THE decision to change lifestyle and leave the corporate world has led two North Devon hoteliers to win a flurry of awards.
Huw Rees and Sam Prosser had no experience of the hospitality before buying the Old Rectory Hotel in Martinhoe six years ago, but their formula for looking after guests is satisfying both old and new customers as well as winning them a string of awards.
"We wanted to do something about work/life balance," said Huw, "And we wanted to run a country hotel."
Huw and Sam scoured the country for a property two hours from Bristol and finally came across the Old Rectory Hotel.
"We stood at the gate and thought: this is the one," added Huw.
Assisted by longstanding staff, some of whom have worked at the hotel for 16 years, Huw and Sam have invested considerably in restoring the accommodation and grounds to create a home from home for their guests.
"We wanted to create somewhere you wanted to stay but could never find. It's developed beyond that now and it's been more successful than we could have ever imagined."
The Old Rectory Hotel is one of only 15 hotels in the UK to have been awarded a Michelin Red Pavilion and was recently listed number two in the Times Travel Section's list of top kid-free places to stay in Europe. It won the Good Hotel Guide's Cesar Award – Devon Hotel of the Year 2014 and was a finalist in the Conde Naste Awards for Excellence's British Romantic Hotel of the Year category.
Having won gold for Best Hotel in the 2013 Visit Devon Awards and another in the Best Small Hotel category of the South West Tourism Excellence Awards 2013, the hotel is now awaiting the announcement of the Visit England Awards on May 12 in which it is one of five Small Hotel of the Year finalists.
Huw said winning the awards was good for business and for motivating all the people working in it.
"Sometimes you work in a bubble so it's really good that someone from outside has come and assessed you and that people recognise that you are doing a good job.
"Our success is down to the support we've had from local people, the great outdoors and our customers."