Art dealers and owners of Groucho Club reveal plans for Scottish village
Millionaire art dealers Iwan and Manuela Wirth are due to start work on transforming a second hotel in the Deeside village of Braemar.
The Swiss couple, who re-opened The Fife Arms to great acclaim in 2019, will now restore the Invercauld Arms and turn it into 21 serviced apartments with an events space, cinema, spa, swimming pool and yoga studio forming part of the plans.
The proposals have been approved by Cairngorms National Park Authority and signal a further expansion into Braemar for the Wirths, who have also set up an art trail through the village. One stop sits outside the Invercauld Arms where a six-metre stainless steel sculpture by Indian artist Subodh Gupta now stands.
The Wirths, worth an estimated £145m, also own The Groucho Club in London, which they bought in 2022, and a number of art galleries across the world, from London to Los Angeles.
Planners at the national park authority said the conversion of the hotel would help improve the mix of accommodation in the village.
A report to committee said: “The proposed development will renovate and bring the former hotel building back into use with self-catering accommodation offering much
needed additional and a more diverse type of tourist accommodation within Braemar.
"This will be augmented by the additional leisure facilities (pool, gym, yoga studio and cinema room) located on the wider brownfield site to the rear of the hotel building. This will also be available for local residents to use which will greatly improve the provision of local amenities and will ensure year-round use of these facilities.”
Part of the hotel will also be turned into staff accommodation with the Wirths buying up several properties in recent times to house employees.
The report added: “The development also incorporates ten, one bedroom staff accommodation units within the site. The applicants are a significant employer in the Braemar area and have since opening the Fife Arms, purchased and converted a number of properties in upper Deeside to provide accommodation for staff working at the Fife arms and in anticipation of the redevelopment and opening of the Invercauld Arms.
"The staff accommodation provided will support the operation of their businesses in combination with other properties.”
Braemar Community Council supported the application but added that sufficient staff accommodation was needed to alleviate housing pressure on the village.
The hotel, which was previously owned by Invercauld Estates, was constructed in the mid-1800s and has been extended several times over.
The Wirths plan to remove some of the extensions from the hotel, a C-listed building, and replace plastic windows with timber versions.
The dining room stands on the spot where the Earl of Mar raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite rebellion, with a plaque now marking the spot. The dining room will be subdivided, under the plans, but the plaque will remain.
In September 1852, Queen Victoria stopped for lunch at the Invercauld Arms on her way to Balmoral. She was met by Mr Farquharson of Invercauld and his two sons, all in full Highland dress, and served an “excellent luncheon”, according to a newspaper account of the day.
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