Ayrshire group is on course for destination

Revamped restaurant and new spa latest developments at SimpsInns’ Gailes Hotel

A bar
Sea the difference: the bar and restaurant has been overhauled.

WITH it’s calming blue tones, driftwood-style panelling, ‘beach hut’ booth and nautical artefacts, the new Coast bar and restaurant at The Gailes Hotel features more than a few nods to its location on the Ayrshire coast.

The latest development at the hotel – which, along with the Old Loans Inn near Troon, The Waterside Hotel in West Kilbride and Si! bar and restaurant in Irvine, is part of the family-owned SimpsInns group – Coast was transformed during the lockdown earlier this year, after what was originally intended to be a soft refurbishment became a full-blown overhaul.
As SimpsInns owners Malcolm and Karen Simpson explained when SLTN caught up with them at Coast last month, they tried to make the best of the forced closure period.

“We did have a bit of debate about it,” said Malcolm.

“It’s hard enough to refurbish when you’ve got money coming in, never mind when the place is closed.

“But we decided to take the bull by the horns and take advantage of that window. We just thought we’ll never get an opportunity like this again where we could refurb front and back of house without disrupting service.

“We wanted to be on the front foot when we were able to reopen.” The result is a total transformation of the space.

Having ‘flipped’ the previous layout to move some of the restaurant space to the rear of the property overlooking the grounds and create a lounge area to the front, Malcolm and Karen worked with Glasgow-based 3 Design, which has designed a number of SimpsInns projects over the years, to bring the nautical look to life.

Against a backdrop of blue tones, accents of colour have been introduced via the seating, which includes banquette upholstered in a range of different fabrics; while warmth has been added with plants, nautical artwork and coastal-inspired objects.

The result, said Karen, is a look in keeping with the venue’s surroundings.

“It’s a complete change,” she said.

“It was dark walnut wood with purples and greens; and we’ve gone for a whole coastal theme to tie in with our location.

“The designers are great. We’ve worked with them for years so they know the look we want and we bat ideas back and forward.

“We’re really pleased with it. And we’ve had a great reaction to it so far.”

Coast is just the latest stage in what has been an ongoing programme of investment and development across the group as it cements its place as a destination, with The Gailes at its centre.

Built by Malcolm and Karen back in 2002, The Gailes began life as a hotel with bar and restaurant before a weddings and function suite was added two years later. The property had joined the Old Loans Inn on the outskirts of Troon, which the couple had acquired prior to building The Gailes and which they subsequently redeveloped. They then expanded the group again in 2012 with the New England-inspired beachfront Waterside Hotel in West Kilbride; before going on to build Si! bar and restaurant in Irvine – with both venues going on to win three SLTN Awards between them and Malcolm being named SLTN Entrepreneur of the Year in 2012.

Alongside the additions to the group, The Gailes Hotel expanded again around eight years ago when SimpsInns acquired the neighbouring nine-hole golf course and driving range business, which Malcolm and Karen recently overhauled with the redevelopment of the golf academy and driving range, coffee shop, and gym and fitness studios.

The most recent part of the project saw SimpsInns unveil the new Si! Spa and a new wedding pavilion to the rear of the property overlooking the grounds to the coast beyond.
And there could be more to come, with a pool being considered as the final part of the leisure picture at The Gailes as SimpsInns continues to strengthen the group’s position as a destination – a path the family firm had embarked upon long before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, and one that it continued to pursue as it weathered the storm of lockdowns and restrictions.

“We had already made a decision to create more of a leisure destination before the pandemic; we were already on a journey to do that,” said Malcolm, who is involved in tourism initiative The Coig – a series of five tourist routes covering Ayrshire, Arran, Bute and Cumbrae.

“It’s only a ten and 15 minute drive [from The Gailes] to Old Loans and The Waterside and all three are very different – Old Loans is more of a country hotel, The Waterside is a beachfront hotel and this [The Gailes] is a spa hotel with golf facilities.”

Guests staying at The Waterside or Old Loans can use the spa facilities at The Gailes; and there are plans to introduce cycle hire so guests can cycle between the hotels, which are linked by a coastal path.

There’s also likely to be a further addition to the group in the shape of the Riverside Inn, south of Ayr, which SimpsInns owns and plans to develop.

For now, though, the focus is on the existing businesses after the last of the COVID restrictions were eased.

“It’s been a tough time for everyone,” said Malcolm.

“We had built up a bit of a nest egg for a rainy day, we just didn’t know it would be a hurricane.

“But we used the lockdown constructively and kept pushing on. In retrospect I’m glad we didn’t lie down.

“It’s gratifying that we’ve improved something and invested across the group, and it’s been great for the staff and customers to come back to something new.
“You’ve got to keep looking ahead.”