Basement, bathrooms and the beautiful heather-roof courtyard Basement, bathrooms and the beautiful heather-roof courtyard

We’ve been making steady progress at The Fife Arms in the last few months. The excavation at the back is complete and the new basement is underway. Exciting developments are being made internally with bathroom fittings being installed on the third floor and tiling of the new ensuites, giving them a truly authentic Victorian feel. Developments over the summer will include building the kitchen and private dining room, located at the back of the hotel. This will also shape our beautiful heather-roof courtyard, which will attract guests to sit outside – even in the Scottish weather!

Recruitment is starting to take a more central role and we are approaching it with a very inclusive frame of mind. We want to work with people from all walks of life, who have the right attitude and a warm smile. We will be hiring for part time and seasonal availability and will employ locally as much as possible. I have organised some open days for the autumn and early next year, as well as attending job fairs and individual Scottish Universities and Colleges.

Inspiring the future Inspiring the future

Early this year, Federica and Katy Fennema of Braemar History Group, visited Braemar School to share with the children the exciting items we have found under the floorboards of The Fife Arms. It was an interesting history lesson for the young students and an opportunity to see objects, which have now fallen into disuse, but played a significant role in people’s lives not so long ago. They were particularly interested with the small tubs of anti-burn cream distributed to soldiers during the Second World War in the event of a gas attack.

Federica and Katy also showed the children the time capsule, our now famous bottle of Glenfinnan whisky, signed, dated and planted under the floorboards by what we believe were workmen at the hotel in 1907. They asked the children to prepare a new time capsule to be buried in the building during the current renovations. Giving them an opportunity to think about the future generations and what they would be curious to know about our world today. The Fife Arms stonemason has also offered to visit the school to look at the stonework of the building and hopefully detect signs of its history. We’re excited about getting the children interested in the hotel. Ultimately, the building is being restored for future generations to enjoy and hopefully some of them will be available for a few shifts in the years to come!

The new year The new year

The Fife Arms refurbishment has gone through its first winter without any sign of slowing down. Apart from a much needed Christmas break and an afternoon merrily spent putting up Christmas decorations on the front of the building, all contractors have continued to work at pace. The scaffolding at the back has now been removed to give way to the excavation in the back courtyard. On the new foundations, we will build the modern additions to the building, which include the beautiful heather clad courtyard and the new kitchen. This will be the real hub of the new hotel and we’re really pleased with the kitchen design development. Working closely with Glasgow based RH Morton and interior design group, Russell Sage Studio, we’re creating an exciting environment for both the chefs and guests, including a chefs theatre for the dining room. Fitted with a sizzling wood-fired grill, it will create a superb atmosphere as well as immersing the guests into the cooking of their meal.

Alec Finlay Alec Finlay

To ensure the landscape and culture of Upper Deeside remain central to the philosophy of the project, Scottish artist and poet Alec Finlay has been collaborating on the research and design of The Fife Arms to make sure these are represented within the building. Alec has been recording his fascinating journey through his Gathering blog, an eco-poetic guide to The Cairngorms, can be found here:

Alec Finlay’s Gathering Blog

Image: Hannah Devereux

Historic finds in The Fife Arms Historic finds in The Fife Arms

Throughout construction we have discovered some amazing, historical objects from under the floorboards such as a draft soldier letter, bullets, tins of boot polish, empty boxes of matches and even a used flare. The most special find is a signed and dated empty whisky bottle carrying the names of some local tradesmen who buried the time capsule on 13th April 1907. We are hoping to display these finds in a cabinet when the Fife re-opens for everyone to see.

Over 50 joiners, plumbers and electricians are giving shape to the new internal layout of rooms and bathrooms, renewing mechanical and electrical services. None of the old drains, pipes or electrical cabling will be left in the building. Alongside a number of small local companies working on the external paint, stonework, roof and windows we now have two large contractors on site, both Scottish based.

The scaffolding will remain in place for a few more months but some sections at the back and along the Fife Brae will be removed sooner to allow for the next stage of the work which includes the new build elements in the courtyard.

Construction Progress and the Braemar Gathering 2016 Construction Progress and the Braemar Gathering 2016

During the past three months, lots of progress has been made at The Fife Arms. The area behind the building is clear for construction to begin on the new kitchen, central courtyard and beautiful heather roof. The inside of the hotel has been transformed by the removal of modern partitions, and we are taking the building’s original architecture as a true starting point for the restoration process.

Behind the scaffolding, work is proceeding at great pace on the external envelope. Joiners, painters, slaters and stonemasons have been on site repairing windows, roofs, chimneys and masonry. The antique bargeboards are being carefully renewed to appear as they would have in their heyday.

Building on the success of last year, The Fife Arms Bothy was present again at the Braemar Gathering. This year our chef, Ross Stacey prepared grilled Scottish langoustines and our staff mixed tailor-made whisky and gin cocktails, showcasing some great products from Deeside and Aberdeenshire.

Work begins Work begins

Planning permission for The Fife Arms was received on 19 February 2016 and we wasted no time getting to work with construction starting on the first day of Spring. Just as spring is eagerly anticipated after a long Scottish winter, everyone was excited to see action taking place at the hotel after the extended period of closure.

The demolition and the scaffolding teams were among the first contractors on site. During the process, the dilapidated modern outbuildings brought to light some interesting historic features such as old granite walls and a beautiful carved wood panel. One of the extensions also showed evidence of a significant fire in the hotel, adding to the vast history of the building.

We displayed historic photography of Braemar in the windows of the hotel from the George Washington Wilson archive, which was enjoyed by many locals and visitors. Whilst the scaffolding is up, we will also adorn the hoarding on the front of the hotel with images relating to the local landscape, community events and the hotel.