Augill Castle, the hotel we started from scratch and have for nearly twenty years has made the cut for the fourth year running to appear in The Sunday Times Ultimate 100 British Hotels list. It’s no mean feat for a hotel run by a couple with limited resources who started with the philosophy of wanting to bring their children up in a big house in the country and open a few guest rooms to help pay for the roof repairs.
That was in 1997 and since then the place has grown, we’ve acquired the rest of the estate which had been in other hands and put it all back together as a fifteen bedroom hotel. Except that it’s not a hotel. It’s a place to stay where guests find a sense of belonging, in many ways the very antithesis of a hotel. That initial philosophy of opening the doors of our home to share with guests remains as central to what we do now as ever.
So it is heartening and deeply satisfying the read The Sunday Times’ write up of their hotel of the year, The Painswick in The Cotswolds. That it sounds such an idyllic place is because the words could have been written about Augill:
‘It [the hotel] does not feature groundbreaking ideas in hospitality’
‘It’s simply a beautiful place, run with enthusiasm, care and a touch of humour’
‘The building is immensely satisfying, with thick, thick walls and a pleasing patina of age’
‘Somewhere as lovely as this didn’t need messing about with… remodelled it with simplicity and style’
‘The beds are big, the duvets fluffy, the towels even fluffier’
‘The common areas are full of of good vibes and neat touches… fires and fall-asleep-comfy sofas… actually relaxed enough to do just that’
‘There are games – proper ones like Cluedo and Scrabble’
‘A place with history, warmth and immense charm’
Our own write-up isn’t bad either, focussing on our let-them-children attitude to younger visitors.
But let me return to the first sentence of this year’s Ultimate 100 hotel list: ‘First, an apology. The Sunday Times Hotel of the Year 2016 is not innovative.’
On the contrary, The Painswick, and by association all those of us who have been doing things this way for years, are at the cutting edge of innovation, constantly re-inventing ourselves and devising ever more simple ideas to satisfy our customers’ demands for, well, put simply, simplicity.
To give The Sunday Times the last word: ‘Simple things done well – and when you do lots and lots of those they add up to something special’