The Ryebeck is one integral third of the Wildsmith portfolio. Located in the picture postcard Lake District and boasting a legacy that goes back more than a century, the 26 bedroom country boutique is gearing up for another year of redevelopments, upgrades and enhancements to secure its status as one of the top hotels in the area. We caught up with GM Nicola Tickle to find out what’s next.
Wildsmith Hotels is one of the leading groups in the Lake District and Lancashire, consisting of three properties nestled in one of Britain’s most idyllic countryside locations. Each hotel prides itself on its service, relaxed atmosphere and comes with the promise of a break away from the rat race of everyday life. With the third property due to launch in September, owner Andrew Wildsmith, together with his new operations director Tom Lewis it’s all systems go for the expanding family-owned group.
So what does this mean for properties within the Wildsmith portfolio? Each one is encouraged to retain its own identity and individuality and with money being ploughed into renovations and not just expansion, being part of a brand in this case is certainly paying dividends.
Along with Hipping Hall and the upcoming Forest Side restaurant and hotel in Grasmere, The Ryebeck is one integral third to the Wildsmith collection and one that has benefited, and continues to do so, from extensive investment over the past few years.
Tucked away in an opening on Lake Windermere, the hotel is set in five acres of grounds and has been transformed into a rural retreat since its shift to Wildsmith in 2004, more than a decade ago.
It boasts an impressive history, first built in 1904 by G.H Pattinson for a prestigious Edwardian gentleman, Mr Fayrer-Clark and his family, long before its use as a hotel was even considered.
When the occupiers of the house, two sisters, died around 1948, the house was bequeathed to the ladies of Windermere and Bowness. As per their wishes, Cumbria County Council converted the property into a retirement home, which it was run as until the late 1980s when the council ceased its ownership of Fayrer Holme and it was sold as a private home in 1990.
The house became the property’s first dalliance with hospitality, opening as a luxury bed and breakfast with six bedrooms after a much-needed renovation. By 1995, business growth allowed for the development of a further six bedrooms and the guesthouse started to take shape as a small hotel.
From here on the ball really started rolling on investments and upgrades. 1997 saw a major six-bedroom extension on the south side of the hotel. The owners moved out of the hotel too, freeing up space for additional bedrooms and a restaurant.
The restaurant was a success and it was around this time the hotel gained its first dining award in the form on 1 AA Rosette.
Soon after this, a further extension was built on the back of the property, extending the restaurant in a conservatory style with large panoramic windows to take advantage of the hotel’s views over Lake Windermere. By this time the restaurant had 60 covers and was proving popular with locals as well as visiting tourists.
In 2004, Fayrer Garden was purchased by Wildsmith Hotels. The family-owned hotel group at the time consisted of only one property, Hipping Hall in Kirkby Lonsdale, so the acquisition of the now 26-bedroom Fayrer Garden was a significant sign of expansion for the brand.
Investment continued, with a terrace extension given the go ahead and the field being re-turfed to improve standards within the grounds. In 2011, there was also the planting of more than 20 native Westmorland damson and apple trees at the bottom of the field that the hotel stands in.
Changing its name to The Ryebeck and working to breathe a new lease of life into the beautiful property, Wildsmith Hotels has maintained its renovating momentum and the last two years has seen the hotel go through a number of upgrades and refurbishments.
Speaking to Boutique Hotelier, Nicola Tickle, general manager says: “The Ryebeck is the culmination of two years hard work, transforming Fayrer Garden House Hotel from what had become perhaps a little tired into something more modern and contemporary. These changes include a new restaurant, a lounge, freshly landscaped gardens and an ongoing schedule of bedroom renovation. The Ryebeck embodies the upgrades we have made to this wonderful country house and we hope that is carries us long into the future.”
Tickle explains that the evaluation process is constantly ongoing amongst the team at The Ryebeck, as Wildsmith is always seeking new ways to improve and evolve.
“We are always looking for the next thing to upgrade,” she says, “as once we finish the bedrooms it will no doubt be time to start revamping the downstairs area again!
“2014 saw the renovation of the downstairs communal areas, whilst 2015 has seen the ongoing refurbishment of our bedrooms. Seven bedrooms have been completely renovated, including bathrooms by Purely Simply Bathrooms in Lancaster and Pure Stone in Kendal. The remaining rooms will be renovated in January 2016, which will include more structural work to bring many of our smaller bedrooms up to a much higher standard.
“January will also see the complete refurbishment of the kitchen, including an open pass and installation of state of the art equipment.”
The Lake District is one area in the UK that is hugely populated with hospitality establishments. From old fashioned chintzy b&bs to the more modern sleek boutiques, the choice can often be overwhelming for visitors. So does being part of Wildsmith give The Ryebeck an advantage and what does the country boutique promise to customers that others don’t? The location for one is definitely its USP and the design of the building helps to highlight this. The complementary structure combined with a laid-back service offering has enabled The Ryebeck to build up a loyal customer base in just two years.
Tickle continues: “We find that by providing our high standard of service, with friendly informality we have built up a very loyal customer base and whilst the Lakes is such a busy and competitive area to run a business, it also means we constantly see new people who’ve never been to the area.”
Seasonality is a hurdle for all businesses in the Lakes, not just the hotels, but, as Tickle reveals, it’s a chance for the hotel to work on its own direct marketing and target guests in more innovative ways.
“We are affected by the weather and seasons,” she says, “with summer always being the busiest time of year for us. The off seasons are increasingly busy though, with many people now savvy to online deals and our own direct offers. As a result, we are much busier this year than last year, with many people now booking direct with the hotel.”
Since The Ryebeck’s acquisition two years ago, it seems the only way is up for this 26-bedroom Lake District gem. With the addition of a new head chef earlier this year and with new redevelopment ideas on the cards, 2016 is already gearing up to be a busy one.
Tickle concludes: “Our plan for now is to keep developing The Ryebeck, to further develop our accommodation offering and continue to build on the reputation of our restaurant and gain further accolades for the quality of our dining experience.”