Posted on Leave a comment

Winners of the North East England Tourism Awards announced

Businesses across the North East were revealed as winners of this year’s North East England Tourism Awards at a virtual event today (Thursday 23 April 2020). The quality and diversity of the tourism industry were celebrated as the region comes together to support the industry in these challenging times.

During the online event, judges for each category outlined the strengths of the winning applications. At a difficult time for the industry, businesses from across the region were celebrated for their amazing contribution to the North East tourism offer.  

Sage Gateshead and Falconry Days were both double winners, with Maldron Hotel Newcastle taking home the New Tourism Business Award – one of three new categories introduced for the 2020 awards alongside Experience of the Year and the International Tourism Award. 

The full list of Gold winners: 

  • Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award – Sage Gateshead
  • B&B and Guest House of the Year – St Cuthbert’s House
  • Business Events Venue of the Year – Sage Gateshead
  • Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year – Seafield Caravan Park
  • Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award – South Tynedale Railway
  • Experience of the Year – CBK’s Adventure Co.
  • Large Hotel of the Year – Matfen Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa
  • Small Hotel of the Year – Seaham Hall
  • International Tourism Award – Falconry Days
  • New Tourism Business Award – Maldron Hotel Newcastle
  • Pub of the Year – The Apple Inn
  • Self-Catering Accommodation Provider of the Year – St Oswald’s Farm
  • Taste of North East England Award – Dobson & Parnell
  • Large Visitor Attraction of the Year – Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
  • Small Visitor Attraction of the Year – Falconry Days

Sarah Green, Chief Executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, who organise the awards, said: “A huge congratulations to this year’s winners and all those who continue to contribute so much to the North East tourism sector. Covid-19 is having a devastating impact on the sector but these awards demonstrate the quality of the North East tourism offer and give us confidence that once the current situation eases the region will be in a strong place to benefit from a predicted upturn in domestic and day tourism.

“Along with our colleagues in tourism organisations across the North East, we will continue to invest in marketing, with a strong digital and media presence, to ensure that tourists are aware of our fantastic region and have us front of mind when planning for future visits.”

The North East England Tourism Awards were once again sponsored by Newcastle College and Bidfood.

The format of the awards was tweaked this year so that they now align more closely with the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence and reflect innovations across the industry. Eligible winners of the North East England Tourism Awards will be automatically put forward to the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020.

Each of the shortlisted businesses went through a thorough judging process, focused on experiencing their offer first-hand. As well as being evaluated by a judging panel made up of industry experts, planned visits by judges or ‘mystery shoppers’ helped to inform the final decisions.

NewcastleGateshead Initiative has worked alongside Northern Tourism Alliance members and other partners to deliver the awards in 2020. The Northern Tourism Alliance is a collaboration of the region’s tourism bodies who work together on projects that will benefit the tourism industry across the region. The North East England Tourism Awards are supported by Northumberland Tourism, Northumberland County Council, Visit County Durham, South Tyneside Council and North Tyneside Council.

Ends

Full list of winners:

Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award

Gold – Sage Gateshead
Silver – Go North East
Bronze – South Tynedale Railway

B&B and Guest House of the Year

Gold – St Cuthbert’s House
Silver – Millstone House Bed and Breakfast
Bronze – Market Cross Guest House
Highly commended – Layside Bed and Breakfast
Highly commended – St Valery Boutique and Breakfast 

Business Events Venue of the Year

Gold – Sage Gateshead
Silver – Newcastle City Council Civic Centre Banqueting
Bronze – Event Durham, Durham University
Highly commended – The Biscuit Factory
Highly commended – Northumbria University – Venues at Northumbria

Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year

Gold – Seafield Caravan Park
Silver – Hesleyside Huts
Bronze – Westfield House Farm Shepherd’s Huts
Highly commended – Herding Hill Farm Touring, Camping and Glamping Site

Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award

Gold – South Tynedale Railway
Silver – Battlesteads
Bronze – Sage Gateshead
Highly commended – Westfield House Farm
Highly commended – St Cuthbert’s House

