This year's VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2016 ceremony took place on Tuesday 8 March at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, where the top honours were awarded to the businesses that have demonstrated exceptional customer service, and given their visitors an unforgettable English holiday experience.
Hoe Grange is a traditional family-run farm on the edge of the Peak District National Park, and had four log cabins which cater for guests with a range of mobility needs and accessible-friendly features. Rated 4 star Gold, Hoe Grange demonstrates how quality need not be sacrificed for accessibility.
Located on the edge of Exmoor National Park, Calvert Trust Exmoor is an activity centre committed to providing exciting, challenging and enjoyable outdoor activities for people with physical, learning, behavioural and sensory disabilities. Its passionate and dedicated team of staff and volunteers help people overcome their fears and deliver life changing experiences.
The Roman Baths and Temple were built nearly 2,000 years ago around Britain’s only hot springs. Opening to visitors in 1897, this unique historical attraction has an innovative suspended walkway which allows visitors on foot and visitors using wheelchairs to experience the ancient Temple Precinct together. The Baths represent an excellent example of how a heritage site can be truly accessible for all.
This Scheduled Ancient Monument helps everyone explore the story of how monarchs and people have shaped society in one of the greatest palaces ever built. Visitors with sensory impairment can enjoy British Sign Language interpreted tours, and there is a ‘We-Go’ powered wheelchair available with its own escort. With excellent Access guides, Hampton Court Palace ensures everyone gets the most from their visit.
Attenborough Arts Centre is a pioneering arts venue with inclusivity at its core. It was established with the help of founding patron Lord Richard Attenborough, with the ambition for everyone to be involved in the arts, and now has a fantastic new gallery space showcasing live and visual arts.
Situated in a beautiful village in the Yorkshire Dales, Low Mill is set in a converted mill, complete with functioning water wheel and mill workings, and oozes character and provides perfect hospitality to its guests.
Set in eight acres of parkland in a 400-year-old Jacobean mansion, Crewe Hall offers a mix of modern conference and meeting rooms in the state-of-the-art purpose built event centre with heritage conference and meeting rooms in the Old Hall.
Seaham Hall in County Durham is set in 37 acres in a stunning cliff-top location and offers business customers a choice of meeting and conference spaces, all with air conditioning, natural light and stunning views.
Highbullen offers a wide choice of meeting and conference spaces accommodating up to 400 delegates in the superb new purpose-built Palazzo, along with 12 bedrooms in the Manor House and 25 Estate Rooms located in the grounds.
Higher Wiscombe sets the benchmark for others to aspire to when it comes to doggy holidays. The fully equipped cottages, with ensuite bedrooms throughout, are set in a lovely valley only a few miles from the glorious beaches of Beer, Sidmouth and Branscombe. Peaceful, luxurious, hospitality second to none and faultless green credentials; this is a heaven for hounds and humans too.
Poston Mill Park offers a wide choice of accommodations from camping to self-catering units and provides an understated bit of doggy heaven. Pooch welcome packs are tailored to the owner’s requirements and you can even register for dog training classes during your stay.
The Old Swan and Minster Mill is a welcoming and laid back gastro pub and hotel with a number of dog friendly rooms and the added bonus that dogs can dine with their owners. Or vice versa, as those lucky hounds have their own choice of dinner and breakfast, served with panache, including porridge if desired! All canine guests are issued with smart branded bandanas and canine etiquette and puppy training classes are available in the summer.
Sun Inn is a very characterful boutique hotel in Kirkby Lonsdale combining 17th century character and charm with luxurious contemporary accommodation. Dogs receive a Pooch Pack on arrival and owners are made to feel at ease by the relaxed no frill, no fuss policy shown towards canine guests.
Talbot Hotel lies within a fully restored Grade 2 listed historic building surrounded by attractive grounds. It is very dog friendly and the genuine enthusiasm of the staff towards dogs is impressive and helps put owners at ease. Dogs are also welcome to join owners for dinner.
