Visit Devon Award Winners 2014-15 announced

298mThe Devon Tourism Awards celebrated Devon’s finest establishments from all four corners of the county at the 5th annual Visit Devon Awards, hosted by Radio Devon’s Judi Spiers, on Wednesday 19th November.

Held at the brand-new ‘Palazzo’ at Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club near South Molton – the first glittering ceremony to be held at this new events venue – the Visit Devon Awards, now featuring 18 award categories, celebrated the strength of Devon’s tourism offer as a county, as well as the strength of the competition entrants and winners.

Speaking at the ceremony, Carolyn Custerson, Chair of Visit Devon, said: “2014 got off to a very challenging start, with extreme weather and worldwide media coverage around the Dawlish Railway line closure impacting both visits during the early part of the year, and bookings for later on in the year. The cost to Devon tourism was £37.7 million but the industry as a whole responded positively and the later good weather stimulated increased visitor numbers, contributing £24.9 million, and in so doing reducing the negative impact to £12.7 million.

Devon tourism is strong. This was shown in our success this year in the Visit England Tourism Awards, with 7 national winners, more than any other county, and no more so than at this years Visit Devon Awards. It is this success, that we should all focus on and this year’s finalists should feel very proud.”

All Visit Devon winners go through a three-stage judging process, including assessment of their websites and entry forms, mystery visits and a final independent judging panel.

Awards organiser Robin Barker said: “This has been a fabulous and competitive year, with judges poring over reports and recommendations for many hours.  It is a testament to Devon that we’ve seen so many entrants and such close scoring.  Well done to them all.

Stuart Devlin of headline sponsors e-Strategy added: “We’re delighted to see the continuing expansion and quality of the Devon Tourism Awards, and especially how businesses are embracing and keeping on top of the non-stop changes in digital marketing.  Many congratulations to all winners.”

The outstanding winner of the night was the Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton, receiving the WINNER OF WINNERS AWARD. There are no fixed criteria for this award, but this year’s panel had no hesitation in deciding the gallery is a leader in its field and a role model to the tourism industry as a whole. A fitting tribute to their efforts, the gallery was chosen by Aardman Animations to be the venue for a recent exhibition because it was the most accessible they could find in Devon.

Other outstanding achievements include the OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM Award which this year has been awarded to Rick Turner of The Big Sheep and Purple Cloud Consultancy. As ‘Leader of the Flock’ at the Big Sheep in North Devon, he has taken this award-winning attraction ahead through leaps and bounds. Outside his own business he has contributed for many years to tourism in the South West, sometimes through very difficult times such as in spring 2014, when Devon needed help following the winter storms, Rick was there, on stage, helping in the all-important Devon Recovery Campaign.

WINNER OF WINNERS AWARD
Sponsored by First Great Western, www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk
Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton www.thelmahulbert.com

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM AWARD
Sponsored by e-Strategy  www.e-strategy.net
Rick Turner, The Big Sheep, Welcome to Excellence & Purple Cloud Consultancy

CAMPING AND CARAVANNING HOLIDAY PARK OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Stephens Scown Solicitors www.stephens-scown.co.uk

Gold Award
Hele Valley Holiday Park, Ilfracombe www.helevalley.co.uk
A well-manicured tranquil park that has clearly been developed and maintained over many years to make it a great park
Judges’ Comments A lovely, tranquil, genuine park that has clearly seen real dedication from its owners and managers.”

Silver Award
River Dart County Park, Ashburton www.riverdart.co.uk
“Great campsite with loads of space and things to do.”

Bronze Award
Devon’s Crealy Meadows, Clyst St Mary www.crealy.co.uk/Devon
A great concept for family camping with activities next door, a great focus on sustainability and quality”

Commended
Appledore Park, Okehampton  www.appledorepark.co.uk

B & B AND GUEST ACCOMMODATION OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Nicholson’s, www.nicholsonssw.co.uk

Gold Award
The Elmdene, Torquay www.elmdenehotel.co.uk
Judges’ Comments “Absolutely top notch condition, the quality of furniture & fittings is outstanding.”

Silver Award
The Minadab Cottage, Teignmouth www.minadab.co.uk
“Initial impressions of the building are stunning,the real deal chocolate box English cottage.”

Bronze Award
Cary Arms, Babbacombe www.caryarm.co.uk
A stunning residents’ lounge area, great views through arched 1920’s windows over the bay.”