Experience of the Year

Gold – CBK’s Adventure Co.
Silver – Footsteps in Northumberland
Bronze – The Alnwick Garden
Highly commended – Falconry Days 

Large Hotel of the Year

Gold – Matfen Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa
Silver – Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa
Bronze – The Vermont Hotel
Highly commended – Doxford Hall Hotel

Small Hotel of the Year

Gold – Seaham Hall
Silver – Walwick Hall
Bronze – Lord Crewe Arms
Highly commended – Battlesteads
Highly commended – Wynyard Hall

International Tourism Award

Gold – Falconry Days
Silver – Event Durham, Durham University

New Tourism Business Award

Gold – Maldron Hotel Newcastle
Silver – The Amble Inn
Bronze – Shepherds Retreats Ltd
Highly commended – STACK Newcastle
Highly commended – Spanish City

Pub of the Year

Gold – The Apple Inn
Silver – The Angel of Corbridge
Bronze – Twice Brewed Inn
Highly commended – The Botanist Newcastle

Self-Catering Accommodation Provider of the Year

Gold – St Oswald’s Farm
Silver – Mains Cottages
Bronze – Brunton House and Cottages
Highly commended – Vindomora Country Lodges

Taste of North East England Award

Gold – Dobson & Parnell
Silver – Restaurant Hjem
Bronze – Battlesteads
Highly commended – Barrasford Arms

Large Visitor Attraction of the Year

Gold – Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Silver – The Alnwick Garden
Bronze – Bamburgh Castle
Highly commended – Beamish, The Living Museum of the North
Highly commended – Great North Museum: Hancock

Small Visitor Attraction of the Year

Gold – Falconry Days
Silver – Newham Grange Farm
Bronze – Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums – Arbeia South Shields’ Roman Fort

Posted on Leave a comment

North East England Tourism Awards winners set to be announced in virtual ceremony

Winners of the North East England Tourism Awards 2020 are set to be announced in a virtual ceremony on Thursday 23 April, 12-1pm, on the North East Tourism Awards facebook page.

We are taking an innovative approach to announcing the awards and celebrating the quality and diversity of the tourism businesses that we have here in our region. Whilst we currently can’t visit the North East’s great tourism offer, it is more important than ever that we recognise all of our outstanding businesses. Eligible winners of the awards will automatically feed into the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020, ensuring we promote the best of the region on a national stage.

Each of the shortlisted businesses has been through a thorough judging process, focused on experiencing their offer first-hand. As well as being evaluated by a judging panel made up of industry experts, planned visits by judges or ‘mystery shoppers’ helped to inform the final decisions.

Please join us on Thursday 23 April, 12-1pm, where we will be hosting a virtual awards event on our North East England Tourism Awards facebook page. Make sure you ‘like’ the page so you don’t miss any posts in the run up to the event and log in at 12 noon to watch the event unfold on the big day.

We’ll be announcing the winners in a series of short films and you’ll hear more from the judges about what makes the winning businesses so outstanding.

We would love it if you could support the awards and show the shortlisted businesses some love by engaging with the posts – comment, like, share and celebrate the fantastic tourism offering that we have here in the North East.

The awards could even be an excuse to enjoy a celebratory lunch and glass of fizz from wherever you’re watching – be that your kitchen table, sofa or socially-distanced workplace!

We hope to ‘see’ you there.

Stay safe!

The North East England Tourism Awards team at NewcastleGateshead Initiative

Posted on Leave a comment

North East England Tourism Awards event cancelled due to COVID-19

In light of increasing concerns about the impact of events and public gatherings on the spread of Covid -19, we have taken the difficult decision to cancel the planned dinner in celebration of the North East England Tourism Awards, which was due to take place on Tuesday 24 March at Newcastle Civic Centre.

This decision was taken to protect all of our guests and staff as a matter of priority.

All of the hard work judging the awards and selecting the winners (always an incredibly difficult task!) has been completed, and the winners will be announced shortly and fed into the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence. Whilst we would have loved to postpone our dinner and celebrate at a later date with all of our shortlisted businesses, we wanted to ensure that all winners are entered into the national awards in plenty of time, hence the decision to cancel and move ahead swiftly with the announcements.

