A small guest house nestled away in the picturesque town of Blairgowrie, Perthshire, has been ranked as the number one destination for small stays in the UK, according to the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best Awards.

Owners Gary Hack and Nigel Robinson took over Ivybank Lodge in 2016 and set about completely refurbishing the Victorian property to its current five-star boutique status, with financial assistance of over £300k from the Cumberland Building Society.

The once-neglected guest house also ranks in third place in Europe, and 11th place globally, in the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Bes of the Best Small Stays category, firmly putting the small Scottish town on the world’s map.

As of April 2023, Ivybank Lodge has almost 400 reviews on the travel rating site, with over 98% of those rating them excellent (five stars).

Gary said: “We are overwhelmed to have been awarded the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best Small Stay in the UK award. This is our first business venture, so to have achieved this recognition is just beyond our wildest dreams.”

The journey to success wasn’t easy, however. In fact, it took two rejected finance applications from high street lenders before the pair were even able to purchase the business with help from the Cumberland. Gary said: “We first saw the property in 2015 and knew quickly that it was the one for us.

“We tried to book an appointment with various high street banks to discuss the business plans and hopefully secure a mortgage, but none of them were able to offer us a face-to-face appointment. All of our appointments were over the phone, and they didn’t want to hear about our business plan, they only looked at how the business was performing at the time under its current management. The whole experience wasn’t very personable at all and was really disheartening.”

At the end of 2015, the pair booked an appointment with the Cumberland Building Society. Gary said: “From the outset, the experience with the Cumberland was completely different to that of the high street lenders.

“We were invited in for a face-to-face appointment with a commercial relationship manager who went through our plans to improve the business and considered other assets aside from cash throughout the process.”

The pair were granted financing with the Cumberland in order to purchase the business in June 2016 and got to work straight away making substantial improvements.

Aiding in their success was a reduction in interest rates granted to the pair by the Cumberland Building Society, at a time when bank rates are the highest that they have been in almost 15 years.

Steven Ret, Commercial Relationship Manager at the Cumberland said: “What Gary and Nigel have achieved at Ivybank Lodge is a real testament to their resilience and true Scottish hospitality.

“Back in 2016, other high street lenders didn’t have the appetite to invest in the hospitality sector which made it much more difficult for those running businesses in the industry to receive funding. At the Cumberland, we look at each case individually, assessing transferrable skills and how customers are planning to improve the business.”

He continued: “Gary and Nigel have continued to grow this business throughout a global pandemic which halted the tourism industry and are now weathering the current financial crisis. In fact, they’ve managed to grow the business some 800% since taking it on just seven years ago.

“The key to their success is a combination of a real love for the property and a keen eye for detail which keeps guests coming back to stay with them time and time again. They also have a fantastic understanding of the market and have the support of the Cumberland to offer counsel and additional funding or reduced rates through choppy waters.”

Since taking over the business in 2016, Ivybank Lodge has earned numerous awards, including the AA’s 2023 Breakfast Award, Guest Accommodation of the Year Scotland 2021, and several TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Best of the Best Awards.

For more information, please visit www.cumberland.co.uk