Category Archives: Tourism

CLEAN SWEEP AT TOURISM AWARDS FOR KENTISBURY GRANGE

Kentisbury Grange Hotel and The Coach House by Michael Caines took home two gold awards for Restaurant of The Year and Small Hotel of The Year at the 2016/17 South West Tourism Awards.

Over the last two years Kentisbury Grange Hotel and on-site restaurant, The Coach House by Michael Caines, have brought home eight gold awards in the county and regional awards.

In November 2016, the hotel and restaurant were awarded gold for Small Hotel of the Year and Restaurant of the Year in the Devon Tourism Awards for the second year in a row. The South West Tourism Awards in February saw the Devon businesses going head to head with the top businesses in the South West and winning gold in the same categories – also for the second year running.

Peter Farquhar, General Manager at Kentisbury Grange, said of the awards: “WOW – what can I say? We are lost for words. To have won gold again this year, with so many other outstanding businesses entering the awards, is incredible. I’m so very proud of the outstanding team we have here – without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

The team at Kentisbury Grange and The Coach House by Michael Caines are looking forward to the year ahead and have recently welcomed a new Head Chef, James Mason, to the helm. James also has an award or two under his belt, including South West Young Professional Chef of the Year 2015.

Michael Caines said: “We are absolutely delighted that our hard work and investment has been recognised through such prestigious awards. The two gold medals are a great tribute to the hard work of our talented teams lead by Martin Robinson and Tom Hine who was recently replaced by Head Chef James Mason.”

Foodies are eagerly awaiting the launch of Michael Caines’ first country house hotel and restaurant, Lympstone Manor, opening on 3 April 2017. Located between Exeter and Exmouth, the Georgian mansion will be transformed into a 21 bedroom hotel and 60 seat fine dining restaurant.

HESTERCOMBE AWARDED SILVER IN SOUTH WEST TOURISM EXCELLENCE AWARDS

Hestercombe has been named as one of the top small attractions in the South West, picking up a Silver at the South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

The attraction, now in its 20th anniversary year, is famed for its historic gardens, house and art gallery, is based near Taunton and welcomes almost 80,000 visitors each year.

The awards ceremony was held at Bristol’s Ashton Gate Stadium on Thursday (February 2), and CEO Philip White and General Manager Richard Mira (pictured) were on hand to collect the accolade.

Mr White said: “What an extraordinary start to 2017 this has been. Receiving this award means so much to us in this, our 20th year of opening to the public. Hestercombe is committed to developing both its world-class gardens, and the house to bring together art and the landscape, and this year also sees the launch of a fundraising initiative to further improve the attraction.

“We are delighted that we’ve been chosen as the recipients of this prestigious award and congratulate all the other fabulous and well-deserving venues that were nominated.”

After judging a record 602 entries, 380 business visits and 24 hours of panel discussions, 132 Finalists and 5 Highly Commended entries were put through to this year’s South West Tourism Excellence Awards.

Richard Stanbrook, Director of headline sponsors South West Water Business, said: “We’re committed to playing our part in delivering a sustainable economic future for the South West and feel there’s never been a better time to showcase the individuals and businesses who pioneer, create jobs and help drive the region’s economy and growth.  We understand how crucial the leisure & tourism industry is to the region and how important water is for such businesses. We’re thrilled to be supporting the Tourism Awards again, and celebrate the hard work, innovation and determination that goes into making the thriving tourism industry in the South West such a success.”

Robin Barker, Director of Services for Tourism Ltd, who manage the Awards, commented: “Tourism is one of biggest and fastest growing industries in the world and is at the heart of the South West economy.  Recent research has proved that investing in tourism reaps a greater economic return than virtually every other industry, not to mention contributing to the unique assets and quality of life of this fantastic region.  I pay tribute to all this year’s Finalists for being ‘beacons’ for the region and demonstrating just what tourism can do.”

 

LEAFLETS IN CHINESE FOR EXMOOR

Layout 1To celebrate Chinese New Year 2017 – The Year of the Rooster, Exmoor National Park Authority has produced its popular Exmoor Pocket Guide, an introduction to the National Park, in the Chinese language.

The guide is one of  a suite of Pocket Guides which cover a range of subjects to help people get the most out of their visit to Exmoor and for those that want to learn more about Exmoor National Park, its wildlife, Butterflies, Moorland Birds, Rivers and Streams, Woodlands and of course Dark Skies.