Despite being unable to have a physical event, we will still be shouting about all of the fantastic entries and winners and we are currently planning how we maximise the profile and PR for all shortlisted nominees.

In the meantime, we apologise for any inconvenience caused but hope that you understand why we came to this difficult decision made in unprecedented circumstances.

The team at NGI will work with our tourism colleagues across the region to support the sector during this difficult period. We are collating intelligence daily on the impact of Covid-19 by working closely with both national and regional partners and will ensure you’re kept as up to date as we are through regular communications. Please do check our web page for regular updates.

Posted on Leave a comment

Restaurant Hjem

Restaurant Hjem

Northumberland-born Ally Thompson and her partner, Swedish chef Alex Nietosvuori opened Restaurant Hjem in Wall, Northumberland in May 2019. Ally answered a few questions ahead of the North East Tourism Awards on March 24th, 2020.

Give us a bit of background about Hjem?

Alex and I took over the running of The Hadrian Pub in Wall, Northumberland in January 2019 with plans to renovate the pub’s old ‘breakfast room’ and realise our dream.

Having both worked in some amazing restaurants across Scandinavia and in London, we knew one day we wanted to open one of our own.

We wanted to create a destination restaurant, which represents us both and Hjem (meaning ‘home’ for both of us) does that – bringing together the best Northumberland produce together with Scandinavian values and cooking techniques in a really special environment.

The opening of Restaurant Hjem – a 24-cover fine dining restaurant in May 2019 – felt like such an achievement after so much hard work!

We serve a 12-course taster menu from an open kitchen. Alex loves creating new dishes working with the amazing produce which we’re lucky enough to have on our doorstep.

Since opening, we have been genuinely delighted and a little bit blown away with the reception we’ve been given by diners, food critics and those across the North East’s burgeoning food scene.

Hjem’s inclusion in both the Good Food Guide 2020 and the Michelin Guide 2020 as well an amazing review from Marina O’Loughlin in the Sunday Times were all real highlights for us in 2019 and we’re really looking forward to what 2020 holds.

What does it mean to Hjem to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

We were thrilled to hear we’d been shortlisted for the NETA Awards. It’s lovely when all your hard work is recognised – towards the end of last year, we were given the Taste of the North East Award at the Living North Awards, and that felt great!

It’s always been our hope that people who travel from around the country to visit us at Hjem will make the most of their trip and explore more of what Northumberland the wider North East has to offer.

We feel very proud to be helping to fly the flag for the North East’s wonderful food scene, which is getting better and more exciting all the time.

What makes Hjem stand out from the crowd?

Hjem uses Northumbrian produce but cooked in a more Scandinavian style with lots of light dishes and flavours. Hjem’s food ethos is very much focused around using the ingredients and produce that can be found in the farms and gardens around Northumberland, cooked and prepared with Swedish techniques and principles.

We serve wines made with minimal intervention and with a real respect for the environment. Service is knowledgeable, warm yet professional.

We want visiting Hjem to be an experience and not just a meal out. A tasting menu is a great way to do this and allows Alex to showcase his cooking and the ingredients he is working with. It also means our guests don’t have to make too many decisions, which is always a bonus!

What is your favourite part of the North east and why?

My favourite part of the North East, apart from Hadrian’s Wall and the surrounding areas (too obvious) is the Northumberland coast, it’s such a beautiful part of the region and stretches so far.

I have wonderful childhood memories of school holidays spent in Beadnell, trips to the Farne Islands from Seahouses where my grandparents lived and a regular Sunday afternoon run around on Druridge Bay with my siblings and our dogs.

Alex also loves the coastline and loves reminding me that you can almost see Scandinavia if it’s a clear day (hmmm).

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage your clients to visit?

The hidden gem that I always recommend our guests to visit if they are heading to the city is the Ouseburn (obviously not hidden to people from the region but for those visiting the North East, it’s the last thing they are expecting!).

