£75,000 refurbishment to mark historic hotel’s diamond jubilee

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THE four-star Rufflets Country House Hotel in St Andrews has kick-started its diamond jubilee year with a £75,000 refurbishment programme designed to maintain its reputation as one of the finest in Fife.

In April the popular hotel will mark its 60th anniversary as a privately-owned and managed establishment and it re-opens today (Friday) following a major facelift of its imposing reception area.

Rufflets was built in 1924 as a private house for Mrs Anne Brydon Gilroy, the widow of a prominent Dundee jute baron and, until 1924, the 10 acres of grounds had been used for agriculture.

Local records going back as far as 1642 indicate that the land was owned by the Priory of St Andrews as part of the Priory Acres and it was known as the “Ruch (pronounced ruff) Flets,” which in the old Scots tongue, meant “rough, flat lands.”

So, although Rufflets has only been a privately owned hotel for 60 years, the name goes back for well over 360 years.

Ownership of Rufflets has now passed to the third generation of the family who founded the business in 1952, when the seven-bedroom house was bought for £7000 by George and Margaret Cook and business partners, Anna and James Meldrum.

Since becoming partners with their mother, Ann Murray-Smith, in 2002, Mark and Chris Forrester’s aim has been to drive the quality of Rufflets even higher and give the hotel a more up-to-date image, recognising that many of the original loyal guests have long since departed.

In 2008 the new partners invested £1.4 million in a banqueting facility, the Garden Suite, and the stylish and contemporary new building has now become one of the most sought after wedding and conference venues in Fife - it caters for more than 50 weddings a year - as well as other corporate and private family events, including funerals.

That building project was due to start when the credit crunch hit, making the decision to go ahead a bit of a risk. However, Mark and Chris are delighted that the investment decision has been the right one and it has paid off handsomely.

The latest investment project at Rufflets is a major upgrade and refurbishment of the entire ground floor reception area and general manager, Stephen Owen, told the Citizen yesterday: ”First impressions are so important when guests enter the hotel.

‘‘Although this particular investment won’t generate additional revenue for the hotel, the partners are committed to continually improving standards - particularly as this is our diamond jubilee year.”