Sponsored by Blue Badge Access Awards
Cottage in the Dales provides what it describes as a ‘Distinctly Dales' experience across three Grade II-listed cottages – Inglenook Cottage, the Byre and the Dairy – in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Owners and directors Andrew and Diane Howarth pride themselves on delivering a luxury experience that caters for all guests, regardless of age or physical ability.
After 10 years of running the hotel at 90% occupancy, Andrew and Diane decided to switch their focus to accessibility, after finding they were having to turn guests away because they did not have appropriate accommodation. Despite having little experience of the accessibility market, they embarked on an immersive discovery exercise to understand the needs and desires of guests requiring accessible facilities. Their research involved visiting other accommodation providers, liaising with friends with varying requirements as to their experiences and learning how schemes such as VisitEngland's National Accessibility Scheme (NAS) deliver accredited accommodation.
After seeking support and insight from leading organisations, including Access For All UK, Accessible Derbyshire, VisitEngland and Motionspot, the Cottage in the Dales is able to support guests with hidden mental disabilities, such as dementia and autism. For the Dairy, Motionspot provided a dementia-friendly report, while Access For All UK provided a sensory story for guests with autism. In addition, Diane completed a Makaton sign language course.
The hotel has embraced the concept of ‘universal design': rather than adapting existing interiors, they created a range of flexible, luxury accommodation that is both accessible and, crucially, appealing to all. As well as the usual amenities expected of a luxury hotel, such as premium toiletries, thoughtful touches include a Welcome Doggy Pack for assistance dogs staying at the Dairy.
Furthermore, guests are offered an extensive range of facilities and complimentary equipment that they say they don't find elsewhere, such as electric car charging points and specialist facilities to National Accessible Scheme standards for those with mobility, hearing and visual impairments.
Luxury, inclusivity and accessibility are supported by exemplary and caring customer service. The couple and their team talk to guests to learn about their accessibility requirements in order to understand what great accommodation means to them. This communication begins from a guest's initial enquiry.
Staff are trained to support guests by going the extra mile, checking in on them throughout their stay and liaising for feedback afterwards. Thanks to a focus on training and communication skills, the team is able to take an empathetic approach when interacting with guests and this, coupled with outstanding accommodation, has led to glowing reviews, new business and returning customers.
What the judges said
"The Cottage in the Dales has well and truly put the needs of disabled people at the heart of their business, offering a five-star service. They have demonstrated that looking after disabled guests is great for business and we hope others take note of what they have achieved." – Helen Dolphin
"By reaching out far and wide for intelligence and support, they've managed to bring a comprehensive approach to the provision of accessibility, leaving no stone unturned." – Mark Lewis
- The Barbican Centre, London
- Cottage in the Dales, Yorkshire
- Park Plaza London Waterloo
- Helen Dolphin, consultant, Helen Dolphin Consultancy
- Karen Fewell, director, Digital Blonde Marketing
- Mark Lewis, chief executive, Hospitality Action
- Carrie-Ann Lightley, marketing manager, AccessAble
- Michael McGrath, founder and chief executive, Muscle Help Foundation
- Matt Wynes, director of fundraising, Whizz-Kidz