Woodovis is a tranquil family owned park based within a woodland setting near the historic market town of Tavistock. The emphasis is on providing a high standard of accommodation and excellent park facilities, and the park includes a range of wet/inclement weather activities, such as under-cover boules, circus skills, story-telling and archery as well as water walking in the indoor swimming pool.
Darwin Forest Country Park is an excellent holiday park set within 47 acres of woodland paradise, featuring 110 luxuriously furnished timber lodges built by the park’s sister company Pinelog and maintained to a very high standard. The premier Spa Lodges include outdoor hot tubs.
Poston Mill Holiday Park is set in 25 acres of riverside farmland close to the cathedral city of Hereford, and promises peace and quiet, riverside walks and on site activities including a pitch and putt course, river fishing and a very popular pub and restaurant in a historic converted mill.
Castlerigg Hall Caravan & Camping Park is a well-maintained, family owned site with superb views and glorious sunsets overlooking Derwentwater, and provides facilities for touring and static caravans, ‘pods’ and camping. There is an onsite restaurant, a well-stocked campers’ shop selling local products and, unusually, an art gallery complete with a coffee bar.
A hidden gem in the North East of England, Rockliffe Hall is a truly impressive 60 roomed 5-star luxury golf and spa hotel offering a wide choice of beautifully presented accommodation, including the traditional but stylish Old Hall rooms and the even more spacious contemporary New Hall rooms, as well as some self-catering options and family holiday homes.
Celebrating its 50th year, Chewton Glen Hotel and Spa is a world renowned luxury resort that manages to be sumptuous and elegant, whilst retaining a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and where the staff are prepared to go that extra mile.
South Lodge Hotel is a magnificent country house hotel set in 93 acres of woodland and parkland. Many of its rooms have wonderful views of the South Downs, and are kept to an exceptionally high standard. Unlike some large hotels, the staff are particularly well motivated, providing outstanding service. Special touches include anti-snoring pillows and self-decorate Christmas trees in the rooms.
Housed in a truly magnificent Victorian castle set high up overlooking Cheshire, Peckforton Castle Hotel is everyone’s vision of ‘medieval’ grandeur. Labyrinthine corridors and stone spiral staircases link the individually styled rooms - you might find yourself housed in a turret with fantastic views of the castle’s wooded surroundings.
Described as ‘a luxurious coastal spa’, the Salcombe Harbour Hotel certainly takes full advantage of its superb location overlooking the water. Its balconies and terraces would seem particularly suited to wedding parties, birthday celebrations or a romantic weekend away. Staff will even scatter rose petals and arrange candles in the hotel’s cinema when a proposal is in the offing.
With over 55000 artworks and 20,000 textiles, The Whitworth is one of Britain’s greatest collections of modern art and historic fine art. This magnificent building houses ever-changing displays, brand new research and education facilities, book shop, gift shop, and a superbly appointed glass-walled restaurant with delightful views over the surrounding park and art garden.
One of the UK’s finest attractions, this multi award-winning restoration of the world famous SS Great Britain is set in the original dry dock where she was built, and now combines a plethora of interactive displays, historic tableaux, costumed interpreters and a soon to be opened on-shore Brunel museum. Visitors can experience the sights, sounds and even smells of a sea voyage of yore and can even view the ship from ‘under water’.
At Beamish - The Living Museum of the North, you can touch, taste, hear, see and smell history whilst on an unforgettable journey into the past. All staff and volunteers at Beamish are dressed appropriately for their period, role and location within the museum. Not only does this make them easily identifiable, but it also adds to that unique experience which is ‘Beamish’.
Chester Zoo is an outstanding experience for visitors of all ages and abilities which remain at the forefront of innovative conservation. The zoo’s excellent animal welfare and conservation work is strongly communicated and an integral part of the attraction’s operation.
Described by Bill Bryson as ‘the single most beautiful structure in England’, Salisbury Cathedral is an architectural masterpiece and a magnet for tourists from all over the world. It is also a living place of worship, an internationally renowned music venue and a centre for education and community outreach. It also houses the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta, which is currently displayed in an outstanding exhibition.
