The Thompson’s Dornoch Castle Hotel Adventure – it’s twenty years in the making!

20 years

Join us as we look to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of our family ownership of Dornoch Castle Hotel!

We’ll be keeping you updated with all sorts of news and anecdotes over the next few months as we count down to the anniversary in July 2020.

We can’t believe that twenty years have passed since Ros and myself bought the business. It’s always been a family business, with our sons, Philip and Simon, earning  their keep by working in the bar and hotel throughout their university holidays, doing whatever was needed to help us out, and then becoming full time in the business as it grew.

We’re really proud that they have both chosen to make the hotel, and our distillery, their full time career. Working in the bar, and becoming familiar with all the different Malt Whiskies and so on, led them to their exciting rare whisky sideline. The incredible depth of knowledge they have built up on over the years in the industry has brought Dornoch Castle huge success as an International Whisky Bar venue, with numerous awards and accolades, many of which we still hold for our whisky selections.

Without them, we would not have been able to diversify the business into launching and running our own Gin and Whisky distillery – becoming the first Hotel in the UK, if not the World, to do so! We’re also the only UK gin distillery that exports so much gin to our growing customer base in the Far East.

Quite a journey for Philip and Simon, whilst still helping us to run the hotel through all the usual economic ups and downs over the past twenty years!

In the year 2000, our new ownership coincided with global superstar Madonna deciding to come to Scotland to get married to Guy Ritchie at Skibo, and have their son, Rocco, christened over the road at Dornoch Cathedral.

It was a fortuitous start for us, creating a real frisson of excitement in the area, and certainly boosting bookings from our American cousins, who continue to love coming to Dornoch.  It also boosted our own wedding trade as we were able to say to brides, quite rightly, that they could get married in the Cathedral and have their reception right over the road with us.

A highlight for us this year has been refurbishing our Restaurant, which now bears the name of our Head Chef, Grant Macnicol. He returned to us last year, having trained at North Highland College, and then started his career with us in 2004 as a Sous Chef, going on to win Scottish Young Chef of the Year in 2007, and becoming a Young Highlands Ambassador. In 2008, having been Head Chef at Dornoch Castle for three years, he decided to leave and work in other restaurants and hotels throughout Scotland.

Having returned last year as our Head Chef and new Partner in the business, Grant quickly put his stamp on the menu, with inventive seasonal dishes indicative of his time spent in two and three rosette kitchens throughout Scotland.

Grant is keen to help us develop additional menus showcasing our organic gin, and build up our private dining, and afternoon tea trade.

It’s been wonderful for Ros and I to welcome Grant back as an experienced and passionate chef with so many fresh ideas. We hope that our customers, old and new are enjoying his food, and the new look restaurant!

We’d also like to pay tribute to our fantastic General Manager, Matthew Logie, who joined us in 2017, and has also really helped us these past two years.  Hailing from Inverness, Matt previously worked as assistant manager for a couple of major Inverness hotels, so has a great tourism and restaurant based background. Overall, we hope that the past twenty years have seen us all play a part in putting Dornoch on the map – along with Madonna!

Make sure you browse the special offers we have come up with to celebrate our twenty years – see below – many more exciting announcements to come!


With much love

Colin and Ros