When Angela and Alan Harper found Palé Hall, they were looking for a home rather than a property for a hotel business. Just two years on and £5m later and the country house boutique has an AA five-star rating, a 3 AA Rosette restaurant and has established itself as a true great in the industry.
It was an ambitious project even for the most experienced hotel owners, but for market entrants with virtually no experience in the industry, headteacher Angela and Alan, former managing director of Vodafone Ltd and founder of Eaton Towers telecom tower company, it was a behemoth of a task to tackle.
They acquired the Grade-II listed building in Wales in September 2015 and spent the next 12 months restoring the property into a beautiful boutique, opening PaléHall for business on September 1 2016. A completely new kitchen was one of the main expenses and the Harpers also invested in a new turbine for an old hydroelectric plant nearby, with sustainability an important factor for the business going forward.
The Harpers managed to net general manager Pim Wolfs, formerly from Le Manoir, while head chef Gareth Stevenson used to be in charge of Abode’s kitchen and formerly worked with both Michael Caines and Gordon Ramsay. Michael Caines MBE is also a key driving force for the property’s F&B operations.
Despite calling the hotel their ‘retirement project’, the Harpers are still fiercely ambitious and want to be established as one of the front runners in hospitality. “In five years’ time I’d like us to be mentioned alongside some of the true greats,” Angela said.