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Highland Coast Hotels announce £1.5 million investment in Highland hotel and reveal plans for more acquisitions

By Caroline McMorran

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Highland Coast Hotels has unveiled plans for an extensive £1.5 million renovation of the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora.

The Royal Marine Hotel in Brora is closing on December 20 for renovation and is expected to reopen in early April.
The Royal Marine Hotel in Brora is closing on December 20 for renovation and is expected to reopen in early April.

Details of the ambitious redesign were revealed at an event in the hotel for invited guests yesterday evening, at which the firm’s chief executive Roddy Watt, chairman David Whiteford and group operations director Stacey Fleming were present.

Mr Whiteford said it was the first of the four hotels currently owned by the fledgling company - all in Sutherland and on the North Coast 500 tourism route - to undergo a revamp, but others would follow suit.

The company is aiming to add more hotels to its portfolio and is in active negotiations with businesses.

“Our aim is to get to eight to 10 hotels over the next two to three years - probably 10,” said Mr Watt. “We are negotiating with four hotels currently and will have hopefully acquired another two to three by the spring.

“The intention is that these hotels will all have a common DNA running through them but will all retain their original identity.”

Highland Coast Hotels initially purchased the Kylesku Hotel in April this year and then snapped up in quick succession the Newton Lodge Hotel, Kylesku, the Royal Marine and the Royal Dornoch Hotel.

The 22-bedroom Royal Marine is set to close on December 20 with renovations beginning in the first week of January.

Inverness based Compass Building and Construction Services have been appointed to undertake the work and have been given a tight, three-month schedule with the expectation the hotel will reopen on April 7.

Highland Coast Hotels chief executive Roddy Watt.
Highland Coast Hotels chief executive Roddy Watt.

Mr Watt, who is based in Perthshire, said: “I always think of the Royal Marine as a grand old lady that is a bit tired and in need of a face lift. That is what we are planning to do.

“The hotel will undergo a complete refurbishment. We have actually kicked off with two bedrooms where we are piloting our design - our designers are Edinburgh based specialists in the field.”

A new bar with a separate outdoor entrance - to be called the Megan Boyd bar in homage to Brora’s legendary fly tier - is to be created in the current snooker table room. There will also be a golf theme to the hotel.

The existing bar area will become part of the restaurant and will be modernised. An indoor/outdoor dining area is to be created and designed in such a way that it can be used year-round.

“When we reopen it will be a very different hotel, but it will retain all the original features,” continued Mr Watt.

He added: “This hotel sits at the heart of the community. We hope that the new Royal Marine will become a hub for the community."

A “community card” scheme for local people living within a 15 mile radius of the hotel is to be introduced giving a 30 per cent discount on food and drink year round and a 50 per cent discount on accommodation from October to March.

“This is a gesture of our commitment to the community,” said Mr Watt. “ We would love the Royal Marine to become the heart and soul of the community, which it once was but may have lost its place in this regard.”

In his address to the gathering Mr Whiteford spoke of the importance of creating jobs for young people and his admiration of the Vision for Brora masterplan spearheaded by community group Brora and District Action Group (BaDAG).

Highland Coast Hotels chairman David Whiteford.
Highland Coast Hotels chairman David Whiteford.

“Brora is leading the way and we hope the Royal Marine will be at the centre of the community,” he said.

“There are community liaison groups in all our hotels. There will be more hotels and there will be more of these groups. We need to collaborate together to start up businesses, whether in food and drink or elsewhere.”

Run down Highland hotel snapped up ahead of auction

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