VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 winners
Discover award-winning places to visit in England
It’s that time of year again when we come together to celebrate the very best of England – the best places to visit with the kids, tantalise your taste buds, spend your days and snooze off in at night.
We’ve received applications from across the country and the rigorous judging has taken place, meaning all that’s left to do now is announce the winners of the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022. Drum roll, please…
Pub of the Year Award
Gold winner: The Cotley Inn
At the foot of the Blackdown Hills is The Cotley Inn, which prides itself on its genuinely local produce. Fruit, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers are picked just a few steps away in the kitchen garden, and meat and game are sourced directly from The Cotley Estate. Book in for a long lunch or gourmet dinner with fabulous views of the Somerset countryside. Well-behaved dogs and muddy boots are always welcome, too.
Silver – The Acorn Inn: Mentioned in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles as ‘The Sow & Acorn’, this 16th-century coaching inn is nothing short of charming. As well as its huge whisky and gin collection, the rural village pub houses an award-winning restaurant, cosy bar, 10 bedrooms, skittle alley and beer garden in the heart of the Dorset countryside.
Bronze – The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley: Just a stroll away from the splendour of Chatsworth House, The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley (owned by the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire) is a village inn with charm by the pint. There’s a wealth of ales, including the renowned Chatsworth Gold, stylish rooms and a restaurant that sources the very best local ingredients, including meat from the Chatsworth Estate and the onsite kitchen garden.
Self-Catering Accommodation of the Year Award
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire
Gold winner: Treeopia
An idyllic adults-only retreat, Treeopia is home to two luxury treehouses, Vivianna and Eathelin, set within the grounds of a working medieval farmstead in Worcestershire. Each treehouse is built around a mature ash tree and comes with a fully fitted bespoke kitchen, super-king beds, a bathroom with a power shower, underfloor heating and fibre Wi-Fi, all without making an impact on the environment. Reconnect with nature in the peaceful surroundings, listen to the hoot of the owls, meditate by the ponds or just relax in the hot tub.
Silver – Glynn Barton: These multi-award-winning woodland cottages and glamorous safari tents in Bodmin, Cornwall are perfect for a fun-filled holiday with friends or family. As well as breathtaking views, tennis courts, farm animals and an indoor swimming pool, Glynn Barton is also in a central location, meaning it’s great for exploring Cornwall’s many beaches and attractions like the Eden Project.
Bronze – Pitt Farm Holiday Cottages: Have a family get-together at one of seven traditional farm buildings which have been converted into spacious stays at this Devon-based holiday park. Each cottage has its own garden as well as access to the site’s playgrounds, animal enclosures, zip wires and boules court. The owners, Nick and Rachel Clayson, have embraced sustainability here too, by installing biomass heating and restoring an abandoned woodland.
Bed & Breakfast and Guesthouse of the Year Award
Gold winner: The 25 Boutique B&B
This funky five-star B&B, just a short walk from Torquay’s seafront, has six individually designed bedrooms, each with bold décor and contemporary comforts like Amazon Alexa room controls – meaning no getting back out of bed when you’ve forgotten to turn the light off! Home-baked treats await you in your room each day too, giving you something to look forward to after a day of exploring the English Riviera.
Silver – Horseshoe Cottage Farm: This small, rural B&B in Leicester prides itself on providing guests with a warm welcome and plenty of sustainable touches from cakes made from locally sourced ingredients to solar panels and even an EV charger for electric cars. The owner’s bees also provide wonderful local honey and beeswax for the furniture!
Bronze – Brightham House Boutique B&B: Located just outside Salcombe, this hidden oasis has eight boutique bedrooms, spacious communal areas and two dogs that are always around for some cuddles. Breakfast is served in the pretty Orangery, cooked by owner and former chef, Scott, who has an exciting repertoire of dishes up his sleeve, including a tasty Devonshire Full English.
Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year Award
Gold winner: Secret Meadows
Set inside a nature reserve in Suffolk, this family-run glamping meadow has nine stylish safari tents and shepherd’s huts, each fitting between four and eight people. Switch off your phone and leave the modern world behind as you get stuck into green-themed activities such as guided walks and rediscovering nature in the surrounding landscapes. After a busy day, you can even take a long soak in the wood-fired hot tub. The local farm shop serves all your breakfast and dinnertime needs or, for an even more relaxed stay, why not treat yourself to a locally sourced food hamper?
