Luss Estates and the village of Luss on Loch Lomond side are seeing the Estates’ £3 million investment in the virtual rebuilding of the former Colquhoun Arms Hotel and its rebranding as the Loch Lomond Arms close to entering the final stage before its opening this summer.
Construction is complete, the staircases are ready to be installed and the designer has the plans for the presentation of the interior mood-boarded and signed off. Decoration, furnishing and external landscaping are the last targets.
Luss Estates and the Colquhoun family
The former Colquhoun Arms Hotel had previously been let. The last tenant ‘did a flit’ about three years ago, not long before Simon Miller arrived as the Luss Estates Chief Executive.
Finding the property in a depressingly frightful condition – so bad it was hard to understand how it was still standing, the estates made the decision to bring it back within its own direct control, make a serious investment in its restitution, reposition it in the visitor market and rebrand it as the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel.
The owners of Luss Estates, the Colquhoun family – and we’re talking clan chief – have been in this place for around 800 years. The only way they can be sure of staying around is to make the estate pay its way. The traditional earners of hunting, shooting and fishing no longer make money. Tourism is the future and the Estates’ investment in that industry is good news for Luss as well, welcoming the wider impact of the upgrading of the hotel in around 40 local jobs, more visitors and a superb set of facilities on its doorstep.
Luss Estates land runs from between Arrochar and Tarbet to the north, down to the Arden roundabout in the south; and between Loch Lomond to the east and the sea lochs to the west. This territory wraps around the land owned by the MoD for its various defence establishments, including part of Glen Douglas, Faslane and Coulport.
The Estates have a dual commitment – to the future of the estate, an inherited family duty; and the future of the village of Luss and the other communities within the estate.
The current Clan Chief, Sir Malcolm Colquhoun, was markedly and resourcefully supportive of the primary school in Luss when it was, quite madly, under threat of closure. Luss Estates are well aware of the contribution a primary school makes to the economic sustainability of a rural community.
The renewed and rebranded hotel is pitched at the affordable quality end of the market. The job has been done to last and much of it was hard going. The condition in which it was found was so bad that the first stage of its rebirth involved standing inside the walls, on bare earth, looking at the skies.
Nothing about this was going to be easy.
There is something like eighteen inches of sand, gravel, concrete, insulation and screed below the current floor level. Every square millimetre of that space had to be dug out by hand, with materials manually moved in and out because no machine access was possible.
Drumkinnon, the building contractors, have done a careful and committed job, dealing with a mix of some new build and much rebuild, work that cannot avoid constant improvisation.
Luss Estates yesterday (31st May) hosted a media ‘hard hat’ show-and-tell at Loch Lomond Arms, which saw For Argyll and the team from the Helensburgh Advertiser, journalist Graham Murray and photographer Greg Chalmers (see mini photo-stories linked to the foot of this article), taken into every nook and cranny of the entire project.
The Loch Lomond Arms commands access to the heart of Luss – sitting at the head of the road through the village to the pier; and at the centrepoint of the road dropping in and out of Luss from the A82.
A lot of good thinking has gone into its redevelopment.
The main building is effectively T-shaped with the head of the T fronting the main road through Luss, between its north and south entrances from the A82. Running back from the centre of that is the leg of the T, carrying the kitchen quarters; the access route from the kitchen to the bar bistro; and staff offices.
The extended main building has its entire ground floor given over to public spaces. The reception lobby leads left into a south facing triple aspect library, which will also be available for private dinner parties (seating up to 30); or say. a family christening. This room has a log fire and is seen as a very welcoming winter space. It’s a bright, well proportioned and instantly feel-good space, even in its unfinished state.
The natural move from the reception area will be to the right, into the bar bistro area. This has light wood panelling on the bar front and below a dado rail around the room. In here is a long wooden seat between the windows to the front, which will be upholstered and there will be a couple of big comfy sofas.
Between the bar area and the restaurant – in the end of this section of the building and which will have board games available, there is a thick wall with walk-throughs at either end. This wall seems around three feet deep and it tested Drumkinnon in the rebuild and reinforcement it required.
In the centre of this wall is a ‘through fire’, a cosily dramatic feature that will serve both the bar and restaurant areas.
Over the walk through at the front end of this wall, there is a great lintel of ancient timber which Drumkinnon rescued from the old interior and suggested including as an obvious link with the old coaching or drovers’ inn.
The return of the front section of the main building is a converted outbuilding now in five bedrooms, with an added-on wide, fully glazed access corridor with flyover timbered ceiling. Inside one of these rooms what might have been abruptly right angular corners on the walls have been beautifully rounded off, catching a sense of the traditional as well as creating an ease in the space, with its high timbered ceilings running to the roof pitch.
The two upper storeys of the main building house nine bedrooms, four on the first floor with three and two more on the split level second floor.
At the northern end of the first floor is the Clan Lomond room, the bridal suite, which will have a four poster, a walk in wardrobe and an en suite with a large shower and a double bath.
