SWALLOW Hotels has paid more than GBP20m for six more Scottish hotels, including two well-known golfing and conference venues.

Three more purchases are close to completion, which will take the company's portfolio to 70 hotels north of the border, more than any other operator.

Yesterday's acquisitions include the family-owned Freedom of the Glen hotel chain, comprising the Ballachulish Hotel near Glencoe, The Isles of Glencoe Hotel and Leisure Centre, and the Oban Caledonian Hotel.

The other purchases are the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Resort, formerly run by colourful Scottish businessman Michael Johnston; the Gleddoch House Hotel and Country Estate at Langbank in Renfrewshire, which has an 18-hole golf course; and the Huntly Arms in Aboyne.

Gleddoch was acquired from Gleddoch House Limited, while the Huntly Arms was bought out of receivership.

Chief executive Peter Gray said: "Swallow Hotels now has 67 properties in Scotland. We are aiming to have 100 hotels by the end of the year and so far we are well on track to achieve that. The latest deals are in line with Swallow's plans to continue its commitment to growth within Scotland."

Traditionally strong in southern England and the Midlands, Swallow signalled its intentions for Scotland last July with the eye-catching purchase of 20 hotels from Edinburgh-based hotelier North British Trust Group.

One reason cited by Gray for Swallow's disproportionate expansion in Scotland is that the prices sought by local sellers are "sensible", in stark contrast to some areas of England and Wales.

"People know we are acquisitive and when they want to sell they tend to give us a call, " he said.

Swallow Hotels has expanded its portfolio from just 24 hotels a year ago, making a total of 43 acquisitions. Across the UK the company has more than 140.

Swallow's purchase of Carnoustie should lend some stability to the landmark hotel, which abuts the championship golf course that will host next year's Open.

Controversial chairman Michael Johnston was forced to resign as chairman of its debt-laden holding company following sequestration in July by the Court of Session, where a petition was lodged by HM Revenue & Customs.

Carnoustie is understood never to have made a profit since it opened in 1999.

Said Gray: "The previous owners did not have the expertise to make the most of Carnoustie.

"We can put it on our Swallow 'golf trail' and we also need to get the best out of it throughout the year and not just in that six-weekwindow in the middle when Americans come to play golf."