Run as a franchise operation, the Dundas Castle ‘canvas cottages’ offer glampers a five star retreat.
A five star wedding venue, Dundas Castle has expanded its luxury offerings through the Glampotel franchise. Its five ‘canvas cottages’ are nestled in their own wooded glade overlooking the castle’s loch, but only 15 minutes from Edinburgh airport. Open Air Business talks to general manager Louise Andrew about the site, the facilities and the luxurious finishing touches.
What made you decide to start offering glamping accommodation?
We are a five star castle and estate close to the city of Edinburgh. Dundas Castle is an exclusive use wedding and events venue, so has to be booked out by a group. However, we have found our gorgeous one room Boathouse to be a popular option for couples wanting a self-catering hideaway. By introducing our glamping canvas cottages we are opening the doors to anyone who wants a luxury country hideaway that is only 25 minutes from the city centre.
How did you research the business before entering it?
As a small business that focuses on luxury weddings and group bookings, we looked into finding a franchise partner. The Glampotel business worked so well for us as it has created the most beautiful canvas cottages with all mod cons.
There was an initial capital outlay to Glampotel, but it provided the five tents, all the interior fit out, the wooden bases the tents sit on, all the decking and facilities including en-suite hot showers, composting toilets, patio heaters and so on. Importantly, it gave comprehensive training to the Dundas staff regarding checking guests in, how change over day works and the process of cleaning and turning around the units ready for the next guests.
Booking is handled through Glampotel and the Cool Camping online bookings system. We have access to a dashboard that shows us the upcoming bookings and also how we are doing in terms of occupancy.
Tell us about your location and site
The loch on the Dundas Estate is beautiful, secluded and a haven for wildlife. You really would not know that Edinburgh’s international airport is only 15 minutes away!
Glampotel helped us choose the ideal locations for each unit to give residents privacy and seclusion. We love how the canvas cottages are each nestled into their own private wooded area, with an enviable view of the loch.
How did you tackle getting planning?
We approached the planning department at the council and followed its guidelines. This year we have five pitches, but next year we plan to extend the number of units we have.
What glamping accommodation do you offer and why did you choose it?
Dundas Castle glamping accommodation is ideal for two adults and up to two children sharing a canvas cottage. Each unit includes a comfortable bed, en-suite shower room with toiletries and composting toilets, hot running water, barbecue, wood burning stove, towels, cool box, lighting, patio heater, comfy seating and a lockable safe box.
For couples with small children, we can add two wee beds, to make a really lovely family experience.
How would you describe your ‘style’ or USP?
Because the glamping units are part of Dundas Castle, luxury is the by-word. To make visits extra special, we offer breakfast hampers that include produce sourced from a local farm and all Scottish where possible, which can be delivered at a time chosen by the guests. Wood from our estate is there for the wood burning stove and we can add special extras including champagne, flowers or canapes on request.
A feasibility study was undertaken by Dundas Castle before Glampotel was selected as our franchise partner, and its ‘look and feel’ was taken into account. The brand fits well with ours and communication between both parties is excellent, so any challenges we face are quickly resolved.
How did you choose your interior decoration?
The Glampotel style is a wonderful mix of natural colours and comfort with opulence and style. The décor keeps guests close to nature with its use of earthy tones and warm blankets. Modern furniture on the heated deck brings both comfort and style, and the simplicity of the styling also matches the natural beauty of the lochside location.
What are your plans for next season?
We plan to double the capacity and next year will have 10 units. We will also be looking at building packages for guests to enjoy while staying with us. These include use of the tennis court, clay pigeon shooting, golf, and fun 4×4 nature rides, which will enable children to view the abundant wildlife on the estate.
Describe your average day mid-season
We only opened on 5 August, so we are still getting used to the rhythm of the process. Currently we are handling the management and cleaning of the five units with our existing team, but next year we will have an additional member of staff to help handle the extra units we have planned.
Guests are given directions to their glamping units, but the castle is never far away to help with requests and to maintain the high quality accommodation. Our team is really friendly and nothing is too much trouble when it comes to making each guest’s stay unique. As we run a five star castle every day, we really know how to make people feel welcome and to create a sense of luxury, exclusivity, occasion and comfort all rolled into one.
Do you enjoy the business and why?
We love welcoming visitors to Dundas Castle! It is a beautiful and historic building that is also a family home. The entire team feels honoured to be part of the organisation, and delighted to be able to make each and every one of our guests feel that it is their home for that moment in time.
What other outdoor hospitality sectors do you operate in?
As a five star wedding and events venue, we have outdoor space for weddings including a pavilion for up to 200 guests, a pitch for a 600 head marquee and gardens and viewpoints where couples can tie the knot.
The estate also has its own golf course, off road 4×4 tracks, paintball, tennis, clay pigeon shooting, squash court and the most beautiful walks. Furthermore, we can make arrangements for sailing on the Forth. Working with event providers, we also create highland games and other teambuilding experiences for our group bookings.
The other accommodation close to the loch is our four star Boathouse. Popular with newlyweds and as a place to propose, the Boathouse is a bijoux one bedroom cottage with a veranda overlooking the loch.
What advice could you give to someone coming into the industry?
Enjoy what you do and it will make guests enjoy it too.
Glampotel – 0800 998 9129 / www.glampotel.com
0131 319 2039 / www.glampoteldundascastle.com