Interview with a Scottish Hotelier – Anna Low

30th November 2023

All across Scotland, perched on cliffs and nestled in glens exists the professional that never sleeps, on the pursuit that never stops. From dawn’s first light to dusk’s embrace, a day in the life of a Scottish hotelier is an unwavering commitment to making dreams into reality.

Activities and destinations are certainly part of a great trip, but perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle in crafting the ideal vacation is the accommodation. A great hotel provides comfort and respite, allowing travellers to decompress after a busy day and refuel ahead of the next adventure. An attentive and welcoming hotelier creates the feeling of a home away from home. 

Join us for an exclusive journey behind the curtains at the exquisite Foyers Lodge, where Owner Anna Low shares what it takes to orchestrate each guest’s perfect experience on the shores of Loch Ness.

Photography by Emily Sandifer

What inspired you to pursue a career in the hotel industry in Scotland, and can you share a memorable moment that reaffirmed your passion for it?

My husband and I were both looking for something a little different. Neither of us had worked in the hospitality industry before but we were living in London and the projects Phil was working on were coming to a natural end and I, having worked in the creative industries in one guise or another for over 20 years, was ready for change. After discussing pooling our skills and resources, we set about looking for a project to take on together, certain we wanted to make a business out of a building we could live in.

We looked at many, many locations within the UK property market for something special but it was whilst staying at a hotel in Nairn, searching online very late one night, that we found Foyers Lodge and were instantly taken with it. We managed to get a viewing, looked around for 30 minutes and 10 weeks later we had the keys. It was the only place we looked at in Scotland. On the day we collected the keys, despite knowing there was a significant amount of hard graft ahead of us (years and years!) in order to complete a full refurbishment, it just felt so exciting and right. Great location, stunning views over a world-famous landmark and, despite being unloved for a considerable amount of time, an atmospheric property with a very friendly vibe.

It’s difficult to pick out just one memorable moment as honestly, little synergies and serendipitous moments happen all the time but for me, I think having brought Foyers Lodge back to life after being empty for years is the biggest reward. Seeing our guests enjoying the surroundings, the atmosphere and the views whilst on their honeymoons, anniversaries, special birthdays or just on a well-needed break, is enough to keep the passion going.

What practices have you implemented to create a unique and memorable guest experience at your hotel?

I think there are many things at play but what’s most important to us is that we provide a relaxing atmosphere where you can escape ‘normal’ life for a few days. There is a ‘grown-up’ vibe. We’re adult only and don’t accept pets so you really can enjoy a dram by the fire uninterrupted. As owner/operators we are very hands-on and host our guests as if welcoming friends to our home for the weekend – without being overfamiliar or intrusive of course. I suppose what we’ve done is take all the things we like about places we’ve visited and implemented them here. Subdued lighting, chilled-out background music, interesting artwork, traditional reading materials, hearty food, tasty drinks, relaxed service (we aren’t stuffy here!) and comforting textures and touchpoints.

Over the years, you’ve built a team that successfully matches your own attention to detail and customer care. How have you managed to curate the unique and friendly environment at Foyers Lodge?

We actually have a very small team here with only a few dedicated Front of House staff in addition to ourselves, so ‘keeping it tight’ allows us to provide consistency and a certain way of doing things. Most of our team have been with us since the beginning of 2021 – in preparation for opening after the second major Covid lockdown – so I think that speaks volumes about not only the atmosphere for guests but the working environment our valued team members enjoy.

What do you believe sets Foyers Lodge apart from other accommodation options?

I think the capacity of the building plays a part, many of our guests book because they want to stay at a hotel with an intimate offering which allows for a more personal service. The design is unique – a mixture of old meeting new, people really do enjoy stylish things! I couldn’t answer this question without mentioning Loch Ness! The views, standing in the garden and looking down the Great Glen from our elevated position are spectacular. The view really is the star of the show.

Have you noticed any evolving trends in the Scottish hotel industry that you are having to adapt your business to accommodate?

I think this is quite hard to answer. Our journey in hoteling has been unique to say the least. We acquired the lodge in the summer of 2016 and set about refurbishing it (my husband and one other person carried out the majority of the work owing to capacity and budget constraints). In the Spring of 2018 we hosted our first guests with just 1 room open. We continued our rolling renovation and gradual opening up of the spaces until we were locked down in March 2020. The rollercoaster of 2020 and 2021 involved such uncertainty and never-before-encountered experiences that we’re only really starting to be able to make measured comparisons now after our 2022 and 2023 seasons, operating at capacity with a full bar and dining experience.

What makes Loch Ness and the surrounding area such a special destination for visitors in your opinion?

Loch Ness is such a global phenomenon that it regularly appears as a ‘bucket list’ destination for people from all over the world. Adults who have wanted to visit since they were children realise their dreams by finally getting to dip their toes in – or at the very least, enjoy a very good look at it from above – and that’s why it’s special. You could have a conversation with almost anyone from almost anywhere and they have heard of the Loch Ness Monster – the interesting conversations then ensue. Long may it continue.

Anna’s passion for her local area, combined with her commitment to crafting joyful spaces and situations for guests are just some of the reasons why Away from the Ordinary loves Foyers Lodge. If you would like to stay at Foyers Lodge as part of your trip to Scotland, get in touch with Away from the Ordinary today. 

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