John Carmichael and his partner Adrian Bulmer run the hugely popular, family-friendly B&B, Inverlochy Villas in Fort William. "This property was my mother's, I've lived in the house for 48 years. Adrian's been in the Fort William area for around 12 years, both of us working in various hospitality roles. We are also trained tour guides so can offer our guests great information on all of the places of local interest."
"Freetobook is fantastic – my only regret is that we didn't use it before... the booking engine updates our availability 24/7 so we have more time to focus on looking after our guests and our business."
Their seven-bedroomed property, an impressive stone house dating back to 1796, boasts great 'curb appeal' with its extensive driveway and fantastic location. Guests lucky enough to be in a south-facing room are treated to an uninterrupted view of Ben Nevis whilst those with rooms to the front of the property have a view of the River Lochy with the Jacobite Steam train passing 200 metres from the house. "We are right on the junction so anyone coming into Fort William drives right past us. We always keep the gardens in immaculate order and this year we decided to go all out with jazzy, multi-coloured flowers in the window boxes."
"We offer true Highland hospitality but folk should 'take us as you find us'. That said, we make every effort to make our guests feel at home. Adrian and I are keen bakers so we tell our guests to ring when they are an hour away so we can have fresh cake and tea ready for them on arrival. We now also offer breakfast in bed, something which all of our guests, particularly families, seem to really like. At night we offer a complimentary nightcap and home-baked Highland shortbread. We don't have chocolates in the room but Tobermory Tatties (these Scottish sweets were first made popular back in the 60s. White fondants covered with cinnamon, they are guaranteed to remove any loose fillings!).
"This is our first year with freetobook as our booking engine and we just very recently signed up to use the channel manager to booking dot com. Freetobook is fantastic – my only regret is that we didn't use it before. Up to this point our business relied heavily on returning guests, mostly British 'staycationers'. Now we have visitors coming in from all corners of the globe with an average of a two to three-night stay. And most importantly, with freetobook, we have something we couldn't have bought last year at any price - time. We now have no worries at all, safe in the knowledge that the booking engine updates our availability 24/7. We now have more time to focus on looking after our guests and our business."
All guests at Inverlochy Villas pay a rate of £35 per person per room; "We don't believe in penalising single room bookings or cranking up the prices in peak season for the same views and the same hospitality."
John and Adrian have renovated extensively, decorating the property to a very high standard so each room is completely different. Interestingly, they decided that one side of the house should have a more traditional feel to the décor while on the other side, they have focused on more contemporary designs. "This widens our appeal to a broad range of ages and tastes," John explains.
"We plan to stay open all year except for Christmas and New Year and during the winter we will offer a lower rate and discounts on multiple night stays. We hope to attract our target audience as well as folks who like the tranquility and ruggedness an out of season break has to offer."