Hotel marketing people tend to use buzzwords and clever phrases like having “a different hotel experience.” What constitutes “different” is open to conjecture and, to a great extent, depends on your lifestyle reference point. But after spending a night at the Scots Hotel in Tiberias I can vouch for the distinctiveness of the place.
The ambiance orientation hits you – for want of a better and more suitably caressive expression – as soon as you enter the reception area. You are greeted by friendly staff who convey a sense of genuine bonhomie and pleasure at your arrival. Call me naïve, but throughout my stay there the hotel employees were more than just courteous, helpful and efficient.
The staff uniforms generally feature some snippet of tartan – such as a tie or scarf, or even trousers – but, thankfully, there was little in the way of faux accoutrements, such as kilts. That would have been tending toward plain-old kitsch, and the Scots Hotel manages to circumnavigate that marketing trap with ease.
The press foray was part of the launch of 16 new suites; the Ceilidh Bar, where guests can drink Scotch whisky or other beverages of their choice; and a new wine cellar, for a financial outlay of in excess of three million shekels.
There is also a new chef, Oren Keisari, to care for your non-kosher gastronomic delights. My vegan dietary needs were comfortably accommodated.
I was placed in one of the restored antique rooms in Doctor Torrance’s House, which sits alongside the Old Manse House. Both edifices were constructed in the 19th century, using the large gray basalt stone that is a feature of this volcanic region. And, while we’re on the subject of local annals, the medical professional was a certain Dr. David Watt Torrance, a Scottish surgeon who was fired by the desire to treat the ailing in the Holy Land. To that admirable end, he forsook the temperate climes of Scotland and made his way to the much warmer, mosquito-ridden Levant shortly after completing his medical studies at Glasgow University. Initially, he spent a few months as a member of the Sea of Galilee Medical Mission.
Following further training in Egypt, Damascus and Nazareth, Torrance returned in 1885 to Tiberias, where he opened the first hospital for people of all races and religions, in two rooms near the local Franciscan monastery. The pan-denominational approach is maintained today, and the hotel’s personnel are equal parts Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
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By 1894, the hospital had 24 beds and six cots. Some of the original equipment and accessories, as well as some evocative monochrome photographs, can be viewed at the hotel’s visitors’ center. Dr. Torrance, Sr., died in Tiberias in 1923, two years after his doctor son Herbert joined him in Palestine. The younger Torrance kept the hospital running, as a maternity facility until he retired in 1959.
THE HOSPITAL was later replaced by a guest house until 1999, when the Church of Scotland decided to open “a unique hotel which would serve as a center of culture and tranquility for its guests, and as a site of faith, prosperity and peace, in the hope that all those would soon arrive in our region.” The Scots Hotel in its current guise opened for business in 2004, and the all-embracing ethos is amply imparted in the physical aesthetics and the dayto- day operational mode.
Contemporary and historic elements are seamlessly fused in the interior and exterior design, and the grounds are tailored to induce a sense of calm and wellbeing. That welcome sentiment is enhanced by the fact that the grounds “just happen” to overlook the Kinneret, with its gently lapping – albeit rapidly diminishing – waters. The exterior of the hotel is a joy to behold and explore with its manicured lawns, flowering bushes and trees, gently sloping terrain and strategically positioned benches, tables and chairs. Plans are afoot to develop the grounds further, with a maze and a meditation spot in the works.
If it’s wellbeing you’re looking for, the hotel spa has plenty to offer. The treatment list takes in all manner of massage and treatments – including Swedish, aromatherapy, hot stones, polarity, lavender and even pregnancy varieties. Add to that shiatsu, reflexology, Turkish body peeling, heritage treatment, facial beauty treatment and a private Jacuzzi session, and the Lakeview Wellness Center & Spa appears to have most relaxation-inducing bases covered.
I opted for a Swedish massage. My masseuse, Svetlana, employed the perfect blend of sensitivity and strength, and left me in a state of something bordering on euphoric tranquility.
But, let’s get back to the original reason for the jaunt up north: the newly redesigned and refurbished antique rooms. The first impression you get as you open the door to the bedroom is unmitigated expansiveness. The four-poster bed, which could easily accommodate a family of four, and probably a couple of pets too, sits easily in the generously proportioned room, with its high ceiling and large windows. The walls maintain the old-new synergy, taking in common-or-garden whitewash and those eye-pleasing basalt stones. There is, of course, plenty in the way of cupboard storage space, and the bathroom just seems to go on forever. It is a shame that the rooms don’t have their own balconies, however, the one at the front of the upper floor is spacious and affords a great view of the lake.
In between relaxing in your room; digging into the generous and variegated victuals; luxuriating in massages; trotting across the footbridge that spans the main road over to the lakeside beach; and visiting the wine cellar, which once housed the hospital medicaments and provides a suitably intimate ambiance for knocking back a quality glass or two. The Ceilidh Gin & Whisky Distillery Bar induces a similar sense of coziness and a different array of beverages.
The hotel management is currently developing a culture and entertainment program, and the facility’s tranquility factor is enhanced by a policy of refraining from cell phone use in the hotel’s public spaces.
Breathe in, chill out and relax.
For reservations and more information visit www.scotshotels.co.il, or call: (04) 671-0710; for restaurant bookings: (04) 671- 0730; for spa treatment bookings: (04) 671-0737.The writer was a guest of the Scots Hotel.
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