Moxon Architects recently renovated The Fife Arms, a landmark building in the Scottish village of Braemar. The former Victoria coaching inn has long been the heart of Braemar, which hosts the annual Highland Games/ Braemar Gathering in Aberdeenshire. In recent decades however the once-flourishing establishment had declined, not helped by unsympathetic 20th-century additions that had compromised its historic character.
The Fife Arms regeneration also includes the restoration of the public bar, now named The Flying Stag - which was part of the original hotel - as well as The Clunie Dining Room, Elsa's (a new cocktail bar), event spaces, a family room, spa, and hotel shop.
Moxon has carefully rehabilitated the Category B listed building, restoring the original granite fabric and intricate arts and crafts details of the building. Poorer quality, later additions have been replaced with finely crafted new elements in keeping with the spirit of the building and the surrounding conservation area. At the same time, the sensitive redesign radically reconfigures the operational plan of the building to improve efficiency and ensure that back-of-house functions no longer impinge upon the guest experience.
Moxon's design provides a welcoming new public route through the riverside building to open up key parts of the hotel to a wider audience. A major intervention is the removal of infill buildings to create a new courtyard, made possible by the relocation of service areas from prime ground floor positions to a lower ground position at the rear.
"We aimed to revive the landmark building through careful restoration and discreet remodelling of the precious, historic fabric, whilst also dramatically improving the way in which the hotel operates," commented Ben Addy, director of Moxon Architects. "As a result, Fife Arms can once again be the heart of the village, bringing economic and cultural vitality to the local community and providing an exceptional visitor experience."
The courtyard allows natural light to enter the heart of the building whilst providing an area of sheltered external space defined by an open colonnade. This peristyle includes 'stripped bark' tree trunk columns, a detail associated with Highlands buildings of this era that is also found elsewhere in the original hotel buildings. These distinctive columns support an intensive roof planted with local varieties of heather to enhance the potential for biodiversity.
Sustainability is key to the hotel's longevity and Moxon's design contributes to this through the use of sustainably sourced local materials such as salvaged granite and locally felled trees for the courtyard in combination with state-of-the-art technical design. Visible back-of-house areas and an extension to the manager's house are clad with untreated timber cladding that will develop a silver-grey patina to complement the granite stonework.
The interiors have been designed by Russell Sage. Restored historic features and finely crafted new interventions are combined with a specially curated collection of historic Scottish and contemporary artwork. The landscaped garden to the rear of the hotel has been designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Award Winner Jinny Blom.
Photography: Ed Reeve