You may think there is a world of difference between a Yorkshire B&B and the very best hotels and resorts in the world, but Luke Cockill says: “It’s the same concept. Everything should be done to a high standard. You try to make guests feel welcome and happy and you aim to exceed their expectations.”
Luke is supremely well placed to comment on this hospitality truism. He and his American-born wife, Brianne, now own a guest house in Egton Bridge, near Whitby, but their previous jobs were at the high end of the hospitality business.
Luke grew up in his parents’ small hotel in Sandsend, before pursuing a career that saw him work in a ski resort and a hotel that only the seriously wealthy can afford.
“I think hospitality is in my blood. My parents had the Bungalow Hotel in Sandsend after taking it over from my grandfather and that’s where I grew up.
“It was a family business so we all helped out. I started when I was very young by washing pots and later I helped in the kitchen and then behind the bar and in the restaurant. I also helped clean the rooms.
“It was full on but we closed for a break in winter and that’s when our family got a holiday and where I got my love of skiing from,” says Luke, whose experience in Sandsend and on the slopes helped him get a job at the prestigious Deer Valley ski resort in Utah.
After meeting and marrying Brianne, who also worked in the ski industry, they moved to her native Minnesota where he worked in the luxurious, 470-room St Paul Hotel in Minneapolis.
The decision to come back to Britain came when family friend Peter Armitage invited the couple to run the exclusive Ardoch estate in Scotland, which includes an 18-bedroom conference centre, event space and cottages set amid 133 acres of countryside overlooking Loch Lomond.
When philanthropist and former fund manager Mr Armitage gifted the estate to the Children’s Hospices Across Scotland charity, along with £1m, Luke and Brianne decided to start their own venture.
“A B&B was a natural progression for us and we were looking for something in the Whitby area when we found Broom House in December 2019,” adds Luke.
The property began life as a farmhouse owned by the Egton estate before being sold and turned into a small hotel and later being run as a B&B.
“It was exactly what we wanted because the bones of the property were good and the location is fantastic. The house is in a lovely, tranquil spot in the Esk Valley but you can walk into Egton Bridge and you are close to Whitby,” he adds.
Since buying Broom House, Luke and Brianne, who have an 11-year-old daughter, Eve, have spent the last few months on a programme of refurbishment.
This includes insulating the roof, relaying the patio and updating all the six bedroom suites and the cottage annexe.
Interior design is Brianne’s forte and she chose Farrow & Ball paint colours for the walls.
“All the rooms were different colours before which meant there was no continuity, so we have only used three colours throughout, including Farrow & Ball School House White on many of the walls, a soft green and soft blue plus a deep blue for the lounge,” says Luke.
Pattern comes from curtains and cushions made by Furnishing Fabrics in Guisborough and the occasional papered wall.
The result is pretty and restful and allows the views of the valley and the garden to take their rightful place centre stage.
Much of the furniture they inherited with the business has been changed and replaced with antique pieces, new buys, including items from Barker & Stonehouse and John Lewis, and there is a dresser from America that now has pride of place in the hallway.
Accessories include treasured items passed down by family in the US and in Yorkshire. These include pottery from Brianne’s grandmother and a set of pictures in the hall from Luke’s great-grandmother.
Work by local artists also features prominently as the Cockills are keen to showcase local talent. Stand-out pieces include a sculpture by Emma Stothard, who works with willow and steel, and contemporary seascapes by Zoe Taylor.
As Luke and Brianne gear up to open up on May 17 when restrictions end, they are fully prepared for plenty of hard work.
“We are used to it. It is tying and we will be doing everything from cooking breakfast to cleaning toilets. It’s not an easy way to make a living but we enjoy looking after people and there is a lot of job satisfaction in that.
“The only concession we have allowed ourselves is a Husqvarna robotic lawn mower. It’s been revolutionary and it is also a great talking point.”
Broom House, Egton Bridge, www.broom-house.co.uk
Luke and Brianne’s hospitality guide:
Communication is key, so when someone calls or emails the response time has to be quick. If you can phone and chat with the person do – it is much more personal than an email.
Be organised and don’t oversell your property. The aim is to exceed expectations.
Quality food is vital so we buy meat from the local butcher, milk from the local milkman and fresh eggs from a nearby farm. Flowers in Broom House are grown in the garden or sourced locally.
Welcome negative feedback. If there is anything you can do to make the business better you need to know about it.