Rufflets Hotel marks 60-year milestone

Mark Forrester, Alexander Forrester, Ann Murray-Smith, Jack Forrester and Chris Forrester
Mark Forrester, Alexander Forrester, Ann Murray-Smith, Jack Forrester and Chris Forrester

The Rufflets Country House Hotel in St Andrews has marked a significant milestone in its history - celebrating 60 years in private family ownership.

Friends, neighbours, loyal customers and former staff attended the gathering at the four-star establishment during which a specially commissioned photo collage was unveiled charting its history and development from 1952, when Rufflets House was purchased by founding partners George and Margaret Cook and James and Anna Meldrum, up until the present day.

Ownership of Rufflets has now passed to the third generation of the Cook family. Mark and Chris Forrester, who became partners with their mother, Ann (nee Cook) in 2002, and since then have continued the family tradition of investment in new facilities and upgrading the existing.

Mark told the Citizen:”When Chris and I became partners we soon realised we needed to expand if we were to continue to prosper. Our US golf leisure business was almost wiped out following 9/11, so we had to find a way of replacing it, and a market which would be more recession-proof.”

The route they chose was a £1.4m investment in a 150-seat banqueting facility which opened in December 2007 and was the single biggest investment the business had made since its inception.

It turned out to be a wise decision, for it now hosts more than 50 weddings each year, as well as other functions and day conferences.

Its contemporary design and interior décor was so well received that it led to the introduction of a more contemporary look to the interior of the main hotel and the recent major refurbishment of the ground floor reception area and hall lounges reflect this approach.

Another new venture over the last decade has been the conversion of three former staff houses in the grounds into self-catering holiday lodges. Modern and fully equipped, they have proved to be popular with wedding parties, golfers and families, but with all the facilities of the hotel and 10-acre gardens on the doorstep.

A decision was also taken to convert former staff buildings into student accommodation and Chris explained:”We had an under-utilised staff accommodation block which was falling into disrepair and costing money to heat and maintain. We were aware that student accommodation was scarce in St Andrews.”

This led to the first eight-bedroom cottage conversion into a student residence in 2011 which has proved a great success. So much so, that a second three-bedroom cottage is currently being converted for the forthcoming academic year.

Although now retired, Ann still maintains an interest in the hotel and is responsible for the planning, renovation and letting of the student accommodation and the refurbishment of the hotel and holiday lodges, which leaves Stephen Owen, general manager since 2005, to get on with running the hotel on a daily basis.

Rufflets has been awarded four Gold Stars from VisitScotland and four Red Stars from the AA since 2006, when the two schemes were standardised, and is the top rated luxury hotel in St Andrews with Trip Advisor.