17 May Strathpeffer’s Highland Hotel set to open fresh chapter in new hands
A top Ross hotel which became a high-profile victim of the Covid pandemic’s first wave is set for a phoenix-like resurrection – with the creation of 40 jobs.
The Highland Hotel in Strathpeffer shuttered its doors almost exactly a year ago when parent company, the Shearings Hotels’ operator Specialist Leisure Group, collapsed amid plummeting coach tour trade.
In a reversal of fortune, a chain behind two other high profile Ross-shire hotels has snapped it up.
Bespoke Hotels, which runs the Caledonian Hotel in Ullapool and the Gairloch Hotel, has bought the Strathpeffer site and a number of others once operated under Specialist Leisure Group’s Bay Hotels brand.
Hotel general manager Murdina MacIver, who reprises her previous role, is spearheading recruitment of dozens of staff ahead of its reopening.
Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP, Maree Todd, who lives locally, said: “The Highland Hotel’s closure alongside other major local hotels was the root of much anxiety in the village this time last year. It’s therefore fantastic to hear that it will be reopening its doors, creating 40 new jobs in the process – a real boost to the community and the local economy.
“As a village, Strathpeffer is extremely reliant on the tourist trade, so Covid-19 really knocked us for six. With restrictions due to be significantly eased, allowing for the safe reopening of the hospitality sector, I’m confident that over time we will be able to sustainably rebuild our tourist industry and revive our local Highland communities.”
Paul FitzGerald, portfolio managing director at Bespoke Hotels, said: “Given the enormous challenges of the last few months, we’re delighted to bring The Highland Hotel back to market.It’s a lovely, very grand property. We know the initial closure was felt keenly amongst the local community but now, with reopening plans in place, we’re able to offer not just jobs and wider tourism opportunities, but a hospitality service that people can engage with as restrictions lift.”
He said: “Everyone is eager to enjoy themselves post-lockdown, and as people are starting to realise these properties are reopening, we’re already seeing keen interest to book.”
He’s keen to attract people seeking leisure breaks and welcoming locals to sample the restaurants, bars, and wedding and event venues on offer “as we look to restore the hotel’s local hero status”.
Strathpeffer Community Council chairman Ron Macaulay welcomed the planned approach by the new owners. Its previous owners were very closely linked to the coach tour trade.
“Quite frankly I’m delighted to see it opened and back in business,” he said. “It’s great news. We are really pleased to see things beginning to relax by way of restrictions and life returning to the village. I look forward to seeing more people visiting Strathpeffer and, hopefully, spending more time in Strathpeffer. One of concerns in the past was that the Highland Hotel, in particular, were very much a case of bussing people in and bussing them out to their next tour stop, and I hope [the guests] will spend [more] time in the village.”
Thomas Greenall, MD of Bespoke Hotels, said the firm had actively sought to re-employ previous staff wherever possible, while also looking to offer new roles to others looking to enter the hospitality industry.
He added: “We know the initial closures of many of these properties caused a real stir in their local communities last year, so we hope they’ll be keen to embrace their reopening and support the individual hotels in their endeavours.”
“We hope this will be regarded as a very positive move for the area – delivering jobs, support for communities and vital trade for suppliers and ancillary businesses.”