Ben Totterdell from Exmoor National Park said: “We know that not many Chinese people are visiting Exmoor at the moment and so there is real potential to encourage more visitors from mainland China to come and discover this beautiful corner of the UK. We are also hoping to welcome more members of the local Chinese community, some of whom have kindly helped us with the translation.

“Promoting international tourism in National Parks is one of the actions in Defra’s 8 Point Plan for National Parks and we look forward to welcoming many more overseas visitors from China and other countries across the world.”

Pocket Guides are available from Exmoor National Park Centres and other outlets across Exmoor or by visiting: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/learning/learning-resources

PHOTO: By Jane A. MARES

DUNKERY BEACON IS EDITOR’S CHOICE IN GOOD HOTEL GUIDE

Staff at Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel on Exmoor are raising their glasses after being selected as the Editor’s Choice in two categories in the 2017 Good Hotel Guide (November, 2016).

Dunkery Beacon in Wootton Courtenay near Dunster was named Editor’s Choice in the ‘Rooms with a View’ and ‘Hotels for Walking’ categories.

John Bradley, who runs the award-winning Dunkery Beacon together with his wife Jane, said: “Being named Editor’s Choice in the 2017 Good Hotel Guide is a fantastic way to top off an already award-filled year. We are among some fantastic company in the Guide.

“We pride ourselves on our beautiful accommodation and we feel our rooms are really top notch and wonderful places for our guests to really relax. There’s no doubt the view of surrounding Exmoor is really quite something. There are so many different walks across the moor and we’re always on hand to advise our guests on the best ones to take.”

The Good Hotel Guide is the leading independent guide to hotels in Great Britain and Ireland. It is written for the reader seeking impartial advice on finding a good place to stay. Hotels cannot buy their entry as they do in most rival guides.

The Guide is published each autumn. It specialises in small owner-managed hotels and B&Bs in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and the Channel Islands and in Continental Europe. It includes budget B&Bs and good value hotels as well as luxurious country houses.

John has more than 25 years’ experience in catering, notching up numerous top chef roles in this country and overseas.

Jane has a background in hospitality and worked in the wine industry for more than 15 years.

To find out more, please call 01643 841 241 or visit www.dunkerybeaconaccommodation.co.uk.

Photo: Jane and John Bradley, owners of Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel, which has recently been named Editor’s Choice in the Rooms with a View and Hotels for Walking categories in the 2017 Good Hotel Guide.

LONGLANDS WINS VISIT DEVON’S FIRST GLAMPING BUSINESS OF THE YEAR AWARD

Longlands luxury safari lodges in North Devon has been named as Glamping Business of the Year at the Devon Tourism Awards 2016. Glamping is a new category for the 2016 awards which are run by Visit Devon, and the ceremony took place at The University of Exeter on Thursday 10 November 2016.

“We are so delighted that our hard work over the past five years has been recognised,” says Bella Given, owner of Longlands, which lies in the North Devon AONB and overlooks the coast. “The entire Longlands team has put their hearts and souls into making it a success, so it is wonderful to celebrate with them tonight. This accolade is all the more special because it is the first competition we have ever entered. It’s brilliant that glamping is a standalone category for the first time because it is a totally different experience to staying in self-catering accommodation, and one that is increasing in popularity every year.”

Longlands offers five six-person luxury safari lodges that are available for weekend, mid-week or full week stays from mid-March to the end of October. Bella has seen a big increase in demand for glamping holidays since opening in 2011 particularly from those in the South West: “Last year, almost 20% of our bookings came from those staying in the Southwest, almost three times the number from the previous year. It’s wonderful that more people are choosing to stay closer to home to make the most of beautiful places right here on our doorstep in the Westcountry. Some of our customers come from Exeter and Plymouth, others from as near as Bideford and Barnstaple and one family from just ten minutes down the road!”

Bella explains that coming to Longlands on the edge of Exmoor is an escape: “We are cocooned in a secluded valley, just a couple of miles from the sea, so although some people only drive a short distance to get here, mentally we are a million miles away from the strains and stresses of everyday life.” She offers the Longlands Larder menu so that guests can enjoy home-cooked meals in their lodges and the pantry shop is fit to burst with five-star gourmet treats from mini cheese truckles to artisan chocolate and local ales.

Longlands provides luxurious camping under canvas with a sense of adventure: “We go to enormous lengths to put ourselves in the shoes of families, couples and groups of friends who might stay here so that we can tailor the menus, safari lodges and bespoke adventure books to their specific needs,” explains Bella who lives onsite in the Longlands farmhouse with her husband, two children and dachshunds, Mimi & Honey.

