Moxon Architects revive The Fife Arms, a landmark Highlands hotel in Braemar

The Fife Arms, a landmark building in the Scottish village of Braemar, has been restored to its former glory as the centre of the community after a regeneration by Moxon Architects. Officially opened in January by Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, the 46-bedroom luxury hotel has been revived by owners Iwan and Manuela Wirth, co-Presidents of leading art gallery Hauser & Wirth.

The former Victoria coaching inn has long been the heart of Braemar, which hosts the annual Highland Games/ Braemar Gathering in Aberdeenshire. In recent decades however the once-flourishing establishment had declined, not helped by unsympathetic 20th century additions that had compromised its historic character.

The Fife Arms regeneration also includes the restoration of the public bar, now named The Flying Stag – which was part of the original hotel – as well as The Clunie Dining Room, Elsa’s (a new cocktail bar), event spaces, a family room, spa and hotel shop.

Moxon has carefully rehabilitated the Category B listed building, restoring the original granite fabric and intricate arts and crafts details of the building. Poorer quality, later additions have been replaced with finely crafted new elements in keeping with the spirit of the building and the surrounding conservation area. At the same time, the sensitive redesign radically reconfigures the operational plan of the building to improve efficiency and ensure that back-of-house functions no longer impinge upon the guest experience.

Moxon’s design provides a welcoming new public route through the riverside building to open up key parts of the hotel to a wider audience. A major intervention is the removal of infill buildings to create a new courtyard, made possible by the relocation of service areas from prime ground floor positions to a lower ground position at the rear.

Ben Addy, director of Moxon Architects said,

“We aimed to revive the landmark building through careful restoration and discreet remodelling of the precious, historic fabric, whilst also dramatically improving the way in which the hotel operates. As a result, Fife Arms can once again be the heart of the village, bringing economic and cultural vitality to the local community and providing an exceptional visitor experience”

The courtyard allows natural light to enter the heart of the building whilst providing an area of sheltered external space defined by an open colonnade. This peristyle includes ‘stripped bark’ tree trunk columns, a detail associated with Highlands buildings of this era that is also found elsewhere in the original hotel buildings. These distinctive columns support an intensive roof planted with local varieties of heather to enhance the potential for biodiversity.

Sustainability is key to the hotel’s longevity and Moxon’s design contributes to this through the use of sustainably sourced local materials such as salvaged granite and locally felled trees for the courtyard in combination with state-of-the-art technical design. Visible back-of-house areas and an extension to the manager’s house are clad with untreated timber cladding that will develop a silver-grey patina to complement the granite stonework.

Moxon’s completed project revives a landmark building by providing high quality accommodation, facilities and services for hotel visitors and villagers alike. In doing so, the rejuvenated Fife Arms is set to impact positively on Braemar by enhancing and diversifying the local economy.

The interiors have been designed by interior designer, Russell Sage. Restored historic features and finely crafted new interventions are combined with a specially curated collection of historic Scottish and contemporary artwork. The landscaped garden to the rear of the hotel has been designed by RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold Award Winner Jinny Blom.

In addition to the practice’s role as architect, Moxon was also the Construction Manager for the project in collaboration with sister company TOR Contracting and Edinburgh based Quantity Surveyor Cromar Brooks.

The Scottish-based Construction Management Team took the place of the Principle Contractor and was responsible for letting and managing the trade contracts – providing significant flexibility in procurement and cost efficiency for the client. The collaborative team brought many benefits to the scheme and with over 45 separate contracts was able to employ local people from the area, creating a better product that is more connected to the community of Braemar.

Moxon has previously collaborated with Hauser + Wirth on the design of Culardoch Shieling (2016), a mountain cabin for gatherings in the Cairngorms.