they had one visitor who was so obviously put off at being greeted by a nun instead of the usual receptionist that he turned tail and fled. To what she regards as ill-informed criticism of their work – if you pressed her she might even call it jealousy— Sister Stanislaus replies that the nuns are merely returning to the practice of monastic hospitality which died out at the Reformation. "We have houses all over the world," th she told me. Like most nuns one has met, Sister Stanislaus takes it all in her stride and knows that her role is only unusual to those who expect nuns to be mysterious creatures blessed with abilities to soothe the fevered brow in hospitals or risk being, eaten by natives in far off lands. "It is not so extraordinary," said this indomitable nun who started her new career in hotel management after a lifetime of teaching. "We're now in our 12th year at Trochrague and doing well enough to help support our foreign missions. "It is well established now," she added and like any good manager pointed out that there are no vacancies at all during the months of July and August, but she could fit some guests in during May and June and, of course, September. Unlike a number of hotels in th out-of-e-way places the guest house attached to St. Joseph's Convent does not close for six months of the year or even three. "We just hibernate in November", explained Sister Stanislaus. "lt gives us all a little rest and then in December we re-open and do our springcleaning, so to speak." The guest house is modern in spirit if not in appearance. A re lift has been put in recently and the sisters use the best highpowered equipment in their kitchen. "We serve about 200 a meals day in the height of the season so we need it," said Sister Stanislaus. There are six nuns, each running her own department and about eight lay staff, more during the busiest periods. One of the hidden advantages of an hotel run by nuns and one m very that, unlike the nun-manager is ve conscious of is the fact at, staff, the sisters do ordinary stasters do not suddenly decide to change their jobs and vanish. "We're not likely to go on strike either," she added, a point I confess I had not considered. Situated a few minutes bus ride from the sea and framed by beautiful mountain scenery, not to mention a wealth of famous golf courses, Trochrague is set in 371 acres of grounds and has an air of peace and tranquillity that encourages people to return year after year.
"We have had people come back every year for the last II years," said Sister Stanislaus proudly but it obviously doesn't surprise her.
Neither does it surprise her cook, Sister Madeleine who bakes all the bread and cakes which every visitor finds irresistible. "We have our own brown bread made with buttermilk that only the Irish can make," said Sister Stanislaus, Irish herself. of course.
She also lavishes praise on the potato cakes and Sister Madeleine's steak and onions which people ask for again and again. So good is the restaurant that it achieved an entry in Egon Ronay's 1970 Guide to Hotels, Pubs and Inns. Again, the nuns are not really surprised. They wouldn't mind being left out of the guide. They don't mind being put in. As long as they are doing a valuable job they are happy. So are their guests, whatever their beliefs or lack of them. Don't imagine for a moment that the guest house is full of priests and nuns. They are welcome, naturally, but so is eVeryone else and the nuns have a particularly soft spot for families, which is good for the families who often find themselves unwelcome because of the children.
Some people look a bit taken aback at first and think they have come to the wrong place but they soon change their attitude and the pleasant friendliness of the house makes itself felt.
Service takes on real meaning in an hotel run by nuns. And I mustn't forget to add that there is a wine licence.