England’s best places to stay, its standout restaurants and its most unbeatable tourist attractions have been named in the 2023 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.
The finalists were selected from hundreds of tourism businesses across England including hotels, self-catering accommodation, B&Bs, glamping operators, pubs and museums. Judges narrowed it down to 16 overall winners, which were announced during an awards ceremony at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter on June 8, hosted by hotel inspector Alex Polizzi.
The awards, which have been running for more than 30 years, are said to ‘celebrate and champion innovation, quality and best practice across the industry recognising businesses and individuals who raise the bar of England’s tourism offer’.
Scroll down to see the retreats, restaurants and more that have scooped prizes…
Large Hotel of the Year Award – Titanic Hotel Liverpool, Merseyside
The winners of the 2023 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence have been revealed. This year, the Large Hotel of the Year Award goes to Titanic Hotel Liverpool
This ‘elegant’ four-star hotel is set within one of Liverpool’s ‘most iconic’ areas – Stanley Dock.
VisitEngland says: ‘Offering 153 spacious rooms, the Titanic keeps true to the architecture of the original Victorian warehouse [it occupies], with exposed brickwork, steel columns and original windows.’
A highlight is the spa offering, the tourist board notes, saying: ‘Underground, guests can find the serene Maya Blue Wellness sanctuary, which contains a hydrotherapy pool, steam room, sauna, foot bath, experience showers and a relaxation area.’ Visit titanichotelliverpool.com.
Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award – Warner Bros. Studio Tour London, The Making of Harry Potter, Hertfordshire
Above is the Potions Classroom set at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, which has earned the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year Award
VisitEngland says that this fantastical attraction ‘preserves the legacy of Harry Potter for the public, allowing fans to discover the magic behind the making of the movies’.
It reveals: ‘Guests can discover the iconic Hogwarts Great Hall, explore the Forbidden Forest, board the original Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 and three quarters and set foot in Gringotts Wizarding Bank, all before wandering down Diagon Alley.’
According to the tourist board, miniature film sets, ‘wand magic classes’ and special exhibitions ‘make it a must-see experience for Potterheads of all ages’. Visit wbstudiotour.co.uk.
Pub of the Year – The Blind Bull, Little Hucklowm, Derbyshire
The Blind Bull in Derbyshire serves a range of traditional real ales and dishes cooked over an open fire. It’s been named Pub of the Year
‘Situated in the heart of the Peak District, The Blind Bull inhabits the site of Britain’s fifth-oldest public house,’ VisitEngland reveals.
It says that the 12th-century inn ‘has been restored to its former glory with a dining space and tap room, along with five bedrooms and a standalone cottage for overnight stays’.
The tourist board notes: ‘The Blind Bull serves a range of traditional real ales, classic wines and modern cocktails, as well as dishes using locally sourced ingredients cooked over an open fire.’ Visit theblindbull.co.uk.
Camping, Glamping and Holiday Park of the Year – The Quiet Site, Cumbria
The Quiet Site is a family-run, carbon-neutral holiday park overlooking Ullswater in the Lake District, VisitEngland reveals.
It says: ‘The site has been operating for 60 years, and offers a range of accommodation options, from tent and caravan pitches to camping and glamping pods, all with sustainability at the heart.’
The tourist board says that the newest addition to the site is a series of ‘gingerbread houses’ that come complete with their own underground heat source. It adds that the site’s Glamping Burrows, also known as ‘Hobbit Holes’, ‘make for a memorable, film-inspired stay’. Visit thequietsite.co.uk.
Taste of England Award – Pensons Restaurant at the Netherwood Estate, Worcestershire
The flavour-led menus change weekly at Worcestershire’s Pensons Restaurant, the recipient of the Taste of England Award
This Michelin-starred restaurant is ‘completely committed to finding sustainable and environmentally friendly ways to serve delicious food’.
VistEngland notes that ‘the flavour-led menus change weekly and sometimes even daily, depending on the fresh ingredients available’.
Leave room in your diary – this autumn, well-known Herefordshire forager Liz Knight will be leading a half-day Autumn Woodland Forage session to ‘discover the delights of wild food, ending with a three-course vegetarian lunch at Pensons restaurant’, the tourist board reveals. Visit pensons.co.uk.
Self-Catering Accommodation of the Year Award – Kidlandlee Holiday Cottages, Northumberland
This holiday rental site in the Northumberland National Park is said to ‘offer an off-grid break with home comforts’.
VisitEngland says: ‘The holiday cottages’ remote location offers plenty of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors, including taking in the area’s famous dark skies. The business is committed to sustainable practices with initiatives including generating enough renewable energy to power the whole estate, protecting wildlife habitats and supporting local businesses.’
As well as the bespoke holiday cottages, guests can stay in a converted barn or in a historic Georgian townhouse. Visit kidlandlee.co.uk.
B&B and Guest House of the Year – Piglets Boutique B&B, Essex
Guests can take a hike through the rural countryside during their stay at the Piglets Boutique B&B in Essex, which is the B&B and Guest House of the Year
Piglets Boutique B&B is an ‘upmarket adults-only Essex hideaway offering a bar and gin library, al fresco dining in summer and a cold-water swimming pool and sauna’.
VisitEngland says that the bed and breakfast’s five guest rooms ‘each offer a super-king bed, large smart flat-screen TV and complimentary refreshments including tea, coffee and homemade cookies’.
It adds: ‘Guests can take a hike through the rural countryside or drive down the lanes to visit nearby castles and historic houses.’ Visit piglets.co.uk.
Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award – Pure Outdoor, Derbyshire
‘To educate and inspire through adventure’ is the mantra for Pure Outdoor, the outdoor activity centre in the heart of the Peak District National Park’s Hope Valley, VisitEngland reveals.
