Award-winning hotelier to add microbrewery to Ayrshire inn
By Gillian McKenzie
WHEN it comes to attention to detail, Bill Costley is meticulous.
It perhaps stems from his culinary background, which saw him named a master chef at the age of just 21.
Today, it underpins each of the nine venues in the Costley & Costley group, whose motto – Ad Virtutem Nitens (the pursuit of excellence) – features on the entrance gates to its flagship Lochgreen House Hotel in Troon.
As he gave SLTN a tour of the newest outlet – Souter’s Inn in Kirkoswald, which has reopened two years after it was gutted by fire – he ensures everything is as it should be, pausing to shut a cabinet door which isn’t quite closed properly.
“I notice everything; right down to whether or not the brass has been polished,” said Bill, who won SLTN’s Industry Achievement Award in 2004.
His drive to maintain high standards and his commitment to quality is evident throughout Souter’s Inn.
From the hand-made chocolates, pastries and ice-cream displayed in the on-site patisserie, to the bespoke oak tables and bar, there is a distinct focus on producing as much as possible – whether it’s food or furniture – in-house.
It’s an approach which is soon to be extended to the drinks side of the business.
Bill plans to open a microbrewery at Souter’s Inn and is currently in talks with a number of brewers about a possible partnership for the project.
“I would like to get it up and running as soon as possible,” he said.
“We already make everything else ourselves so this will make it even more artisan.
“It’s important to me to offer something different, where customers can see how things are made. You can tell them you make everything yourself but they don’t always believe you.
“Our patisseries here and in Prestwick are a great showcase for the brand. And the brewery will add to that and create a bit of interest.”
The microbrewery will be the final stage in the redevelopment of Souter’s Inn, which is located on the site of a former schoolhouse said to have been attended by Robert Burns.
As part of the 12-month £1 million revamp, what was previously a dining area next to the side entrance is now home to the patisserie; the double-height retail space features glass-fronted cabinets displaying Costley & Costley’s chocolates, cakes, pastries and ice-cream.
It leads through to the main 70-cover bar and restaurant area, which is also accessible by a separate entrance at the rear of the building. Dominated by a large oak bar counter and exposed stone walls, the split-level space is furnished with a combination of high oak tables and chairs, fixed seating upholstered in purple fabric and bucket seats featuring a deep red, grey and blue striped fabric.
Upstairs, a further 70-cover space, featuring its own oak bar, overlooks the patisserie on one side and the bar area on the other.
Bill said the new-look inn, which features Costley & Costley’s design implemented by 3B Construction and Costley’s in-house tradesmen, is designed to be “relaxed and comfortable”.
“It was quite dark before,” he said.
“I wanted to make it more conducive to lunches but still look great at night. It’s much more contemporary.”
And Souter’s Inn isn’t the only property in the Costley & Costley portfolio to undergo a refurb.
Costley’s team is due to complete work on a revamp at the group’s Cochrane Inn in the village of Gatehead near Kilmarnock before moving on to Highgrove in Troon – the first outlet in the Costley & Costley estate, which Bill and Cath bought 26 years ago.
There are also plans to add a glass-sided extension to Brig o’ Doon House Hotel in Alloway; with 207 weddings taking place this year, Bill said a “Meccano-style” structure which can be “lifted into place with minimal disruption to the rest of the hotel” has been chosen.
He also has longer-term plans for the group’s flagship Lochgreen House Hotel in Troon, which was acquired in 1989; planning permission was obtained around four years ago to add a spa and 25 bedrooms at the 30-acre estate.
And Bill hasn’t ruled out further acquisitions either.
“I’m always on the look out,” he said.
“We’ll see what happens. I don’t think you can plan too far ahead.
“It seems like yesterday that we bought Highgrove and I never imagined we’d be the size we are now with 360 staff. It’s funny how life goes.
“But I’m passionate about this industry; I still love it.”