Lovely restaurants, traditional pubs, live music, art and craft, a city farm and Seven Stories all in one place! Great for kids and adults and a place I have fond memories of, both as a Student in the region, and now as a grown up with small children to entertain. It was one of the first places I took Alex in the city and he loved it.

I also think it is an amazing example of how much our region has changed (for the better) over the last 10 years since I have been away. It was all a bit dingy when I was a teenager and now it has got so much to offer all ages!

Posted on Leave a comment

The Amble Inn

Chris Taylor, general manager of The Amble Inn, recently shared what makes this ‘pub with rooms’ so special, and his favourite Northumberland gems…

Tell us a bit about The Amble Inn?

We’ve just had our first anniversary and are celebrating a fantastic first year of trading as a brilliant new place for people to eat, drink, sleep and explore Northumberland. Amble is known in the media as the place to visit in Northumberland and is being tipped by many a travelista as a must-visit destination. People have long been crying out for serviced accommodation in Amble, and we’re over the moon to be filling that gap in the market – and being enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.

We’re proudly a pub with rooms. It’s all about that laid back, relaxed vibe and atmosphere you only get with a pub – that’s what we love about them! Enjoy your favourite drink, from a thirst-quenching real ale, to a winning gin and tonic or a warming mug of tea or coffee, and a stellar, home-cooked British pub dish. Then you get to stay with us in one of our lovely comfy rooms – and even bring your dog, too! Pubs are perfect.

What does it mean to the Amble Inn to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

It really is the icing on the cake of an incredible first year for us. It’s testament to our brilliant, hard-working team of staff, from front of house to everyone working hard behind the scenes in the kitchen and housekeeping who all share our great sense of pride for our inn and what we have created. It’s also a reflection of our success with our customers. We’ve gone from a brand-new unknown inn, to being in the heart of the community as a fantastic place to eat, drink, sleep and explore from. It’s a real benchmark of our quality and customer service and experience that we aim to give everyone who steps through our doors.

What makes The Amble Inn stand out from the crowd?

Although we’re a new build inn, people often comment that it feels as if we’ve been here for years! As well as investing in a superb environment that reflects Amble and the coast’s amazing heritage, with lots of quirky nicknacks and pieces, we invest in our team too, with lots of training opportunities, quality checking and opportunities to help them grow and develop their skills – whether that’s taking part in schemes like the Know Your Northumberland Ambassador Scheme or free online customer service training. We always have our eye on what the customer wants, and how we can do that the best way we possibly can. Whether that’s being dog-friendly, offering uninterrupted food service, the quality of our environment or local flavours and tastes.

What is your favourite part of the North East and why?

We’re not biased but it has to be the southern gateway to the Northumberland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty here in Amble. We love the scandi-feel of Amble’s harbour village – it’s a shopper’s paradise with lots of artisan gifts and local treasures. Warkworth Castle radiates history every time you pass and is always worth a visit – and Druridge Beach is breathtaking and always quiet – whatever the time of year. It’s perfect for everyone, from families for beach games and sandcastle making, to those looking to escape for a while and take in the endless views.

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

There are hidden gems around every corner – some of which we find out about from our customers and some we’ve discovered by becoming Northumberland Ambassadors with the Know Your Northumberland programme. One of our favourites is Amble Seafood Centre, it’s an amazing fresh fish and shellfish shop, which has an extraordinary interactive lobster hatchery that not only explains about little known lobster facts but is an important conservation project too. We love the touch tanks and there are events when young lobsters are released into the sea. We also love Warkworth Hermitage, this incredible hermitage is cut into the rock alongside the River Coquet river cliff and can only be accessed by boat.

Posted on Leave a comment

Angel of Corbridge

Angel of Corbridge

We spoke to Patricia Lopez, Business Development Manager at The Angel of Corbridge, about what makes the venue stand out, its recent renovations and some of Northumberland’s most beautiful sights.

Tell us a bit about the Angel of Corbridge?

