Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery has been named amongst the winners at this year’s Visit England Awards for Excellence 2016 at the 27th annual ceremony held last night at Winter Gardens Blackpool.

Named the winner of Large Visitor Attraction: The Whitworth said the judges with over 55,000 artworks and 20,000 textiles, is one of Britain’s greatest collections of modern art and historic fine art. Awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year 2015 after a spectacular £15 million pound extension and refurbishment, 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.

It features among sixteen winners including Best Tourism Experience, Best Visitor Attraction and Best Large Hotel and this year’s new addition, the Best Dog Friendly Business.

Additionally, two special awards honouring individual excellence were presented: Outstanding Contribution to Tourism and Tourism Superstar (run in partnership with the Daily Mirror). BBC’s Countryfile was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism award which was accepted by the programme’s presenters, including John Craven, Adam Henson and the production team. The VisitEngland Board gave the award for the programme’s contribution to raising awareness of England’s rural tourism offer. Through the series, millions of viewers are regularly introduced to the beauty and diversity of England’s countryside and destinations. In doing so the programme positively influences perceptions of England and its attractiveness for tourism.  

The Tourism Superstar 2016 winner was also recognised at the ceremony – Lilian Groves, Senior Guide at Durham Cathedral in Durham City recently won the VisitEngland competition with 22% of the total votes cast. Honoured for capturing the hearts and minds of cathedral visitors from across the globe, Lilian’s accolade was presented by Nigel Thompson, Daily Mirror’s Travel Editor, and was received by her colleagues from the cathedral. Tourism Superstar celebrates the dedication and passion of those working in the tourism industry that go above and beyond the call of duty to ensure visitors to England have a memorable experience. 

This year’s Awards featured 80 finalists: 16 Gold winners, 17 Silver winners, 16 Bronze winners and 31 Highly Commended, who were selected from over 400 entries which represented acclaimed tourism businesses throughout England. Winners were selected by a panel of tourism industry experts chaired by VisitEngland Board Member and Chief Executive of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, John Hoy.

Sally Balcombe, CEO of VisitBritain and VisitEngland said, “The VisitEngland Awards for Excellence – this year hosted at the magnificent Winter Gardens Blackpool – celebrate English tourism champions. These awards are the highest accolade in the industry, recognising the world class tourism experiences that can be found throughout England. As ever competition has been fierce, with winners from the regions coming through to compete at a national level so my congratulations to all our winners, especially the Gold Award winners who are the standard bearers for English tourism.”

Tourism Minister David Evennett said: “The success of our world-leading tourism industry is due to the passion and dedication of individuals across the country.

“These awards highlight the huge talent we have, and the fantastic contribution winners and nominees have made to the sector, and I congratulate them all.”

The full list of winners were as follows

Bed & Breakfast: Trevose Harbour House, St Ives, Cornwall

Trevose House is a six-room St Ives B&B, with bright seaside décor, retro furniture and airy rooms – some with sea views. Hosts Angela and Olivier, graduates of the Lausanne Hotel School, are charming and hospitable, offering local information and maps to explore nearby eateries and art galleries. Traditional English breakfast is cooked to order and guests are offered a selection of local artisan breads, plus daily specials, which might include griddled baby courgettes and Cornish goats’ cheese. All bedrooms have a well-stocked fridge and a different indulgent bedside chocolate every day. There’s an honesty bar and a sun-trap terrace or the cosy snug in which to relax. 