TOURIST INFORMATION SERVICE OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Tourist Network, www.touristnetwork.co.uk

Gold Award
National Park Visitor Centres, Princetown, Postbridge and Haytor www.dartmoor.gov.uk
Judges’ Comments “The call ended with my feeling that I really want to go Dartmoor and experience its magic.  I talked to an excellent ambassador”

Silver Award
English Riviera Tourism Company, Torquay www.englishriviera.co.uk
“Excellent customer service, could not be faulted. Friendly, not overwhelming, informative, smiling and gentle.  Very smart and professional”

Bronze Award
Tiverton Tourist Information Service, Tiverton www.exploretiverton.co.uk
“This is a small, clean and enticing TIC, the person I talked is clearly passionate about her town and its surroundings”

DOG FRIENDLY ACCOMMODATION OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Doggy Devon, www.doggydevon.co.uk

Gold Award
Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club, Umberleigh www.highbullen.co.uk
Judges’ Comments “Staying at Highbullen was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The room was fantastic with superb extras for my two dogs, and the facilities mean that two legged visitors have a lot to keep them happy.” 

Silver Award
Whitehill Country Park, Paignton www.whitehill-park.co.uk
“The site is in the early stages of welcoming dogs, they have been encouraged by their first foray in to furry holidays. The effort that has gone into welcoming dogs is indicative of the commitment and effort of the staff”

VENUE AND BUSINESS TOURISM AWARD
Sponsored by EaseBuild, www.ease-ds.com

Gold Award
Deer Park Country House Hotel, Honiton www.weddingvenueindevon.co.uk
A lovely driveway and cheeky signage, the property looks good when it comes into view. A professional greeting and a great vista over the lawns, it’s brimming with ideas and entertainment, so much is new it’s impossible to list.
Judges’ Comments“Everywhere is well manicured and clean, all staff had a professional appearance and demeanour”

Silver Award
The Horn of Plenty, Gulworthy www.thehornofplenty.co.uk
“A lovely looking property as you approach. Superb views over the valley with a romantic feel.”

Bronze Award
National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth www.national-acquarium.co.uk
“The balcony has stunning views over the marina and Sound and the backdrop of fish tanks is great for an unusual event”

SMALL VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Onshore, www.weareonshore.com

Gold Award
Stuart Line Cruises, Exmouth www.stuartlinecruises.co.uk
Judges’ Comments
“Nothing was too much trouble for the crew and they all added extra value to the trip by the effort they put in to making it as enjoyable as possible, and their politeness to the customers”

Silver Award
Plymouth Gin
“It was our guide who made it. Passionate, friendly and obviously thoroughly enjoyed her job. Extremely knowledge and informative, very friendly and pleasant.”

ACCESS & INCLUSIVITY AWARD
Sponsored by Purple Cloud Consultancy, www.purplecloudconsultancy.co.uk

Joint Gold Award
Countryside Mobility South West, www.countrysidemobility.org
Judges’ Comments “Many of the users at this site are regulars; indicative that the services on offer are appreciated…”

Joint Gold Award
Thelma Hulbert Gallery, Honiton www.thelmahulbert.com
Thelma Hulbert Gallery is providing access across a wide range of needs, but deserves special mention for its focus on access for some groups that are often overlooked, for example those with dementia.
Judges’ Comments “A beautiful building in an accessible garden setting, with great access”

Silver Award
Stover County Park & Local Nature Reserve, Newton Abbott www.devon.gov.uk/stover_country_park
“Good links with local schools and groups such as Dove project and Otterhayes trust (learning disabilities) ”

TASTE OF DEVON AWARD
Sponsored by Posh Nosh, www.posh-nosh.co.uk

Gold Award
Northcote Manor Country House Hotel, Umberleigh www.northcotemanor.co.uk
Judges’ Comments
“All dishes were well balanced and well described. There was a comprehensive list of the hotel’s suppliers in the menu, and it was noticeably very local. The presentation of the food was first class for all courses, as was the temperature of the dishes”

Silver Award
The Horn of Plenty, Gulsworth www.thehornofplenty.co.uk
“Excellent dining experience in the elegant yet relaxed restaurant where diners can enjoy amazing views while receiving attentive service.  The varied menu offers a wide choice of interesting dishes, all created with locally sourced foods and complemented by a good selection of wines”

Bronze Award
Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club, Umberleigh www.highbullen.co.uk
“The Devon View menu was imaginative and had dishes and combinations of flavours etc that I had not encountered before. The execution of the dishes was superb and the presentation exciting and dramatic”

