A campaign aimed at promoting a luxury Inverness hotel and restaurant has backfired after social media users mocked its use of the acronym ‘WTF’.

Luxury venue Achnagairn Estate – which has attracted top international brands for events, including Louis Vitton and Mercedes – launched a ‘WTF Inverness’ campaign aimed at promoting the city-region as well as the eatery as a destination.

But Twitter users mocked the appearance of the mystery three-letter brand – which flooded locations across the city – leading to a more serious backlash from Highland Council.

City bosses are now seeking to recoup removal costs following the ‘guerilla marketing campain’, which involved 90 signs being attached to lampposts, people holding signs and an aerial banner hung behind a plane. Logos were also projected or fixed onto Inverness Castle, road sides, gates, taxis, bridges and trains, whilst 30 people paraded around wearing WTF chefs’ hats, leading to speculation the logo was associated with a new restaurant.

However, the campaign was cooked up by former BBC journalist Gillian Lacey-Solymar to celebrate her restaurant Table Manors being awarded 2 AA Rosettes at the 5-star Achnagairn Estate. She has since claimed the term was meant to convey sentiments other than the commonly-used expletive, including: “Where’s The Food”, Wonderful Tasting Fare”, “Wow That’s Fab!” or “What’s The Fuss?”

But the company, acknowledging the upset, said in a statement: “We did not wish to cause any offence, and deliberately put things up in a way that could be easily removed, but we were rather hoping that given we have invested so heavily in the area and created so many jobs and we attract so many visitors from overseas to Inverness that the council would be supportive of our rather fun and quirky marketing campaign.”

Inverness Provost Helen Carmichael branded the scheme “tawdry and unauthorised” and said the council was looking to ‘recover costs for the removal of the signs’.

The social media campaign began two weeks ago with a series of cryptic messages posted on Twitter

The restaurant is owned by the Perfect Manors venture which also includes the exclusive use Cortes House mansion near Fraserburgh, Aberdeenshire, and the luxury villa Perfect Sunshine on the Caribbean island of Antigua. Achnagairn Estate – where the restaurant is based – is located eight miles to the west of Inverness and has built a reputation for high quality events and hospitality. The main house is a sprawling 17th century mansion which has 62 bedrooms and a series of luxury villas are dotted around the estate.