VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2023 winners
Add these award-winning places to your list
It’s summer, and you know what that means – the results of the VisitEngland Awards 2023 are in! Discover who’s made the cut across 14 categories, from pub of the year to best-in-class hotels. It’s time to reveal the winners…
Pub of the Year Award
Gold winner: The Blind Bull
Located in the Peak District National Park near Buxton is The Blind Bull, a welcoming and unpretentious pub set in a 12th-century inn. It has recently undergone an extensive renovation, including a new dining area, tap room, a stand-alone cottage and six luxury bedrooms. Just what you need after hiking the surrounding hills and sampling the pub's hand-made pasta dishes or one of their epic Sunday roasts.
Silver - The Shoe
Comforting food, roaring fires during the cold months, views of Old Winchester Hill, great wine, real ales and coffee made using their own Hampshire Pantry coffee beans await you at The Shoe. Located in the Meon Valley and beside the South Down’s Way, enjoy the riverside garden’s relaxing atmosphere and food sourced from local suppliers.
Bronze - The Duncombe Arms
Perched on the edge of the Peak Districts, this beautiful 1850s country pub reopened in 2012 after years of standing empty. Following a full-scale renovation by new owners Laura and Johnny Greenall, who added a modern new kitchen and a light-filled dining room to the original, you can savour modern and classic British dining in cosy surroundings.
Self-Catering Accommodation of the Year Award
Gold winner: Kidlandlee Holiday Cottages
Fancy an off-grid break that doesn’t scrimp on home comforts and is committed to being green? Kidlandlee is exactly that. The holiday cottages’ remote location in Northumberland National Park makes it the perfect place to escape the rat race and enjoy the great outdoors, including the area’s famous dark skies. Choose from a bespoke cottage, converted barn or historic Georgian townhouse and let your weekend in the wilderness begin.
Silver - Dovecote Barns
Set within a working farm just south of York is a collection of converted 18th-century holiday homes known as Dovecote Barns. The brainchild of Brigita and Richard Bramley, expect five-star facilities in a peaceful countryside setting that nurtures biodiversity and the local environment. What’s more, you’ll receive a ‘Yorkshire welcome’ basket on arrival, filled with local goodies.
Bronze - Eaton Manor Country Estate
A 500-acre countryside estate owned by the Madeley family since 1934, this collection of luxury self-catered holiday cottages has been going strong since 2001. Ideal for the whole family (even your canine members!), aspiring archers (there’s a 70m long archery range), yoga enthusiasts and wedding parties, there is something for everybody to enjoy here in the rolling Shropshire hills.
Bed & Breakfast and Guesthouse of the Year Award
Gold winner: Piglets Boutique B&B
Halfway between a hotel and a bed and breakfast, this upmarket rural Essex hideaway has a bar that most pubs would envy, a gin library, a sauna, a top-notch restaurant and a cold-water swimming pool to blow the cobwebs away in. Hike through the countryside or drive through country lanes to visit pretty villages and historical houses.
Silver - Cedar Manor
This small, family-owned boutique hotel in Windermere is perfect for exploring the Lake District National Park. The hotel’s rooms and luxury suites differ in style and size, with light, airy designs and scenic garden views from the windows.
Bronze - Sunnyside Guest House
This sleek townhouse is located in Southport, close to Royal Birkdale golf course, home of the British Open. With all its food sustainably sourced directly from local farms and suppliers, this guest house prides itself on serving top-notch food.
Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year Award
Gold winner: The Quiet Site
Welcoming guests since 1963, this zero-waste glamping utopia is close to Ullswater in the Lake District National Park. The Quiet Site combines the feel of a working farm with luxury touches and accessible facilities to ensure everybody can enjoy some top-notch glamping. And if you want to explore the area, why not visit local attractions such as Aira Force Waterfall and Lowther Castle. Feeling adventurous? Tackle Helvellyn, the third-highest peak in England.
Silver - Brook Meadow
This 30-year-old family farm in Northamptonshire has plenty of camping and glamping options, including three luxury lodges, safari tents and vintage caravans. Surrounded by fields and a tranquil five-acre fishing lake, there’s plenty of outdoors to explore here, which is made even more exciting by regular outdoor cinema nights, farm tours and quad bike safaris.