Dog Friendly Business: Higher Wiscombe, Colyton, Devon
Located in the beautiful south Devon landscape, Higher Wiscombe comprises three fully equipped self-catering cottages, with en suite bedrooms throughout, set in a lovely valley only a few miles from the glorious beaches of Beer, Sidmouth and Branscombe. The gardens are secure, and the information provision is excellent – from walks and places to visit, to pubs and cafes that are dog friendly. Everything has been thought of: dog wash, bowls, beds, optional cages, stairgate, ample supplies of towels and mats, treats, Dicky Bag and spare poo bags. Shampoo, spare leads/collars are also available on request. An oasis for dogs, with first class accommodation for humans.
Tourism Pub: The Fleece Inn, Bretforton, Worcestershire
The 500-year-old Fleece Inn is a unique piece of English heritage, steeped in history, yet remaining 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 pub is by no means a luxury establishment, but sitting by the roaring log fire in its quirky little bar sipping home-brewed cider, you are likely to find yourself suddenly surrounded by folk musicians or Morrisn dancers, or regaled by Wassailers. Visitors can stay in the historic Master Chamber or in the delightful gypsy caravan in the orchard. 
Small Hotel: Yorebridge House, Bainbridge, North Yorkshire

Set amongst breathtaking scenery in the heart of Wensleydale, Yorebridge House is a five-star ‘restaurant with rooms’ in a historic Grade II listed former headmaster’s house and school. Set in five acres and flanked by two rivers, this winner of the Mills and Boon Most Romantic Venue Award 2015, offers 12 luxurious contemporary bedrooms, wonderful bathrooms and exemplary service in a relaxed atmosphere. With features such as private outdoor hot tubs for selected rooms, outstanding cuisine, sumptuous public rooms and a welcome as warm as the log fire, this is indeed a very special boutique hotel. 
Large Hotel: Rockliffe Hall, Darlington, County Durham

Rockliffe Hall is an impressive 60-roomed luxury golf and spa hotel. Beautifully presented accommodation is offered with traditional but stylish Old Hall rooms alongside the spacious, contemporary New Hall rooms. With three restaurants to choose from, the Orangery stands out with its golden pillars and outstanding food impeccably served with theatrical flair. The newly created spa offers professional treatments in elegant surroundings, including the indoor/outdoor Spa Garden for total relaxation. Many of the bathrooms feature ‘tile TVs’ for added luxury. With a staff of around 300 across the whole estate to attend to their every need, guests feel truly pampered. 
Small Visitor Attraction: Bombay Sapphire Distillery, Whitechurch, Hampshire
This innovative and educational visitor attraction is set in a beautifully restored historic paper mill, formerly used to produce banknotes and now distilling the famous Bombay Sapphire gin. In the state-of-the-art Thomas Heatherwick designed glasshouses, visitors are invited to taste and smell the botanicals used in the gin making process. Guides are very friendly and extremely knowledgeable. At the end of the tour the experienced bar staff suggest visitors try one of the free cocktails, matched to each visitor’s particular taste. It’s a fascinating experience and treat – not just for gin drinkers. A thoughtful touch is that drivers are given a miniature bottle of gin to take home. 
Taste of England: Eckington Manor, Eckington, Worcestershire

Eckington Manor’s chefs Sue and Mark Stinchcombe have the luxury of access to Eckington’s award-winning farm, orchard, vegetable and herb garden to sustain their ‘farm to fork’ policy. Menus reflect the seasons and are enjoyed by the hotel guests, cookery school students and non-residents alike. The short dinner menu changes regularly and features dishes such as Breast of Guinea fowl, maple roasted pumpkin and spiced red cabbage, but the most popular choice is Eckington Manor ribeye of beef & braised shin, caramelised shallot, wild mushroom & red wine jus. The service is relaxed but professional, and the chefs often come into the restaurant and chat to customers.
Tourism Experience: Livingstone Lodge Overnight Safari Experience, Ashford, Kent

Livingstone Lodge is the UK’s first authentic overnight safari experience, and it consistently wows guests with a magical night under the stars in luxury tented accommodation, overlooking 100 acres of Kentish savannah – alive with African animals. Guests are welcomed with an arrival drink and meet their experienced ranger, trained and qualified on safari in Africa. Staying in a lodge is a completely unique and unrivalled glamping experience, with wooden bedside tables, heaters, carpets, electric lighting and verandas overlooking the African Experience. The lodge offers a delicious five course African buffet prepared by the chefs, and guests enjoy a full cooked, hearty breakfast. 