The Angel is the oldest Coaching Inn in Corbridge, with accommodation consisting of ten unique bedrooms, as well as an apartment. Our rooms are all warm and comfortable, and include a full Northumbrian breakfast served with local black pudding. The main reason for visiting us is our food, which is hearty and homemade, always utilising local produce and suppliers. The bar is the heart of the Angel and it’s where our customers can enjoy plenty of local banter whilst choosing from our local ales, variety of gins or a wine from our carefully selected wine list.

What does it mean to the Angel to be shortlisted for awards such as the North East England Tourism Awards?

Being shortlisted for the North East England Tourism Awards in the Best Pub of the Year category represents a reward to all our efforts as a team. In the past year, we have gone through a major project, which allowed us to add 3 new rooms and expand and renovate our kitchen. The aim of this project was to improve our offer to customers, and to keep growing as a business. Being shortlisted for this award assures us that we are on the right track, and that is very gratifying.

What makes the Angel stand out from the crowd?

As already mentioned, we have recently renovated the pub, giving us a very modern kitchen with efficient and new cooking equipment, refrigeration and storage plus a healthier and temperature-controlled workplace. All of our food is homemade, from our bread up to our pastries and puddings. Extending the kitchen allows us to be more productive and to add more products into our food range.

We are also a dog-friendly pub and hotel, having two dining areas where dogs are allowed, as well as bedrooms. We also have our own car park and Fish & Chip Shop, Angelfish. The Angel is also known to be the oldest Coaching Inn within Corbridge, dating back to 1569. We have done extensive research with a local historian (and we keep doing it!), and we can tell you every owner, landlord, innkeeper and tenant from 1569 until today.

What is your favourite part of the North east and why?

The walk from Seahouses along the beach to Bamburgh is a favourite and always ends with a pork pie from the butchers in Bamburgh. The beach is so clean and beautiful and there is always a stunning view of the Farne Islands as you walk. When Bamburgh Castle appears magically as you near Bamburgh it makes you feel extremely privileged to live and work in the North East. The return walk can be quite a challenge, especially on a cold day so, perhaps a Whisky at the Ship Inn is deserved.

Are there are any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

To us, it is the beauty, magnificence and detailed history of Hexham Abbey. It is quite breath-taking, particularly on your first visit, and exceeds all expectations. Visiting on a clear dark night, gives you another perspective of its beauty.

Posted on Leave a comment

2020 shortlist announced for new look North East Tourism Awards

NEETA 2019

Businesses from across the region are celebrating after being shortlisted for the revamped North East England Tourism Awards 2020.

Nearly 150 applications were received for the North East England Tourism Awards and businesses completed new application forms and underwent a different judging system with a greater focus on experiencing the North East tourism industry first-hand.

Shortlisted businesses include Sage Gateshead, The Alnwick Garden and St Cuthbert’s House, all of which are shortlisted in two different categories, and Battlesteads which is shortlisted in three categories. First time applicant Falconry Days was also shortlisted in three categories.

Local Geordie and critically acclaimed stand-up comedian and TV host Chris Ramsey will be the compere for the Awards. Alongside hosting the ceremony on Tuesday 24 March 2020, the Strictly Come Dancing star will also be doing a short stand-up routine.

The awards play a key role in highlighting the importance of tourism in the region, which continues to be the fourth largest sector in the North East economy.

The format of the Awards has been tweaked this year so that they now align more closely with the modernised VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, which are celebrating their 30th year. To mark this, VisitEngland launched the revamped Awards to reflect innovations across England’s tourism industry.

New categories introduced for the North East England Tourism Awards 2020 include Experience of the Year, International Tourism Award and New Tourism Business Award. Eligible winners of all categories will be automatically put forward to the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020.

Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive at destination management and marketing organisation NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said:

“Having launched the new look Tourism Awards for 2020, it’s great to see the number and quality of applications that we have received. The refreshed format aligns the Awards more closely with the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence and gives a wider range of businesses a chance to be successful thanks to the new categories.

“Already in 2019 we have hosted large scale events such as the European Rugby Finals, World Transplant Games and Tall Ships, and the tourism sector continues to flourish in the North East. These Awards are a great opportunity to celebrate the important contribution that the industry makes to the region.”

