Company History

History of English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues

The Hotels have enjoyed a very interesting and illustrious existence and each one has its own unique tales of days gone by, but here we have compiled the background which explains the development of English Lakes Hotels from 1952 until present day.

The 1950s

On 25th December 1952 Norman Buckley, great uncle of the present Chairman/Managing Director Simon Berry, purchased Low Wood Hotel.

On 8th August 1959, the Wild Boar Hotel was purchased.

During the 1950’s, Norman Buckley secured four World Water Speed Records on Lake Windermere in his own designed and built boats, Miss Windermere II and III.

The 1960s

On 20th October 1965, the Royal Hotel was purchased. In 1969, the Wild Boar and Low Wood were increased in size considerably.

Norman Buckley secured two further World Water Speed Records on Windermere in Miss Windermere IV. As well as these achievements he was the official timekeeper present at Campbell’s fatal attempt in Bluebird to raise his own World Water Speed Record on Coniston Water in January 1967.

The 1970s

Norman Buckley secured one more World Water Speed Record in Miss Windermere V. He was awarded the MBE for his endeavours on 3rd June 1972 and died November 1974.

Michael Berry, joined the group on 14th July 1972 and took over as Managing Director in 1974 when his uncle died.

The Waterhead Hotel was purchased on 1st July 1975 and English Lakes Hotels Limited was established 16th May 1979.

Douglas Dale (now Operations Director) joined the company, as General Manager at The Wild Boar in July 1979.

The 1980s

Simon (now Managing Director/Chairman) and Tim (Building & Leisure Director) joined their father in running the business.

The Low Wood Watersports Centre was created in August 1983 and officially opened by the Minister for Sport, Mr. Neil Macfarlane, M.P., on 9th January 1984.

Douglas Dale joined the board as Operations Director in October 1986.

Major developments took place at Low Wood with the building of the Conference Centre and Leisure Club, all of which opened in June 1989.

Donald Campbell and Norman Buckley talking over a the engine of a boat

Enlarge and ViewPhotos - Enlarge & View

1/12 Norman Buckley and Donald Campbell
Norman Buckley in Miss Windermere on one of his speed record attempts
2/12 Norman Buckley in Miss Windermere on one of his speed record attempts
Norman Buckley on Lake Windermere with his friend the crown prince who became the King of Jordan
3/12 Norman Buckley on Lake Windermere with his friend the crown prince who became the King of Jordan
Norman Buckley in Miss Windermere III
4/12 Norman Buckley in Miss Windermere III
1952 - Low Wood Purchased
5/12 1952 - Low Wood Hotel purchased
Waterhead purchased in July 1975
6/12 July 1975 - Waterhead purchased
March 1990 - Prince Edward opening an extended Low Wood
7/12 March 1990 - Prince Edward opening an extended Low Wood
April 2004 - Waterhead redevelopment
8/12 April 2004 - Waterhead redevelopment
2006 - Wild Boar woods purchased
9/12 2006 - Wild Boar woods purchased
Simon Berry in front of the Marina signage
10/12 2006 - Low Wood Bay Marina developed
60th birthday celebrations
11/12 2012 - 60th birthday celebrations
Artist's impression of the new Low Wood Bay Conference Centre
12/12 artist’s impression of Low Wood Bay and Convention Centre

The 1990s

His Royal Highness Prince Edward officially opened the new extended Low Wood Hotel on 3rd March 1990.

Lancaster House Hotel was the first green field site build and was opened 12th June 1991. Princess Alexandra performed the official opening ceremony on 4th December 1991.

In 1994 a number of Directors attended Disney University in Orlando, on a programme called "The Disney Approach to Quality Service".

Michael Doyle (Financial Controller) joined the company.

On 14th June 1997, Michael Berry was awarded the O.B.E. for services to training and tourism in Cumbria.

On 1st July 1998, Simon Berry took over as Managing Director of the company, whilst his father Michael, remained as Executive Chairman.

The 2000s

Michael Berry was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Catering International Management Association.

In October 2001 Low Wood Hotel celebrated achieving 4 star status from the AA and RAC. This accolade followed improvements and re-development at the hotel amounting to £8 million over the previous 10 years.

