Luxury hotel prepares for new future

Barry Donaghey with a bottle of Spey Royal Choice, toasted by Spey family heirs John McDonough and son John Harvey.
Barry Donaghey with a bottle of Spey Royal Choice, toasted by Spey family heirs John McDonough and son John Harvey.
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THE same – but better. That is the plan for Seaham Hall, as the luxury hotel’s new owners gear up for the future.

The five-star hotel and its Serenity Spa were snapped up by Bristol-based Seasons Holidays in April, after the collapse of parent company von Essen last year.

Seaham Hall Hotel managing director Barry Donaghey has plans to give the venue a major new lease of life – but without compromising on the high standards that have made its reputation.

“We are going to make major improvements in areas such as the drawing room,” he said.

“That will be a really upmarket, funky bar.”

But the new owners will be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

“This is a great hotel and a great spa,” said Mr Donaghey.

“The way you make it better is to pay more attention to the details.”

He admitted the uncertainty over the hotel’s future after the collapse of von Essen had left it in limbo and meant a fair amount of refurbishment work was required when the new owners took over.

But he paid tribute to developers Tom and Jocelyn Maxfield for the quality of their work in turning Seaham Hall into a hotel.

“The problems we encountered could have been more serious if the original development had not been so phenomenal,” he said.

“It is just amazing what Tom and Jocelyn did. If it had not been for them, God knows what kind of problems we would have experienced here.

“Fortunately, most of it had been cosmetic.”

He was speaking as Seaham Hall unveiled a right royal exclusive.

Cementing a relationship centuries in the making, Spey Whisky is honouring its special links with the hall by giving the hotel rights to sell its exclusive Spey Royal Choice single malt.

Distilled in Aviemore under licence from the Queen’s charity Historic Royal Palaces, it was only available to buy from the Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace, and Kew Palace.

Spey has been linked to Seaham since 1815, when Lord Byron presented his friends with a cask of Spey Whisky to celebrate his wedding at the hall.

One of the lucky recipients was King George III, who received his whisky at his home at Kew Palace, where a replica of the cask remains on display to this day.

This move began a relationship that has lasted to the present day and seen the whisky and the hall connected at numerous points throughout the ages.

Mr Donaghey was joined by Spey family heirs John Harvey McDonough and father John for the launch.

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