Guests to the Auchrannie Resort on Arran can now reside in one of 20 new luxury rooms which opened to the public at the beginning of May. The new rooms, which sit alongside the Aspa and existing Spa bedrooms, have already boosted business. Says Business Development Manager Gordon Hay, “We are delighted with the response so far. They are already booked out at the weekends. And the reponse from guests has been great.”
It’s the next phase in the development of the resort which already boasts 65 bedrooms, 30 luxury lodges, three restaurants and bars, two leisure centres, a children’s playbarn, adventure centre, a new eco lodge, and two staff accommodation centres as well as the Aspa. Says Executive Director and owner, Linda Johnston, “We really have developed into a fully fledged resort. Over the last few years we have gone from a hotel with leisure facilities to one which has a much broader appeal to all markets. I believe the new rooms have rounded us out. ”
Certainly the new wing, is striking from the outside in. The three storey structure, is a modular build. Explains Linda, “We researched modular building trends and decided to go the modular route because we wanted to explore a new way of building. We thought by doing a modular build we would also minimise disruption at Auchrannie.”
The modular build meant that the building was created off-site in a factory, and then transported in sections to the island. This created its own challenges. Says Linda, “Obviously there were lots of things we had to consider when it came to the design. Not least the challenge of fitting each section on the ferry and getting them on and off the boat. We managed it, but there was very little room for manoeuvre. It was a challenging time. However it was made easier by the fact that we have worked with the same architect, David Graham of Axiom Design, since we opened the original spa. He worked with us on the development and did all the technical drawings. My role was to make sure the design was suited to a hotel operation.”
However the same can’t be said of the contractor which went into administration at Christmas. Says Gordon, “This meant we had to finish the job ourselves and it also meant that instead of being open last year, the completion date was delayed.”
The interior design was carried out by Linda and Platform 9. Explains Linda, ‘I’ve worked with Platform 9 since 2001 and we work well together. I wanted the new rooms to have the same feel as our Aspa, which we opened two years ago. It has a feeling of tranquility and is decorated in muted tones, which leaves guests feeling relaxed. I wanted a natural feel, but not too rustic. We have also incorporated our Aspa chill-out pods into the two new suites.”
The new rooms feature dark grey and pale grey walls, Osborne and Little designer wallpaper and lamps which look bespoke. Linda explains, “I didn’t want the rooms to be too blingy. I wanted them to appeal to the type of people we get here, who are, generally, quite down to earth. But I also wanted the rooms to have a modern, aspect and reflect an organic feel. That’s why we have tweeds and tartans, accented with raspberry and yellow colours, the silver leaf lamps, and trees depicted in the wallpaper. We have brought the surrounding environment into the rooms through the design.”
Guests can also see the view through large picture windows, which all have sumptuous curtains from Curtainwise. Says Linda, “I originally saw curtains I liked at another Ayrshire hotel, and asked them where they got them.” Each of the rooms have a feature walls which boasts one of four Osbourne and Little designs. The rooms either reflect a raspberry or yellow accent which is brought out in the tweed cushions, upholstery and lampshades. It’s subtle but effective. The rooms all have state of the art bathrooms, all beautifully tiled with walk in showers as well as baths. Bunk rooms have also ben introduced to every room. Says Gordon, “Having bunk rooms makes our offering attractive to young families. Each bunk has its own TV, and earphones must be used to listen. This means that mums and dads can enjoy the luxury of the room, and some downtime, while the kids watch TV quietly in their beds.” It’s not the only thoughtful feature for families. Each floor also has a family resource centre – a kitchen with laundry facilities, microwave and ice machine.
Another quirky but lovely idea is the guest relaxation rooms in the new wing. On the first two floors the rooms feature comfortable sofas, upholstered in crushed velvet, state of the art TV’s, a slate wall and a coffee table made from driftwood and glass. There is also access to an outside terrace – featuring perspex furniture. The top floor has the added benefit of a large hot tub on the outside terrace.
Linda comments, “It is a fantastic space, with a great view.” She added, “We’ve also been thinking ahead and we have the facility to add another 20 rooms on to this wing. But first we are going to take a breather and bed the new wing in. We have to get used to the enlarged operation and of course we need to continue to give our guests good service. We also need more staff accommodation.”
Linda also revealed plans to build an Eco lodge development at Auchrannie. She said, “We are currently researching the idea. We have installed one, but it sits a bit higher up than the rest of our Eco Lodges will due to its location beside water. Ideally we would landscape the area before putting the Eco Lodges in and they would blend in more with the scenery. An Eco lodge portfolio would also add to our portfolio of different offerings.”
Currently Auchrannie has around 25,000 people staying each year, with the new wing they anticipate this will rise to 37,000. A far cry from when Linda and husband Iain opened Auchrannie back in 1988. Then it was a 12 bedroom guest house turning over £28K. It now has a turnover of just under £6m.
Says Linda, “I believe that if you are progressive, then business is good. You have to be offering something different. It’s not easy. And certainly our increased business this year is due in part to the RET (Road Equivalent Tariff) policy the Scottish government brought in. It started in October and it now means that visitors to the island pay a ferry fare based on a distance based fares structure. We have seen a significant increase in visitors to the island because of it and we had our busiest Easter ever.”
She continues, “Throughout the recession we continued to invest in Auchrannie. We listened to our customer feedback and invested in things like the Playbarn, the Aspa and lodges. We also put in a £400K bio-mass generator, and built two lots of staff accommodation. Luckily we have had supportive bankers, who have been able to see our vision. I have full confidence in our offering going forward.”
Certainly, as Gordon reveals, the figures are looking promising. He told DRAM, “I’m amazed at the forward bookings for the next months. We are already ahead by 2,000 by room nights compared to where we were last year at the same time. The demand for the new rooms has been huge, way above our expectations.”
I am not surprised.
By Susan Young