Former sail loft earns tourism accolade

 A brand new hostel, converted from an 18th-century sail-making loft, has received a four-star award from VisitScotland at its very first attempt.

Following a £1.8 million renovation, the Sail Loft, located at the Back Green in the town of Portsoy, received the award from the national tourism organisation’s Quality Assurance (QA) Scheme. The QA Scheme is a benchmark for quality across the tourism industry and operates across accommodation, visitor attractions and food sectors.

As well as the sail-making loft, the accommodation is comprised of a Georgian house and two associated cottages. All the buildings have a category B listing from Historic Environment Scotland. The sail making loft closed in the 1930s and slowly fell into a state of disrepair.

However, in July 2015, North East Scotland Preservation Trust and Portsoy Community Enterprise (PCE) undertook a £1.8m project to restore the historic buildings and make them into a 25 bed bunkhouse accommodation facility. By January 2017, the development was complete, and The Sail Loft opened its doors at the beginning of February.

Operated by PCE, the hostel offers a variety of rooms, including family rooms and a wheelchair-accessible bedroom. Facilities include a communal kitchen and dining area, lounge with wood burning stove, drying room and launderette, as well as secure bicycle storage and wash facilities. Guests can also enjoy the sheltered and relaxing coastal garden area, which offers a BBQ facility and outdoor wood fired hot tub.

The Sail Loft is expected to increase tourism in the area, as well as making it possible for residential traditional music courses to be held at the nearby Salmon Bothy. This is particularly apt as VisitScotland has just launched a new campaign to highlight the country’s traditional music heritage as part of the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Also in keeping with the themed year, residential boat building courses will now be possible at the Boatshed.

Roger Goodyear, Co-Chair, PCE, said: “We are delighted that The Sail Loft has been recognised as a four-star hostel facility. It reflects the quality we strived to achieve throughout and we thank VisitScotland for the support and guidance provided to us during the process. The Sail Loft adds significant appeal to this beautiful area of the Banffshire Coast and will bring additional tourism to Portsoy and the surrounding area.”

 Jo Robinson, Regional Director at VisitScotland, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone involved at The Sail Loft on its four-star QA award. To achieve a four-star grading, particularly on the first attempt, is very impressive.

 “Our Quality Assurance Scheme helps businesses to reach their full potential and truly shine. The scheme is about more than just the ‘stars’ on the door – it’s about the entire visitor experience, about investing in your business and making it as economically sustainable as possible.”

 Developed and improved for over 30 years, VisitScotland’s Quality Assurance Schemes are world-leading and provide a trusted, independent and impartial source of information for visitors. They allow businesses not just to meet visitor expectations, but to exceed them.