When the team at Seamill Hydro, in Ayrshire, embarked on ambitious plans to completely remodel their wedding and conference facilities, they all agreed on two things. Firstly, that they should make the most of the hotel’s stunning views over the Firth of Clyde to Arran and secondly, that they wanted to draw on their collective experiences to create the perfect day for each one of the 100-plus couples who tie the knot with them every year.
The result – the stunning £6.5million Firth Pavilion – was four years in the making, including two years on the build itself. It is part of a wider project to move all the Victorian venue’s main revenue-generating areas to the front of the hotel, to make the most use of that view.
Iain Silver, General Manager, explains, “We’ve always had a very good wedding market but our old conference and banqueting facility was rear facing so you would come down to the front for drinks and the rest of your day was up at the back of the hotel with a scenic view of the car park.
“When the opportunity arose the concept was to move everything to face the front. It’s a project that we’ve been doing progressively for the last six years as the restaurant used to be rear facing as well.
“There are few places that have a location and a view like this – it’s a unique selling point. The whole idea was to create a venue that made the best possible use of the view and after that to create a wedding venue that took in the very best elements of what we had all experienced.
“Basically we sat down with a blank piece of paper and sketched out what the ideal wedding venue would be. Then we started from the kitchen and worked our way out to create a venue that would operate seamlessly. The whole point was that it shouldn’t just look good, it should work well too.”
This latest phase of the project involved demolishing a building and the old reception area and then creating a whole new facade, including the spectacular automatic revolving glass doors that guests enter the building through today. It was a huge task, made trickier because the hotel sits on a hill that slopes down to the sea and it cost £500,000 just to get the ground level to the point where they could actually starting building on it.
Neil McColm, Managing Director of McColm Civil & Structural Engineers, explains, “We essentially designed the foundations, retaining walls and the superstructure. It was an interesting solution because due to the existing site levels we chose to design an engineered retained platform to facilitate the installation of piled foundations.
“Structurally it was very challenging because of the shape and because of the large spans involved over two floors– obviously you want uninterrupted views during a wedding, so you don’t have any internal columns within the main function suite.”
With the structure complete, Iain and his team could focus on the inside, starting with the grand atrium. Reception is to the right, while to the left is a lounge area, furnished in the same neutral tones and swirling damask patterns that are signature throughout. The space has a calm, luxurious feel and is bright and airy thanks to large windows and four big roof lights.
Immediately ahead of the entrance is an impressive twin sandstone staircase with a decorative metal balustrade, which goes up three storeys and culminates in a central tower perfect for indoor wedding photographs.
A feature light fitting manufactured by Wired Electrical, of Glasgow, spans a five-metre drop at the top staircase. Made up of laser-cut leaves, broken up with crystals in between, it has lights that shine through, creating interesting shadows. Lighting consultant Solus Solutions also helped with the design.
There is also a huge abstract seascape which was specially commissioned for the space – and serves as a promise of what is to come. Smaller abstracts, supplied by Artistic Licence and Indigo Art, feature throughout the rest of the building too.
Upstairs the ceremony room, which can accommodate just over 200 guests, has four huge windows, which run floor to ceiling and almost wall to wall and showcase the coastline. Two of the windows slide right back and the glass balustrade outside means the vista is uninterrupted.
Timber panels add form and subtle shadows to the taupe walls, while bespoke crystal wall lights with a late Deco influence add glamour. On the floor, the use of two bordered panels, cut to mirror each other to the last millimetre, creates a rug effect and staff even use a laser liner to ensure that the chairs – by Excalibur Furniture – are arranged perfectly. The metal-framed chairs are finished with a wood grain effect, while a beautiful fan-style design on the outer backs negates the need for fussy seat covers.
Across the foyer lies the private entrance to the Glenashdale Suite, a place where brides can enjoy the last night before their big day. Here the colour scheme is still quite subtle – albeit with more plum colours – but the space is also busier – with full length mirrors, a drinks station, mini-bar and 55-inch TV screen just for starters. The bedroom, which has four single beds, has a feature headboard with faux leather panels – and a 42-inch TV – while two sofas in the lounge area pull out into double beds.
Iain Silver explains, “We wanted this to be somewhere the bride can have a night with the girls the night before her wedding – a pyjama party – and we serve them brunch in the morning before they get ready for the day.”
The suite includes a massive bathroom – complete with a 32-inch waterproof TV – and all the wardrobes have huge hanging spaces for dresses and there are three hair and make-up stations too.
But it is the other little details that really make it special – Hollywood-standard M&K speakers and
even a broadcast camera so the bride can see her guests arriving while she finishes getting ready. The images can also be displayed on any of the TVs at the venue – as well as streamed live to anyone who is unable to make the day in person.
After the ceremony, the bride and groom use a ‘secret staircase’ to make a grand entrance into the Firth Suite, stepping through fret-cut panelled doors onto a small stage where guests can see them easily. Their music starts playing and ceiling lights come on in sequence, following them out as they make their way across the room.
Behind the top table is – once again – that stunning view, framed by huge windows so that the room is flooded with natural light.
Liz McNeill, Director of interior design consultants 10 Design, based in Glasgow, says, “Our main aim
was to create a very neutral palette and an interior that had impact but didn’t have a garish over-powering colour scheme, which can be quite off-putting, especially to the wedding market.
“We used taupe and neutral tones and then combined a dark mauve, plum colour without having too much of it but creating lots of contrasts. The carpets were custom commissioned, working with Ulster Carpets to create a subtle scroll damask and the soft furnishings were tonal damask fabrics.
“Even though each room feels different, the fact that there isn’t a complete change in colour scheme creates a much better flow.”
The Pavilion incorporates the most up-to-date technology – a staggering 16km of cabling is testament to that – without compromising on the elegant, classic feel of this fabulous wedding and conference venue.
Features include high-end ‘mood’ lighting, which can be set to match colour themes or occasions, shading, video, and audio and security equipment. Lairds of Troon have created a fully integrated two-button control panel, on an iPad, which enables staff to enhance the space, while signage panels on either side of the conference doors into the ceremony room upstairs can be customised to display any messages.
Microphones have been sunk into the ceiling above the top table so that they don’t get in the way during speeches and similarly music speakers have also been concealed within the walls so that they are unobtrusive.
Mark Laird, CEO of Lairds, explains, “Our brief was to help the client create an individual experience within the complex every time and for every bride and groom, using technology to enhance that.”
Bands no longer have to spend hours setting up their own mixing desks either as there is one installed already.
The bar, which is completely separate from the rest of the hotel, is off the function room, but quite open so guests can chill out while still hearing everything – and they can even see it
on screen too.
Outside a set of steps is perfect for group photographs, while a specially-created Victorian shield garden provides the setting for more intimate snaps, with white garden benches, roses, lavender and a folly made from stone retained from one of the buildings that was demolished.
The attention to detail really is phenomenal – and it shows in the offering. With such a team of perfectionists behind the Firth Pavilion, the only surprise is that it didn’t take them longer.