The future of an iconic, four-star country house hotel in Royal Deeside is assured as it has come under new management.
The Tor Na Coille Hotel in Banchory has been leased from yesterday (March 2) by the team behind The Kildrummy Inn in Alford.
Former Scottish Chef of the Year David Littlewood and business partner Nigel Hake have taken on a long-term lease and the management of the hotel, with an option to buy the property in future.
David and Nigel, who were highly commended in the Scottish Independent Hoteliers of the Year awards in 2015, plan to develop business at The Tor Na Coille, which had faced an uncertain future following a period of poor trading, by developing the food and beverage offering, improving customer service and increasing the marketing of the hotel.
David and brother-in-law Nigel, who operate their business along with their wives believe that giving the personal, owner-managed touch back to the hotel at the same time as increasing the quality and range of the food offering, will propel the hotel back to being a popular and successful operation with a secure future.
David Littlewood said: “Nigel and I have proven that our combination of culinary skills, industry experience and business acumen works in taking a rural inn and making it a foodie destination with an excellent reputation for quality.
“Although there are fewer rooms at The Kildrummy Inn, our occupancy levels are high, and we have little reliance on corporate business.
“We believe that we have developed the blue print for how we will operate the Tor Na Coille, whilst ensuring the continued success of the Kildrummy Inn. “
David Littlewood, who has been a chef for 17 years and worked previously at both Milton of Crathes restaurant and Raemoir House Hotel in Banchory is a Masterchef of Great Britain and has won several industry accolades including Scottish Chef of the year in 2013/14.
He also appeared, and won, the competitive BBC TV series The Hairy Bikers’ Food Tour of Britain.
A 60-seat restaurant is at the heart of the plans. The pair plan to reintroduce weekday lunches for residents and non-residents, reinstating the original dining room for “casual fine-dining”, as well as offering a bar/lounge menu to provide simpler more informal dining options.
They will introduce new themed afternoon tea options, as well as building on the hotel’s reputation for hosting memorable weddings and events in the hotel’s newly refurbished function suite.
David continued: “The quality of the rooms and the public areas of the hotel is outstanding, having been refurbished relatively recently and we aim to market the hotel for leisure tourists as well as to sportsmen and fishermen. We own a beat on the river Don and we can create bespoke fishing packages. Current owner Charles Anderson, who lives in Canada, has been generous in his time and advice as we take on the hotel and we’re grateful to him for this guidance.
“We’ve shown at Kildrummy that high quality food and accommodation appeals to both tourists and the local community and although there will be those who think we’re foolish to take on a hotel here when the hospitality industry in the North-east is going through an unprecedented dip in trade, we’re confident that, with the support of the local community, we can make the Tor Na Coille a must visit Scottish hotel and restaurant.”
The Tor Na Coille Hotel has been a landmark building on Royal Deeside since the reign of Queen Victoria, when villas were built by prosperous locals along the route taken by Victoria and Albert from Aberdeen to Balmoral in the days prior to the Deeside railway.