The History of English Lakes Hotels

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The hotels have enjoyed an interesting and dynamic history and each one has its own unique tales of days gone by.

We have compiled a short background history which explains the development of English Lakes Hotels from inception in the early 1950's to the present day.

The 1950's

Low Wood & Wild Boar Hotels Purchased

In January 1953, Norman Buckley, great, great uncle of the present Managing Director Ben Berry, acquired the lease for Low Wood Hotel. 

Under its new management, the hotel welcomed its first guests in the spring of 1953.

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

Norman Buckley secures World Water Speed Records

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 1960's

The Royal Hotel added to portfolio

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

Further Water Speed Records Broken

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 awarded MBE

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 becomes Managing Director

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

Waterhead joins the group

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

The 1980s

Simon and Tim join the company

Simon (Executive Chairman) and Tim (Estates Director) joined their father in running the business.

Low Wood was to be the base for a 'Jaws' style film

Joan Collins checked in at Low Wood Hotel in May 1982 to wow journalists and photographers for the finale of the press tour for a motion thriller called ‘The Pike’.

Low Wood Watersports Centre opens

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.

Low Wood is Developed

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

The 1990s

Prince Edward opens extended Low Wood

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


Lancaster House Officially Opened

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

Directors attend Disney Programme

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

Michael Berry awarded OBE

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

Simon Berry takes over as Managing Director

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

The 2000s

Lifetime Achievement award for Michael Berry

In 2000, Michael Berry was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement award by the Catering International Management Association.

Low Wood awarded 4 stars

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.

English Lakes celebrates 50 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.

Low Wood - 'Large Hotel of the Year'

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

Storrs Hall joins English Lakes

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.

Waterhead Redevelopment

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 offered 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.

Michael Berry dies

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.

Lancaster House Re-developed

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 hotel's capacity, 19 new luxury bedroom suites, plus expansions to the Sandpiper Leisure Club and Sandman’s Bar.

Storrs Hall achieved 4 star status.

2005 - A Year of Awards 

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.

Our properties also won:

  • Waterhead - ‘Large Hotel of the Year
  • Lancaster House - ‘Business Tourism Award’ for Lancashire
  • Low Wood - ‘Business Tourism Award’ for Cumbria & ‘Excellence in Business and Tourism’ 

In 2006 English Lakes, as a company, won ‘Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure Business Excellence Award’ for the +1 customer service initiative and ‘Best Family Business’ at the Coutts Awards.

In 2007 Low Wood went on to win the 'North-west Tourism Awards' .

The Wild Boar Woods

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

Low Wood Marina Opens

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

Low Wood hosts The Great North Swim

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 joins English Lakes

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 2010s

Redeveloped The Wild Boar

The Wild Boar was reopened after an extensive development of 17 feature and luxury rooms, and brand new Grill and Smokehouse.

Conservation Donation

English Lakes reached an impressive Visitor Giving figure of £100,000.00 across the group. This was donated to Nurture Lakeland to support their local environmental conservation work.

English Lakes celebrates 60 years

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

Finance Director Appointed

Matt Wilkinson with Simon Berry

Matt Wilkinson who joined the company in August 2001 was appointed to the Board of Directors in September 2013.

The Midland celebrates 80 years

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

AA Rosette & Environmental  Award

In 2014 The Midland attained an AA food rosette in recognition of its food preparation, use of wholesome ingredients and service to guests. In the same year, and each of our five properties achieved Gold certification for excellence in the Green Tourism Business Awards.

The Wild Boar Pub of The Year

In 2015 The Wild Boar won Visit England Tourism Pub of the Year Silver Award.

Family Business of The Year

In 2016 English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues won Family Business of the Year.

25th Anniversary

Lancaster House celebrated its 25th birthday.

World Class Resort Plans

‘Low Wood Bay closed in January 2017 for major re-development and re-opened in April 2017 as the Lake Districts first resort.

Best Celebration Venue

The Midland in Morecambe was awarded Best Celebration Venue 2017 in the Bay Living Awards. We are delighted to host Afternoon Tea at The Midland, stylish weddings, birthday cocktails in the Rotunda Bar, romantic anniversary dinners overlooking Morecambe Bay and many other celebrations.

Culinary Academy Launched

Our fully accredited Culinary Academy was launched. A two year-apprenticeship programme for aspiring Chefs under the supervision of internationally acclaimed Chef, Steven Doherty. We look forward to seeing a new generation of creative Chefs emerge from our kitchens.

Five-Star Inn

The Wild Boar was awarded five-star guest accommodation status.

Family Business of the Year

English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues were named Family Business of the Year in the Large Hotels, Leisure and Tourism category at the Cumbria Family Business Awards.

Low Wood Bay Adds New Restaurant

Blue Smoke at Low Wood Bay, a new dining experience serving dishes cooked over a wood-fired grill, was opened.

Family Member Joins the Board

Ben Berry, son of Simon Berry, was appointed to the Board of Directors in June 2018.

Spa at Low Wood Bay Opens

In September 2018 The Spa and indoor thermal area was opened offering a luxurious Thermal Journey and beauty treatments using ESPA products and our own brand Berry & Birch products.

Low Wood Bay’s Winander Club

In March 2019 Winander Club opened, offering 29 stylish bedrooms and suites and providing ‘next level’ luxury with a private bar and exclusive breakfast area for club guests.

In addition to the new Winander Club accommodation, The Blue Smoke Restaurant, Norman’s Juice Bar and The Spa open after a multi-million pound renovation.

Outdoor Thermal Area Opens at Low Wood Bay

Low Wood Bay Spa’s outdoor thermal area was opened in April 2019. luxury facilities including a heated outdoor infinity pool, hot tubs, sauna, fire pit and drinks service.

BBC North West Tonight

In October 2019, BBC North West ran a series on some interesting family businesses in the North West of England. Members of the Berry family were interviewed by Roger Johnson discussing the history and future of English Lakes Hotels as well as tourism in the World Heritage Lake District. 

The 2020s

Grand Reopening of Hospitality

July 4th, 2020 signalled the reopening of the Hospitality sector following the Covid lockdown. English Lakes marked this date with the firing of the canon from the Jetty at Low Wood Bay.

Hydropower at Low Wood Bay

Always keenly aware of our local environment, and reducing our carbon footprint, in October 2021 we installed a Hydropower plant at Low Wood Bay , fed by a local river at the back of the hotel. This generates approximately one third of the hotel’s energy requirements.

Extension of Executive Board

From L to R: Matt Wilkinson, Matt Stanaway, Ben Berry, Teresa Lawrence, Simon Berry, Michael Kay, Tim Berry

In April 2022, Ben Berry moves from Sales and Purchasing Director to take the reins as Group Managing Director, becoming the fifth generation at the helm. His father, Simon Berry, becomes Executive Chairman.
Previously group managers, Teresa Lawrence takes on the role of Group Sales Director, Matt Stanaway becomes Hotel Operations Director and Michael Kay is Group Leisure Director.

English Lakes stop running Midland after thirteen successful years

Simon Berry Executive Chairman said: “The Midland is an hotel that you curate rather than a business that you run. It has been our privilege to have this responsibility for the last 13 years, we will miss it".

Celebrating 70 Years

It's the 70th anniversary year of Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa opening its doors to guests under the stewardship of the family business now known as English Lakes Hotels Resorts & Venues. Throughout 2023 there will be several competitions and events to help everyone from guests to staff celebrate this landmark year.

July 2023 - 70th anniversary year extravaganza weekend held at Low Wood Bay Resort & Spa a highlight of the celebrations throughout 2023.