THE new owners of one of Langholm High Street’s oldest hotels have revealed they have big ambitions for the business.
The Crown Hotel, a former coaching inn, has been bought by Steven and Samantha Park who have moved from Morecambe with their two young children, Harry and Zara.
They begin their new venture with the opening of the café next Monday but that is only the start for the 10-bedroom hotel.
Although this is the first time they have run a hotel, Samantha has worked in various roles in the hospitality industry for 20 years.
Their plans include converting the Elephant Shed into a bar for walkers and their dogs, cyclists and bikers; opening a play room for children; serving evening meals; hosting weddings and other special occasions; and running the bars.
Samantha said: “We’d looked for a while for something which really appealed to us.
“We saw a picture of the Crown and thought it looked nice and we’d take a look. I walked through the door and fell in love.
“We came about six times and each time we got a bit more excited and came up with more ideas.”
They liked the town’s semi-rural setting but close enough to places, like Carlisle.
As dog owners, the walking country also appeals to them. They realised very quickly that there were opportunities for the business.
One of the first things Samantha did was to go on the Scottish Hill Walking and Wild Camping Facebook page to find out what walkers wanted from their accommodation.
She said: “They want somewhere they can go with their muddy boots and muddy dogs and not feel uncomfortable. It will be a dedicated area they can access through the beer garden.”
The café will offer three breakfasts, including vegetarian, and every meal will have a vegetarian option and gluten free meals will be available.
Samantha wants to make sure that everyone in a group, which has come out to eat, is catered for. Children’s meals will be smaller versions of adult meals.
Guests will be able to order and pay online and if people are out walking, they won’t have to worry about the kitchen closing. They can order ahead and know their meal will be ready.
The hotel is being completely rewired for wi-fi and all the bedrooms are being refurbished, along with the upstairs function room.
As a result of people being able to drink alcohol indoors only until 6pm, a marquee with heating and lighting will be put up outside and drinks can be ordered from the bar.
Samantha says she is also looking forward to reviving her vintage tea business by offering afternoon teas using vintage china and cutlery.
She is very keen to make the hotel a place for families and said: “There will be a play room with toys and we’ll do lunch packages developed by my own children. I also hope to have a Saturday morning cinema for kids.
“Next year or the year after we’ll redo all the bedrooms and put in new bathrooms and there will be a colour scheme.
“We’ve designed a new Crown Hotel logo and the signs outside will be updated with our services.”
She added: “We don’t want to change it too much but we don’t want to just leave it. It has so much potential which hasn’t been met.”
When new employees are recruited, they will be fully trained and offered NVQs in hospitality and will have clearly-defined roles.
She is keen that the hotel becomes part of a guest’s experience, whether they’re walking, cycling or going on tours.
She wants to work with other enterprises in the town to make sure people have a good experience of what Scotland has to offer.
She said: “It’s the little things which don’t cost a lot but mean a lot. A small place like this needs to be about experience and the feelgood factor so people come back.
“There is so much to offer here and so much is untapped. It just needs to be pulled out.
“If the town works together, the town prospers together. For such a small town that is key.”
Samantha can’t wait for next year’s Common Riding.
She said: “I’ve been told this place is very busy. We want everyone to have a good time and if we prove we can do that every year, it builds the place up again.”
But before that Samantha hopes to host a Father Christmas grotto, with people booking slots.