Treworgey Cottages is a beautiful complex of stylishly restored cottages with admirably green credentials set on a 150 acre farm overlooking the Looe River valley. The chocolate box cottages have been restored to enviably high standards whilst retaining their original charm. The cottages have log fires, beautiful bedrooms with excellent bathrooms, some with four-posters, well equipped kitchens and pretty private gardens.
Wolds Edge Holiday Lodges offer a choice of comfortable, well-equipped self-catering lodges and two cosy shepherd’s huts in a truly peaceful rural setting. Relax in your hot tub, pop to the excellent village pub for a hearty lunch, go walking on the nearby Wolds Way or hire a bike, or just stay in, pour a glass of bubbly and watch the bird box cam on your TV.
With bright, contemporary accommodation complete with wood burning stoves, under floor heating and lovely open plan kitchens, Whalesborough Cottages & Spa is a luxurious getaway near to the beach. Its bright, contemporary accommodation comes complete with free use of state of the art spa facilities, indoor and outdoor heated pools, dedicated children’s play areas, tennis courts and massage facilities.
The Dandelion Hideaway offers thoughtfully designed cosy canvas cottages in a rural paradise, complete with roll top baths, wood fired stoves and oil lamps. There is also a whole farm to explore, with baby animals galore, goat milking, egg collecting and pony grooming. This is family glamping at its best.
The Dovecote Barns offers spacious and spotless self -catering accommodation in barns converted to a very high standard with spectacular kitchens, individually styled ensuite bedrooms, squashy sofas and attentive and committed management. There are also fresh eggs from the on-site hens to welcome you, along with a basket of home-made bread and lovely jams.
This 5-star ‘restaurant with rooms’ offers contemporary luxury, amazing bedrooms, wonderful bathrooms and exemplary service in a relaxed atmosphere. Housed inside a historic Grade 2 listed former school and headmaster’s house, it is situated amongst breath-taking scenery in the heart of Wensleydale. Guests will enjoy features such as private outdoor hot tubs with selected rooms, outstanding cuisine, sumptuous public rooms and a welcome as warm as the log fire; this is a very special boutique hotel indeed.
Cross Lane House is a small country guesthouse with the impeccable service and eye for detail that would make it the envy of any grand establishment. The hosts go to extraordinary lengths to make guests enjoy their stay, even down to washing their cars’ windscreens before departure (unasked) and supplying goodie bags for the journey home. Customers’ comments invariably include the word ‘perfect’.
Hell Bay Hotel is a stylish seaside retreat in what is simply the best location in the islands with outdoor pool, friendly, attentive staff and excellent mostly locally sourced food from their delightful rustic little eatery. The renowned The Crabshack, adjoining the hotel, is open during the summer season for guests to enjoy the local seafood.
Kentisbury Grange, situated on the edge of Exmoor National Park, is a superbly refurbished Victorian manor house featuring beautifully furnished bedrooms and superb ensuite bathrooms. The Coach House by Michael Caines is a masterpiece of contemporary rustic design and serves beautifully presented innovative yet classic cuisine. In addition there are five two bed/two bath lodges set in the landscaped gardens which come with balcony hot tubs.
This stylish and romantic retreat in the charming village of Clearwell boasts cosy rooms with fluffy towels and roll top baths. Tudor Farmhouse extends its warm hospitality to many returning guests who appreciate the winning combination of excellent service, beautifully presented food and a team that are prepared to go that extra mile.
This innovative, welcoming and educative visitor attraction, set in a beautifully restored historic paper mill, formerly used to produce banknotes and now distills the famous Bombay Sapphire gin. In the state of the art Thomas Heatherwick glasshouses you are invited to taste and smell the botanicals used in the gin making process. Your particular tastes are reflected in the personalised free cocktail served at the end of the tour! A fascinating experience that is perfect for gin drinkers.