Silver – Brook Meadow: This 30-year-old family farm in Northamptonshire is home to plenty of camping and glamping options, including three luxury lodges, safari tents and vintage caravans. Surrounded by 400 acres of fields and a tranquil five-acre fishing lake, there’s plenty of outdoors to explore here, which is made even more exciting by regular cinema nights, farm tours and quad bike safaris.
Bronze – Landal Sandybrook: Just one mile from the market town of Ashbourne, and close to the dramatic hills of the Peak District, this family-run holiday park has 53 lodges to choose from as well as an indoor swimming pool, restaurant, bluebell wood and tons of family-friendly activities.
Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award
Gold winner: Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School
The folks down in Falmouth have good reason to pop the Champagne with this gold win. Open all year round, this Royal Yachting Association-accredited sailing school encourages engagement in sports by removing as many barriers to sailing and powerboating as possible. The staff at Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School are fully trained and their fleet – made up of dinghies, keelboats and powerboats – includes a wheelchair-friendly powerboat. On top of that, they’ve even installed a hoist to help less-mobile trainees onto the sailboats.
Silver – Alton Towers Resort: Working with Access Able and the British Disability Forum, this Staffordshire theme park has improved many of its services to make them more accessible than ever. As well as expanding changing space facilities, ride access passes and wheelchair hire, and installing quiet spaces to support those with sensory issues, Alton Towers now offers access to even more of their exhilarating rides.
Bronze – Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs: Run entirely by volunteers, Fleetwood Beach Wheelchairs help everyone to have access to this gorgeous Lancashire beach. Sitting comfortably in one of their sand-friendly wheelchairs, you’ll be able to paddle in the surf and make memories by the sea. All chairs have harnesses and access to specialised cushions, and there’s a hoist available too, should you need it.
Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award
Chichester, West Sussex
Gold winner: Chichester Festival Theatre
Created by and for the local community, Chichester Festival Theatre has been making world-class theatre in West Sussex for nearly 60 years. It is renowned for high-quality productions of plays, musicals and new writing, which sees productions regularly transfer to the West End, and its youth theatre is one of the largest in the UK. The theatre is more than worthy of its first-place win because of its efforts to reduce its impact on the environment, which include planting trees for each production and giving audience members the option to carbon-offset their journey, reusing and recycling props and production materials and using LED lighting across front-of-house and backstage.
Silver – Pure Outdoor Ltd: Gear up for an eco-friendly adventure with Pure Outdoor. Based in the Peak District, this outdoor activity centre offers a wealth of experiences from hillwalking and climbing, to caving and mountain biking, all in the unrivalled natural surroundings of the Hope Valley. Not only do they strive to cause as little environmental impact as possible, but they also donate to social and environmental causes through their Pure Outdoor Foundation Fund.
Bronze – West Bay Discovery Centre: Discover a treasure trove of stories and activities at this unique attraction in Bridport, Dorset. As well as displays covering the county’s wildlife and heritage, West Bay Discover Centre aims to raise awareness of climate change and its effects on wildlife and natural habitats. You’ll also find details on Jurassic Coast walking trails as well as local beach cleaning events and locally made products in the gift shop.
Experience of the Year Award
Gold winner: Mylor Sailing and Powerboat School
A two-time winner at this year’s awards, this Cornish sailing school is certainly one to shout about. The whole family (from as young as six) can take to the water to learn to handle sailboats and powerboats – from individual dinghies to larger keelboats for groups. The expert skippers will teach you the basics of how all the equipment works, including how to hoist the sails and use them in the wind, before letting you experience being out on the open waters of the Fal Estuary, the third-deepest estuary in the world.
Silver – Pure Outdoor: Also winning in the sustainability category, Pure Outdoor is committed to providing inspiring year-round adventures in the great outdoors. Turn your hand to bouldering or step into the dark and mysterious world of the Peak District’s caves and mines.
Bronze – All Hallows’ Farmhouse Cookery School: Get to grips with cooking on your AGA at this cookery school in the historic Cranborne Chase AONB. In small, friendly groups or on a one-on-one basis, you’ll learn a range of culinary skills from vegan cooking to perfecting your Sunday roast, butchery and patisserie.]
