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Visit Scotland | Alba
Article published 25/03/2024

When the opportunity to run Glenegedale House arose, it was a chance for Emma and Graeme Clark to put everything they’d learned into developing their multi-award winning gourmet guesthouse on Islay.

Read on to find out how they have steadily established and grown their highly reputable business, offering visitors an unforgettable stay and a true taste of Islay.


Emma and Graeme were well-equipped to run their own business. Emma studied hospitality and Graeme had built a career as a hotel and restaurant manager. They met when they worked together at the start of their careers.

Hospitality was a familiar business for Emma, whose relatives ran their own B&B. Emma spent part of her childhood living on Islay and Glenegedale House was previously owned by her family.

How they got started

“Guests are from all walks of life, and that is what makes it so special.”

Emma and Graeme took the opportunity to run Glenegedale House 11 years ago. They left their Glasgow home and invested a six-figure sum into refurbishing the building before reopening under their management.

They maintained social media profiles but didn’t market the business elsewhere as they found word of mouth served them well.

They attract customers from all walks of life. Some had saved up for a special treat, others were extremely well-travelled and used to the luxury travel sector.


Glenegedale House Laphroaig and breakfast. Image credit: Glenegedale House

How the business started to grow

“Don’t be scared of making money.”

Early on, the Clarks looked at how to grow their revenue and applied for an alcohol licence. This allowed them to sell food and drinks to visitors, which they anticipated should equate to around a third more income for the business.

This extra revenue was critical to service their initial investment on renovation, rent payments, and the subsequent purchase of the property in 2019 at full market value.

Evening drinks and dining would involve pre-booked platters of locally produced charcuterie, smoked fish, and cheeses. These were presented on whisky barrel tops and served with a selection of Islay malt whiskies and Scottish gins.


Visitors loved these slow and sociable meals, which encouraged interaction between visitors and with staff, who explained exactly where the ingredients came from and who produced them. The Clarks' commitment to using ingredients from the island gives customers an insight into Islay’s natural larder.

The dining experiences continue, although now involve Islay seafood platters and three course meals. The Clarks helped to establish Glenegedale House as a gourmet destination. Amongst the many awards the business has won, several have been for their food.

Emma has worked as a regional food tourism ambassador for Scotland Food & Drink. The many awards they won have helped to add credibility to their offering and generate positive publicity.

Developing the customer experience

“We tell stories in everything we do. People love it.”

Delivering an exceptional and immersive experience has been a key goal. Achieving this with the challenges that island life can present has led the Clarks to develop a clearly defined structure with their booking system.

  • Pre-booking meals

    Visitors receive an email in advance of their booking to pre-book their meals, which the Clarks offer five nights a week.

    The Clarks have worked to build relationships with local suppliers who reserve seafood for them. Visitors love sometimes seeing the fishermen coming to the door with deliveries just before dinner.

    Pre-booking meals helps to manage costs, sustainability, and waste effectively. The Clarks work very hard to use suppliers on the island and support the local community. They also encourage visitors to use local businesses.

  • Local recommendations

    This approach extends to the list of immersive tours and days out they recommend to visitors. From distillery tours to simple days on the beach, Emma helps the visitors to find activities to get the most from their time on the island.

    It’s important to remember that, sometimes, it is the simplest days that are the most memorable for visitors.

  • Small details

    The small details can be memorable, too. Emma bakes breakfast muffins each morning and discreetly places a brown paper bag on the table for visitors to take the muffins away if they can’t manage them.

    Visitors often take photos of them eating their muffins whilst out and about during the day and post them on social media.

  • A personal experience makes the difference

    The service at Glenegedale House is deeply personal. Emma and Graeme see and speak to their visitors regularly. They work hard on staff training to ensure everyone is well-briefed and equipped to deliver a special experience at every opportunity.

    Feedback is captured in their guestbook, on TripAdvisor, and verbally (they speak to visitors every night and on checkout). Visitors receive an email after their visit, too.

    They find plenty of positive feedback on social media too, with visitors sharing their photos. The Clarks have developed a large, loyal following. Plenty of bookings are made as a result of social media.

What has been the key to their success?

“We want customers to leave feeling they’ve spent their time and money well – they’re our two most precious commodities.” 

In their 11 years running Glenegedale House, they have increased its income by 11% and their repeat booking rate is now around 65%. This has been achieved through extremely hard work and close attention to detail.

Every element of the customer experience has been thought through to offer a high-quality, memorable experience, and to offer value. The Clarks have been very thorough in their planning and costing to deliver the best possible experience and to try and eliminate waste wherever possible.

Each touchpoint has been thought through from the customer’s perspective and they’ve considered how they can make each moment special for visitors. Even removing WiFi from some communal spaces has been a surprise hit, subtly encouraging guests to take the time to enjoy the moment.

Visit the Glenegedale house website


Glenegedale House gin traysGlenegedale House gin trays 

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