The Torridon Hotel is located on a 58-acre estate on the banks of Loch Torridon in Wester Ross surrounded by unspoiled Highland wilderness.
No wonder that owners Dan and Dan have placed the environment at the heart of everything they do. Dan Rose-Bristow explains one of the reasons behind their environmental focus, “Our three grown-up children grew up here in Torridon, and they are from a generation that values sustainability and are proud of where they come from. So as custodians of the resort, we want to leave their home in the best possible health for future generations.”
Rose-Bristow says, “Being sustainable is no longer a choice but a necessity for us. It forms part of every decision that we make. With suppliers, we refrain from those that deliver in plastic, don’t share our sustainable ethos, or don’t practise what they preach. Sustainability is one of our core business values and we are looking forward to future accreditation and strong performance with our carbon footprint. This is a central pillar of our thinking and informs how we move the business forward.”
The building was constructed in 1887 and was used as a hunting lodge until the 1960s, when it opened as a hotel. Rohaise’s parents originally took on the property in 1992 and the couple bought the business from them in 2004. They have a total of 32 rooms, in the Hotel, the Stables complex and Boathouse.
Rose-Bristow explains that owning a 135-year-old building has its challenges, “We have to carefully consider alterations to ensure that the character remains.” To date, the building’s roof has been insulated to reduce heat loss and they have invested around £1 million, introducing biomass heating, composting with the Rocket, borehole water and a new induction cooking suite.
Torridon’s efforts have been recognised by the Carbon Trust, Green Tourism. They are also accredited by Onno Poortier’s NOW scheme. The couple have recently pledged their commitment to helping the local ecosystem by becoming a member of the Wester Ross UNESCO biosphere, which supports local initiatives such as the Beinn Eighe and Loch Maree Islands National Nature Reserve. They have also committed to completing the Earthcheck Certified programme.
Rose-Bristow explains, “Carbon responsibility is a huge part of that, we aim to reduce our carbon as far as possible and always monitor our progress. Meaningful and tangible changes are key and we want to find better ways to understand how we can improve our carbon position through innovations on-site to ensure the maximum local benefit.” Many businesses are daunted by the task of improving sustainability, but Rose-Bristow’s advice is not to wait until you can do it perfectly, but to make a start now.
“Some of the biggest changes can seem intimidating, but they don’t have to be finished today – just getting started is key.”
The couple ensure staff are on board with the environmental changes, and that every department is working towards making sustainable improvements. They use paper-free administration and iPad check-in procedures.
Energy and lighting are closely monitored and a chemical-free cleaning system, Enjo, is used. They were one of the first hotels in the region to have a Biomass system, and Rose Bristow adds, “We continue to review opportunities to introduce innovation and we are currently looking at implementing renewables on-site.”
Torridon has embraced the EV technology, with Rapid 50kw electric car chargers available and two overnight Tesla chargers free for guests to use. He explains, “Our location is unique but services that are easily obtained in cities are more difficult to arrange in rural Wester Ross, therefore self-reliance becomes key.”
That means they try to make the most of all the natural resources they have on the estate, even using rhododendron branches as fuel on open fires. Rose-Bristow explains that guest feedback was one of the reasons they started using their own private water supply, “They loved the locally sourced water, but the peated look was off-putting. We found that we could retain the on-site supply but improve the water quality by using a borehole and other improvements and replace all delivered in-room water bottles with reusable glass bottles.”
They donate 50p from water sales to global sustainable projects. They closely monitor water consumption without risking spoiling the guest experience. All rubbish produced on site is separated and recycled, with waste paper being shredded and composted along with used coffee granules, and the ash from the biomass boiler. It is then used on the estate.
Rose-Bristow adds, “Two years ago, we invested in a Rocket Composter, allowing us to process the food waste from our kitchens which can be used in our kitchen garden to produce more fruit and vegetables. It not only gives us greater autonomy over our resources but also offers significant environmental and financial benefits and helps to reduce our carbon footprint – we have successfully recycled around 50 tonnes of food waste.”
The Farm and two-acre kitchen garden is one project Rose-Bristow is hugely proud of, “We have implemented a field-to-fork ethos and our new head chef, Alex Henderson ensures that our menu features local produce. The menu features venison from Beinn Eighe Estate, shellfish from Shieldaig, game from Brahan Estate, and meat from Kenny Morrison – the local butcher. The head chef even uses ingredients only available at The Torridon, including saltwater sourced from Loch, seaweed from the shore and vinegar and oil infused with pine needles from the estate.”
The hotel’s three AA-starred 1887 restaurant, and Bo & Muc brasserie use much of the fresh produce grown in the garden or produced on Torridon Farm which supplies the kitchen with Highland cattle beef, rare breed pork and hen and duck eggs. The Rose-Bristows are determined to continue working in harmony with nature, for the long-term benefit of their business.
The Torridon was named the ‘Best Rural Hotel 2020’ at the Food and Travel Magazine’s Reader Awards. Rose-Bristow says, “Our guests continue to show ever greater levels of interest in the sustainability of the resort. Increasingly we find that this is a key decision-making factor alongside quality and location. Once they are at the resort, we hear regularly how much guests appreciate the sustainability programme we have here, especially when they are able to experience the beautiful landscape.