An ambitious bid to regenerate an historic Perthshire estate will create 250 jobs and inject millions into the local economy.
While a cloud of uncertainty hangs over Scotland’s hospitality sector, the owners of a “hidden gem” Scone hotel have taken the wraps off a £15 million investment plan.
Proposals for historic Murrayshall Country House, which already boasts two 18-hole golf courses, include a range of new leisure facilities, holiday lodges and glamping pods.
Developers want to double the size of the 40-bedroom venue and open a hub for outdoor pursuits.
They say the masterplan could almost quadruple the 65-strong workforce, while bringing much-needed visitors into nearby Perth.
The project will be supported by three pockets of housing on the edges of the 365-acre estate.
General Manager Gary Silcock was at Gleneagles Hotel, preparing for the international Solheim Cup, when 17th Century Murraysfield was bought over by London-based Stellar Asset Management in 2015.
“To see what has happened under the new owners in such a short space of time has been incredible,” said Mr Silcock, who arrived at Murrayshall last year. “Gleneagles is the jewel in the crown, but we are aiming to cater for an even wider audience. There is so much potential here.”
Owners have already invested £2.5 million in the hotel and estate. Throughout the pandemic – while other hotels opted to close in the face of tough level three restrictions – members have continued to flock to its restaurant, golf course and leisure facilities.
“We know the industry has struggled and sadly there are hotels which have had to reduce,” Mr Silcock said. “So we know there is a workforce out there, on our doorstep, who we can reach out to and help support.
“We have a family of core staff with many years of experience and we want to see that family grow.”
Mr Silcock said: “When you look at everything we are trying to achieve here, we would be looking at bringing in between 200 and 250 staff.
“In this world of covid, it’s great that we have an owner that can see the positives and takes forward a plan which could really help reignite Perth and this part of Perthshire.”
A planning application is expected to be submitted to Perth and Kinross Council in the new year and, if approved, construction could begin within 12 months.
Jonathan Gain, Chief Executive of Stellar Asset Management said the scheme will deliver a “much needed boost to local tourism in these challenging times.”
He added: “I have no doubt that Murrayshall will become one of Scotland’s finest countryside leisure destinations.”
Lead consultant Fergus Purdie said he was delighted to be part of “such an exciting and significant project that will bring huge benefits across the board for Perth and Kinross.”
In paperwork lodged with local planners, Mr Purdie accepts that the “enabling” housing will be the most challenging aspect of the proposal, given that the site is not zoned for mainstream homes. The number of properties has still to be finalised.
Vicki Unite, Chief Executive of Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the proposal. “It’s fantastic to see ambitious projects being proposed in Perthshire, particularly during this challenging time,” she said. “The changes already implemented at Murrayshall demonstrate commitment, significant investment and have been hugely impressive.
“Future developments could be of huge benefit to the local community, with new job opportunities and the injection of millions of pounds of extra spend.”
The plans have gone on display at the hotel and online, and feedback from the public will be used to shape a forthcoming planning application.