Newcastle College and Bidfood are continuing their support for the awards as event sponsors for 2020.

Lisa Hamilton-Murray, Assistant Principal at Newcastle College, said:

“Newcastle College is delighted to be sponsoring the North East Tourism Awards for another year. The North East has a flourishing tourism industry and we have a significant tourism provision at the College for young people looking to forge successful careers in the sector.

“We work in partnership with many of the fantastic employers associated with these awards allowing our students to benefit from fantastic work experience opportunities in some of the best hotels, restaurants and resorts. The Tourism Awards are a great way to celebrate the success of the industry in the North East.”

Jane Tiplady, General Manager of Bidfood North East, said:

“We are delighted to be event sponsors of the North East England Tourism Awards for the third year running. It’s fantastic to see so many of our region’s outstanding tourism and hospitality businesses recognised through these awards.

“This year, we are also sponsoring the ‘Small Hotel of the Year’ category and we are looking forward to celebrating those organisations that always aim to deliver the best possible experience for visitors to our region.”

Tickets to attend the awards at Newcastle Civic Centre are priced at £67.50 and are available to buy online here.

The North East England Tourism Awards are organised and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative in partnership with the Northern Tourism Alliance.

The Northern Tourism Alliance is a collaboration of the region’s tourism bodies who work together on projects that will benefit the tourism industry across the region. The founding members of the alliance are NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Northumberland Tourism, Visit County Durham, and The North East Hotels Association. The North East England Tourism Awards are also supported by South Tyneside Council and North Tyneside Council.

2020 Shortlist:

Accessible and Inclusive Tourism Award

Sage Gateshead
Go North East
South Tynedale Railway
The Joiners Arms

B&B and Guest House of the Year

Market Cross Guest House
Millstone House Bed and Breakfast
Layside Bed and Breakfast
St Cuthbert’s House
St Valery Boutique B&B

Business Events Venue of the Year

Event Durham, Durham University
The Biscuit Factory
Newcastle City Council Civic Centre Banqueting
Venues at Northumbria University
Sage Gateshead

Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year

Herding Hill Farm Touring, Camping and Glamping Site
Hesleyside Huts
Seafield Caravan Park
Westfield House Farm Shepherd’s Huts

Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award

South Tynedale Railway
Westfield House Farm
Battlesteads
Sage Gateshead
St Cuthbert’s House

Experience of the Year

Footsteps in Northumberland
Falconry Days
The Alnwick Garden
CBK’s Adventure Co.

Large Hotel of the Year

Vermont Hotel
Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa
Matfen Hall Hotel, Golf and Spa
Doxford Hall Hotel and Spa

Small Hotel of the Year

Lord Crewe Arms
Walwick Hall
Seaham Hall
Wynyard Hall
Battlesteads

International Tourism Award

Event Durham, Durham University
Falconry Days

New Tourism Business Award

Shepherds Retreats Ltd
The Amble Inn
Maldron Hotel Newcastle
STACK Newcastle
Spanish City

Pub of the Year

The Apple Inn
The Angel of Corbridge
Twice Brewed Inn
The Botanist

Self-Catering Accommodation Provider of the Year

St Oswald’s Farm
Mains Cottages
Brunton House and Cottages
Vindomora Country Lodges

Taste of North East England Award

Dobson & Parnell
Restaurant Hjem
Barrasford Arms
Battlesteads

Large Visitor Attraction of the Year

Bamburgh Castle
Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens
Beamish, The Living Museum of the North
Great North Museum: Hancock
The Alnwick Garden

Small Visitor Attraction of the Year

Newham Grange Farm
Falconry Days
Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums – Arbeia South Shields’ Roman Fort

For media enquiries contact: Finlay Magowan, Media & PR Manager

Posted on Leave a comment

The Auckland Project

Hannah Bryan, The Auckland Project

We spoke to Hannah Bryan, Head of Visitor Engagement at The Auckland Project, about what makes a successful visitor attraction and where to explore in the North East.

