It was once a thriving hotel, at the heart of a Highland community, which celebrated the area’s link to one of the finest Allied training centres in the Second World War.

Weddings and other family milestones were marked, match triumphs - and failures - were celebrated by shinty players in the "Commando bar" and rooms were seldom empty.

However after years of under-investment, according to locals, and frequent ownership changes, Spean Bridge Hotel has been labelled a “carbuncle” that is off-putting for tourists passing through the picturesque village of Spean Bridge in Lochaber.

The Herald:

Under previous ownership the white-washed walls of the former 17th century coaching inn were painted in clashing bright colours, much to the chagrin of residents.

The hotel, on the A82 near Fort William, currently has a closed sign displayed and official records show the company is behind in its accounts and faces being struck off.

The Herald:

In 2014, the hotel was taken over by Omega Travel, an agency and tour operator specialising in bringing Oriental visitors to the UK.

The move was welcomed by community and business leaders at the time with one tourism chief saying the fast-growing Chinese market offered “huge potential” to the Highlands.

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The company planned to spend about £300,000 on renovations, including a refurbishment of its world-famous Commando Bar and new manager Paul Nzoka pledged the Spean Bridge Hotel would remain open to the public.

The Herald:

However, the number of locals patronising the hotel bar and restaurant is said to have dwindled over the years.

It was once home to a museum of World War II exhibits commemorating the soldiers who trained in the surrounding hills.

The village is close to Achnacarry Castle, which was regarded as one of the finest Allied special training centres established in the Second World War.

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The museum was closed down two years ago “to ensure the safety of exhibits.”

Ming Liang Cheng is named on Company House as director of Spean Bridge Hotel Ltd.

The Herald:

The hotel has been issued with a First Gazette Notice, a warning that it will be dissolved by March 3 “unless cause is shown to the contrary”.

Mr Cheng is named as a director with several other companies including Pagoda Travel and Milton Blairgowrie Hotel Ltd, which has an active strike off warning.

The Herald made several attempts to contact Mr Cheng via the companies he is involved with and was unsuccessful. 

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“It is an eyesore and you could go further and say it’s a carbunkle, which is very sad,” said Tony Perriam, a Community Development Officer for the area

“It’s very visible and it’s very central and it’s pivotal to visitors impressions of Spean Bridge whether they are contemplating staying here, which is important to the local economy, or just passing through.

“The roof has been stripped off at the back. 

“It casts a shadow for those who live here, it’s not an uplifting sight for residents.” He said the idea of a community buyout had been mooted but was unlikely to find favour given the significant costs involved.

“It makes me, and everyone weep every time we pass the hotel,” added Angus MacDonald, local councillor and prolific businessman.

“And to think innocent tourists were staying there last summer. What must they think of Scotland?

“The whole village suffers.

“There was scaffolding up last year and work getting done but the view in the area was that they didn’t have the money to finish the job.”

Mr MacDonald, who gifted a new cinema to Fort William and also opened a bookshop in the town, said he hoped to persuade the owners of a Scottish hotel group to show an interest in acquiring the business.

“It’s a long shot because it’s in such bad condition,” he said, “but if the right person came along, it could be a really fantastic thing.”

He said with investment the hotel could emulate another former coaching Inn, The Loch Lomond Arms, which re-opened in 2012 after an extensive renovation.

However, he said the hotel industry was facing a tough time. “I don’t know who is making money in Highland hospitality at the moment,” he said.
“It’s very, very difficult.”

The village is steeped in history. The original bridge that crossed the River Spean was known as High Bridge, and was constructed in 1736 as part of the military road-building scheme undertaken by Lieutenant General Wade for the government.

High Bridge was the scene of the first military skirmish of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion.

John Fotheringham Chairman of Spean Bridge, Roy Bridge and Achnacarry Community Council said workers were seen carrying out repairs to the roof in December but have not returned. 

He said: “Our small community seems to attract developments that go wrong."