A desire to spend more time together as a family led Richard and Isabelle Flannery to become hoteliers. The two were working in the USA in the oil and gas industry when they met four years ago, and the arrival of a little Flannery two years later hastened the change of lifestyle. But having decided to settle down, they found the idea of staying in the USA or getting regular jobs in the UK didn't float their boat. By comparison, the prospect of becoming hoteliers offered a great way of spending more time together, despite the hard work and long hours.
Their minds made up, the couple began looking for a hotel in rural Scotland, initially in the Oban area. But when they chanced on the details of the Eddrachilles hotel near Scourie, Sutherland, on a property agent's website, they "fell in love with it straight away" and sealed the deal with a bid of just under £500,000. "It's way up here!" laughs Richard, who admits the couple hadn't been that far north before.
Having moved in on 11 February this year, so far the couple have had little time for anything but cleaning and familiarisation, but Richard has plans to do a licensing course and a refurbishment programme is on the cards. "We have plans to redecorate the rooms but will take it one step at a time," he says.
Partly because of its remoteness, the hotel is run on a seasonal basis, from March to October. The new season kicks off with the arrival of the first guests on 17 March and Richard admits to being "excited but apprehensive".
The couple are used to working long hours and seven-day weeks. As an ex-manager with bar work experience, Richard feels well placed to take care of front-of-house, while Isabelle, a surveyor and qualified pilot among other things, is a dab hand in the kitchen and has assumed the position of head chef.
"It's a nice life - we hope," says Richard. "We're not here for one or two years, we're here for the long haul, and we'll gradually put our stamp on it."
The Eddrachilles hotel, tel: 01971 502080.
CAPTION: Eddrachilles hotel: first guests due on 17 March