Best Western Plus Keavil House Hotel in Crossford, near Dunfermline, has recently undergone a transformation with owners Queensferry Hotels investing a substantial amount in a revamping of the hotel’s interior and exterior space and expanding the hotel’s footprint with a new-bespoke extension.
The hotel is run by General Manager Alistair Bruce. Alistair who has been in charge at the hotel for the last ten years is delighted with the refurbishment which includes a new restaurant, The Botanist, a great outdoor terrace, a new
bar and a lounge area.
“One of the challenges for us was that we wanted to build an extension which fitted in with the historical nature of the building. We wanted to create a modern hotel which still had the charm of the ancient mansion.”
The history of the Keavil estate dates back to the 14th century. Although no exact build date is known for the original Keavil house the thickness of its walls suggests that it was built in the 15th century, about the same time that Dunfermline was Scotland’s capital.
Queensferry Hotels bought the property in 1980 and it joined The Bruntsfield Hotel in Edinburgh also owned by the group. When it was bought it had been empty for a while, however in its past it had not only operated as a private mansion but also as a base for the Admiralty during the first world war due to its closeness to Rosyth. It was also the base for Prince Louis of Battenburg – who during his posting at Keavil became Lord Mountbatten, which is why there is a Mountbatten wedding suite at the hotel.
In 1919 it returned to private ownership when local rubber works owner Henry Reid Stewart bought it. He owned it until 1940 and allowed locals to enjoy the gardens which included rare trees and a rock garden. After his death, the Trustees sold the house to Dunfermline Burgh Council who converted it into the Martha Freeman children’s home. It closed in 1977 and it lay empty until Queensferry Hotels bought it and opened Keavil House as a Hotel with
Alistair comments, “I still have people who come to visit Keavil because they lived here when it was a children’s home. They often take a look at their old rooms.” He continues, “In 1982 we built the first wing which created more bedrooms, and in 2007 we built more bringing the total to 72 bedrooms. We have two conference suites, The Elgin Suite which holds up to 300 guests, and The Mountbatten Suite which holds 120. We also built the leisure club which is now 23 years old. That’s one of the reasons why it is nice working for a private owner because they are always reinvesting.”
However, the restaurant at Keavil House, although being updated over the years, had not been developed. Explains Alistair, “It was one of my original ideas when I first came to the hotel, and I am delighted that it is now completed. I have been involved in many refurbishment projects and I can honestly say that Mozolowski and Murray, who handled the complete project from initial design to completion, did a fabulous job.” He explains, “Right from the start they were interested in how much the work would affect the business and they worked around our wedding schedule, which was still going when they started the work at the end of August. We still had a number of weddings to do – but they were happy to accommodate us and put up screening to allow the weddings to take place in the gardens, and scheduled noisy construction so it didn’t clash with corporate or private events. The whole job went very smoothly.”
Today the new extension, which houses the 60-seater Botanist restaurant, is a contemporary glass and wooden structure, made at Mozolowski and Murray’s workshop in Kinross. It has been designed to enhance the beauty of the hotel’s grounds and features windows which open out onto a substantial new patio terrace boasting a sweeping staircase which takes guests out onto the lawns of the hotel. There are also two new private rooms and the lounge beside the new structure has been refurbished with new carpets, wallcoverings and some new furniture, with a completely new bar too.
Says Alistair, “The hotel has traded really well over the last 10 years. We have been lucky in that there were two major corporate projects – the two aircraft carriers which were being built at Rosyth and the new Queensferry Bridge. A lot of business people involved in both projects stayed here and our business model was very corporate Monday to Thursday. However, the bridge is finished and one of the aircraft carriers has already gone and the other one won’t be long, so I am now looking at other ways of generating revenue. We are a massive wedding venue already but I believe we will get more business from our leisure business now that we have revamped the restaurant. “
He continues, “January has been a really good month. We are one of the hotels that gets a lot of the big local events and we had a big Burns Supper and three or four new events. Our dinner, bed and breakfast business has been strong. In fact, it has been really strong.”
Alistair has been in the hotel industry for 40 years and his mother is the reason. He explains, “My father died when I was eight and my mother had six children to raise. So she moved from Stirling to Doune and bought the Red Lion Hotel. We all helped out in it. But I was the only one to stay in the business after going to Napier and doing hospitality. It’s definitely in my blood.”
He admits that the business has changed a lot over the years. Says Alistair, “I love the fact that the type of place that Keavil House is allows me to interact with my customers, and that is the part of the business I have always enjoyed. I don’t like sitting at my desk sending emails and business reports! I’ve also got a great team, who are all local and our customers love the fact that our staff are from Fife and can tell them about it.
The area, over the last five years, has enjoyed significant tourism growth and that has been due in no small part to everyone getting behind tourism initiatives. For instance, we got involved with Unesco for the bridge, and we have our ‘Cruise’ initiative – where local volunteers meet people coming off the cruise liners at Rosyth who previously used to get on a bus and go straight into Edinburgh. Now they spend time in Dunfermline. It’s nice to get involved in these things as well as running a hotel.
Alistair’s own background in the business includes time with Macdonald Hotels, Trust House Forte and Thistle Hotels, and more. He says, “When you have been in the industry as long as I have you think about the future of the business and the people coming in. It is a constant challenge trying to get young people interested in hospitality as a career. But for me, it has not just been a career, it has been a vocation too and I still love it. I also love the new Botanist.”