It says: ‘Benefitting from the unrivalled natural facilities of the surrounding hills and mountains, hillwalking, climbing, caving, and mountain biking are all on the agenda and guided by experienced instructors.’
The tourist board notes that the team is devoted to being eco-conscious and is donating the equivalent of five per cent of annual revenues to social and environmental causes. Visit pureoutdoor.co.uk.
Experience of the Year – Grey Seal and Seabird Cruise, Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours, Northumberland
Go birdwatching off the coast of the Farne Islands on the Grey Seal and Seabird Cruise, which is the Experience of the Year
This cruise takes travellers off the coast of the Farne Islands, which are ‘home to many different sea birds including puffin eider, razorbill, along with common grey seals for their mating season in the autumn and winter’.
It’s not the only noteworthy cruise offered by Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours, VisitEngland reveals – it also offers sunset cruises and visits to the nearby Holy Island. Visit farneislandstours.co.uk.
New Tourism Business of the Year – Thorington Theatre, Suffolk
Detailing this prize-winning attraction, VisitEngland says: ‘From bomb crater to theatre, Thorington Theatre is a new open-air venue which has been built in a WWII bomb crater in Suffolk woodland.’
It continues: ‘The 350-seat entirely wooden amphitheatre was constructed with sustainably coppiced chestnut trees from the immediate woodland. It has been constructed with the smallest possible carbon footprint, and Thorington Theatre’s ethos is to be as sustainable as possible in every aspect of the running of the theatre from the local suppliers to the composting loos.’
The theatre is said to welcome a variety of theatre troupes, actors, comedians, and musicians throughout the summer months. Visit thoringtontheatre.co.uk.
VISIT ENGLAND AWARDS FOR EXCELLENCE 2023 WINNERS
LARGE HOTEL OF THE YEAR
Gold – Titanic Hotel Liverpool, Merseyside
Silver – Bowood Hotel, Spa and Golf Resort, Wiltshire
Bronze – Rockliffe Hall Hotel, Golf & Spa Resort, County Durham
B&B AND GUEST HOUSE OF THE YEAR
Gold – Piglets Boutique B&B, Essex
Silver – Cedar Manor, Cumbria
Bronze – Sunnyside Guest House, Merseyside
CAMPING, GLAMPING AND HOLIDAY PARK OF THE YEAR
Gold – The Quiet Site, Cumbria
Silver – Brook Meadow, Leicestershire
Bronze – Hendra Holiday Park, Cornwall
BUSINESS EVENTS VENUE OF THE YEAR
Gold – National Memorial Arboretum, Staffordshire
Silver – Imago Venues, Leicestershire
Bronze – The ICC Birmingham, West Midlands
ETHICAL, RESPONSIBLE AND SUSTAINABLE TOURISM AWARD
Gold – Pure Outdoor, Derbyshire
Silver – National Forest EBike Holidays, Leicestershire
Bronze – The Cottages at Blackadon Farm, Devon
EXPERIENCE OF THE YEAR
Gold – Grey Seal and Seabird Cruise, Serenity Farne Island Boat Tours, Northumberland
Silver – Make Your Own Gin Experience, Shed 1 Gin Distillery, Cumbria
Bronze – Peak District Walking Experience, myGuidedWalks, Derbyshire
SMALL HOTEL OF THE YEAR
Gold – Askham Hall, Cumbria
Silver – THE PIG-at Combe, Devon
Bronze – Wildhive Callow Hall, Derbyshire
LARGE VISITOR ATTRACTION OF THE YEAR
Gold – Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter, Hertfordshire
Silver – Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Bronze – International Bomber Command Centre, Lincolnshire
TASTE OF ENGLAND AWARD
Gold – Pensons Restaurant at the Netherwood Estate, Worcestershire
Silver – The Unruly Pig, Suffolk
Bronze – The Glasshouse Restaurant, Hampshire
NEW TOURISM BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Gold – Thorington Theatre, Suffolk
Silver – Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria
Bronze – Great British Car Journey, Derbyshire
PUB OF THE YEAR
Gold – The Blind Bull, Derbyshire
Silver – The Shoe, Hampshire
Bronze – The Duncombe Arms, Staffordshire
RESILIENCE AND INNOVATION AWARD
Gold – St Luke’s Bombed Out Church C.I.C., Merseyside
Silver – Langley Castle Hotel, Northumberland
Bronze – Healing Manor Hotel, Lincolnshire
SELF-CATERING ACCOMMODATION OF THE YEAR
Gold – Kidlandlee Holiday Cottages, Northumberland
Silver – The Dovecote Barns, North Yorkshire
Bronze – Eaton Manor Country Estate, Shropshire
UNSUNG HERO AWARD
Gold – Michael Wilson, Official Guide to the Kent Estuary, Guide Over Sands Trust, Cumbria
Silver – Marie Colgrave, Welcome Building Supervisor, Whitchurch Silk Mill, Hampshire
Bronze – Carol Adams, Head of Horticulture & Biodiversity, Trentham, Staffordshire
THE TXGB TRAILBLAZER AWARD
Gold – Red Funnel, Isle of Wight
Silver – New Adventures, Tyne & Wear & Northumberland
Bronze – Cotswolds Tourism, Cotswolds
ACCESSIBLE AND INCLUSIVE TOURISM AWARD
Gold – Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, Bristol
Silver – Brickhouse Farm Holiday Cottages & Lakeside Hub, Lancashire
Bronze – WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire
Geoff Colvin, Chief Stationmaster, Kent & East Sussex Railway
OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO TOURISM AWARD