Experience the Yorkshire Dales at its finest on the back of a Billy Connolly style motor trike. Enjoy a choice of thirty well designed routes that will really put you in touch with the landscape in a way that cannot be achieved in a closed vehicle, as well as carefully chosen refreshment stops, wet weather clothing and in-helmet commentary from knowledgeable driver/guides. This fun and unusual mode of transport will make for an unforgettable trip.
The Crystal is a truly stunning and fully sustainable landmark building in the form of a glittering crystal housing the world’s largest exhibition on the future of cities. With innovative and thought provoking interactive displays spread over 10 zones, it appeals to all ages and is both educational and entertaining.
Emma Bridgewater Factory provides its visitors with an enjoyable factory tour giving a fascinating insight into the manufacture of this very popular pottery range. It is a fantastic day out with the added opportunity of decorating your own piece of pottery which is then fired and posted to you. What better idea for that special Christmas or wedding gift than a teapot or pudding basin painted by you!
Wheal Martyn is the UK’s only china clay museum and country park where visitors can discover how Cornwall’s largest mining industry changed the world, and the amazing uses of china clay. As well as indoor and outdoor displays there are acres of the park to explore, including a children’s play area, Adventure Park and Cornwall’s largest working waterwheel.
Railholiday is an inspiring example of a business deeply rooted in its local area. From the painstaking and beautiful renovation of the railway carriages using local skills and materials, through to providing guests with an experience that draws on, and contributes to, the distinctive qualities of the local area, the owners’ enthusiasm and care runs through every strand of the business.
Hoe Grange’s commitment to accessibility means that the rich experiences of the Peak District can be enjoyed by those normally excluded or restricted, while their willingness to share their experience as pioneers in sustainability means that many visitors since have been able to take part in Hoe Grange’s various activities.
St Cuthbert’s Guest House is situated in an elegant converted 19th century chapel just a short walk from Seahouses harbour and within easy reach of the spectacular Northumbrian coast. The owners are dedicated in encouraging guests to discover the best of what’s on their doorstep, making St Cuthbert’s House a welcomed asset to the local community.
Browsholme Hall and Tithe Barn is an excellent example of how a historic home can be ‘sustainable’ in the widest sense of the word. The family are keenly aware of their role as stewards of the property’s heritage, and have a proactive determination to communicate and reach out to guests and the community in an accessible way.
Colton House provides visitors with a real, distinctive and absorbing experience of the local area. They excel in communicating the property and area’s heritage as well as showcasing home-grown and local produce. They also act as key players within their local community and tourism sector, and demonstrate excellent energy management.
Eckington Manor is run by a small friendly group who share a passion for food that is fresh, imaginative and absolutely delicious, and is committed to a ‘farm to fork’ policy. Eckington also provides 16 charming bedrooms and a superbly equipped cookery school.
The Dining Room is a family-run fine dining restaurant in the beautiful coastal village of Rock, offering an efficient service in a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. Enjoy delicious offerings from home-made bread and butter to such delights as starters of scallops with smoked belly of pork, and mains including an outstanding confit of duck. Fish is sustainably sourced and local ingredients are used whenever possible.
La Locanda is a true Italian restaurant located in this rural Lancashire village. The owners’ ethos is to produce the food one would find in a good restaurant in Italy but using Lancashire products wherever possible. They spend time with local farmers, gamekeepers and producers to source the best quality products. They understand seasonality and animal welfare and the menus are designed to take this into account. Food is served with a real commitment to quality, with service and hospitality to match.
This super-friendly establishment sits in a stunning clifftop location and serves delicious ethically sourced fare in rustic surroundings. Particularly popular with dog walkers, it is jam-packed even in the most inclement weather. A veritable oasis serving delicious ethically sourced fare in rustic surroundings. Specialities include geopark themed dishes and their own blend of coffee. Regular customers have many a tale to tell of the proprietors’ kindness and hospitality.
