Located at the head of Glen Coe on Rannoch Moor and in the shadow of Buachaillie Etvie Mòr, it was once used as barracks for the Duke of Cumberland’s troops hunting down Jacobites after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
But now the iconic 17th century Kings House Hotel is at the centre of a row between the Belgium beer industrialists who wants to carry out a controversial £11 million renovation of the iconic building, creating 40 jobs, and conservation bodies who have described the proposed extension as an “industrial unit”.
Diane de Spoelberch and her brother Rodolphe, co-owners of the hotel on the West Highland Way, want to extend the hotel, providing facilities for tourists, walkers, skiers and climbers, while retaining the historical heart of the original droving inn.
Three conservation charities – Mountaineering Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust – are expected to oppose the proposal when it goes before Highland Council on 12 December.
They supported an earlier submission which they said was more in sympathy with the surroundings.
Ms de Spoelberch, speaking at a public information forum last week, told the audience her father had fallen in love with the area more than 55 years ago, when he first bought an estate in Glencoe. The family spent many happy times as residents of the Kings House Hotel before buying Black Corries Estate next door.
She said she will withdraw from the project, including the hotel, if the local community is against it.
“When the Kings House suddenly came up for sale in 2014 we didn’t want somebody buying it to create a large development on the site or build something which wasn’t in-keeping with the environment and so we bought it to develop a sustainable project which makes sense for the community.
“Although my brother and myself consider this project as an impact investment, which is close to us and the things we love, we have to ensure that what we are proposing is economically viable. However, we are responsible investors and don’t want to do anything that would displease the community. It must be clearly understood that we will not proceed with something that is not supported, even if this means no hotel at all.”
David Gibson, chief executive officer of Mountaineering Scotland, said: The owners are concerned about financial viability which, together with employment opportunities – for which there is no analysis or justification in the application – are assumed to be enough to justify the design concept.
“Our response is that the Kings House has a unique position close to Glencoe and Glen Etive, in a fantastic landscape and with little competition for many, many miles and located on the intersection of the West Highland Way and A82. In consequence it already has many commercial advantages. One that would be lost if this development proceeds is that of the integrity of the national scenic area, which would be forever damaged.”
Welcoming the development, Alistair Sutherland, chair of Glencoe and Glen Etive community council said: “The redevelopment should provide some scope for young people who might otherwise leave this area.
“There are no facilities for functions anywhere close by.”