Commended
Moorland Garden Hotel, Yelverton  www.moorlandgardenhotel.co.uk
Riverford Field Kitchen, Buckfastleigh  www.riverford.co.uk/restaurant

TOURISM ACTIVITY, SPORT AND EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Brewer & Bunney, www.brewerandbunney.co.uk

Gold Award
Reach Outdoors, Paignton www.reach-outoors.com
Judges’ Comments “Excellent staff – very friendly and made the activity very enjoyable and fun.  We fully enjoyed the activity from start to finish”

Silver Award
Go Ape Haldon, Haldon Forest Park www.goape.co.uk
“Excellent enjoyable activity. The staff were superb and made the activity, I would definitely recommend it to others”

Joint Bronze Award
Le Vignoble, Plymouth www.levignoble.co.uk
“You walk through the door and any stereotype of a wine merchant/establishment is swept aside. Bright, vibrant, a refreshing way to experience wine” 

Joint Bronze Award
Rock and Rapid Adventures, South Molton www.rockandrapidadventures.co.uk
“An oasis of green and calm, enthusiasm is much in evidence here in a laid back, unhurried environment

OUTSTANDING CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD
Sponsored by Source for Business, www.sourceforbusiness.co.uk

Gold Award
Matthew Bottoms from Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh www.pennywellfarm.co.uk         

HOLIDAY VILLAGE AND RESORT OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Hoseasons, www.hoseasons.co.uk

Gold Award
Cofton Country Holidays, Dawlish www.coftonholidays.co.uk
A lovely rural setting surrounded by woods, fields and a lake and showing real commitment to its location, customers and year-on- year improvements.
Judges’ Comments “Everything we saw looked fresh, in tip top condition – superb.  The owners’ ambition for excellence shines through in all areas.”

Joint Silver Award
Beverley Holidays, Paignton www.beverley-holidays.co.uk
A lovely mature, well maintained park that continues to impress”

Joint Silver Award
Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, Exmouth www.haven.com/devoncliffs
Cleanliness of site, scale, branding, signage, activities all come together to give the impression of a top site.”

LARGE VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by App for Devon with Westward Marketing  www.appfordevon.com

Gold Award
World of Country Life, Exmouth www.worldofcountrylife.co.uk
Judges’ Comments “A real “wow” factor in the form of the range and quality of its exhibits and installations – I would say an unexpected delight for the family visitor”

Silver Award
The Big Sheep, Bideford www.thebigsheep.co.uk
“Great efforts are made to engage the visitor and provide a very enjoyable experience, there is much of quality on offer with installations, rides and activities”

Joint Bronze Award
National Trust – Coleton Fishacre, Kingswear www.nationaltrust.org.uk/coleton-fishacre
The property is blessed with a fabulous setting which the garden takes full advantage of; the house and its contents are most interesting and impressive”

Joint Bronze Award
South Devon Railway, Buckfastleigh www.southdevonrailway.co.uk
“The journey provides an evocative experience and lives up to expectations not least as the staff are very professional and enthusiastic and add to the experience and enjoyment of the visit and journey.”

SELF CATERING HOLIDAY PROVIDER OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Pavey Group, www.paveygroup.co.uk
Gold Award
Millbrook Cottages, High Bickington www.millbrookcottages.co.uk
Millbrook Cottages is a boutique award winning, luxury, romantic location with 4 luxury holiday properties.  It offers a fantastic array of wildlife, walks (through woods, wild flower fields and around the countryside), a private hot tub in the woods, BBQ hut, fishing, all with a luxury and eco friendly ethos.
Judges’ Comments “The reality of Millbrook far exceeds what it offers in advance.  Accommodation is immaculate with a lot of thought to the design and style of each property, without compromise”

Silver Award
North Hayne Farm Cottages, South Molton www.northhaynefarmcottages.co.uk
“The commitment to customer service is exceptional, with a passion to provide great hospitality – they are great hosts”

Bronze Award
Devon Retreat, Seaton www.devonretreatcom
The impression is one of the team being there for the guests as needed, but not “in the face” of the guests.  Being discrete whilst being around to make sure the guests are catered for properly”

TOURISM PUB OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Accounting & General, www.accountingandgeneral.co.uk

Gold Award
The Millbrook Inn, Kingsbridge
Judges’ Comments “It could be a drinkers’ pub with good quality local beers, but it is so much more, once you experience the unique menu that is the essence of creations from the local land.”

