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Issue 63 - Cream of the Crop

Scotland Magazine Issue 63
June 2012


This article is 6 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Cream of the Crop

May of this year saw the 10th anniversary of the founding of the project to celebrate the best of Scottish hospitality with a rather different kind of awards programme. These hotel awards, now merged with Scotland Magazine, are not a simple selection of easy-to-pick winners. On the contrary, The Scottish Hotel Awards look at each individual hotel in depth and work with the hotels’ owners and managers on a programme to motivate, advise and recognise successes – across every department. Next, the research and judging team, 46 strong in 2012, look comparatively at the whole hotel scene in Scotland and make discerning choices (in part based on a huge volume of guest feedback) for national winners across a range of categories covering every facet of the industry – from design, business and management to food, weddings, spas and housekeeping. The results, possibly the most comprehensive national hotel recognition scheme in the world, are a detailed guide to help visitors plan a stay. The awards event itself is beyond question the premier industry night out in Scotland and this year featured BBC Alba presenter Phil MacHugh, Miss Scotland 2012, TV show winners and singing stars Jai McDowall and Gamu plus industry leaders including Lady Claire Macdonald. Keep up to date at where a new feedback site is being integrated this year; a publication, The Scottish Hotel Awards Gold Guide, will be available from summer. The awards are on Facebook with a page at Scottish Hotel Awards and on Twitter @ScotHotelAwards.

The Scottish Hotel of the Year 2012
The Chester Residence, Edinburgh
Recognising the maturing of a highly popular type of hotel accommodation, the ‘aparthotel’, Edinburgh’s Chester Residence was awarded the top title at the ninth annual Scottish Hotel Awards event – the industry’s largest, attended by 500 guests. Rory MacAleece, senior manager, was thrilled with the win: “Our ambition was to provide guests with a level of service designed to surprise and delight. We wanted to go beyond what people expected from a hotel and make ensure that we were not merely a place with fabulously elegant and comfortable rooms and suites, which of course we are!” His hotel offers deluxe accommodation with a central lounge plus innovative bar, food and concierge services. Chairman of the awards Gary McLean-Quin stressed that the decision to honour a different type of hotel had been taken after much consideration by the judges. “Although sites like TripAdvisor can have their inconsistencies, trends are easy to discern. This category of hotel ranks top in Edinburgh. Guests tell us they love the design, the space, the privacy and the unexpected touches. The Chester Residence, in the New Town district, was the most popular hotel in terms of feedback to the awards’ official website, which has received tens of thousands of reports in recent years. After several assessment, mystery and peer review visits we were happy to award owner Graham Wood and his team the top accolade and thank them for their contribution to Scottish hospitality.

Romantic Hotel of the Year
Ardanaiseig House Hotel
Guests have for many years told us of the romance somehow just ‘in the air’ at this heritage-rich, creeper-clad, lochside manor. It helps, too, that the food for the past decade has been prepared by Scottish Hotel Chef of the Year 2011 Gary Goldie, who also holds three AA rosettes and is tipped for even greater things. Open log fires, antiques, woodland walks and hugely individual bedrooms – including a contemporary boathouse suite – all set in magnificent Highland scenery less than three hours drive from Glasgow help make it a winner. Romantic dinners, drinks by the fire and endless tranquillity make it a hotel to love.

People Management Award
Summer Isles Hotel
It’s the passion in staff training and motivation that sets apart the Summer Isles Hotel in the magnificent northwest Highlands.
People – especially when a guest chooses to stay in a more remote area, in a more intimate hotel – make all the difference. Here, Jody Marshall, who won a Manager Gold Medal, leads a superb team in an inspirational style.
Guests – and staff – love it, and tell us all about it.
The hotel’s restaurant offers a superb dining experience, or enjoy fresh seafood at the casual bistro-bar. Fresh, beautifully-prepared lounges and bedrooms delight. Smiling, professional staff and a wonderful breakfast starts the day.

Special Weddings Award
Duisdale House Hotel & Solus na Mara
Scotland has long been famous as a marriage destination. From Gretna Green to the great castles, there are many venues. Now on the Isle of Skye is another option: boutique hotel Duisdale House, with its sea and mountain outlook, has a large, sleek yacht Solus na Mara on which guests can be married. Co-owner Captain Ken Gunn was previously at the helm of fivr star cruise ship Hebridean Princess; he and islander Anne Gracie and team can now get your marriage off to the most beautiful and original of starts by including the yacht. What about a Champagne picnic on board, perhaps whale-watching, or at a quiet anchorage in some magnificent fjord-like sea loch?

New Hotel of the Year
Douglas Hotel
Scotland has over 700 islands of which almost 100 are populated. Arran is one of the largest and is easily reached from Glasgow. On arrival in scenic Brodick Bay, on the frequent Cal-Mac ferry, what had previously greeted travellers was a dilapidated red sandstone building crying out for rescue.

A local family took the old hotel on and using top architects rebuilt it entirely, creating a brand new boutique hotel with vibrant bistro restaurant and huge, bay-windowed lounge bar. Beautiful colours and quality fittings have been used in the luxurious bedrooms. Islanders have told us of their pride in this all-new hotel now open behind the restored façade of old.

Inverness Hotel of the Year
Rocpool Reserve
The capital of the Highlands offers many hotels – including the historic and charming Culloden House – but none are as hip as Rocpool Reserve which won not only the city hotel category but a Hotel Chef Médaille d’Or for Ian Simpson. Set on a hillside not for from the castle you’ll find the hotel’s design-led bedrooms and decidedly chic style a rather fresh type of Scottish experience. The airy Albert Roux led restaurant serves flavoursome, French rusticinspired real food with élan. This is one of several ICMI-operated hotels to triumph this year; explore also the new Luxury Hotel of the Year, The Atholl, in Edinburgh for the capital’s most exclusive accommodation.

Guest House Breakfast of the Year Award
Craigmhor Lodge
Food is and always has been an integral part of the awards scheme and from the start we included breakfast categories. Some thought this excessive detail; we demurred! A good breakfast is a great thing and we have found many stellar examples in our research. Curiously, upmarket guest houses can often do this better than hotels.

But this year none in that group did it as comprehensively well as Pitlochry’s Craigmhor Lodge where designer Courtyard Rooms offer top-notch modern comforts. On awakening, a breakfast array of astonishing quality awaits: local ingredients, original dishes, immaculate attention to detail and cheerful service. A five star start to the day!