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Portsoy Sail Loft secures £25k to repurpose facility

By Kyle Ritchie

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Portsoy Community Enterprise has secured £25,000 to repurpose The Sail Loft self-catering hostel to respond to changing holiday habits caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Sail Loft was closed at the height of the 2020 summer season after the country went into lockdown and when it was able to reopen, restrictions meant that the 25-bed facility was only able to operate at a fraction of its normal capacity.

Social distancing will continue to impact on its ability to function effectively as a hostel, but Adapt and Thrive emergency funding has provided a lifeline to overcome the longer-term effects of the pandemic.

The seafront accommodation will be turned into three self-catering apartments, which will boost occupancy, enjoyment and safety for guests.

The spend will include the installation of kitchen units, and the creation of new en-suite shower rooms and finishing the apartments to a high standard.

The aim is to satisfy the growing demand for self-contained holiday accommodation, while retaining the flexibility of being able to cater for larger exclusive group bookings as the venue will continue to be able to take parties of up to 25 people.

Richard Thorne, development manager at Portsoy Community Enterprise said: “By using two of the three rooms in a block as bedrooms and the third as a living-dining-kitchen area, this will enable fully self-contained apartment accommodation to be created that would be particularly attractive to families and small groups.

Portsoy Community Enterprise's development manager Richard Thorne.
Portsoy Community Enterprise's development manager Richard Thorne.

“The results of this work will make the Sail Loft more useable and beneficial to the local community, which we are confident will convert into a higher local spend, community benefit and a significant increase in income from the Sail Loft.”

A listed building, North East Scotland Preservation Trust acquired the property from Seafield Estate in 2006 and, in partnership with Portsoy Community Enterprise, undertook the restoration of the buildings.

The £2 million project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Coastal Communities Fund and Historic Environment Scotland through the Portsoy Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme.

The Sail Loft opened in 2017, achieving four-star hostel status, with 25 individual beds, a modern communal kitchen, dining area and lounge, laundry and drying room among its facilities.

Its seafront position, wood burning hot tub and interior earned it positive reviews, with guests coming to enjoy cycling, walking, nature spotting, in addition to proving popular with groups like youth organisations, wedding guests and motorcycle clubs.

The building will remain unaltered in appearance from the outside as all works are internal and will not involve structural changes.

The funding comes from Adapt and Thrive, the Community and Third Sector Recovery Programme, which is part of the Scottish Government’s £350m emergency response to coronavirus.

David Urquhart, chairman of Portsoy Community Enterprise said: “The Sail Loft was starting to make a name for itself as a great place to stay and it was making an economic difference to Portsoy through increased visitor spend.

“Covid and social distancing has reduced the capacity of the venue and impacted on its longer-term viability in its current format.

"For these reasons, we are reconfiguring and relaunching the Sail Loft so we can continue to bring people to the area, and in turn helping to lift the local economy through visitor spending in shops, eateries and services.”

Portsoy has been growing in status as a tourist destination. It is part of the North East 250 touring route and offers experiences for walkers being at the western end of the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail as well water sport opportunities at nearby Sandend.

For golfers it is within reach of more than 50 courses in Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen, and Portsoy offers excellent opportunities for nature lovers and families.

The Sail Loft is operated by Portsoy Community Enterprise which also runs nearby Portsoy Links Caravan Park, The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, The Salmon Bothy and The Boatshed for the benefit of the local community.

This provides economic benefit from tourism for Portsoy and the surrounding area while upholding the heritage and cultures of the north-east of Scotland.

While Covid-19 has impacted on all areas of its operations, the board of directors remain committed to offering the local community and visitors to Portsoy opportunities to take part in authentic cultural experiences and are continuing to work collaboratively to provide economic benefit through tourism for the town and surrounding area.

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