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Hotel 1881 is exciting addition to Murray family business on Speyside

By Chris Saunderson

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A SPEYSIDE community is celebrating after the reopening of its village hotel.

Sisters doing it for themselves. Lauren (left) and Steph Murray outside Hotel 1881 in Archiestown.Picture: Becky Saunderson
Sisters doing it for themselves. Lauren (left) and Steph Murray outside Hotel 1881 in Archiestown.Picture: Becky Saunderson

The former Archiestown Hotel has returned to the hospitality scene as Hotel 1881 after the Murray family – owners of The Dowans Hotel in Aberlour – completed a transformation of the premises.

Michael Murray, wife Marie and daughters Steph and Lauren are delighted to have finally opened the boutique hotel after significant investment and a lot of blood, sweat and tears since they bought it in September 2018.

"On this side of the valley there is no other hotel or restaurant. We hope were are attractive enough to the local population but equally, we have people coming to The Dowans from all over.

"Speyside is a super attractive area. You have Ballindalloch Castle, Gordon Castle, fishing, shooting, cycling, golf, distilleries, hiking, walking and the coastline is only 12 miles away and the Cairngorms are nearby."

The family have owned The Dowans for 10 years.

"When we bought The Dowans, the hotel in Archiestown was up for sale at that time. We renovated The Dowans and grew the business substantially to the extent we were facing demand that we could not satisfy.

"We had an option of maybe putting lodges on the pond around The Dowans, but recognised the cost of doing that compared to buying another property was substantially different."

While this is a sister hotel to The Dowans, Mr Murray said it had a personality of its own.

The hotel boasts an intimate restaurant. Picture: Becky Saunderson
The hotel boasts an intimate restaurant. Picture: Becky Saunderson

"We have tried to achieve the same standard but a different style, not just to cannibalise the business that we have at The Dowans."

The hotel in Archiestown was built in 1881, hence the new name.

Steph and Lauren are the main faces behind the day to day running of the family business, with Michael and Marie planning to retire in the near future.

The couple had lived overseas for many years and on their return to Scotland, chose Speyside as a destination to purchase a hotel business.

The Dowans Hotel employs 40 members of staff and Hotel 1881 will, it is hoped, ultimately employ in the region of 25 to 30 people when fully operational.

"Those numbers are based on the aspirations of the level of business we feel is achievable," added Mr Murray, "given 10 years of experience down the road."

Hotel 1881 has 11 bedrooms, while its sister hotel in Aberlour has 17 bedrooms. The Dowans also has a whisky room to cater for visitors from all over the world coming here to immerse themselves in the whisky trail on Speyside.

Hotel 1881 opened on April 22 on a B&B basis, and it has been enjoying good bookings since then, including a full guest list, many of them from international destinations, over the duration of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Added Mr Murray: "It is lovely to stand in the background and watch the girls grow and develop as businesswomen. They are great advocates for the Speyside area and have just won an Ambassador award from the whisky festival."

Lauren Murray said: "We are ecstatic. It has been such a long time coming and I am so excited for people to see it. People have been crying out for something in this area for so long.

"We are recruiting currently but with the issues in hospitality that is a bit of a hurdle. If we get more staff we can get things fully operational.

"It's something people in Archiestown haven't had for a while and the villagers are excited. People can come in and have a nice meal and some drinks, and enjoy the summer."

Both Lauren (32) and Steph (37) were in hospitality before their parents bought The Dowans Hotel, and the family business was conceived.

"We are a really close knit family and spend so much time outside of work together as well.

"We have our moments as any siblings do, but honestly, because we are siblings that makes it work."

The sisters have put down roots on Speyside and want to grow the family business.

"Speyside has been such an amazing experience for us. I really hope people like it.

"It is entirely different to The Dowans and had to be, it has its own style completely."

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