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New exhibition shows how Cruden Bay attracted everybody from Churchill to Colman’s Mustard mogul

For a while at least, the north-east resort of Cruden Bay was almost as famous as Baden Baden, Bordeaux or Cannes.

Winston Churchill played golf there, alongside another PM, Herbert Asquith, while aristocrats flocked to visit the course and the Cruden Bay Hotel.

Although the attempt to transform the resort into the ‘Brighton of Aberdeenshire’ ultimately foundered, the fleeting success of the project will be highlighted in an exhibition staged by the Port Erroll Heritage Group today.

A luxury hotel was opened in 1899 and Dracula author, Bram Stoker, watched its creation.

The interior of the building was sumptuous and the drawing room featured furniture of Chippendale mahogany in Louis XV style.

No luxury was spared; the kitchens were staffed with French and Italian chefs.

The guests were prominent businessmen of the time, including Sir Jeremiah Colman, the manufacturer of the famous mustard, and Sir William Burrell from Glasgow, best known today for his art collection in the city.

The hotel was located half a mile from the railway station and trams were provided to bring visitors to the hotel’s front door.

A golf course was built on the sand dunes next to the hotel and remains an iconic site, frequently appearing in lists of the best 100 courses in the world.

Stoker’s wife, Florence, graced the links, and in 1908 Winston Churchill and Herbert Asquith arrived with their golf bags in tow.

Port Erroll Heritage Group spokesman, Mike Shepherd, however, admits its status as a must-visit destination did not last.

He said: “The hotel proved vastly popular over a ten-year period, but then the numbers began to drop.

“The area faced problems in that it took 14 hours to get there from London by train and the summer season was restricted from June to September.

“It was easier to get to the continent from London.

“The hotel slipped in and out of profit up until the Wall Street Crash of 1929.

“Shortly afterwards, a big fire destroyed the railway station and a decision was made to stop passenger traffic on the line.

“The hotel residents were then chauffeur-driven by a Rolls Royce from Aberdeen Railway Station.”

The business survived until the start of the Second World War, when it was concerted into a barracks and an army hospital.

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But the property was eventually demolished in the 1950s and hardly a trace is left of its former existence.

The granite was reused for a house near Johnshaven and for council flats in Peterhead.

Mr Shepherd added: “To many, it was a daring enterprise, to build a luxury resort on the Aberdeenshire coast over 500 miles from London.

“The millionaires and the elite of British society could luxuriate in the opulence of Victorian splendour, mahogany, teak and velvet plush.

“For ten years, following 1899, it was the place to be for the British upper crust and visitors from abroad.

“It’s a story long forgotten, but now our exhibition brings this curious episode into a new light, with hundreds of photographs showing the splendour of a former era.”

Little remnants of the hotel do, however, survive.

A garden shed in a nearby village is built from its doors, while a beautiful bathroom sink was relocated to the St Olaf’s hotel in Cruden Bay.”

The event is being held at the village hall from 10am-4pm on Saturday.

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