Pride of Lancashire

26 November 2012


On 27 November 2012, Marketing Lancashire raises a proud toast to this year’s Lancashire Tourism Award winners as part of our Lancashire Day celebrations.  In the weeks following the awards, new Chief Executive, Ruth Connor has managed to visit quite a few of them, to learn more about their business and what’s new for 2013.

Ruth’s tour started with a visit to the first winner of the new category Tourism Pub of the Year, The Millstone at Mellor, before a familiarisation trip to the Ribble Valley accompanied by local Tourism and Events Officer, Tom Pridmore;  the quality of attractions, accommodation and stunning landscapes made a huge impression.

It was up to the very north of the county, to Arkholme, to meet with Taste Lancashire award winner The Redwell Country Inn.  The Talbot family has reinvented this country inn, situated in Lancashire’s famous Lune Valley and this year added The Lune Valley Smokehouse to their property. Since the opening of the smokehouse this summer, chef Rob Talbot seems to be smoking everything;  fish, chicken, pork, garlic, cheese even oils, have all been lovingly smoked, incorporated into delicious recipes for the restaurant and packaged up for sale in their shop.   The aim very soon is to offer sales through the website, but there’s nothing better than enjoying the stunning views and delicious dishes offered in a restaurant that’s the only one two times winner of the Taste Lancashire Award. 

From here it’s a short drive to the winning Visitor Information Provider, the Visit Garstang Centre. The centre prides itself on providing a wide range of information on the area, as well as helpful publications and brochures on destinations across the country.  It’s a great place to drop in, learn something new, or shop for wonderful souvenirs created by local artists and crafts people.  The space outside the centre is also used for events and the nearby Booths supermarket and car park have had a marked effect on footfall. 

It’s back to the office but not before a visit to the Museum of Lancashire, winner of Small Visitor Attraction of the Year.  The Museum of Lancashire celebrated its 1st anniversary on 25 November 2012, just a few weeks after winning their award.  What a year it has been, with outstanding visitor numbers, the Guild celebrations and being host to international media visiting the UK as part of the Olympic and The Queens Diamond Jubilee.

The museum is a perfect introduction to Lancashire and cleverly sign-posts visitors to other museums across the county, with exhibits linked to specific locations, events and finds.  At the opening in 2011, the museum announced that entry would be FREE for the first year– it was good to hear on this visit, that it is to remain free, enabling residents and visitors to enjoy this fascinating insight into the county.

At the next opportunity it was off to the coast, to Number One St Lukes, winner of B&B Guest Accommodation of the Year.  There she met multi award-winning hotelier Claire Smith who took time to talk to Ruth about developments in Blackpool, the UK’s premier seaside resort. As President of Stay Blackpool, the resorts main hotel and guest house association, Claire is passionately working to improve the resort’s outlook and appeal.

Ruth was very taken with the large, well appointed bedrooms offering every convenience to both corporate and leisure guests and also the conservatory overlooking the hot tub and miniature pitch and putt course in the garden. Claire values the opportunity to feature in the awards processes as she feels it offers an invaluable opportunity to raise the profile of her business and is delighted to be associated with Marketing Lancashire. 

From B&B to Large Hotel of the Year, just a few miles down the road to Lytham St Annes and the Dalmeny Hotel, here it was great to hear from Liz Jones, General Manager, that the last twelve months have seen month on month growth in sales, following their £150K investment.

This proudly independent family business is welcoming the 3rd generation of visitors who enjoy quality, traditional family holidays.  A quick tour of the rooms and facilities confirms just why it’s such a hit with families; it is welcoming, well equipped and offers ample activities for the kids as well as a great pool, gym and spa for the grown-ups.  Liz says that she believes the Dalmeny is the “best child-friendly hotel in the North West, perhaps even the country.”  The Dalmeny also recently developed delightful new beach huts on the seafront, some of which are for sale but others will be for hire – an additional option for families staying in the hotel.  Watch this space for further significant changes to their dining offer.

The next outing required Marketing Lancashire’s new CEO to don specialist footwear – as a visit to Cross Farm Cottages, Self Catering Award winner and a walk around Martin Mere, winner of the Sustainable Tourism Award was the order of the day.

Lyn and Stan Harrison love their new role in the industry, having worked for many years running butchers shops  in Liverpool.  Stan says ‘this isn’t work’ then heads off to deal with a little project at the farmhouse,  while  Lin puts the kettle on and Ruth gets a close look at one of the holiday cottages. Their fully accessible properties enjoy great occupancy, with guests from all over the world, here on business, visiting friends and family or just keen to explore the North West.  Not content with standing still, they’re currently developing an additional B&B option attached to their farmhouse – a large room (as comfortable for a family of 4, as it is cosy and secluded for 2), with its own private entrance and breakfast area.  Following a quick tour of the work in progress, it looks like everything will be shipshape for the first guests booked in for Christmas/New Year, then it’s off to nearby attraction, Martin Mere.

Ruth had visited Martin Mere some years ago and was delighted to see just how things have changed over the years.  From the busy cafe, shop and visitor information centre – to the new Canoe Safari and children’s adventure play area – it’s all wonderfully presented, well thought out and with sustainability at its heart.  The volunteers at Martin Mere are incredibly dedicated and have a wealth of information to share with visitors and a walk around the site demonstrates just how vital a role each and every volunteer plays.  From the Harrier Hide you can see the reed beds with its rich biodiversity, a home to insects, wildflowers and some of the UK’s most threatened species.  But perhaps the highlight of the visit was watching the swan feeding – hundreds of birds swooping in to follow the volunteer charged that day with scattering food along the shoreline.  It’s here that these amazing birds, in particular the Whooper Swan spend their winter adding weight and gaining strength for the long flight back to Iceland, northern Scandinavia and Russia.  It’s a unique experience in the North West – and deserving of the name Swan Spectacular.

And finally it was great to hear just before a visit to Northcote, winner of Small Hotel of The Year, that new investment from Richard and Lynda Matthewman will help with significant developments to Northcote, as well as the Northcote Group’s Ribble Valley Inns.  The plans include increasing Northcote’s bedrooms from 14 to 24, as well as a new state-of-the-art kitchen providing a better working environment for Head Chef Lisa Allen and the award-winning kitchen team.  The gardens will see additional work and Northcote’s private dining area, the Louis Roederer Room, will also be extended. Ruth was pleased to meet with joint proprietor Craig Bancroft, to discuss these plans in more detail and talks on future marketing opportunities, continued over lunch with Sales & Marketing Director Kaye Matthew and Marketing, PR and Social Media Executive Laura Crabb.

In the short time Ruth has been with the company she has met with many more Members of Marketing Lancashire and has been extremely impressed by the amazing diversity of Lancashire’s offer for visitors and those who are lucky enough to live here. 

“We have so much to be proud of in Lancashire and each year the Lancashire Tourism Awards highlight those who are achieving incredible levels of customer service, quality and real innovation.  I’m proud to be a Lancastrian and on Lancashire Day let’s promote the warmth of welcome and the excellent choice, quality and strength of product offer that we have here in Lancashire for both new and regular visitors.”

Ruth continues “I’ve been very privileged to have an insight into the plans and achievements of some of this year’s Lancashire Tourism Awards Winners.  I will be catching up with them all very soon but would like to take this opportunity to wish the very best of luck to those going forward to the Visit England Awards for Excellence 2013 Awards the very best of luck – Marketing Lancashire will be supporting you all the way.”

Happy Lancashire Day.

Read more about Lancashire's winners here.

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