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New company acquires another three Highland hotels on NC500 route


By Caroline McMorran

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The fledgling hotel company which last month purchased the Kylesku Hotel has announced the acquisition of another three hotels on the North Coast 500 (NC500) tourism route in Sutherland.

Highland Coast Hotels is taking over the Newton Lodge, near Kylesku, the Royal Golf Hotel in Dornoch and the Royal Marine Hotel in Brora. It is understood staff at the three establishments were informed of the move last week.

The company says it plans to invest heavily in expanding and modernising the businesses with the aim of bringing “innovative, sustainable and community-led hospitality to NC500”.

Its focus will be on “creating environmentally-friendly hotels and supporting local communities and suppliers”.

Up to 100 jobs are expected to be created with the firm intending to keep the hotels, which will retain their names and “identities”, open all year round.

Incorporated with Companies House in 2019, Highland Coast Hotels is led by chief executive Roddy Watt, a specialist in the hospitality sector, and chairman David Whiteford, who lives locally and led the North Highland Initiative from 2009 to 2021.

Mr Watt said: “We envisage that our substantial investment in the next few years will support sustainable growth in local communities, extending the traditional season and creating more full-time career opportunities in the hospitality sector.

“Our hotels will offer a broadening range of opportunities to our guests to immerse themselves in what the region has to offer.

“Crucially we intend to do all of this while being environmentally sensitive and protecting and preserving one of the most beautiful and fragile landscapes in the UK and one of Europe’s last great wildlands.”

Mr Whiteford said: “Our aim is to develop a collection of high-quality hotels on and around the increasingly popular and successful NC500 touring route. These hotels represent a very exciting first step in building our portfolio.

“We are aware they are held in great affection by many regular guests and this is a responsibility we take very seriously as we develop them for the good of the local communities, our employees, our suppliers and our stakeholders.”

The 22-bedroom Royal Golf Hotel which overlooks the first tee of Royal Dornoch Golf Club, and the 21-bedroom Royal Marine Hotel have been owned for more than a decade by a consortium led by Inverness businessman David Sutherland.

Mr Sutherland said: “Highland Coast Hotels have extremely positive plans for the hotels and intend to build on what has been achieved.

“They are fortunate to inherit a staff with outstanding levels of quality and commitment, to whom we express our gratitude.

“We are confident that the new owners will make a valuable contribution to Sutherland’s visitor product and continue to underpin the communities of Brora and Dornoch in particular.”

The acquisitions have been welcomed by East Sutherland and Edderton ward councillor Deirdre Mackay who said: “I am delighted to learn of the plans for Sutherland and specifically the Marine Hotel in Brora.

“This hotel is an iconic feature in the village and it is so good to see this change of direction which plans to build on the existing qualities of the hotel but with a strong community focus.

“Brora has so much to offer in terms of the environment, culture, health and wellbeing and I am pleased to support the new management in their ambition to work with the community to make Brora a great place to visit and live in – it’s a win win!”

Highland Coast Hotels say it is expecting a strong summer season in 2021. With high occupancy levels already reported, the company is focused on UK-based guests looking to appreciate “slow tourism”.

Related: New company buys Kylesku hotel and is set to snap up others on NC500


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