As Devon winner of the glamping category, Longlands now qualifies as a finalist in the South West Tourism Awards in February 2017.

www.longlandsdevon.co.uk

For more information, further images, or an interview with Bella Given, please call 01271 882004 or 07798 526133 or email info@longlandsdevon.co.uk

Photo by Andrew Hobbs

DUNKERY BEACON COUNTRY HOUSE HOTEL & HESTERCOMBE WINNERS AT SOUTH WEST TOURISM AWARDS

The team at a country house hotel on Exmoor are celebrating winning yet more awards after scooping golds and being declared the Winner of Winners at the Bristol Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards.

Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel in Wootton Courtenay near Dunster won gold in the Small Hotel, Boutique Accommodation category and gold in the Restaurant/Bistro of the Year for its Coleridge Restaurant at the ceremony at Double Tree by Hilton, Cadbury House.

John Bradley, who runs the award-winning Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel together with his wife Jane, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have taken home gold in these prestigious awards and it is a credit to all the hard work everyone on the team puts in. We’re also absolutely delighted to have won the title of Winner of Winners too. We’re very humbled by it all and completely blown away!

“We pride ourselves on the beautiful accommodation we provide and we feel our rooms are really top notch and wonderful places for our guests to really relax. Once fully rested they can enjoy our delicious food in our Coleridge Restaurant where our ingredients are locally sourced.”

The Bristol Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards are run by Services for Tourism, who already run tourism awards schemes across Southern England.

Successful businesses in the awards will now be considered for matching categories in the South West Tourism Excellence Awards in February 2017 with the chance to go on to represent Bristol, Bath and Somerset at the National VisitEngland Awards later in the year.

John has more than 25 years’ experience in catering, notching up numerous top chef roles in this country and overseas.

Jane has a background in hospitality and worked in the wine industry for more than 15 years.

To find out more, please call 01643 841 241 or visit www.dunkerybeaconaccommodation.co.uk .

PHOTO:  John and Jane Bradley, who run the Dunkery Beacon Country House Hotel, which has just received two golds and a Winner of Winners award at the Bristol Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards, with Sally Shalam, a former London Evening Standard travel editor, Guardian hotel critic and Condé Nast Traveller columnist.

Hestercombe, near Taunton, are also celebrating, after winning gold at the Awards in the category of Small Attraction of the Year.

Chief Executive of the Hestercombe Gardens Trust, Philip White, and General Manager Richard Mira attended the awards ceremony at Cadbury House Hotel near Congresbury on Wednesday (October 19).

Mr White said: “To have been recognised as a top destination in the region is a great honour, and we are delighted the work of our dedicated staff, volunteers, and supporters has paid off in helping us bring this award back to Somerset. We were up against some strong competition and this is testament to the support of everybody who is so involved with the preservation, restoration and development of Hestercombe.”

John Turner, Chief Executive of Visit Somerset, says: “Visit Somerset is delighted to be part of these prestigious awards, finally now many Somerset tourism and leisure businesses are going to get the recognition that they deserve in our wonderful county that we call Somerset.”

It’s been a winning streak for Hestercombe, as only last month the gardens winning the European Gardens Award.

ALMOST 4,000 VISITORS TO WATCHET VISITOR CENTRE AND BOAT MUSEUM IN FIRST MONTH

The new Visitor Centre and Boat Museum in Watchet has seen a record number of visitors in its first month of opening. Following its launch at the end of July and thanks to curious locals and good numbers of visitors to Watchet this year, the brand new facility has been busy!

Watchet Visitor Centre Manager, Louise Body says: “We are thrilled and very proud of the positive response towards the new Visitor Centre, and visitors are loving the newly restored Boat Museum which is proving to be a great hit with young children. Donations to the Boat Museum are up and the shop is also doing well. This is better than we had projected, so we are extremely happy!”

The brand-new, purpose-built Watchet Visitor Centre, and repaired Boat Museum opened its doors on 21 July. It is open 7 days a week, from 10am–5pm and acts as a first-stop for visitors to Watchet. Funded by EDF Energy’s, section 106 monies through the Hinkley Point C Community Mitigation Fund and Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, the project has been built and is run by community-led social enterprise Onion Collective CIC. The building also houses the offices for Watchet Town Council.

Onion Collective Director, Naomi Griffith says: “When we first started this process, some of the issues we wanted to help solve were related to improving the welcome to Watchet as you arrive, helping to better celebrate Watchet’s maritime cultural heritage and also improve the flow of visitors to the top of Swain Street. The Boat Museum was, at that time, only getting 4,000 visitors a year so to have achieved that annual number of visitors in the first month is wonderful. The new building helps Watchet appear loved and cared for and anecdotal evidence is that more visitors are walking down the top of Swain Street. So that’s great news. We are enormously pleased.”

