Spears end their reign at Skye gem

Couple leave The Three Chimneys after more than 30 years

Eddie and Shirley Spear sold the business to Gordon Campbell Gray

SHIRLEY and Eddie Spears’ three decades of ownership at The Three Chimneys on the Isle of Skye drew to a close last month when they handed over the keys to its new owner.

The award-winning restaurant with rooms in Colbost has been acquired by hotelier Gordon Campbell Gray as part of his Wee Hotel Company.

And while Shirley said she and Eddie are “absolutely delighted” Gordon is now at the helm, she told SLTN last week that the end of their era as owners is going to take some getting used to.

“It will be 35 years in October since we moved there so it is a bit strange,” said Shirley, who was awarded SLTN’s Industry Achievement Award in 2017.

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet.”

It’s little wonder, given that Eddie and Shirley have spent most of their working and family lives at The Three Chimneys.

The couple met in London, when Peebles-born Shirley, who was working in public relations at the time, booked driving lessons with instructor Eddie.

A simple French bistro in Croyden, which was a favourite haunt of the young couple, planted a seed for keen cook Shirley and Eddie – that they could do something similar in Scotland with Scottish produce.

And an advert for the sale of a remote restaurant on the Isle of Skye, which Shirley had visited as a teenager, sealed their fate. In 1984, the Spears and their young family relocated from Croyden to the remote hamlet of Colbost, reopening The Three Chimneys on Easter weekend 1985.

After what Shirley has described as a challenging start for the then inexperienced operators, the couple went on to establish The Three Chimneys as an award-winning destination dining experience which has, among its many accolades, retained three AA Rosettes continuously for the past 20 years; they expanded the business in 1999 with the addition of six suites. And Shirley has been a long-time champion of Scottish tourism and rural businesses, and was awarded an OBE in 2016 for services to the Scottish food and drink industry.

New owner Gordon has pledged to build on what the Spears created, with the same team and commitment to ‘hyper-local’ produce, led by head chef Scott Davies; he also plans further investment in the business over time.

Shirley said she and Eddie are “really pleased” with the outcome.

“I’m chuffed to bits for Gordon and the team and excited for everyone for the future,” she said.