Tell us a bit about The Auckland Project

The Auckland Project is a regeneration charity, working to create positive change for those living, working and visiting Bishop Auckland and to ensure the town’s future is as magnificent and vibrant as its past. We believe that the best way to do that is by sharing what we have, and making beautiful works of art, venues, experiences and opportunities – the things that feed people’s bodies, minds and spirit – accessible to everyone.

To do so we are creating a visitor destination in Bishop Auckland, incorporating seven sites – Auckland Tower opened in the Market Place in October 2018, following the Mining Art Gallery, in October 2017.  Bishop Trevor Gallery, a temporary exhibition space within Auckland Castle, opened in June 2019, with the Castle itself due to reopen to the public on 2 November 2019. A Faith Museum, Spanish Gallery and Walled Garden will follow in the coming years.

What makes a successful visitor attraction?

I’m a firm believer that passionate people delivering great, efficient customer service is what makes a successful visitor attraction. Though it certainly helps to have good facilities and somewhere visitors can get a cup of tea and a slice of cake. The other element is engagement with visitors, connecting them to the stories being told within our sites.

What impact does winning awards have on your business?

To win Small Visitor Attraction of the Year for Mining Art Gallery within the first 12 months of it being open was incredible and the recognition it gave to the hard work put in across the organisation was fantastic. It’s good to know you’re on the right track and motivating to keep doing what you’re doing.

It’s also a fantastic marketing opportunity to talk about the success and an ongoing seal of approval of being an award-winning attraction.

What inspires you to enter the North East England Tourism Awards?

We entered Mining Art Gallery in order to raise awareness both to potential visitors and to colleagues within the sector. Having only just opened it was important for us to use this as an opportunity for profile raising.

We also believe we have a fantastic visitor offer and an amazing team delivering it, so the chance for external recognition of this was not to be missed.

Where do you like to visit in the North East when you aren’t working?

I enjoy walking along the river into the historic heart of Durham and visiting the Cathedral, it never fails to impress. Otherwise taking a trip to Raby or Bowes out in County Durham because if I’m not at work then I’m likely to be at one of Durham’s other attractions playing the part of a visitor for once.

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

I would encourage everyone to visit Locomotion in Shildon, as it’s an amazing collection there that touches so many moments within British history. I also love Escomb Saxon Church in Bishop Auckland which is one of the most complete Saxon Churches in England.

Posted on Leave a comment

Chris Ramsey to host revamped North East England Tourism Awards

Chris Ramsey

Local Geordie and critically acclaimed stand-up comedian and TV host Chris Ramsey has been announced as the compere for the 2020 North East England Tourism Awards. Alongside hosting the Awards ceremony on Tuesday 24 March, he will be doing a short stand-up routine.

Tourism businesses in the North East are now being encouraged to enter the Awards with less than a month to go until applications close at 9am on Monday 7 October. The Awards celebrate quality, innovation and best practice throughout the region, highlighting the North East’s exciting visitor offering.

The format of the Awards has been tweaked this year so that they now align more closely with the modernised VisitEngland Awards for Excellence, which are celebrating their 30th year. To mark this, VisitEngland launched the revamped Awards to reflect innovations across England’s tourism industry.

New categories introduced for the 2020 North East England Tourism Awards include Experience of the Year, International Tourism Award and New Tourism Business Award.

Sarah Stewart, chief executive of destination management and marketing agency NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “It’s brilliant to have Chris Ramsey compering the revamped Awards in 2020. Being a Geordie, he knows all about the North East and our amazing tourism sector and is a perfect fit for the Awards.

“The North East England Tourism Awards are a great way for us to celebrate the success of our tourism sector and give local businesses the opportunity to showcase the region on a national stage. The refreshed format aligns the Awards more closely with the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence and reflects changes in the industry, such as the impact of digital technology, demand for experienced-based travel and the need to tailor tourism products for international visitors.”

It has been confirmed that Bidfood and Newcastle College will continue their support for the Awards as event sponsors for 2020.

