It would be so easy to write Shirley and Derek’s story as a fairytale …
Once upon a time, a young couple set off on an adventure from their Orkney Island home and headed for the bright lights of London. On their way, they stopped in Edinburgh to visit friends, fell in love with the Scottish capital and never left. They opened The Dunstane and lived happily ever after. True story!
Derek and Shirley were just 21 and 18 when they left Orkney, heading for better job prospects in London and they did only intend to visit Edinburgh for the weekend, but ended up staying permanently. Just 3 years later they took a huge risk, buying their first guest house, 39 Steps, becoming business owners in their early twenties. Their hard work prevailed and the 2* commended guest house became a 3* highly commended business and two holiday cottages in Trinity became 4* holiday homes. Moving to bigger and better things, they purchased The Dunstane in 1998 – by which time they also had two young children along for the adventure. The property was bought as a 2* commended hotel and is now a hugely successful 4* luxury boutique hotel.
In 2007 the opportunity to extend the 15 bedroom hotel came when the Thistle Court Hotel across the road came up for sale. After an extensive refurbishment, The Dunstane had an additional 18 bedrooms, including a suite and honesty lounge. Derek and Shirley are, in the nicest possible way, ‘allergic’ to being bored and are constantly thinking and redeveloping aspects of the hotel, to ensure our guests have nothing but the best – from free WiFi and Nespresso machines to king-size beds and luxury Molton Brown toiletries. There are even bigger plans for the future, so make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to hear the exciting news once we can finally announce it!
Though they live in Edinburgh, Derek and Shirley’s hearts are in Orkney. So from the food to the decor, you can find subtle tributes around the hotel. One of our favourites is the Orkney photo wall in reception. Black and white photos cover the walls, showing life on the islands. Part of its charm is that there are barely any dates or names on the photos, so you can create your own stories of what you think is going on or who a person is.
Some photos are easier to play this ‘game’ with than others. Regardless, they are a timeless reminder of a world that doesn’t really exist any more, though the people on Orkney do keep up many of the brilliant traditions of their ancestors. If you’ve never been to Orkney, make sure it’s high on your list of places to visit soon, it’s truly a wonderful place – send us a postcard!