In 2002 English Lakes Hotels celebrated its 50th anniversary and to commemorate this, and the tri-century of Low Wood, 1702-2002, Michael Berry launched his book ‘Low Wood on Windermere, Three Hundred Years of Lakeland History’. The book provided a detailed account of the inns history, beginning with the birth of Lakeland tourism.

In 2003 Low Wood Hotel won the ‘Large Hotel of the Year’ award in the Cumbria for Excellence Awards run by Cumbria Tourist Board.

In April 2003, English Lakes Hotels announced the addition of Storrs Hall Hotel to their portfolio, under a management contract on the property.

In November the Waterhead Hotel closed to undergo a major redevelopment.

The Waterhead re-opened in April 2004 as the Lake District’s first 4 star Town House Hotel, following a re-development programme costing over £3 million. The new luxury hotel offers a style that can not be found elsewhere in the Lake District. The hotel was transformed from a 2 star, 27 bedroom hotel, to a luxurious and contemporary 41 bedroom, 4 star property. The Hotel subsequently won small hotel of the year awarded by Cumbria Tourism. The Royal, having been sold, ceased trading in September.

Chairman Michael Berry died on 14th June 2004 following a long battle with cancer. His eldest son and Managing Director Simon, took on the role of Chairman. Tributes were paid to Michael Berry by many in recognition of his dedication and commitment to tourism and local history, heritage and community work.

In May 2005 Lancaster House completed a £3 million extension and re-development programme consisting of a new conference and banqueting suite, almost doubling the hotels capacity, 19 new luxury bedroom suites, plus expansions to the Sandpiper Leisure Club and Sandman’s Bar.

Storrs Hall achieved 4 star status.

In June English Lakes Hotels celebrated great success in the Enjoy England Tourism Awards with Low Wood and Lancaster House winning ‘Large Hotel of the Year’ in their respective Cumbria and Lancashire regional awards.

Waterhead was awarded ‘Large Hotel of the Year’; Lancaster House, ‘Business Tourism Award’ for Lancashire; Low Wood, ‘Business Tourism Award’ for Cumbria & ‘Excellence in Business and Tourism’; and went on to win the 2007 England’s Northwest Tourism Awards; The Company, ‘Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure Business Excellence Award’ for +1 Customer Service Initiative and ‘Best Family Business’ Coutts Award in 2006.

Whilst 72 acres of woodland adjacent to The Wild Boar were purchased, to give the Inn its own private woods for exclusive use of guests.

The Low Wood Marina was an exciting new development, providing Lake Windermere with an exceptional new boating facility.

In 2008 the first ever Great North Swim was held at Low Wood Bay with over 2000 open water swimmers taking part. David Neale joined the company as Commercial Director at the end of the year.

The Midland, in Morecambe, joined the group in 2009. The hotel was highly commended ‘Large Hotel of the Year’ in the Lancashire and Blackpool Tourism Awards for 2009/10. Also, The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awarded the Hotel an award for its high architectural standard and for making a substantial contribution to the local environment.


The Wild Boar was reopened after an extensive development to 17 feature and luxury rooms, and Grill and Smokehouse additions.

English Lakes reached an impressive figure of £100,000.00 raised by the group for Nurture Lakeland to help aid their conservation work for the local environment.

The company name and all properties benefited from a rebranding exercise which included the company becoming English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues to better reflect the groups market position and future plans.


In May 2012 the Lake District National Park Authority decided in favour of their officer’s findings by a 12 to 1 majority and pass the plans for a Low Wood Bay Convention Centre which will offer South Lakeland a fantastic development fit for the future.

After many great milestones, accolades and awards, the Berry family are able to celebrate 60 years of being involved in the hotel and leisure industry in 2012.


After 10 years English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues have decided not to continue our Joint Venture agreement with Storrs Hall Hotel Ltd. Simon Berry said "We have had a good ten years at Storrs however we have decided at a strategic level to focus on our owned properties where we have full control over direction and investment".

The Midland Iconic Art Deco Hotel celebrated its 80th anniversary with several exciting events throughout 2013.


Each of our five properties achieved Gold certification for excellence in the Green Tourism Business Awards

The Midland attained an AA food rosette in recognition of its food preparation, use of wholesome ingredients and service to guests.

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I hope you have found the history interesting and you decide to visit us at any of our English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues in the near future you will be very welcome.

Simon Berry

Simon Berry - Chairman and Managing Director