This is a good quality B&B just three minutes from the beach, where the proprietor has a real interest in cooking. The chefs pride themselves on serving great food, and great emphasis is placed on using local ingredients.
Memories of August 1914 commemorated Liverpool’s remarkable contribution at the beginning of World War One, and delivered an unique experience featuring giant marionettes which attracted crowds in excess of 1,000,000 people.
From Street To Trench: A World War That Shaped A Region is the largest exhibition ever created by the Imperial War Museum North that explored the lives of people from the north west of England, and displayed more than 200 personal objects, films, sound recordings, photographs, artworks and letters.
The Juddmonte International is York’s flagship and richest race, and offers a world class horseracing experience that attracts local, national and international visitors of all ages. Its commitment to excellence places customer service at the core of its delivery and strives to create treasured memories for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Airbourne is undoubtedly Eastbourne’s tourism highlight. Since its inception in 1993, the event has grown into a major annual event and developed into what is now the world’s largest, free seaside air show. Aircraft highlights in previous years have included the B1 Bomber, Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet and more recently the first display of the only remaining airworthy Lancasters in the world for 70 years.
Livingstone Lodge is the UK’s first authentic overnight safari experience which has consistently wowed guests with a magical night under the stars in luxury tented accommodation, overlooking 100 acres of Kentish savannah – alive with African animals.
Set up in 2007 as a cookery school, event business and a new home for the TV show, River Cottage HQ offers regular dining experiences unlike any other, where visitors are met at the top of the hill by the River Cottage tractor and trailer, enjoy canapes in the barn then sit down to dinner at long tables.
The discovery of the remains of King Richard III, subsequent DNA analysis and reburial were a unique set of events over the period September 2012 - March 2015. The highlight was the reburial in March 2015 when 35,000 people lined the route of the cortege and queues formed before dawn as 20,000 people paid their respects to the King’s coffin in Leicester Cathedral.
The Canterbury Historic River Tour takes its visitors along the River Stour at a leisurely pace in one of their specially designed rowing boats. ‘Chauffeured’ by the trained and knowledgeable tour guides, visitors are treated to a history of the river and its stories. From an initial few thousand visitors, the company now boasts over 40,000 each season.
The Bay Cycle Way is a new, family-friendly, long distance route, suitable for entry-level touring cyclists, and connects and signposts 81 miles of cycle routes across Morecambe Bay. The project was set up by the Morecambe Bay Partnership - a small charity that works to bring benefits to the communities, heritage and environment around the Bay.
Owned and run by the National Trust, The Fleece Inn is a unique piece of Worcestershire’s heritage and is steeped in history, yet it remains a vibrant part of the community. Just a stone’s throw from the Cotswolds, this busy establishment provides many delights, including good food, local ales and traditional entertainment.
The Catford Inn is one of Lancashire’s best country pubs and boutique hotels set in a quaint 17th century coaching inn. Cosy nooks for eating, a lovely old bar area and genuinely hospitable staff all come together to create a convivial and welcoming atmosphere at the Cartford Inn.
Nestled in a fold of West Yorkshire’s picturesque Shibden Valley, the 17th century Shibden Mill is a hidden gem with an established reputation for genuinely warm hospitality, excellent food and first class accommodation. Nothing is too much trouble for the friendly staff whether serving tender steaks in the restaurant or drinks in the garden by the mill stream.
The Swan is the oldest pub in Bampton and was originally lodgings to accommodate the masons and other craftsmen who were hired to enlarge the church in 1450. Dining at the pub is a culinary experience. Dishes using fresh, local produce are prepared with a great deal of flair and imagination.
A charming little pub close to the centre of Truro, The Rising Sun has a growing and well-deserved reputation for great food. The proprietors have a passion for food and this shines through, with excellent ingredients, vibrant colours and delicious flavours served in the comfortable and larger than expected restaurant area. Make no mistake though, this is a proper pub with a well stocked bar at the front, featuring amongst other delights, a wide range of gins for your delectation.