The Three Chimneys – one of Scotland’s most iconic restaurants – has been acquired by former Hotelier of the Year Gordon Campbell Gray.
Located in Colbost on the Isle of Skye, the award-winning restaurant with rooms has been sold by Shirley and Eddie Spear, who had owned the business for 34 years.
The Three Chimneys and the adjacent House Over-By with six bedrooms is the second site to be bought by Campbell Gray’s new Wee Hotel Company (WHC), which was launched last week. Its first acquisition was the 12-bedroom Pierhouse Hotel and Seafood Restaurant in Port Appin, Argyll.
After spending the past 12 years travelling the world opening properties for his global business Campbell Gray Hotels, the hotelier has returned to his native Scotland to focus on building up a collection of small properties offering authenticity and indigenous ingredients for his new company.
All the current staff at the Three Chimneys will be retained, including head chef, Scott Davies, who took over from the previous incumbent Michael Smith in 2015. General manager is Petri Pentikäinen, restaurant manager is James Alexander-Thom and guest services manager is Sarah Campbell, the Spears’ daughter.
Shirley Spear, a self-taught chef, headed the kitchen at the Three Chimneys when she and Eddie opened the restaurant in 1985, after moving from Croydon, south London, with their young family to what was previously a crofter’s cottage in north-west Skye. She immediately set about passionately promoting the islands produce on her menus and the restaurant became renowned for serving some of the best food in Scotland.
Growing international recognition was cemented when The New York Times critic Frank Bruni named the Three Chimneys as one of his top five restaurants in the world in 2008.
The Spears will remain indirectly involved with the business as they hand over its operation to the Wee Hotel Company. In particular, Shirley has been invited to share her knowledge of Highland hospitality and tourism as the new company develops.
Shirley said: “Eddie and I have dedicated most of our working and family life to the Three Chimneys and we are extremely proud of how the restaurant has developed over the past three decades. This could not have been possible without the support of many wonderful people, who have all worked exceptionally hard to help us build our reputation over the years.
“Together, we’ve taken the Three Chimneys’ biggest business constraint – the restaurant’s remote location – and turned it into a unique selling point. We always knew we had to create a memorable experience which exceeded customer expectations in order to grow the business here.”
She added that she and Eddie wanted to now travel more and work less and were delighted to have found in Campbell Gray the person to further develop Three Chimneys for the future.
“We know the Three Chimneys, the House Over-By and our exceptional team will be in great hands. We are also very proud of the fact that Gordon is so keen to invest his outstanding expertise in this remote, fragile area of the island, knowing he has already fallen in love with our beautiful views and peaceful surroundings here at Colbost.”
Campbell Gray said he was “privileged” to buy somewhere as iconic as the Three Chimneys. “I have admired Shirley and Eddie for so many years, and when we were chatting on one occasion and Shirley hinted that perhaps they might consider selling, it was a magical moment.
“I am very flattered that they would allow me take over the reins of their amazing achievement and the simply outstanding team. For the past few years, I have wanted to come home to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve developed across my career. I have been lucky enough to live in and travel to many countries but, at the end of the day, Scotland is simply one of the most stunning countries in the world; the best!”
“I am thrilled to be able to invest time and effort here and to work within a hospitality sector which is, and should be, the envy of the world. The Three Chimneys is a simply wonderful place to begin that journey.”
The Three Chimneys has been the recipient of numerous awards over the years and is currently the holder of three rosettes and five gold stars in the restaurant with rooms category from the AA, having consistently achieved 100% marks for “impeccable housekeeping” for the past 20 years.
Named as Hotelier of the Year by The Caterer in 2002 and winner of the Outstanding Contribution award at the Hotel Cateys in 2011, Campbell Gray is now taking “a more ambassadorial role” within Campbell Gray Hotels, the company he founded and in which has been personally involved in every aspect of the creation, design and philosophy of each property.
Alongside owning and managing hotels open and under development in Amman, Bahrain, Beirut, Liberia, Malta and Zurich, Campbell Gray Hotels also manages the Machrie, which opened last year on the Isle of Islay on the west coast of Scotland.