The owners of a luxury Scottish hotel reveal how their business has gone from strength-to-strength after doubling turnover, opening an acclaimed brasserie, and most recently scooping the title of ‘Best Loved Small Hotel’.
It’s been quite a journey for David and Sally Fox, who almost had to sell Kilcamb Lodge in 2012, when their bank took sudden and unexpected actions that put the business under threat.
Determined to stay and fulfil their vision for Kilcamb, they spoke to their accountant, who introduced them to The Cumberland’s Business Lending team, who set up a meeting with the couple to work out a plan. With the help of The Cumberland, they were able to continue and business is thriving.
Sally said: “Since we were introduced to The Cumberland our business has transformed. We were being suffocated by bank practices at the time and were not in a good place.
“The Cumberland really understood the hospitality business and illuminated a way forward for us which has taken us to a new, exciting and much better place.
“In the seven years since moving to The Cumberland, we have doubled our turnover, refurbished rooms and opened a new Brasserie alongside our existing restaurant. With the support of Cumberland, we can work and plan for a better future - it has truly transformed our business and our lives.”
Grant Seaton, Senior Lending Manager at The Cumberland, is Sally and David’s key contact. “Sally and David are an absolute pleasure to work with and having visited and experienced Kilcamb Lodge, they clearly know how to offer a first class service. They position their offering to be special but without it feeling pretentious. Good friendly hospitality in a stunning location. I am therefore not surprised at the number of plaudits and awards that they have received. They are very well deserved. ”
Best Loved Hotel
Having earned a string of prestigious accolades and awards, most recently David and Sally were presented with the award for ‘Best Loved Small Hotel of the Year 2018/19’, hosted by Best Loved Hotels in Cirencester.
David says, “This award is made extra special since it is voted for by our guests, so a big thank you to everyone who took the time to cast their vote for us.
“Very special thanks must go to our wonderful team at Kilcamb Lodge for their continued support and professional excellence. This award is theirs really and following a 3rd AA Rosette for our Kitchen, it is another shining accolade in recognition of the great team of people who make Kilcamb Lodge such a special place in the hearts of all who visit.”
From caravan to Kilcamb!
David and Sally began their journey in 1996 with a 3 bedroom B&B in Dartmoor National Park. “It was fun really. We moved into a caravan in the summer when the B&B was at its busiest and it was warm and sunny so that didn’t bother us too much. The biggest challenge was funding the refurbishments and expansion of the business which was thwarted by planning problems so sadly we decided to move to larger premises and we really missed the stunning location on Dartmoor”.
They moved to a property in North Devon with 8 rooms and a restaurant. Sally, a keen foodie, took on the role of chef, and treated guests to a 3 course menu, while David ran front of house.
Sally embraced the new challenge of running a restaurant; “I really enjoyed stretching myself and learning all the time. By the time we left, I was a confident self-taught chef which served me well in our next venture.”
In 2003, they felt it was time again to scale up, and the couple had ambitions to take on a place big enough for a team of staff. “We moved from a small business wholly run by the two of us (and one housekeeper,) to a business with 7 staff including a Chef. It was a big change with many challenges but we really enjoy the life, our great team of staff and being surrounded by the awesome beauty of Scotland.”
David has family connections to the West coast of Scotland, and would often go there on holiday as a child. So when the opportunity to view Kilcamb Lodge presented itself, David and Sally jumped at the chance.
And Sally tells us it was love at first sight – “There was an instant feeling of warmth and cosines which enveloped us as soon as we entered the building and a truly stunning situation, set amid the mountains and perched on the loch-side within 22 acres of meadows. After several disappointing viewings, we instantly fell in love with Kilcamb and both agreed we should make an offer as we walked back to our car.”
David and Sally have some exciting plans for the future. A brand new website showcases the lodge in its stunning surroundings, and really captures the wild and romantic charm of the Scottish Highlands. The hotel is also proud of its award for best pet friendly hotel, “We have long believed that pet owners deserve better when it comes to dog friendly accommodation. Which is why we offer luxurious Rooms with ample space and excellent facilities, just a frisbee throw from the beach!”
The lodge will continue to put on its hugely popular Hogmanay celebrations – which include a black tie dinner, fireworks, ceilidh and live music from one of the country’s top folk musicians.
They’ll build on the success of their small wedding packages too, offering couples the opportunity to get married in the most beautiful of settings, enjoying luxury accommodation and top class food.