Large Hotel of the Year Award
Gold winner: The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa
Historic architecture, hidden gardens, an award-winning spa, beautiful bedrooms, and the finest dining around – The Royal Crescent Hotel is one for your hotel hit list. In the heart of Bath, you don’t have far to go to explore the UNESCO city’s rich Roman history and heritage. Add that to the exemplary five-star service, decadent afternoon teas in the manicured gardens (also home to the hotel’s three rescue hedgehogs) and unbeatable thermal bath experiences, and you’ve got a one-of-a-kind hotel stay.
Silver – Hotel Indigo Durham: Found inside former university offices, Hotel Indigo Durham welcomes you into a world of Victorian luxury. Brass etchings line the lobby walls, stained glass dapples the light in the Rotunda Bar and bespoke prints adorn the walls of the elegant bedrooms. To round things off, there’s a Marco Pierre White Steakhouse onsite, meaning you don’t have to leave the hotel for top-notch grub.
Bronze – The Langham, London: The first purpose-built ‘Grand Hotel’ in Europe, The Langham has 380 luxury bedrooms alongside a range of best-in-class restaurants overseen by none other than renowned chef Michel Roux Jr. Tuck into award-winning afternoon tea at Palm Court, sip creative cocktails at Artesian or indulge in a ‘pub luxe’ experience at The Wigmore – they’re all divine.
Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award
Gold winner: Chester Zoo
One of the world’s leading conservation-based charities, Chester Zoo is the most visited zoo in the UK outside of London, making it more than worthy of this first-place win. A huge team of scientists, animal experts and environmental policy influencers care for 20,000 animals from 500 threatened species, from rhinos to red pandas, all of which you can see at this sprawling site in northwest England. Visit the Sumatran Orangutans in the Monsoon Rainforest, take a Lazy River Boat trip around the Islands and spot the king of the jungle in the Asiatic Lion habitat – all in a day’s visit.
Silver – Bletchley Park: Once the top-secret home of the World War Two Codebreakers, Bletchley Park is now a world-class heritage attraction and museum. Step back in time as you snoop around restored codebreaking huts and interactive displays to experience the stories of the extraordinary achievements of the men and women who worked here, in the birthplace of modern computing.
Bronze – Pensthorpe Natural Park: Eleven miles inland from the north Norfolk coast, Pensthorpe is a 700-acre family-friendly nature reserve full of interactive trails, bird hides and boardwalks that weave through the wilderness, allowing you to get closer to over 1,000 species of wildlife. Let the kids loose in the award-winning eco play area and explore the depths of the reserve on a Pensthorpe Explorer tour.
New Tourism Business of the Year Award
Gold winner: Three Mile Beach
Three Mile Beach is a collection of fifteen luxury self-catering beach houses in Gwithian, Cornwall. Here, doing nothing and doing everything live together in harmony. Inspired by laid-back California beach houses, the interiors are sourced directly from local artisans in Cornwall, Morocco, India and Mexico. Not sure what to add to the itinerary? Upgrade your stay with private surf lessons, coasteering or e-bike hire, and have a night off from cooking with a private chef, a visit to the on-site street food area or a pizza night experience.
Silver – Triple A Food Tours: Tag along on the northeast’s only on-foot food tour. Uncover Newcastle’s independent food scene and try the best local and sustainable produce in the city, all while soaking up local history along the way.
Bronze – Rowley Farm Holidays: Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life at a dog-friendly bolthole in the Worcestershire countryside. With three boutique self-catering cottages, a luxury shepherd’s hut and eco-friendly hot tubs, it’s no surprise visitors arrive here as guests and leave as friends.
Resilience & Innovation Award
Dudley, West Midlands
Gold winner: Black Country Living Museum
A major filming location for BBC’s Peaky Blinders, the immersive Black Country Living Museum offers an insight into the past with original industrial-era buildings, authentic shops and heritage vehicles, Victorian school lessons and street games, as well as historic characters that bring to life the stories of real people who lived in the Black Country when the region was at the peak of its industrial power. It’s won first place in this category, though, because of how it handled the devastating impact of the pandemic. By opening as a major vaccination hub, developing online educational tools and becoming the first UK museum to join TikTok, this popular museum did all it could to ensure its survival.
Silver – Chester Zoo: Another double winner for 2022, Chester Zoo gets runner-up in this category because of its innovative ‘Save Our Zoo’ campaign which attracted global attention and raised millions in donations and adoptions. On top of that, Virtual Zoo Days meant you could experience the zoo from home and, after re-opening, the Zoo put in place top-notch Covid measures to ensure everyone was as safe as possible. It’s a big thumbs up from us!
