A family-owned holiday park in the Peak District has been named the best in England. Landal Darwin Forest, a 44-acre woodland site with log cabins and onsite activities such as cycling, swimming and tennis, won gold in the camping, glamping and holiday park category of VisitEngland’s Awards for Excellence 2020. Judges described the site and ‘beautiful’ and ‘perfect for families with small children and dogs’. Landal Darwin Forest’s marketing director, Caroline Povey, said phones had been busy since the announcement on 17 August but this month is already fully booked. “We hope it will mean bookings well into autumn and winter to make up for the impact of being closed at Easter and in the early summer.”
Off-grid cabin site Swallowtail Hill in East Sussex and Eye Kettleby Lakes in Leicestershire won silver and bronze respectively.
Winners were selected in 15 categories, including hotels, self-catering accommodation, glamping sites, tourist attractions and pubs, accessible and inclusive tourism, and sustainable tourism.
“Millions of jobs and local economies depend on tourism and this year’s awards are a timely reminder of the determination, innovation and commitment of businesses across the country who have been working extremely hard to reopen and welcome visitors back safely,” said VisitEngland chief executive Sally Balcombe.
Clifftop nature reserve Durlston Country Park, near Swanage in Dorset, won the Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award. It was praised for having wheelchair-friendly routes in the Victorian castle and hard-surface trails outside, along with hearing loops and high-contrast markings.
The award for Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism went to the Hive Cafe and Bakery in Birmingham, for its work as a specialist education provider for young people with learning difficulties, who help to grow and harvest organic produce on the roof, bake cakes and pastries and serve in the cafe. The eco-friendly glamping credentials of the Quiet Site in Cumbria won it the silver award, and farm-to-tourism business Hoe Grange Holidays in Derbyshire took bronze.
Pub of the Year went to The Baskerville in Oxfordshire, now home to an outdoor socially distanced tented venue, the Bedouin Bar and Lounge; it was followed by 300-year-old thatched pub the Three Horseshoes in Dorset, and Warwickshire pub with rooms the Howard Arms.
Gold winners among the attraction and activity categories included the Old Royal Naval College museum, architectural centrepiece of Maritime Greenwich in London; the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent, and Wild Wookey Adventure Caving at Wookey Hole Caves in Somerset. There was also an award for new tourism businesses, which went to boutique English wine and food tour company Vine + Country Tours, which operates in Kent and East Sussex.
Among the other accommodation winners were large luxury London hotel The Ned and historic Grays Court, North Yorkshire; self-catering North Hayne Farm Cottages close to Exmoor; and a familiar entry for the bed and breakfast category: The 25 Boutique B&B in Devon.
Recognising a media contribution in championing domestic tourism, the Travel Content Award went to Guardian Travel’s Rachel Dixon, for her piece Uncrowded Cornwall: fine food and walking on the Lizard. It is one of four special awards this year, which also included the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism. This was awarded to the business events industry in recognition of its work to support England’s Nightingale Hospitals across several exhibition and conference venues. Previous winners of the award have included the English pub, the Harry Potter films, the travel agent, the RSC and, in 2019, England’s national parks.
Next year’s awards will focus on tourism heroes, in recognition of businesses and individuals that have demonstrated innovation, resilience and support for local communities during Covid. Nominations can come from within the industry or the public, with more details to be announced in the coming weeks.
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