Bronze - Hendra Holiday Park
Hendra (the Cornish word for “home farm”) is a five-star, family-friendly camping, caravanning and holiday park near Newquay on the county’s north coast. And with an indoor water park and rolling coastal paths to explore nearby, Hendra makes an excellent base for a seaside adventure.
Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award
Gold winner: Noah's Ark Zoo Farm
Located six miles from Bristol, this award-winning zoo has taken significant strides to make the venue accessible for all. As part of their long-term Ark for All plan, accessible toilets and changing facilities have been built, a Hearing Induction Loop installed at the Ark Arena, the introduction of a clear and loud PA system, highlighted steps, high-contrast signage and a suggested accessible itinerary to download before you arrive.
Silver - Brickhouse Farm Holiday Cottages & Lakeside Hub
Following an accident where their youngest daughter was left with life-changing injuries, the Rainford family transformed Brickhouse Farm into a fully accessible home. They later decided to give back to the community that supported them and created a new holiday space catered for disabled people and their families. With fully accessible facilities such as a hydrotherapy pool, a sensory studio, and cosy (not clinical) holiday cottages, you can relax in peaceful lakeside surroundings outside Hambleden in Lancashire.
Bronze - WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre
Known as the UK’s leading wetland conservation charity, WWT Slimbridge in Gloucestershire is one of nine wetland centres set up by Sir Peter Scott, a famous conservationist. He believed in conservation for all, and Slimbridge has kept this belief alive by ensuring that all exhibits, pathways and animal hides are accessible to everyone. The centre also has mobility scooters and wheelchairs, which can be booked for use on the day of your visit.
Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award
Hope Valley, Derbyshire
Gold winner: Pure Outdoor
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.
Silver - National Forest EBike Holidays
Make the most of the tracks and quiet lanes around the National Forest in Leicestershire on an EBike holiday. Daily bike trips range from 20 to 30 miles and are designed to leave you plenty of time to stop and explore at your own pace while you take in a relaxing coffee break or pub lunch. Let the onboard GPS be your guide, or break away from the route and do your own exploring – it’s up to you!
Bronze - The Cottages at Blackadon Farm
Located in the south of Dartmoor National Park, this recently renovated farm has luxury touches, fast Wi-Fi, and plenty of socialising space for family – your pooch is also welcome to join the fun too! Be sure to say hello to the farm’s miniature donkeys after a hike around the wilds; for beach lovers, the coast is only a few miles away, while the city of Plymouth is just a 20-minute drive.
Experience of the Year Award
Gold winner: Grey Seal and Seabird Cruise, Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours
The Serenity boat fleet offers various tours, whether you want to spot sea birds such as puffins and razorbills in the summer months or see common grey seals during the mating season in autumn. Whichever tour you choose, one thing's for sure; you'll be able to switch off in a dreamy coastal setting surrounded by spectacular wildlife.
Silver - Make Your Own Gin Experience, Shed 1 Gin Distillery
When you arrive at Shed 1, you’ll be welcomed with a G&T before the team gives you the lowdown on the gin-making process, including the different botanicals and their properties. After being guided around the five stills, choose from over 40 botanicals to blend your signature gin with. Then it’s time for cake, tea, coffee (and perhaps another G&T) while you watch your gin distil in real-time. Bottoms up!
Bronze - Peak District Walking Experience, myGuidedWalks
Head into the wild for a thrilling experience tracking and spotting wild mountain hares in their last natural habitat in England, led by a team of expert guides. It’s perfect for aspiring nature photographers and just one of the experiences offered by myGuidedWalks. For aviation lovers, meander along some of the wildest peaks and learn about how aviation history was influenced by this landscape, including the famous Dambusters of the RAF’s 617 Squadron.
Large Hotel of the Year Award
Gold winner: Titanic Hotel Liverpool
This elegant four-star hotel is set within one of the city’s most iconic areas, Stanley Dock. The Titanic stays true to the architecture of the original Victorian warehouse, with exposed brickwork, steel columns and original windows. Underground, you’ll find the serene Maya Blue Wellness sanctuary, where you can unwind in the hydrotherapy pool, steam room and sauna, then use the foot bath to soothe tired feet after a day of sightseeing or an evening of dancing. It is Liverpool, after all!
