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Alyth Hotel transformation: ‘The boiler exploded the day we moved in – that was £20k off the budget’

Hazel Lightbody, 39, bought over Alyth Hotel with husband Alasdair in November 2023. She told me about their journey so far.

Hazel and Alasdair got the keys to Alyth Hotel in November 2023. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson
Hazel and Alasdair got the keys to Alyth Hotel in November 2023. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

The day we got the keys to Alyth Hotel, our boiler exploded.

We were like, “Right, ok, that’s £20,000 out of our budget to completely replace the heating system.”

But, we kind of got lucky.

Alyth Hotel on Commercial Street is 250 years old. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

We ended up using JBLB Plumbing and Heating Services in Dundee to fix the heating system.

I was living at the hotel by myself while my husband Alasdair was still tying things up in Edinburgh, where we used to live.

So, it was really great to have a nice team around to keep me company.

It is quite strange living in a massive hotel by yourself in the middle of winter with no heating or hot water.

Hazel and Alasdair hope the project will be completed by mid-to-late April. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

We got to know them really well and we are hoping they will take us through and finish the rest of the hotel.

Alyth Hotel is my sixth renovation project since I bought my first property when I was 23.

New Alyth Hotel owners have background in hospitality

It is the third one I’ve taken on with my husband Alasdair, who I have been married to for five years.

We met and fell in love when he had not long bought a guest house on the Isle of Arran, which he was renovating.

I moved over there three months after meeting him – my friends thought I was crazy – and we finished renovating the guest house and then ran it together.

We sold that in January 2020 with the purpose of buying a bigger premises up in the Highlands. But then Covid came.

Thankfully, we were not committed to the next project yet, so we have just been on ice really for the last four years.

In the meantime, we took the money that we had to invest in the next project and bought an original 1950s house in Edinburgh, which we completely gutted.

Alasdair and Hazel have been sharing details of the renovation journey on social media. Image: Hazel Lightbody

And then Alyth Hotel appeared on the market – and we decided to sell our home in Edinburgh and go for it.

With 15 bedrooms, 21 bathrooms and a lounge, pub and restaurant – it was a terrifying investment. But we knew it would be worthwhile.

Perthshire is where we’ve always wanted to be.

Alasdair is very into cycling and golf and I just love being in greenery and nature, so it is the perfect location for us.

We are completely gutting the hotel, which is 250 years old.

Previous owners have papered over the cracks for decades, meaning everything has become really disjointed.

Hazel and Alasdair with a stained glass they found in the attic. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

My vision for the hotel is just to make the interiors a) cohesive and b) have a sense of place, as if the interiors belong here in this particular time in this town in Perthshire.

We are about halfway through at this stage.

We are hoping to complete the project by mid-to-late April, but we don’t have an exact opening date in mind yet.

All the flooring is up, the walls have been stripped back, the electrics are getting redone, an entirely new heating system is being put in, most of the lighting is getting redone and every single bedroom and bathroom has been stripped out.

It’s a lot of work.

Alyth Hotel will lean into art deco aesthetic

The lounge, the restaurant and the bar on the ground floor will all be completely replaced – they will each have a distinct, individual style but flow nicely into each other.

On the first floor there are 12 bedrooms, which we are completely renovating.

I always like to bring as much natural wood into the aesthetic as I can because I’m just absolutely in love with wood furniture and stripping it back and preserving that kind of natural beauty.

My personal aesthetic preference is art deco and mid-century.

It is not going to be a glam and glitzy pub. It is a warm and inviting and cosy country inn.

The rooms will be full of some really beautiful walnut and teak furniture that I’ve been collecting over the last six months.

One of the recently completed en-suite bathrooms. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

We are also converting a couple of spaces within the hotel to maximise its potential, including a three-bedroom apartment on the second floor, which was historically used as staff accommodation.

We just got approval for a grant from Perth and Kinross Council to help us with the costs of converting it into three new en-suites.

We are living in that space for now, as it originally was, so it’s not great. It’s got the oldest carpet known to man.

But we are just living here temporarily – we hope to move into a nearby rental upon completion.

Disused function space will be transformed into new staff accommodation

There is also a really disused function space at the back of the hotel above the kitchen, which is not really accessible from anywhere else.

We’ve got a building warrant approved to convert that into new staff accommodation, with two en-suites and a kitchen.

It will be purpose-created, properly-insulated, nicely decorated and heated.

Staff accommodation in commercial properties is usually in incredibly bad condition.

It’s damp, its cold, its poorly insulated, and it’s never decorated, because owners seem to think, “Well what is the point, they’re going to trash it anyway”.

But we take the view that if we provide people with somewhere lovely to live, then they will want to keep it that way.

Hazel with the new bespoke Spanish tiles that she designed. Image: Steve MacDougall/DC Thomson

Although we are stripping back the building, we are putting back in a lot of character that hasn’t been there for decades.

We are putting in nice decorative elements like nice skirting and coving.

We discovered some original stained glass windows that used to be inside the building that have been hidden away in an attic somewhere for god knows how long.

They’re really beautiful so we are looking forward to incorporating them somehow.

I’ve also designed my own bespoke Spanish tiles for the hotel, which is a nice personal touch.

The response online and in person from people in Alyth has been phenomenal

The response online and in person to the renovation has been phenomenal.

We can’t even pop over to the co-op over the street without someone stopping us and saying, ‘Oh I’m following your renovation journey online, I’m really excited!’

Every day, we have people popping in to say hi.

A couple appeared today and asked to book a table for their golden wedding anniversary in July.

We are nowhere near to being open so it’s really lovely.

Alasdair and Hazel Lightbody.
Alasdair and Hazel hope to have keys to the hotel by October. Image: Hazel Lightbody.

Everyone in Alyth has given us the warmest welcome.

If we need anything, we know that all we need to do is ask and three people will volunteer to help.

The classic car garage up the road – Classic Restorations – have loaned us twice a driver with a forklift to get stuff out of articulated lorries that turned up unexpectedly.

I just pick up the phone and someone says, ‘Yep, sure’, and they are appearing around the corner in two minutes in a forklift in the pouring snow with a smile on their face.

Locals genuinely want us to do well.

You can keep up-to-date with the rest of our journey on our Facebook and Instagram pages.