If you’re thinking there’s something familiar about Maclay Inns’ £700k, four-month renovation of Balloch’s Tullie Inn, you’d be on to something. There are more than a few nods to a certain waterfront bar and restaurant that opened in West Kilbride last year. Maclay Inns’ MD Steve Mallon has been quite open about how impressed he was by what SimpsInns did at The Waterside. He said, “Malcolm Simpson and his team did a fantastic job, and The Waterside is a fantastic venue. It has inspired me in a way that is evident in what we have done here. The Tullie Inn was a big investment and the renovation has ironed out a few wrinkles in the old building. As well as a complete internal refurbishment, we’ve also added a new glasshouse to the front, and customers have been blown away by what we have done.”
On the day of my visit, The Tullie Inn, which also has 13 guest bedrooms, was a hive of activity. As well as the impressive glass frontage, there’s also a new all-glass entrance to the left of the main part of the building.
Although as a listed building there were some other considerations. Architect Lawrie Orr said, “It’s a C listed building so we had to work closely with the planners at Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. What we came up with was accepted by the planners right from day one, with just a few negotiations over some minor details, but all in all, a straightforward process. That is the hallmark of a good design.”
The layout basically comprises three main areas. As soon as you come in you’re confronted with the first of them. This houses the bar and a large seating area, including a corner snug with a real- effect fire that, for some reason, has been installed at torso-height above the original fireplace, in which there are some decorative chopped logs. One of the biggest changes to this area is the levelling out of the floor (previously it had been a split-level area) and was quite dark. Walls have been knocked down to create a more open and spacious feel across the bar and restaurant, and new windows create a much brighter feel too.
The seating area beside the windows boast a mix of couches and wicker chairs in eclectic fabrics – stripes, tweed, modern tartan – all of which feature bright bursts of colour, and square coffee tables made from drift wood and glass which compliments the clapperboard wall, run the full length of the room.
The dominant colour is ‘boathouse blue’ with splashes of white in what is an over-arching nautical/Cape Cod theme. As well as the various blues, creams and white make up the rest of the colour palate.
This area is divided from the bar by several posing tables, which sit in front of the bar, which is a piece of art itself. The stainless steel bar top is matched by the back bar, which allows plenty of space to promote products, and there’s also a library-style metal ladder for any hard to reach bottles.
Design Build Deliver did all the interior design, and company MD Michael Dunn is delighted with the result. He said, “The challenge was to put The Tullie Inn back on the map. It’s a flagship outlet in the Maclay stable, so we had to create a world-class offering, and to achieve that, it was completely stripped back.
“For six months of the year Balloch, as gateway to the Highlands, is a tourist destination, with visitors coming from all over the world. The design we’ve delivered reflects its global footprint, with a map of the world and the collection of wall clocks set to a variety of timezones. It is also welcoming, exciting, innovative and fun. The glass extension has allowed for lots more light, and despite the 45 fabrics and coverings being used, including plaids and leathers, there’s a harmony to it all.”
To the right of the bar area is the heart of the building which accommodates most of the covers, and this leads into the main seating area, divided by a central partition. This is presided over by a coffee and cake station, a brand new addition, and hanging above the station are two quirky lampshades – one is a tea cup and the other a teapot. This area is where most people choose to sit, according to the staff. Perhaps this is because it’s the most brightly lit section thanks to a wall of original windows, plus natural light also streams in through the new glasshouse at the front. Chandeliers hang in one half of this area, which is separated by a central unit constructed from shelves and a line of banquettes. Flashes of orange and red in the textiles and accessories add bright bursts of colour, and the booths have been upholstered in stylish leather and tartan textiles, and all of this is contrasted with a collection of whitewashed and wicker furniture. The darker
side of this area, on account of it not benefitting from as much natural light, has some higher tables and some cosier corners, lit by lantern candles, but the nautical theme continues with sailing boat models and port-hole style mirrors.
The far end of this area leads out on to the glasshouse at the front of the building, where the design is pretty simple, as it’s wall-to- wall glass, apart from what was once the outside wall, which now displays some silver wall lights and black and white photographs. It also has wicker furniture with bleached wooden tables.
There are also lots of little details to discover, like an area featuring a striking statement stag printed wallpaper and the map of the local lochs hand painted on a part of the ceiling, of which Michael Dunn is particularly proud. He explained, “The map on the ceiling depicts the six clans that used to live around Loch Lomond 500 years ago, and we’ve also implanted an image of The Tullie Inn, well how it looked when it opened in 1901, on to it.”
Apart from the glass conservatory on the outside, it doesn’t look all that different in 2013, testament to a sympathetic design that’s brought a listed building bang up-to-date. While the interior design has brought something bonnie back to the banks of Loch Lomond.