Black Sheep Hotels boss Sanjay Narang has unveiled the latest ventures in its £20million investment in the Highland hospitality sector and predicted the area’s popularity will stretch beyond a summer staycation surge.
The company yesterday opened a new pop-up restaurant in Fort William and is about to launch a bake house café, on the road to Skye, building on its portfolio of three boutique country hotels and another eating place, in Inverness.
More than 80 jobs have been created over the past three years by the group, which is also adding a spa to its flagship Whispering Pine Lodge hotel, on the shores of Loch Lochy, as well as six self-catering cabins there and another two at the iconic Cluanie Inn, at Glenmoriston.
The firm said it had already welcomed more than 1,250 guests to its hotels and restaurants since Covid-19 lockdown measures started to ease at the end of April.
Indian entrepreneur Mr Narang famously decided to go into business in the Highlands after falling for the area, but being less than impressed by the standards of hospitality he and his sister encountered, during a holiday visit in 2018.
He said: “Everyone at Black Sheep Hotels is optimistic about the season and looking forward to welcoming guests back to the Highlands.
“Whilst there is no doubt that the hospitality industry has been badly hit by the pandemic, I firmly believe that the Highlands offers the perfect destination for people seeking a well-earned break and escape after lockdown.
“We anticipate a surge in demand in tourism, especially from within the UK at the start of the season and we think that this popularity is set to stay.”
Mr Narang continued: “We pride ourselves on offering excellent customer service and luxury accommodation and our £20 million investment and expansion of our portfolio reflects both the market opportunities we predict as well as our commitment to the Highland economy and creating sustainable employment.”
Yesterday’s launch of Tiger on the Wall, on Fort William’s High Street, selling Indian and Oriental street food-style dishes, followed the opening of a restaurant with the same name in the Highland capital last year.
Ravi Rawat, operations director of Black Sheep Management Services, said it will be run as a “pop-up” venture until the company is able to demolish the building and build a bigger eating place on the site, opposite the Highland Cinema.
The new Landour Bake House, due to open in the coming weeks, was built during lockdown, opposite the Cluanie Inn, and will serve homemade cakes, pastries and sandwiches with Sottish and Indian flavours.
Black Sheep’s first Highland opening, in 2019, was the 13-bedroom Rokeby Manor, near Invergarry, a Victorian country house built in 1840 and formerly known as Craigard Guest House. It was followed by the 18-room Cluanie Inn, in Glen Shiel, then Whispering Pine Lodge, which used to be known as Letterfinlay Lodge and has 25 bedrooms.
The company is said to have spent around £3m buying the hotels and a further £9m refurbishing and upgrading them to five-star standards.
The addition of the self-catering cabins will add 19 bedroom to the total the firm offers.
Mr Rawat added that the company planned to acquire more properties once the “stability and quality” of its latest ventures are stablished.