The National Tourism Awards
Showcasing the very best of Wales' tourism industry. Luxurious hotels, cosy B&Bs, campsites and attractions they all had the same things in common – great quality, a warm welcome and a truly professional approach to looking after visitors.
Best Place to Stay (Serviced - Large)
The Grove, Narberth, Pembrokeshire by Visit Wales
This bolt-hole for Hollywood’s finest had been open for barely two years when it won the Best Place to Stay award. Co-owner Neil says: “It’s all about quality. It’s not worth being here if we’re not improving all the time". In the heart of Pembrokeshire, The Grove is a refined and leading small luxury hotel. 20 intimate rooms overlook the Preseli Mountains.
Best Place to Stay (Serviced – Small)
Ffynnon Townhouse, Dolgellau, Snowdonia by Visit Wales
At the foot of Cader Idris in Snowdonia National Park, the lavish Fynnon has helped to put Dolgellau on the map. The owner, Debra Harris says: "Our offer is a careful balance between grand gothic building and comfort, attention to detail and relaxation". The perfect spot to rest tired feet after a day on the mountain.
Within striking distance of the beaches of the Llŷn Peninsula, Yr Helyg is a serene campsite where you won't wake up in the morning to find a tent erected by your door. For this reason, couples and small families love The Willows, set above the resort of Abersoch in North Wales.
Co-owner Anna James says: “Early on we decided to refuse group bookings. We’re in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and it was important that the ambience was right". Pre-erected tents, lawns "like bowling greens" and extras like a digital freeview TV link and WiFi hotspot add to the apeal.
In North Pembrokeshire on the borders of Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion are fifteen very family-friendly cottages with stunning views over meadows, hills and woodlands. A particular favourite with young visitors are the Davies’ collection of animals. They have sheep, chickens, pigs and ponies and Noah and Nellie the donkeys.
“We have children who come here that are frightened of the animals when they first get here and by the end of the week they can’t bear to say goodbye" says co-owner Jacqui Davies. "With three young children of our own we know what parents want from a family holiday but they do also want the power showers, the comfy sofas and the flat screen TVs and the rest,” says her partner, Dewi Davies.
Best Place to Stay (Non-serviced – Small)
Tintern Abbey Cottage, Wye Valley by Visit Wales
Set in a conservation area in the Wye Valley, Abbey Cottage is a 250 year old slate and stone residence, with views over the abbey itself and a bright and cosy, modern interior. An award-winning vineyard within walking distance and not one but two Michelin-starred restaurants in the area play a part in attracting guests here.
Cowbridge Food & Drink Festival, Vale of Glamorgan by Visit Wales
Started as a one-off, the Cowbridge Food and Drink Festival quickly became a firm fixture in the town’s calendar. This market town in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan is surrounded by countryside and coastline, and its festival celebrates its diverse high street and local independent businesses. It has grown from a one day event to a whole weekend welcoming 15,000 people.
"Key for us is that the Festival helps us maintain our identity. Cowbridge is vibrant and dynamic and we want to keep its heart and soul. It’s important that the festival reflects our town" says festival chairman John Davies.
Hay Festival, Powys, Mid Wales by Paul
This small Powys town has a big international reputation. Bill Clinton described Hay's literature and arts festival as the "Woodstock of the mind." Festival founder, Peter Florence says: "The festival’s location undoubtedly plays a part in its success. We take it slightly for granted because we live here but this incredible landscape is the most amazing context you could hope for. The town has this amazing heritage of hippy hedonism that appeals to people. I think everyone has a bit of Hay in them.”
Best Family Day Out Award
Bright, busy and packed with fun, Folly Farm is one of the best attractions in South Wales. Kids will find plenty to excite them, with unusual and exotic animals, a farmyard, playgrounds and lots of rides. Just outside Tenby, the farm has six different activity zones, both indoors and outdoors, which should be enough to exhaust even the bounciest of children. With vintage fairground rides and outdoor adventure parks, it will be hard to tear them away.
Best New Business Award
Afan Lodge, Port Talbot near Swansea by Visit Wales
Richard Davies opened adventure activity accommodation Afan Lodge in January 2009 with wife Louise. It stands in a fantastic setting; the Afan Valley is nicknamed Little Switzerland because of its striking forest scenery. Richard says: "Because of my interest in racing and biking, I wanted to find a way of making that way of life into a business. We knew a business opportunity was here in the Afan Valley. The former miners’ institute had been closed for some time but it has so much character and history – we built the building around it."
Hilton hotel, Cardiff by Visit Wales
Lisa Medhurst believes the outstanding customer service achieved at The Hilton in Cardiff has the X Factor – it begins with each individual member of staff. “We decided right at the beginning that when we recruited, personality would be our absolute priority,” says Lisa, part of the Hilton team since 1999. “We want to inject personality into the experience our guests have with us, so they go away thinking our hotel, Cardiff and Wales are fantastic – and they want to return.”
International White Water, Cardiff by Visit Wales
You don’t need to know the difference between hydrospeed and hotdogging to get through the door at Cardiff International White Water, though it helps. Most newcomers to the centre opt for the slightly more gentle option of taking a whiteknuckle ride down the first on-demand whitewater course ever built in the UK on an inflatable raft with five companions. It is a memorable experience that just about guarantees an adrenaline high.
Centre Manager Chris Hadfield says the course is a pleasure to run because it is so flexible, “I can turn the water up or down and make changes to the design of the course so it’s suitable for eight-year-olds to go rafting or for highly-skilled kayakers to train” he says.
The multi award-winning Call of the Wild promises activity breaks and business tourism in a stunning location. Aiming to become carbon neutral and putting local staff at the heart of everything it does, the company blends authentic adventures with male voice choir recitals and trips to the Senedd for a unique experience.
Getting to know the neighbours better has paid off for West Wales’ tourism associations. “The nice thing is that the businesses that allow members to go and visit them are so open,” says Nia Ball, Manager at Carmarthenshire Tourist Association (CTA). “They don’t worry about competitors seeing what they’re doing, they’re ready to share information. “That attitude helps everyone do things better, which is important because the better the tourism offer we have in the region the more people are going to come here. It benefits everybody."
Big Pit National Coal Museum in Blaenavon, South Wales Valleys by Visit Wales
This former working mine on the moors of Blaenavon is part of an industrial landscape designated a World Heritage Site in 2000. Big Pit could be a collection of dead coal mining buildings, says communications officer Kathryn Stowers, but every effort has been made to hold onto the energy of the people who once worked in them.
The sounds of a working colliery are played into the exhibition areas. “For example, you can hear the men showering,” says Kathryn. “You hear them talking about what they’re going to do ‘tonight’ and at one point one of the boy’s starts to sing ‘Delilah’. It’s very atmospheric.” However, for most visitors the highlight of the Big Pit experience comes when they put on helmet, cap lamp and battery and take the trip 300 feet (90m) down the shaft to explore conditions underground with an ex-miner guide. It is a powerful experience.
Outstanding Contribution to Tourism
This bunkhouse has views over miles of unspoilt mountainside, from the Sugarloaf to the central Brecon Beacons and down the Usk valley. The barn conversion was carried out to a very high environmental standard. The building is well insulated and has a heat recovery system, which takes heat out of damp air that’s extracted from the barn’s interior and uses it to warm dry air coming in. Wern Watkin has a ground source heat pump, which provides free carbon neutral warmth all year round. Together the technologies make the building very energy efficient and, says owner Andrew Fryer, “the 30-bed barn’s energy bill is lower than that of the Fryer family house, which is home to only five people."
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