Silver - Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort
Nestled in the heart of Wiltshire, this four-star golfing and spa resort is different in that it welcomes little ones. The kids can play in a beautiful and safe environment, whether on the three-hole academy gold course for beginners or the pirate ship-themed adventure playgrounds. You’ll also get complimentary access to Bowood House and the gardens designed by Capability Brown.
Bronze - Rockliffe Hall Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort
Rockliffe Hall prides itself on being "big on both space and luxury". Whether you're looking for a romantic weekend away, to celebrate a special occasion with friends, or to bring the whole family together, choose from the range of suites, apartments, a lodge and even holiday houses. Explore the on-site golf course, the wellness spa and treat yourself to delicious meals at one of the three restaurants on the estate.
Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award
Gold winner: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter
What would you do with a treasure trove of thousands of beloved and beautifully made film props from the UK’s most famous film franchise? Well, the geniuses at Warner Brothers decided to preserve the legacy of Harry Potter for the public, allowing you to discover the magic behind the making of the movies. Miniature film sets, “wand magic classes”, and special exhibitions like the popular Dark Arts season all combine for a must-see experience for Potterheads of all ages.
Silver - Blenheim Palace
The birthplace and childhood home of Winston Churchill, the wonderfully baroque Blenheim Palace was granted World Heritage Status in 1987 and continues to host historically important exhibitions, food festivals and a calendar of family-friendly events. Enjoy strolls through the many ornate gardens, get lost inside a vast maze, and enjoy a leisurely lunch or afternoon tea at one of the seven eateries.
Bronze - International Bomber Command Centre
Lincoln’s International Bomber Command Centre (IBCC) recognises the service and sacrifices of the men and women who served here from 62 countries during World War Two. It serves as a point for recognition, remembrance and reconciliation for its servicemen and women, which suffered the highest losses of any unit during WWII but have long struggled for recognition. Opened in 2018, this part-museum part-memorial provides an opportunity for education for today’s and future generations.
New Tourism Business of the Year Award
Gold winner: Thorington Theatre
Built in a bomb crater left behind from WWII, this outdoor amphitheatre opened in 2021 and stages everything from family-friendly plays to Shakespeare, Greek classics and live music. Seating 350 people, there’s also a snack and drinks kiosk, wheelchair access, free parking and a picnic area to enjoy before your show starts.
Silver winner - Bassenthwaite Lake Station
Situated opposite the Dubwath Silver Meadows nature reserve, Bassenthwaite Lake Station is a café in a lovingly restored railway station with a full-size replica Orient Express steam train stationed outside. Take part in murder mystery evenings, venture out on a foraging workshop and grab a bite to eat in the ticket office or on the pretty platform decorated with flowers. Alternatively, enjoy afternoon tea on the train itself.
Bronze - Great British Car Journey
Buckle up for a journey through automotive history starting in the 1920s; This interactive exhibition features over 130 classic cars and takes you through the golden ages of British car design and manufacturing. Swot up on iconic motors such as the Austin Seven, Morris Minor, classic Mini and Ford Escort (to name just a few). Petrolheads can also book a driving experience at the same site, and caffeine heads can refuel (pun intended) at the Refilling Station Café.
Resilience and Innovation Award
Gold winner: St Luke's Bombed Out Church
Once a haunting wreck following the Liverpool Blitz of May 1941, the Grade-II listed St Luke’s Bombed Out Church is now a beacon of community, arts and culture. Following thousands of hours by local volunteers, St Luke’s was rescued from dereliction with a sympathetic restoration and reopened to the public in 2007. It regularly provides a Gothic backdrop to theatre, dance, classical and world music, visual art, cinema, and spoken word events.
Silver - Langley Castle Hotel
Have a medieval sleepover in a castle built in 1350. Langley Castle is one of a few fortified castle hotels in the country where you can eat and stay in authentic historical surroundings. If you are keen on a spot of stargazing, take one of the organised midnight coach trips to Kielder Observatory in the heart of Kielder Forest – a designated Dark Sky zone.
