Interview with Graeme Green

Steeped in history, Crossbasket Castle is an exceptional estate just 20 minutes from Glasgow. It has nine thoughtfully designed bedrooms, including a four-storey tower suite dating to the 16th century, as well as two lodges in the grounds. But that’s just the beginning…

In late 2023, owners Alison and Steve Timoney announced their ambitious plans for a £15 million expansion, a ‘no expense spared passion project’ to wow guests and visitors. An additional 40 bedrooms, modern restaurant, eco-cottages and spa are all set to take Crossbasket to the next level later this summer.

So, as developments progress apace ahead of the castle’s relaunch, we managed to catch Managing Director Graeme Green for all the latest.

Graeme let’s start at the beginning. How did your interest in hospitality begin?

I started as a kitchen porter in 1997 at Inverlochy Castle. My parents had just retired to Fort William from South Africa, and like most 17-year-olds I really wasn’t sure what to do with myself.

I took the job in the kitchen after seeing it advertised in the local Jobcentre. I thought at the time it was going to be a stopgap. To be honest I didn’t even know what a kitchen porter was in those days!

I couldn’t pinpoint the exact year, but somewhere along the way I fell in love with the industry and the people who were so dedicated to creating these wonderful experiences. Inverlochy gave me so many opportunities to learn and grow.

Today, almost 30 years on, I’m still working with some of the people who were there on my first day. The 17-year-old me would never believe the journey I’ve had.

Can you tell us about the history of Crossbasket Castle?

Our 17th century castle has been occupied almost continuously through the years… but in recent times it lay empty until the current owners Alison and Steve Timoney bought it in 2011. They painstakingly restored the building to its full glory over the course of five years before re-opening in 2016.

Its original landowners were James Hamilton and Mary Stewart, the daughter of King James II and descendant of Robert the Bruce. The land was passed down through the years as part of the dowry estate bought by Alexander Lindsay in 1440. It stayed in his family as various towers and structures were added until the castle as we know it today was completed in the 17th century.         

There’s been significant investment in the property recently, resulting in a lot of exciting changes. Can you tell us more?

We’re so excited about the future of Crossbasket Castle. The owners have this amazing vision to create a truly unique property.

We’re currently adding a new building, which will have 40 bedrooms and two restaurants. One of the restaurants, Trocadero’s, will be overseen by Michel Roux Jnr and offer live music seven nights a week while you dine.

This whole concept very much plays on the dinner dances of the 1920s and 30s. In fact, the name Trocadero’s is inspired by a 60s dance hall that was once in Hamilton. Since we’re located on the outskirts of Glasgow, we have access to an abundance of talented musicians and will be able to create an iconic experience.

What’s more, we’re adding two eco lodges. These will have five bedrooms each, as well as a boutique spa where we’re developing our own line of Scottish products.

We’ve also been looking after the food and beverage side of the Caledonia Gladiators’ basketball arena. This has been another exciting part of our operation, very different to what we do at the castle, but it’s such a great spectator experience and the team are enjoying working there.

I think the owners’ investments in the local community through the castle, basketball and other ventures is quite something and I’m proud to be part of it.

As the Managing Director of Crossbasket Castle, can you describe to us what a typical day might involve?

Mostly spent on our new developments, meeting with suppliers and different partners to make sure we get everything in place for the expansion.

I try to make sure I get face time with the team every day, as they’re the real force behind everything we do. There’s a lot of work that needs to take place to achieve the type of property we aspire to be, and it will come down to having a committed and engaged team.

What do you enjoy most about living and working in Scotland?

It’s difficult to know where to start! I’m very grateful to live in Scotland. The people in Scotland are what makes it for me.

I also like the diversity of Scotland - you have the two main cities in the central belt that feel very different, and both have distinct vibes.

What are some of the things that guests staying at Crossbasket Castle typically enjoy?

I know what I hope they’ll say in a year’s time once we have expanded!

I think we take our guests by surprise as we’re relatively close to the city, yet sitting in one of our bedrooms looking out of the window you could be in the Highlands surrounded by gardens and forestry. It’s a picture-perfect castle to escape to.

Can you share any examples of the team going above and beyond to deliver a great customer experience?

Once I got my parents (who were flying from Heathrow on holiday) to meet a guest at the airport and give them their passport, which they’d accidentally left in the safe at the hotel. Gestures big and small can really make a difference to how you make people feel.

We host lots of special occasions at Crossbasket, including weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. Though these come with a certain amount of pressure, it creates the opportunity to become part of the guests’ story, which to me is a huge responsibility and a privilege.