The Story of Braye
Let me introduce myself and tell you the story of how the hotel began many years ago.…. I am Derek Coates, the owner of Braye Beach Hotel.
I first fell in love with Alderney way back in 1963 as a 15 year old schoolboy. My father was then head of civil engineering for the Bailiwick of Guernsey, which included responsibility for Alderney. He was tasked with building the island’s first hard runway and control tower on a very limited budget. It still stands proudly today – looking a little like a Meccano set – testament both to his skills and the island mentality ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’.
During the planning phase of the runway, I was on school holidays and my father gave me a job helping the engineers draw up the plans for the buildings. Alongside measuring and taking levels my other duties included shooing grazing cattle off the grass landing strip. I lived in a little guesthouse in cobbled Victoria Street in Alderney’s main town of St Anne’s. When not working I would spend the afternoons down on Braye Beach jumping from the granite quay at high tide into the sea below. Nothing has changed – kids are still performing those same heart stopping leaps.
I continued to visit Alderney regularly in the years that followed, totally captivated by its crime free tranquility and its unique feel of the island’s ‘human sized’ community. It was quite different to where I was living in London, amongst 8 million anonymous faces.
So when a tired and dilapidated hotel called The Seaview was put up for sale some 43 years later, I knew that I had to buy it and bring it back to its former glory. It needed a lot of love, but it was sitting as guardian of my favourite beach – the most stunning on the island – and was overlooking the quay that I had jumped off as a child. I knew this spot was special and I had to get involved. I put together a great team to begin its transformation into The Braye Beach Hotel. We put our hearts and souls into the project and after 3 years it was complete and ready for guests.
I remember staying there on the first night it opened and feeling incredibly proud of this beautiful place we had built for the people of Alderney and the thousands of guests who could come to Alderney and share its magic for years to come.
It’s now been open for 8 glorious years and the island I fell in love with has lost none of its wild and rugged raw beauty. I still visit as often as I can and when I do I sit down with our brilliant hotel manager Richard for a glass of wine to talk over ideas and inevitably end up drinking a glass or two too many. But Alderney is my retreat, a place where time and stress don’t feel important, and so a little indulgence feels just right.