Apr 24

Kingshouse Hotel – Glencoe

So close, and yet….

The Kingshouse has been around for 250 years and part of mountaineering history for a large part of that. The old hotel was an iconic building, perched on the moor at the entrance to Glencoe. However time, neglect and poor development had led to it becoming a mess. Many of those who opposed the redevelopment had, I suspect, not visited ( and certainly not stayed there) recently.  Apart from a nod to history, there was little to recommend it. The plans and the finished redevelopment have come in for a degree of opposition and many feel that the aesthetics are less than ideal and too little of the original building has been retained.

I’m going to disagree with those views and voice the opinion that it is a handsome building which expresses a modern Scots/Scandi style. It is an enormous improvement on what was there before. Having visited the bar a number of times, I would never have wished to stay at the old hotel but we have just returned from two nights at the redeveloped establishment.

As stated above, I like the building. The rooms are of a good size, well appointed and very smart. On our visit, everything was impeccably clean and as might be expected there was still the delightful smell of new carpets. Our room, on the front facing side of the building, was warm and the bed very comfortable. For reasons unknown to me the main orientation of the hotel is towards the Ski Resort and the mountains behind it rather than the classic view of the Buachaille. This gives all the front facing rooms a good view but you have to get right up to the window to see the Buachaille. As far as I can see only the signature rooms have the ‘full view’. I’d certainly wish to have a room that was on the front side of the hotel rather than the rear.

The check in process was smooth but the delightful gentleman on the front desk did not have a sufficiently good grasp of spoken English in my opinion; there was more than a suggestion of ‘Manuel’ about him. There were no porters in evidence nor any offer to manage our luggage.

Good sized rooms and comfortable beds. This is a front facing room – corporate but with a picture of the Buachaille.

Once in the room, more issues started to emerge. The onscreen room information system wasn’t working properly and we couldn’t access any of the information related to meals. The links were there but failed to load. Deciding to try via the hotel website we discovered that the wifi was pitifully slow and whether due to filtering or other issues, it was impossible to connect to the BBC website for news. This was across four devices, Android, IOS and Windows.

Corporate bathroom. Well equipped and spotlessly clean however.

When we got to the hotel website, we were unable to reserve a table for the restaurant and decided to head for the bar to eat. The food was good but the service, while very pleasant, was both slow and disorganised. There were long waits, forgotten orders and the waiting staff did not seem to have allocated areas of responsibility. The bar was woefully understaffed. The food, when it eventually arrived was very good. We had to go and request a dessert menu and then go and find a waiter to order. The information screen had advertised the ability of us to pay using the NFC capability of our room key but this didn’t seem to be operating. We ended up adding our meal to our bill by signing with a coloured crayon as there were no pens behind the bar.

There was little or no noise during the night and a very good night’s sleep resulted.

Breakfast was completely self service with drinks from a bean to cup machine. The food was good but the warmers were insufficient to prevent the fried eggs from being very cold.

After breakfast we went to reception to book a table for that evening. Unfortunately the reception desk was deserted and we had to wait ages before anyone arrived. Again the electronic booking seemed unavailable and our reservation was written on a tiny scrap of paper.

Great view from the front of the hotel

The high point of the stay was dinner on the second night in the restaurant. The food was excellent and the service exemplary in no small part due to the efforts on the individuals concerned. The only downside to the lovely restaurant is that it currently looks out over what I assume is the hotel sewage processing plant. One hopes that some screening at least is on the way.

Great view from our table in the restaurant – apart from the sewage processing plant under the green covers…

After breakfast the following morning we couldn’t get back into our room as our key had been cancelled requiring another visit to reception for that to be rectified.

The ground surrounding the hotel needs some landscaping, tricky in such a wild moorland location but currently it looks a mess. The access road needs surfacing and at time of visit there was not even a sign at the road end. [Update 4.5.2019 There are now signs at the road end; they do come out of the blue if not familiar with the road however.]

The internal decor of the hotel is perplexing. It is as one might expect, in pristine condition but lacks a coherent style. There is a liberal helping of Scots Scandi, some Shooting Lodge and a certain amount of a Driftwood style. There is little sense of a designer. The low point is someone’s old gate legged dining table with spindle backs rush seated chairs as the centrepiece in the restaurant. Laugh out loud awful to my eye but perhaps others will love it.

While some adjustments might be expected as the hotel has only recently opened, much remains unsatisfactory. If guests are paying full price, they deserve full service. The whole establishment is understaffed and that produces the bulk of the problems. It also seem to lack a genuine sense of management both overall and more importantly in day to day running. Guests are ignored and left waiting at crucial times, food orders are slow and incorrect. There are some excellent staff, doing their very best but without sufficient guidance or management. Lions led by donkeys..

The location is wonderful, the rooms are warm, comfortable and the food excellent. Fix the Wi-fi and the customer service and this will be a genuinely premium hotel. I hope improvements are made. I’d love to stay there again but would only do so if substantial changes are evident.

I shared my feedback with Lisa Hassan – Customer Service Executive | Crieff Hydro Ltd and her responses are as follows.

There should be a sign in place now to indicate the location of the the hotel reception. There should now be a sign in place at the road end. The road improvements are waiting approval from the council as they impact on the A82. There were apologies for the less than adequate service we received. the blame for the poor service was placed on there being new staff in place. The hotel are not aware of any issues with the information screens or the WiFi connection. They believe the issue with our key was a one off and should not occur again. the landscaping, including the screening of the sewage plant, is a work in progress.

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  1. Andy Phillips
    April 24, 2019

    Thanks for this Mike. Honest and truthful. Your opinion is as good as ever and totally honest.

    A good firm/manager would take heed and learn. But no, let’s blame the staff? They say because they are new? Or is it they opened super early so as to start putting monies back in the jar and so the staff are inadequately trained and the infrastructure missing. A very defensive bare bones reply I think. If it was me I would have done my homework on you and found out the customer potential of pleasing you after a report like that. “Oh a landscape photographer-What can we offer you in the future?”. Why spend so much money then bollox it up in later detail?

  2. admin
    April 24, 2019

    Thanks Andy, in their defence the response I posted is an abridged version. I was surprised that they weren’t looking to produce a more positive outcome however. If that was me, I’d have made some attempt to achieve a revised review with a subsequent visit. Given the location, they’ll probably just be full all the time without any effort..

  3. Rod Crawford
    April 24, 2019

    We had a family stay recently in Glen Etive, principally to get my grandson up Ben Nevis. We stopped off at the Kingshouse. I was impressed with the new building, it belied the chorus of criticism I had read on social media. It is an attractive take on a new Scotland as a small progressive democracy at home with its Scandanavian and Northern European neighbours.
    Inside it is modern and bright and a lot more attractive than what went before.
    We had a meal in the bar. The food was great but the service was woeful. We went through about 4 different servers and numerous mistakes and long waits. Disorganised would be overstating it. Work needed done there.
    The bar at the back could also have been left more of a “climbers” bar than it has been.

  4. lochaber365
    April 24, 2019

    I was surprised to find out that most hotels in the area have a staff turnaround of approximately 80% per year and that the King’s house is having real problems getting staff because of lack of a combination of accomodation and travel (people don’t want to live on site for a year but staff accomodation in Glencoe/Ballachulish is almost non-existent and they would have to provide a tax service for them). The problems with the original planning were that it wasn’t wood finish but white panels, the stone effect usage wasn’t described etc. So they made quite a few changes since the second version of the planning.

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