The project has taken just two years, from initial concept ideas to build completion and follows extensive community consultation in 2014, when local people were asked: ‘What does Watchet need for a stronger future?’ The results clearly showed that a stronger tourism offer was needed, that better use should be made of the facilities that Watchet already has and that Watchet’s maritime and cultural heritage should be better and more loudly celebrated.

The Boat Museum is still run by the Friends of the Flatner Association, and has kept its original quirky and idiosyncratic feel, but with some substantial repairs to the main building and the addition of large glazed doors and windows to attract light into the building. The internal structures to exhibit the boats have been built entirely by local volunteers as part of a project called Watchet Community Makers, where skilled volunteers share their skills with others in mutual support.

The Boat Museum is in real need of volunteers to help steward the facility. If you are interested in helping please contact Bruce Scott at tel: 01984 632101 or email info@watchetvisitorcentre.co.uk

For more information about the Visitor Centre and Boat Museum go to www.watchetvisitorcentre.co.uk You can also find us on Facebook at: www.facebook.com/watchetvisitorcentre

 

FAR EAST WALKS IN DUNSTER

Dunster was the first village on Exmoor to join the ‘Walkers are Welcome’ initiative. This fast-growing, community-led scheme was set up in 2007 and now boasts over 100 towns and villages around the UK. The essence of the scheme is to provide walkers with some great walks and be assured of a warm welcome. With a vast array of walks over Exmoor and the picturesque qualities of a medieval village, Dunster is a perfect venue.

It is for these reasons that the Walkers are Welcome team asked Dunster to help host a visit from Yuko Shioji, together with her daughter Joko. Yuko is a professor of Anthropology and International Tourism at Hannan University in Osaka, Japan. On behalf of the Japanese government she is researching how footpaths in the UK are thought out, designed and maintained. The objective is to revitalise and introduce new walks in Japan.

Antony Brunt of the Yarn Market Hotel, Dunster organised a full programme of activity during her stay in Dunster. Calling on local expertise Yuko had a round table meeting with Christine Lawrence, leader of Somerset County Council; Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager, Exmoor National Park Authority; Robert Downes, Tourism Officer, West Somerset District Council and Bryan Cath, North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival organiser. She then visited the Tall Trees Trail in Dunster Forest and met Andy Player of the Crown Estate.

The rest of the day was spent meeting Geoff Garfield, area representative for the South West Coast Path in Minehead and then travelling to Lynmouth. Here she discussed how the Coleridge Way walk has been successfully extended to 51 miles and marketed to attract the public. The last part of her visit was a guided tour of Dunster village, the Castle and Dunster Watermill by local historian on the village Martin Harbourne.

Japan has just 700 designated walks and one of the more difficult issues that Yuko is hoping to address in her research is the Right of Way. This does not exist in Japan and means that developing walks, such as the South West Coast Path, simply cannot be done in Japan.

Christine Lawrence commented, “It really is quite flattering to find that Dunster has been brought to the attention of the Japanese government. So often, living here we take our countryside and walks for granted. It is an honour that our ideals and expertise might, in the future, be used in Japan”.

Supplied by Cliff Nicholson, Spears Cross, Dunster

PHOTO: Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager; Robert Downes, Tourism Officer, West Somerset District Council; Yuko Shioji, Professor of Anthropology and International Tourism at Hannan University in Osaka, Japan and her daughter Joko; Christine Lawrence, leader of Somerset County Council; Bryan Cath, North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival organiser and Antony Brunt from the Yarn Market Hotel Dunster.

WATCHET VISITOR CENTRE AND BOAT MUSEUM OPENING

A brand-new, purpose-built Watchet Visitor Centre and repaired Boat Museum will open its doors to the public on Thursday 21 July. It will open 7 days a week, from 10am-5pm, and act as a first-stop-shop for visitors to Watchet. The project is the first major capital build by community-led social enterprise Onion Collective CIC and represents one of a series of regeneration projects planned for the town. The Visitor Centre is a new-build extension onto the Boat Museum on Harbour Road and has been funded by EDF’s Community Impact Mitigation Fund, Trusthouse Charitable Foundation, with a contribution to the build costs from Watchet Town Council for their new office space.

