During the summer of 1987 there was a rumour that the Loch Achray Hotel was expected to go on the market. I wasn’t surprised as I had heard on the coach drivers’ grapevine that things were not going too well there. On an impulse I drove across to have a look round and, whilst in the bar, happened to meet up with the owner. We got chatting, whisky was consumed and, by the end of the evening, hands had been shaken on a deal. The next day I returned with a friend who was a chartered surveyor and, after a look round, his first words were a rather discouraging ‘Is it too late to get out of it’. But nevertheless we pressed on and took over the property.
All manner of tradesmen soon moved in as there was much to be done, not least a change of decor. All of the woodwork had been painted in an unbelievably unattractive orange brown colour. In the ballroom there was a rather startling mural of a gory battle scene that stretched the length of the room from floor to ceiling. This seemed to be a most unwise choice of subject in a hotel that catered to both English and Scottish guests as it appeared to be a scene from the Battle of Bannockburn where the English army had been routed by Robert the Bruce. However, it was all swept away together with the outdated bedroom and bathroom fittings and, after a complete refurbishment, we opened to our first guests a few months later.
It should have been a flawless opening night. There were three coaches booked to arrive in the late afternoon. The management and staff were all on parade ready to welcome their first guests, and all that remained were the piles of tools and surplus materials that were being hurriedly moved from the foyer onto the workmen’s’ trucks when...disaster, a decorator’s table was lifted to reveal a five litre tin of black gloss paint lying on its side, its contents seeping across the new pale grey and lilac carpet. The paint was scraped into buckets and every able bodied person set to with cloth, brush and white spirit. It was never to be the same again and during the next ten years every time I arrived at the hotel my eye was immediately drawn to the slowly fading stain. There was a robust investigation, but it would take 15 years before the culprit had the courage to own up.
Now, thirty years later, we are carrying out another comprehensive renovation. The hotel is to be closed from January to March to allow time for the more substantial work that cannot be done when the hotel is open, to take place. The kitchens and stores will be gutted and rebuilt to modern standards and, more obvious to our guests, the function room will be completely refurbished. As we rip out the old banquette seating, it will be interesting to see if there are any signs of the old battle scene mural left behind.
But whatever happens I am confident that no tins of paint will be stored in the foyer.
Michael Wells OBE, Chairman