LOCKDOWN DIARIES: Upgrades, investments and innovation at Glenapp, Retreats Group and Nine Jars



Glenapp Castle is to introduce an exciting new addition to its offering this spring, in the form of a new luxury penthouse apartment atop the historic hotel. The Endeavour will aim to open in March and has been a vision of owner Paul Szkiler since he acquired the building in 2015. Boasting more than 4,500 sq ft, the penthouse will comprise four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a lounge with dining room for up to 16 guests, a TV snug with seating for 12, sauna, library, a games room, a private lift and a personal treatment room. It also has its own kitchen dining room.

Speaking to BH, Glenapp’s managing director Jill Chalmers says: “We have a lot going on at Glenapp currently. Despite the closure we are continuing with our plans to open the Penthouse Apartment as soon as we can and also have started the development and investment into a new restaurant and bar facility within our walled garden, utilising the Victorian Moncur and MacKenzie Glasshouse and original potting sheds, for this new offering. We are hopeful that will be ready by this spring.

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“We’ve also got our usual upgrading of all bedrooms and public areas which happens in January and we will continue with this, so we are fully prepared and raring to go when we are allowed to re-open again.

“Then operationally we will be revisiting and upgrading our cocktail / drinks lists, creating new event menus, and continuing to focus on our staff by carrying out training.”

Retreats Group

Retreats Group comprises three properties in Wales – Twr Y Felin, Roch Castle and Penrhiw Priory and is headed up by group general manager Paula Ellis.

The team is utilising this lockdown to focus on ongoing upgrades, new developments and keeping staff morale high.

Speaking to BH, Paula Ellis says: “Since closure in December and with the continuation of closure likely to be until spring 2021, at Retreats Group, we have been and will continue to utilise the time with the following: Competing final stages of extra 20 bedrooms at Twr y Felin ready for opening spring 2021 and developing an alfresco dining area outside Cornel Bar at Twr y Felin Hotel.

“We’ll also be developing a large bar area in Oriel Lounge ready for the extra 40 guest capacity from spring 2021 at Twr y Felin Hotel.

“As custodians of three of Wales’ most culturally important and historic buildings, it has been an ideal opportunity for us to invest in intensive reactive and most importantly proactive maintence, especially at 12th century Roch Castle and 19th century Penrhiw Priory.

“We have developed Penrhiw Priory as a Wellness and Nature Retreat, ready to launch Wellness, Dark Skies, Nature and Foraging Breaks from spring 2021.

“We have utilised the time to reinvent our websites. Twr y Felin Hotel and Blas Restaurant are already complete. Penrhiw Priory and Roch Castle to be completed by spring 2021.

“We have kept in touch with our loyal and regular guests on an individual basis via telephone calls and emails, as well as through social media.

“With our team we holding virtual team training and development sessions, as well as social Zoom evenings from quiz nights to mocktail nights and thank you presentations.

“In addition, I send weekly emails to all the Retreats Group Family and place 1 2 1 calls to each family member on a rotation basis, focusing on their mental health and wellbeing.”

Nine Jars

Nine Jars is a family run restaurant with rooms in Suffolk. The business has pivoted to provide accommodation for key workers, whilst also putting its efforts into its new artisan store and takeaway business.

Speaking to BH, James Pilley, owner and chef, says: “We are currently, like everyone else in this industry, sitting in our empty restaurant, below our eight bedroom boutique hotel. 

“Although this pandemic has brought with it many hurdles and set backs, it has also provided us with new opportunities to explore our business model, adapt it and really find our place in the market. Being close to both Addenbrooks hospital in Cambridge and West Suffolk hospital in Bury St Edmunds we have had a small amount of Key Workers staying with us throughout the numerous lockdowns but for the most part, our bookings disappeared as people worked from home, as our main guest base are working professionals. So we have had to adapt!

“Now in lockdown number three, we are operating as a hotel for Key Workers, providing contactless check-in and check-out to minimise contact, which is vital for these workers. We have set up an online ordering system for guests to enjoy our delicious food as a room service option and are providing a packed continental breakfast for them to eat at their leisure in the morning. 

“In terms of our restaurant we have now set up an online Artisan Store, from which customers can buy an array of local produce, essential items and craft drinks. We have a takeaway business, taking orders from our bespoke app and allowing us to deliver our food to our loyal customers. We have involved ourselves in and been advocates for community projects and schemes to support those who need it, including providing over 50 free meals to venerable children in half term. Along with that we have been able to redevelop our venue making our outside area an all year round extension of our restaurant, complete with fire pit tables, blankets and hot water bottles.

“A simple positive we have found is it has really given us the time to assess our business model and make the changes we would never have done to make Nine Jars a unique family run company with a concept that makes us stand out in the local area.”

To read the other Lockdown Diaries series, click HERE and HERE and HERE

Tags : Glenapp CastleLockdown diariesnine JarsRetreats Group
Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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