Silver Award
The Five Bells, Clyst Hydon www.fivebells.uk.com
An enchanting pub dining location, with a quality element of charm and professionalism. Immensely professional, quality service, all were extremely attentive, personable and knowledgeable. 

Joint Bronze Award
The NoBody Inn, Doddiscombsleigh www.nobodyinn.co.uk
“An extremely well run country pub. It has a classic feel about it, with a quality menu. It appeals to the mass market with added quality, sustainability and a sense of knowing it is good food at the right price”

Joint Bronze Award
The Swan, Bampton www.theswan.co.uk
“It is a pub that offers great value, wonderful ambience, and an amazing offering. Also a wonderful menu with a great twist of exclusivity.”

SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AWARD
Sponsored by Westcountry Fruit Sales, www.thegreengrocery.co.uk

Gold Award
Wheatland Farm Eco Lodges, Winkleigh www.wheatlandfarm.co.uk
Judges’ Comments “Very impressive, the knowledge of owners and their interaction with guests is a big factor. Guests left feeling they have helped to protect and enhance nature.”

Joint Silver Award
Pennywell Farm, Buckfastleigh www.pennywellfarm.co.uk
“Pennywell has long been a pioneer of sustainability and the infectious enthusiasm for sharing and inspiring visitors, young and old, about the rural environment shows no sign of waning”

Joint Silver Award
Devon Cliffs Holiday Park, Exmouth www.haven.com/devoncliffs
“The business is extremely active in supporting initiatives in the local community and provides a very good selection of opportunities for guests to appreciate the best of the outdoor environment.”

Commended
Devon Retreat, Seaton/Beer  www.devonretreat.com
National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth  www.national-aquarium.co.uk

SMALL HOTEL OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Clockwork Hospitality, www.clockworkhospitality.co.uk

Gold Award
The Horn of Plenty, Gulworthy www.thehornofplenty.co.uk
A very different country house hotel set in a stunning location overlooking the Tamar Valley which has been tastefully developed and extended to a high standard. The food and service are exceptionally good.
Judges’ Comments “The customer service was in general very good, discrete, but attentive and the food was beautifully presented”

Silver Award
Royal Castle Hotel, Dartmouth www.royalcastle.co.uk
“Hotel has a great position overlooking the harbour in the centre of town. The exterior and interior are iconic and the hotel has a great atmosphere.”

Joint Bronze Award
South Sands Hotel, Salcombe www.southsands.com
“The location right on the beach has real impact and offers great views. Relaxed and relaxing atmosphere with really attentive and friendly staff.”

Joint Bronze Award
Watersmeet Hotel, Woolacombe www.watersmeethotel.co.uk
“A delightful hotel set in a fabulous coastal location, offering high standards of service.”

Commended
Buckland Tout-Saints Hotel, Kingsbridge  www.tout-saints.co.uk
Langdon Court Hotel & Restaurant, Plymouth  www.langdoncourt.com
Northcote Manor Country House Hotel, Umberleigh  www.northcotemanor.co.uk

TOURISM EVENT OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Exeter International Airport, www.exeter-airport.co.uk
Gold Award
The Contemporary Craft Festival, Bovey Tracy www.craftsatboveytracey.co.uk
Judges’ Comments “A wonderful event, which provides the perfect reason to visit and discover, not only the festival, but South Devon as a whole.”

Silver Award
Exeter Festival of South West Food & Drink, www.exeterfoodanddrinkfestival.co.uk
“The Festival really brings the city of Exeter and the South West community together, in particular the Festival Ambassadors who make a huge contribution to the success of this event”

Bronze Award
Plymouth Pirate Weekend, Plymouth www.visitplymouth.co.uk
“Lots to do for Pirates young and old, a fantastic day out for all the family”

LARGE HOTEL OF THE YEAR
Sponsored by Hotel Perfect, www.hotelperfect.co.uk
Gold Award
Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club, Umberleigh www.highbullen.co.uk
Judges’ Comments The service was spot on, it is a real joy to encounter staff who are so well trained and engaged in what they do”

Silver Award
The Magdalen Chapter, Exeter www.themagdalenchapter.com
“An impressive hotel, with many notable features. Standards of accommodation are high, and staff were found to be very well motivated and obliging throughout the stay.”

Bronze Award
Lincombe Hall Hotel, Torquay www.lincombehallhotel.co.uk
“High standards of housekeeping and maintenance evident throughout. Staff were found to be well motivated, the hotel has been transformed by the current owners since taking over 5 years ago.”