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Standing close to the water's edge on Lake Windermere, Gilpin Hotel & Lake House is a family business that has succeeded in standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the best properties in the UK.
In considering the hotel's nomination for the Hotel of the Year - Independent award, the judges recognised the Cunliffe family as being central to the success of the business. In 1987 John and Christine Cunliffe bought for £350,000 what was then a five-bedroom bed and breakfast property - which, ironically, had previously been owned by the family - and set about creating the finest luxury country house hotel in the Lake District.
As the years have gone on, John and Christine have been joined by their son, Barney, and his wife, Zoë, and together the four of them aim to meet and get to know every guest at what is now a 26-bedroom hotel. Extra family input comes from the Cunliffe's younger son, Ben, an architect who has been one of the driving forces behind many of the hotel's developments including the Lake House, which opened in 2010 as a self-contained six-bedroom property with spa facilities, one mile away from the main house.
The Cunliffe family takes great pride in their hotel and their hands-on role sets the standards for the rest of the team to follow. Their hospitality is attentive without being intrusive and both regular and new guests are quickly made to feel relaxed and at home.
Special effort is made for the guests to get to know the hotel's team, who all feature in a directory which is left in all the bedrooms. In turn, the staff are well versed through the hotel's "Our path to wellbeing" training programme on understanding real needs of guests.
Never content to rest on their laurels, the Cunliffes have continually reinvested the profits back into the business to ensure the property is exceedingly stylish and comfortable, with designs which combine contemporary touches with the traditional features of the Edwardian house. While the very best fabrics, linens and artwork is evident throughout, it is never at the expense of what is ultimately a homely, relaxed environment.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"Gilpin is a true family-run business which has consistently striven for top quality and absolute guest satisfaction, as well as looking ahead and investing for the long term."
Melvin Gold, Melvin Gold Consulting
"The key to Gilpin Lodge's success is the continued commitment from the whole Cunliffe family, who are always looking to see how Gilpin can reinvent itself."
Jonathan Slater, the Chester Grosvenor, Chester
â- The Pig, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
â- Rudding Park, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
The JudgesStephen Broome, senior hotel consultant, PwC
Robert Cook, chief executive, De Vere Village Urban Resorts
Melvin Gold, managing director, Melvin Gold Consulting
Simon Numphud, hotel service manager, AA Hotel Services
Jonathan Raggett, managing director, Red Carnation Hotels
Claire Randall, managing director, Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa, Colerne, Wiltshire
Simon Rhatigan, independent hotelier
Jonathan Slater, managing director, the Chester Grosvenor, Chester