The project has taken just two years, from initial concept ideas to build completion and follows extensive community consultation in 2014, when local people were asked: ‘What does Watchet need for a stronger future?’  The results clearly showed that a stronger tourism offer was needed, that better use should be made of the facilities that Watchet already has and that Watchet’s maritime and cultural heritage should be better and more loudly celebrated.

The building includes Town Council offices, and the main Visitor Centre area is a flexible space so it can be used as Town Council chambers when needed, as well as a space for community events, meetings and talks. Taxi company Cliff’s Cabs has its office based in the building and the Centre also includes retail space selling gifts and Watchet branded items.

Onion Collective Director Rachel Kelly says: “This project is very close to our hearts, it represents the beginning of a clear strategy to build on the enormous potential that Watchet has as a visitor destination. Watchet is a fabulous place to visit and there is plenty to do here. The Visitor Centre will help to attract people from further afield to come and explore, relax and spend their hard earned cash here! We aim to show visitors that they can spend the whole day exploring Watchet, and use it as a base to explore other local attractions in the area. It has been an exciting (and often challenging!) two years, and we are absolutely thrilled to be able to open the doors, talk to visitors and celebrate all the wonderful things Watchet has to offer.”

Watchet Town Mayor Cllr Peter Murphy says: “Watchet Town Council is looking forward to working from its new office space in the Boat Museum extension. The enhanced facilities will enable us to offer better access to the public who need to contact us. We are pleased to be able to contribute to an exiting new project which should help regenerate the town.”

The building, designed by architects Louise Crossman and Invisible Studio, had a remit to create a contemporary building that was sensitively attached to the old Boat Museum. The Boat Museum building was originally designed by Brunel and started life as a goods shed, as the terminus for the Bristol and Exeter Railway.

Architect Piers Taylor says: “The new Visitor Centre and refurbished Boat Museum creates an important sense of arrival into Watchet and creates the first of a series of destinations that allows visitors to become orientated in the town. The Boat Museum stands proud, stripped of the insensitive accrued additions that were the front door to Watchet and now, visitors are presented with views of the boats in the museum. The new extension is a simple and beautiful subservient addition to Brunel’s building that provides important new facilities for the town. “

The Boat Museum is still run by the Friends of the Flatner Association, and has kept its original quirky and idiosyncratic feel, but with some substantial repairs to the main building and the addition of large glazed doors and windows to attract light into the building. The internal structures to exhibit the boats have been built entirely by local volunteers as part of a project called Watchet Community Makers, where skilled volunteers share their skills with others in mutual support. This project is another Onion Collective initiative and has been led by builder Iain Lambert.

The Visitor Centre has a new part-time Manager who will be working closely with Onion Collective team, as well as a crucial and valuable team of volunteers. If you are interested in working as a volunteer either in the Visitor Centre or Boat Museum please do get in touch, volunteers will always be an essential element to the success of this new project.  For more information on volunteering please contact Onion Collective at info@onioncollective.co.uk.

PHOTO by Terry Walker

HOLIDAYMAKERS TO CRUISE INTO ILFRACOMBE ONCE MORE

Around 800 American holiday makers will be cruising into Ilfracombe THIS week as the MS Prinsendam comes to town again.

The 39,000-tonne cruise ship will be anchoring off the harbour at around 7.30am on Saturday 16 July for the day. Passengers will have the opportunity to go ashore and spend time soaking up the town’s unique atmosphere or enjoy excursions to the surrounding countryside.  They will then set sail around 3pm heading for Portland.

It will be the third time the ship which is operated by Holland America, has visited the town. The last visit was last July.

Ilfracombe Harbourmaster, Lieutenant Commander Rob Lawson, said: “It’s great news for Ilfracombe that the MS Prinsendam is coming to visit again. The visit couldn’t have been timed better, there is so much going on in Ilfracombe that day, including ‘All Things Morris’ and the North Devon Street Food events – I’m sure the passengers will have a great time. I hope the regular visits will continue long into the future and that we are able to encourage others to come and see what we have to offer in the town and surrounding area.”

Chairman of the Ilfracombe Harbour Board, Councillor Ian Meadlarkin, said: “It’s very gratifying that Holland America have decided to visit Ilfracombe again. I hope it remains a regular event well into the future, not just with Holland America but with other cruise lines who are looking at cruises around the British Isles at the moment. Over the years,  a great deal of work has gone into arranging the ship’s visit by our Harbourmaster, which should be commended by the local community.”

The visit follows successful promotion by Destination South West, with support from the Harbourmaster and North Devon Council. Destination South West is a marketing partnership, which aims to increase the number of cruise ships that call at south west ports.