Holiday Park/ Holiday Village: Woodovis Park, Tavistock, Devon

Woodovis is a tranquil, family owned park in 14 acres of countryside near the historic market town of Tavistock. With static holiday homes, glamping pods, camping and caravanning, the park prides itself on high standards and excellent facilities. Activities offered include under-cover boules, circus skills, story-telling and archery, as well as water-walking in the indoor swimming pool. There’s also a children’s play area and dog exercise area. The site’s red phone box houses maps of local walks to be enjoyed on electric hire bikes. Special features include a twice weekly hog roast, visits from the weekly fish and chip van and the site-owned pub is just down the road.   

Self-Catering Holiday Provider: Treworgey Cottages, Looe, Cornwall

Treworgey Cottages are set on a 150 acre farm overlooking the Looe River valley. The cottages have been restored to a high standard and features include log fires, beautiful bedrooms, excellent bathrooms, well equipped kitchens and pretty private gardens. Holly and her team work tirelessly in pursuit of excellence. The on-site farm brims with indoor and outdoor activities including an outdoor pool with a view. Families can join in feeding the chickens, ducks, goats and pigs each morning and the licensed riding school offers pony and horse riding, exclusively for guests. There are splendid country walks, home cooked food deliveries and a farm shop on site. 

Sustainable Tourism: Railholiday, Saltash, Cornwall

Railholiday is an inspiring example of a business that is 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.

Access for All: Hoe Grange Holidays, Matlock, Derbyshire

Hoe Grange is a traditional family-run farm on the edge of the Peak District National Park, which diversified into self-catering in 2006. Owners David and Felicity Brown identified a gap in the market for high quality accessible accommodation. Four log cabins cater for guests with a range of mobility needs, such as contrasting door frames and a Deafgard alarm, which further increase their appeal. An off-road wheelchair to explore the farm and beyond is also available. David and Felicity’s dedication is further demonstrated by their efforts to raise £5,000 for the training of an assistance puppy.

Visitor Information Provider: Thanet Visitor Information Service, Margate, Kent

Thanet Visitor Information Service is located in an icon building ‘The Droit House’ on Margate’s Harbour Arm and adjacent to one of its main attractions, Turner Contemporary art gallery. The service also supports two volunteer run information centres in Broadstairs and Ramsgate. There are also a number of Information Points located in key places such as train stations and hotel receptions and visitor maps can be found in local cafés and attractions. Taxi drivers, lifeguards and attraction staff have participated in our Visit Ambassador training ensuring all our visitors receive a warm welcome.

Tourism Event: Liverpool City Council – Memories of August 1914, Liverpool

A one-off event held in July 2014, Memories of August 1914 commemorated Liverpool’s remarkable contribution at the start of World War One. The city hosted one of the UK’s landmark commemorative events with an outdoor performance art display, featuring giant marionettes, attracting crowds in excess of 1 million people. During a three-day street theatre extravaganza, 25 miles around the city centre, suburban neighbourhoods and parks were included, with many visitors travelling in from beyond the region. This poignant spectacular included a jaw-dropping visual treat from Royal De Luxe; a company of inventors, stuntmen, scrap merchants and poets.

Business Tourism: Crewe Hall, Crewe, Cheshire

Set in eight acres of parkland in a 400-year-old Jacobean mansion, Crewe Hall offers a beautiful mix of modern conference and meeting rooms in a state-of-the-art purpose built event centre with heritage conference and meeting rooms in the Old Hall. A dedicated team delivers a range of business events, taking full advantage of the hotel’s spa and health club with indoor pool, treatment rooms, gym and tennis courts providing the complete package. With 17 spacious meeting rooms holding up to 364 delegates, Crewe Hall is the ideal location for a board meeting, annual conference or team building day. The professional and friendly staff are led by an impressive management team. 


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