At the southern end is the Clan Colquhoun room (above – everybody’s favourite). This has a double aspect, a large triple-section front facing window looking into trees and over parkland to the east. This room just feels like a sanctuary and is full of light.
The upper rooms – and all the bedrooms are ensuite, some with fireplaces and gas flame fires – see over trees to Loch Lomond, and down into the pretty village of Luss.
The functions building
At the rear of the hotel complex and substantially distant from it, is the functions building – with a wide span of glazed doors at the front. These let a lot of light in to the main space and presumably can be folded back in good weather.
The ceiling is high and timbered, with steel bracing beams and will hang chandeliers.
The function building is entirely self-contained, with its own bar, separate kitchens, temperature controlled cellar (see right hand of pair of photographs, five above); cloakrooms and loos.
It can host wedding receptions with photo locations outside in the grounds (to be landscaped) and, of course, in the village. This building will be a great ceilidh venue, superb for conferences and – a suggestion today from Kim McGuire of Freshwater, the PR company handling the reborn hotel – might be a cracking cinema club.
Everywhere you turn – work
Outside, it was all go today. A tree surgeon was busy abseiling and cutting dead branches from an old tree near the north car park entrance to the hotel.
Site portacabins for Drummkinnon were stacked two stories high, wiht the necessary facilities close at hand. Diggers were working on the perimeter to the south car park which will have a direct hedged winding path through the gardens to the function suite.
There will be three small and pretty beer gardens tucked into sheltered spaces at the back of the hotel.
The interiors, by Serena Williams-Ellis, are what we would call ‘light traditional’. The detail on the ‘mood boards’ – of the fittings, soft furnishings and furniture (individual antique pieces are being sought out from all sources) indicate attention to detail, quality and charm.
All bedrooms will have free wifi, ipod docks and LCD televisions. Beds are to be equipped with 200-thread count Egyptian cotton bedlinen, luxury feather duvets and pillows – with hypoallergenic equivalents for those who need them.
If you were staying there and wanted to be active, you’re already in Scotland’s first National Park – Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. You can catch the Park’s water bus service from the pier at Luss and there are boat trips to book via the shop on the pier.
Then there are canoes to be hired and a glorious walk from just down the road from the hotel that involves the beach on Loch Lomond and as much of Glen Luss as you can struggle up. This crosses the A82 over the high timber footbridge just south of the northern entrance to the village of Luss.
A few miles south are two first class new golf courses at The Carrick on the shores of Loch Lomond and driving anywhere in Argyll and the Isles is a knockout.
The management team
The management team appointed to steer the Loch Lomond Arms Hotel simply could not be better. The General manager is Alastair Borland (second left); Valerie Jones (third left), manager of the former Colquhoun Arms Hotel, is Deputy General Manager; and Beverley Smith (left) is Duty Manager. They are seen here with Steve Haworth, Drumkinnon Construction’s presiding genius.
They are of one mind in putting the needs and wishes of customers first. Together the balance of local and varied experience they bring to the Loch Lomond Arms is formidable and attractive. They are open, forthcoming and clearly very capable people – a massive asset.
It is Alastair Borland’s job to make this investment work for Luss Estates. There can be no doubt that it will, with the nature of the facilities and the warm sanctuary of the hotel supporting year round breaks and events. The log fires, fresh local produce like venison and game from the estate, good wines, single malt whiskies of Scottish legend and specialist gins (one, The Botanist, distilled in Argyll at the Bruichladdich single malt whisky distillery on Islay) and specialist beers are a pretty seductive offer.
Once upon the history of this inn, the poet Wordsworth an d his sister Dorothy stayed here on a Scottish tour. Now where are the daffodils?
Alastair and Beverley have worked together at the legendary Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway, where the food gets rave reviews; and they launched the Anchor Hotel in Tarbert on Loch Fyne, leaving there very recently to move down to Loch Lomond. Luss can expect visits from their friends in Tarbert, including, no doubt, Michael Casey from Tarbert’s cool Cafe Barge.
Valerie is keen that visitors looking for the hotel realise that if they come into the village of Luss from the northern entrance off the A82, they simply stay on that road right through the village until they see the hotel on the right, just past the entrance to the school, which is tucked in the trees up the hill.
So when is it opening?
As Drumkinnon say – and Alastair Borland agrees – if a two year heavy-duty project like this needs an extra week or so to get things absolutely right, it will have that extra time.
‘Sometime this summer’ is the answer. It could be the title of a novel and it would certainly be a good idea as a prompt to come and try out this hotel in this famously picturesque lochside village, offering a world of their own in Scotland’s first National Park, about half an hour out of Glasgow.
We’ll be back nearer the time. You’ve got the ‘befores’ here. Next will be the ‘afters’. and after that, further acquaintance with the Loch Lomond Arms is down to you.
Below are two mini photo stories as a fun postscript to a very productive introduction to the hotel. Each of these involves one of the team of two from the Helensburgh Advertiser. Greg Chalmers turned out to be a devotee of extreme photography; and Graham Murray discovered that he and the Hotel’s new Duty Manager, Beverley Smith, are related. True. In both cases, the photos tell the story.