Bronze – Severn Valley Railway: Experience the golden age of steam aboard a restored vintage steam train. Running through 16 miles of Worcestershire countryside, the Severn Valley Railway journeys between Kidderminster and Bridgnorth, stopping at exquisitely preserved stations. During the pandemic, the Railway adapted by putting on virtual train tours to thousands of subscribers, operated Covid-secure trips (once they were allowed to) and much more, making them more than deserving of their bronze-place win.
Small Hotel of the Year Award
Seaham, County Durham
Gold winner: Seaham Hall
A five-star boutique hotel and spa, Seaham Hall occupies a striking cliff top spot on the Durham coastline. First built in 1791, Seaham Hall has a long and rich history, but it has continued to adapt and evolve too, resulting in a contemporary interior and an eccentric character to the hotel. Also home to an award-winning spa, Seaham Hall offers all the luxuries you could wish for under one roof.
Joint Silver – No.15 by Guesthouse, Bath: Feel at home at this wonder-filled boutique hotel in Bath. All of the uniquely designed rooms have access to a pantry full of complimentary goodies and house an array of intriguing artworks and objects, from dolls houses to decadent chandeliers. There’s a spa on-site too, should you want to indulge some more.
Joint Silver – The Idle Rocks: Anchoring St Mawes' reputation as a desirable Cornish location, this boutique hotel overlooking the water is considered one of the top British retreats. All interiors were designed by the owner, Karen Richards, to reflect her signature style, while the restaurant, led by an ex-Le Manoir chef, focuses on creating outstanding dishes using local produce.
Small Visitor Attraction of the Year Award
Gold winner: Nothe Fort
Guarding the entrance to Weymouth Harbour, Nothe Fort, now a museum and events space, was originally built in the 19th century to protect the Naval Harbour of Portland. As well as admiring 360-degree views across the Jurassic Coast, you can discover the maze of underground passages, displays detailing the Fort’s military history, guns, ramparts and fun trails to keep the little ones busy. The Fort also has a reputation for being one of the most haunted sites on the south coast, with reports of a ghostly whistling gunner in the passageways.
Silver – Royal Liver Building 360: For the first time ever, you can take guided tours of the West Clocktower of the Grade I-listed Liver Building, which takes pride of place on Liverpool’s waterfront. Experience a world-class audio-visual experience inside the historic clocktower before taking in panoramic views of the city from the 15th-floor viewing platform.
Bronze – British Music Experience: From The Beatles and Bowie to The Spice Girls and Adele, the British Music Experience in Liverpool charts the beginnings, rise and influence of British pop from 1945 to the present day. Check out the collection of memorabilia, stage outfits, instruments and footage before learning to play the guitar or keyboard in the Gibson Interactive Studio and dancing your way through the eras in the Dance the Decades Studio.
Taste of England Award
Gold winner: Lu Ban Restaurant
Led by Executive Chef, Dave J Critchley, Lu Ban serves inventive dishes inspired by the Chinese region of Tianjin and the master chefs who lived there. A fairly young restaurant based in the Cains Brewery Village, Lu Ban brings a new dimension to Chinese food in Liverpool. Order from the a la carte or set menus or opt for an exclusive seat at the chef’s table where you can tuck into the likes of braised pork belly with Shaoxing caramel, Ying and Yang hot and sour soup and fresh rock oysters.
Update: Please note that Lu Ban closed permanently on 9 November 2023.
Silver – Moor Hall Restaurant with Rooms: Overlooking a glistening lake in five acres of gardens, Moor Hall – home of Mark Birchall – is home to seven luxurious rooms alongside a restaurant holding two Michelin stars, a Michelin Green Star and a whopping five AA Rosettes. Mark’s menus showcase his own style of British cuisine, using homegrown ingredients and local Lancashire produce to create dishes like scallops with fermented green tomato and guinea hen with asparagus ragout and truffled honey.
Bronze – Fischer’s Baslow Hall: Indulge in unique culinary experiences, fine wine and five-star service at this hotel restaurant in Baslow, Derbyshire. The head chef and his team pride themselves on creating imaginative, modern cuisine that tastes as good as it looks on the plate. The star of the show is the 8-course tasting menu, filled with sustainable local ingredients, some of which are foraged on the 900-acre estate.