Cheers as East Neuk hotel takes top title

Graham Guthrie, in kilt, at the Scottish Licensed Trade News awards 2014.
Graham Guthrie, in kilt, at the Scottish Licensed Trade News awards 2014.
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The Golf Hotel in Crail had good reason to pop the champagne corks and celebrate last week.

At a glitzy high-profile event in Glasgow, owner Graham Guthrie was named Licensee of the Year, beating off strong competition from thousands of bars throughout the country.

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said Graham after winning the most prestigious award in the trade in Scotland.

The title is the culmination of a run of successes for the hotel, including a Casque Mark Award for its ale, entry into the CAMRA Good Food and Pub Guide and gaining a four-star certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor.

It is also the icing on the cake in a silver year for Graham, his 25th as proprietor at the Golf.

When the Scottish Licensed Trade News judges came to visit, they were looking for enthusiasm, innovation, drive and community involvement and found all in abundance with Graham.

The hotel is a big supporter of the annual Crail Festival and fundraises for worthy causes, has developed a new garden restaurant, which was a huge hit over the summer, uses local produce such as crab and lobster in its menus, and shapes its services round customers’ needs.

Graham is unmistakably proud of the small five-bedroom hotel, housed in a building which dates back to 1721 and which has had only four owners in nearly 100 years.

“I love the business but these have been tough and challenging times for the industry,” said Graham, who reckons his original training as an accountant has stood him in good stead when it comes to managing the finances.

“You can’t spend what you don’t have but I have always stood by my conviction that you need to invest to maintain high standards.”

Knowing and meeting the needs of his core business - visiting golf parties - has also been a key factor in the hotel’s success.

However, Graham was quick to point out that it was not a solo effort. He paid tribute to manager Jackie Thomson, who has been with the hotel for 22 years.

It is also a family business now, with sons Richard and Andrews involved in the day-to-day running of the hotel.

“I was told that thousands of others had been in for the award but the Golf Hotel was a clear winner,” Graham said. “It makes it all the more special that a small business like ours could put Crail on the map.”