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Dunkeld House: impactful renovation of a country house hotel
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Sector: Hospitality & Leisure
Location: Perthshire, Scotland
Date of first investment: 2016
Why did we invest: Utilising our extensive experience within hospitality & leisure, Dunkeld House presented a unique investment opportunity in which we could revitalise a destination hotel alongside a strong management team.
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Dunkeld House is a picturesque and historic hotel nestled in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. The property boasts 280 acres of ancient woodland, overlooking the River Tay, and a rich history dating back to the 17th century. Previously, the hotel had been managed by Hilton.
Downing’s relationship with Dunkeld House:
The hotel presented a unique investment opportunity for Downing. Despite its potential, the hotel was heavily under-invested and faced operational challenges. Consequently, the hotel was loss-making at the point it was acquired. In 2016, Downing identified Dunkeld House as an ideal addition to its portfolio, given the hotel's appealing location and untapped potential.
The acquisition was made with a long-term vision in mind. We aimed to revitalise the property, overhaul operations and enhance its reputation to create a destination that would not only attract tourists but also serve as a sustainable opportunity for local employment.
Downing’s value add:
Downing LLP brought several key strategic qualities:
Acquisition support: Downing supported management through the acquisitionprocess by negotiating with the vendor and helping to mitigate costly risks identified through the due diligence process.
Investment in renovation: Downing made significant investments in repairing the external fabric of the building, refurbishing the hotel's rooms, public areas, and amenities plus funded an extension to the hotel in the form of an orangery for additional dining space. The goal was to preserve the property's historic charm while introducing modern conveniences and updated bedroom stock to meet the expectations of the target client group.
Community engagement: We recognised the importance of being a responsible and active member of the local community. The hotel opened its doors to local events, offered employment opportunities, and sourced local produce for its restaurants, thereby strengthening its ties with the area.
Sustainability initiatives: using Downing’s wider knowledge of renewable energy and infrastructure we introduced a sustainable biomass heating system to replace an old and inefficient oil-based heating system. We also invested in the restoration of the estate walls, ongoing forest management and a new waste treatment plant designed to keep the River Tay clean.
During Downing’s six-year holding, Dunkeld House achieved higher occupancy rates, increased revenue alongside a carefully controlled cost base. As a result, the hotel consistently traded ahead of profit expectations.
Dunkeld House is an excellent example of Downing LLP working in true partnership with an exceptional management team with a strong track record in their sector. Together we demonstrated that with a shared vision and commitment, we were able to deliver true value creation. In 2021, Dunkeld House was sold to another investment group, realising a substantial return on investment for Downing’s investors.