Bronze - Healing Manor Hotel
Like many hotels during COVID, Healing Manor faced the challenges of staying afloat; however, this establishment not only started a successful takeaway business, it also used its long-standing partnerships with local suppliers to support the local homeless community and still does. It also provides free milk and bread to those in need and prides itself on supporting staff’s wellbeing.
Small Hotel of the Year Award
Gold winner: Askham Hall
Stay at Askham Hall in the Lake District National Park, and you’ll travel through the ages in just a few days. The hall dates back to 1280, and was used as a fortress. It later underwent extensive renovations by the 6th Earl of Lonsdale in the 1930s before gaining a glowing reputation as a “great party house”. In fact, it was favoured by Prince Phillip when he established his famous annual carriage driving event in the 1960s.
Silver - The Pig-at Combe
Secluded within 3,500 acres of the Devonshire countryside is The Pig, a honey-coloured Elizabethan bolthole where roll-top baths and modern four-poster beds come as standard. The hotel’s restaurant is famed for its “25-mile menu”, with all ingredients sourced within a 25-mile radius of the hotel. Be sure to book a table – it’s the perfect way to treat yourself after a day exploring the East Devon coastline, which is just 15 minutes away.
Bronze - Wildhive Callow Hall
Wildhive Callow Hall, a Victorian country house, is tucked away in 35 acres of gardens, wild meadow and woodland. Located at the edge of the Peak District, the house features 15 tastefully designed bedrooms, two family-sized treehouses, and 11 woodland ‘Hives’ for couples. The Garden Room restaurant serves fresh and seasonal food, while the converted Coach House offers well-being experiences such as stationary cycling, yoga classes and sound healing.
Small Visitor Attraction of the Year Award
Gold winner: Watatunga Wildlife Reserve
Yes, you read that correctly – Watatunga is a bona fide wildlife reserve with freely roaming deer and antelope (no dangerous lions or hippos, phew!) two miles from the village of Watlington. Along with guided buggy tours, you can get closer to nature by staying at one of three on-site cottages. Or, if you are a budding photographer, opt for a wildlife photography class.
Silver - Muncaster Castle, Gardens and Hawk & Owl Centre
The dramatic backdrop of Muncaster Castle is home to the Hawk & Owl Centre, where you can admire birds of prey up close and learn more about their fascinating behaviours from an expert bird team. The Lawned Owl Garden is home to various aviaries and mews, and the adjacent Old Rose Garden is where you’ll find the flying arena. The centre is open daily from Easter to early November and at selected weekends during winter and early spring.
Bronze - PK Porthcurno
How did a tranquil valley in Cornwall become home to cutting-edge telecommunications in Victorian times? Porthcurno (‘PK’ as it’s known in telegraphic code) owes its unique heritage to the arrival of the first undersea telegraph cable in 1870. The museum features interactive exhibits and historical artefacts that chart the evolution of communications, from the first telegraph to the arrival of the internet. A must-see for tech nerds and history buffs of all ages.
Taste of England Award
Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire
Gold winner: Pensons Restaurant at the Netherwood Estate
This sun-drenched Michelin-starred restaurant in Worcestershire is committed to finding sustainable and environmentally friendly solutions to serving delicious food. While waiting for your food, you can peek into the open-plan kitchen to see the chefs hard at work. The a la carte and tasting menus change weekly and sometimes even daily, depending on the fresh ingredients available. And if you fancy making a break of it, you can book one of the two cosy rooms across the courtyard and enjoy dinner, bed and breakfast!
Update (November 2023): Pensons Restaurant will close permanently following dinner service on 22 December 2023.
Silver - The Unruly Pig
Frequently topping food and drink lists, The Unruly Pig in Woodbridge, Suffolk is run by joint head chefs Dave Wall and Karl Green. They have coined their food influence as “Britalian” and use fresh, local (wherever possible), seasonal ingredients cooked with an Italian twist.
Bronze - The Glasshouse Restaurant
This double AA Rosette-winning eatery on the grounds of Oakley Hall Park near Basingstoke follows a ‘field to fork’ philosophy focusing on using local produce sourced from within a 50-mile radius. A member of the Hampshire Fare initiative, the team tracks ingredients from neighbouring Hampshire suppliers, brings local communities together, and makes good use of the expansive kitchen garden.