By John O’Ceallaigh
Clearly, there’s never been a more challenging time to kickstart a new hotel brand but the imminent debut of three new hotel groups on British shores is cause for optimism – and should at least provide fresh inspiration for the many bored Britons sullenly anticipating a second suppressed staycation summer.
(Let me just say: I know Britain’s a wonderful place to go on holiday, but current talk of the ban on international holidays being extended even further, and the quarantine and expensive testing requirements on return are all quite depressing. Also, that adage that “when one is bored of London he is bored of life” is no longer true; I just want to go somewhere else for a while.)
Owned by US firm, AJ Capital Partners, Marine & Lawn Hotels & Resorts will be a cluster of properties set along the Scottish golf coasts. Each hotel will “weave the legends of centuries of golf history into its design details” and will provide easy access to a notable golf course. Should they be of the opinion that “golf is a good walk spoiled”, partners and friends accompanying avid golfers to the hotels can access broader wellness amenities and diverse dining concepts devised by restaurant developer White Rabbit Projects (already behind popular UK brands Kricket, Lina Stores and Island Poké), and of course there’s the option of exploring the Scottish landscape more generally. (The Highlands are one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited, I’d go back every year if I could find the time.)
The first Marine & Lawn hotels to open, in June 2021, will be Rusacks St Andrews and Marine North Berwick. The former will offer 123 guest rooms, a traditional Scottish pub, rooftop bar and restaurant with views over the 1st and 18th holes of the Old Course at St Andrews and the North Sea; rates start at £219 per night. The latter will offer 84 guest rooms, a spa, pool and fitness centre, and two new White Rabbit Projects concepts, details as yet unknown. The hotel overlooks the 16th hole of the historic West Links course at North Berwick Golf Club and has views of the Firth of Forth and Bass Rock; rates start from £189. Opening in 2021 but launching officially as a Marine & Lawn property in 2022, 89-key Marine Troon will include comprehensive wellness facilities and is set beside Royal Troon’s Old Course, which has hosted nine Open Championships.
Down south in Derbyshire and near the Peak District, Callow Hall will be the inaugural property to launch as part of Wildhive, “a new boutique hospitality brand deeply rooted in nature”. The concept sounds bucolic and idyllic, with properties “inspired by the local topography” and featuring cabins, treehouses and earth dens. They’ll be “dotted around wild and wonderful, lesser-known parts of the UK” and will be “unique wild spaces offering a sense of exploration and a true immersion in the landscape”. Each Wildhive location will have working beehives as a centrepiece and there’s also talk of the accommodation options including stays in some type of adapted versions of pigsties, which sounds like a brave marketing strategy but is intriguing nonetheless.
As for Callow House itself, it features just 15 bedrooms in The Main House, alongside 11 standalone one-bedroom Woodland Hives and two treehouses by design agency Blue Forest. Those treehouses will feature open-plan sitting rooms and kitchens, en-suite bathrooms, and outdoor baths on the decking. More broadly, the property will feature interiors by Kit Kemp alumnus Isabella Worsley and will offer a “sense of eclectic Britishness”. Unsurprisingly there’ll be a big focus on local British cuisine too. Think Derbyshire oatcakes with pickled fennel and kohlrabi, and locally sourced steak burger with Dovedale cheese and smoked bacon. Entry-level ‘cosy’ rooms will start at £179; two-bed treehouses will start from £329 a night.
And the third notable new arrival on British shores this year is Graduate Hotels, already established in the US with a presence in towns and cities known for their universities. Unsurprisingly its UK launch this summer will focus on the country’s quintessential university cities, Cambridge and Oxford.
On the River Cam, 148-key Graduate Cambridge will occupy what was once the Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge City Centre. Completely renovated and with its design inspired by local history, traditions and notable local academics, it will feature Graduate Hotels’ signature café and bar concept Poindexter, a restaurant, gym and pool.
In the centre of Oxford ,151-key The Randolph Hotel by Graduate Hotels will again pay tribute to local alumni and its design will draw inspiration from the region’s natural resources. It will offer a spa and a 400-person ballroom, which we have to believe will be of use again one day…