Lisa Hamilton-Murray, assistant principal at Newcastle College, said: “At Newcastle College we have a significant number of students working towards a career in the sector. On completion of their course they contribute significantly to the North East tourism industry and that’s why we’re delighted to align ourselves to these awards for another year.

“We pride ourselves on our fantastic partnerships with the best regional and national hotels, restaurants and resorts. These links provide our students with valuable work experience, creating opportunities for them to forge successful careers within the sector.

“The North East Tourism Awards are a great opportunity to support and celebrate the successes of the thriving tourism industry in the North East.”

Jane Tiplady, General Manager of Bidfood North East, said: “This is the third year running that we have sponsored the North East England Tourism Awards, and we are delighted to be doing so. Due to the new format of the Awards, even more fantastic tourism and hospitality businesses from across the region have the chance to be recognised.

“At Bidfood North East we are extremely proud of the region and can’t wait to celebrate those organisations that go above and beyond to deliver the best possible experience to those visiting the region.”

New application forms and a different judging system are part of the revamped Awards, with a greater focus on experiencing the North East tourism industry first-hand. Eligible winners of certain categories will be automatically put forward to the national VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2020.

The Awards are supported by the North East Tourism Alliance – a collaboration of the region’s tourism bodies who work together on projects that will benefit the tourism industry across the region. The founding members of the alliance are NewcastleGateshead Initiative, Northumberland Tourism, Visit County Durham, and The North East Hotels Association. The North East England Tourism Awards are also supported by South Tyneside Council and North Tyneside Council.

Posted on Leave a comment

St Cuthbert’s House

St Cuthbert's House

We spoke to Jeff and Jill Sutheran from St Cuthbert’s House about winning awards, running a B&B in a former Presbyterian Chapel and the beautiful Northumberland Coast.

Tell us a bit about St Cuthbert’s House

St Cuthbert’s House is a former Presbyterian Chapel built in 1810, it lies about half a mile from the bustling harbour of Seahouses on the Northumberland Coast. We’ve restored it to provide six lovely ensuite guest bedrooms, and the former church’s sanctuary provides a delightful dining room and guest lounge. We’ve been able to retain and incorporate lots of the original features into the restoration and the beautiful spaces help us to create a very special experience for our guests. We’ve been operating the business for 12 years and we are lucky to enjoy high occupancy rates throughout the seasons.

You’ve won numerous regional and national awards – what impact have they had on your business?

We entered our first award in the year we opened, and although we didn’t win top spot we saw how powerful they could be as a way of getting the word out about St Cuthbert’s House. Since that first experience, we’ve made the Awards a part of our marketing strategy and have had some great exposure in regional and national press as a result. We know that these prestigious awards build trust among existing and potential guests, and that they can help to build a reputation for quality. We have no doubt that they have played a part in building St Cuthbert’s House into the successful business it is today.

What inspires you to enter the North East England Tourism Awards?

We consider it very important to stay focused and ensure that we don’t take our eye off the ball or become complacent. The Awards process is one of the tools which enables us to closely examine and pay attention to every aspect of our business – and to be measured against the very best in the region. We have also grown to love the razzamatazz of an Awards night!

What do you always recommend that your visitors do in the region when they are staying with you?

Most of our guests have done some research before visiting the region, and of course, we encourage them to experience the headline or iconic venues if that’s what they want. However, we love to explain to them where they can find equally lovely experiences off the beaten track – for example, where to find peace and solitude even on the busiest summer day on Holy Island! Northumberland is such a beautiful, inspiring place and the best and most restorative experiences are often to be found in the quiet spots.

Where do you like to visit in the North East when you aren’t working?

We like to visit the places we recommend to our guests to make sure we’re always up to date! We also love to get a fix of the busy city by visiting Newcastle regularly – but only for a few hours, as we usually can’t wait to get back to the beauty of home!

Are there any hidden gems in the North East that you would encourage people to visit?

We love to send guests off to discover the road less travelled. We always encourage them to incorporate a visit to Ford & Etal into their schedule – the Lady Waterford Hall is so beautiful and reveals such an interesting story too. Another favourite of ours is Wallington Hall, with its gorgeous walled garden.