THE TINY village of Bainbridge, deep in the Yorkshire Dales, used to be known for its horn blower, who would welcome foresters back to village each evening in Norman times,
But now it has quickly garnered a new reputation - for having some of the best hotels and B&Bs in the country.
Between them, Yorebridge House and Low Mill Guesthouse have won dozens of accolades as the height of luxury accommodation and food - and could soon be adding more trophies to their respective shelves. Both are finalists in the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence - two of nine Yorkshire nominees - and will find out next month if those shelving reinforcements are needed.
Yorebridge House, nominated in the small hotel category, and Low Mill, which received a nod for best bed and breakfast, have won five White Rose tourism awards between them in the last three years - not to mention nods from TripAdvisor, the AA and VisitEngland.
David and Charlotte Reilly brought Yorebridge House, the previous headquarters of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, in 2006, and spent 18 months getting rid of “purple office carpets and woodchip” and turning it into a five star boutique hotel, that was voted the most romantic in Britain by TripAdvisor.
The couple pulled out of buying hotels in Italy and France before stumbling across Yorebridge - and say its “perfect” location, along with dedicated staff, make it so special.
Mr Reilly said: “We’ve got the best produce in England, be it lamb, beef or dairy - it’s like walking into a natural larder. Just stepping out the front door is stunning, we’re smack in the middle of natural beauty. Within four miles are four waterfalls, including Aysgarth Falls, something you just don’t get anywhere else.”
For being shortlisted, the Yorkshire nominees will receive either a Highly Commended, Bronze or Silver award. But it’s Gold they will all be hoping to take back to God’s Own County.
Especially for Neail McNair, who runs Low Mill with wife Jane. They were Highly Commended in the awards in 2014 - just three years after opening the renovated mill, and without any experience.
“We keep pinching ourselves - it would be great to go one better and come home with an award,” Mr McNair said. “It’s brilliant for Wensleydale that we’re both doing so well - the whole village benefits from the tourists,”
Tourism in Yorkshire generates £7bn a year, and the publicity that awards attract does not go unnoticed. The industry was damaged by images of flooding after Christmas, due to the misconceived notion that Yorkshire was underwater. David Cameron pledged £1m for a VisitEngland tourism campaign, that will be launched on Tuesday, to coincide with half-term holidays and to inspire people planning for Easter.
Raising the profile of tourism is a crucial part of the awards, Sally Balcombe, chief executive of VisitBritain said.
“The Awards not only honour the great and the good in tourism and hospitality, but raise the profile of England and celebrate the importance of the industry’s contribution to local and national economies,” she added.
There are 16 award categories, including, new for this year, dog friendly business - for which Talbot Hotel in Malton is nominated.
Also nominated are The Dovecote Barns York, Kelfield and Wolds Edge Holiday Lodges, Bishop Wilton - both for Self Catering Holiday Provider; York Racecourse for Tourism Event; Rockliffe Hall bear Catterick for Large Hotel of the Year; The Shibden Mill Inn, Halifax for Tourism Pub and Yorkshire Trike Tours, Leeds for Small Visitor Attraction.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity said: “With nine finalists in the national Visit England Awards for Excellence 2016, this really goes to show the high calibre of tourism businesses Yorkshire has to offer.”
Kate McMullen, Head of Tourism, Make It York, said: “It’s brilliant to see York Racecourse and two of York’s self-catering properties make it to being finalists. This truly is testament to the quality of our tourism offer and we wish all the York and Yorkshire finalists the very best of luck.”