A former royal love nest has been crowned as the best hotel in North Wales.
Plas Dinas Country House in Bontnewydd near Caernarfon – once home to Princess Margaret and Lord Snowdon – was named as the Hotel of the Year at the Go North Wales Tourism Awards.
The headline sponsor for the glittering event at Venue Cymru in Llandudno was the leading food distribution company, Harlech Foodservice, and it was hosted by acclaimed journalist Sian Lloyd who hails from Wrexham.
The occasion was also a 30th anniversary celebration for organiser North Wales Tourism which was founded in 1990 and now represents more than 1,500 members across the region
The leasehold for Plas Dinas Country House was bought by Daniel and Annie Perks in 2019 after they fell in love with the former royal retreat.
Back in the 1960s, it provided a bolthole for Lord Snowdon, formerly Anthony Armstrong-Jones, and Princess Margaret, hidden away from the glare of London life.
It was also where Lord Snowdon used as a base to mastermind Prince Charles’s investiture at Caernarfon Castle in 1969.
In recent years the mansion was visited by Prince William while he was serving as a search and rescue pilot at RAF Valley on Anglesey.
The judges were particularly impressed with how the current owners had used the lockdown to redesign the nine bedrooms and 80 per cent of the public areas, including the Gunroom Restaurant.
A delighted Annie Perks said: “This has been the hardest year we’ve ever had but it’s also been remarkable.
“The fact that we’re preserving this story of royal romance and being able to tell it through the design and the character of this unique property and in a pandemic has just been amazing.”
Also successful were Greenwood Family Park, at Y Felinheli, which picked up the Adventure Parc Snowdonia Responsible and Sustainable Green Award.
Nathaniel Anderson, Greenwood Rides and Activities Manager, said: “It’s been a brilliant year with the best summer we’ve ever had.
“The increase in staycationers has really helped and we’ve been consistently busy through the year.
“We do feel that this is really our time because we’re a sustainable business with solar producing all our power throughout the season and all our rides are sustainable which is great.”
Sarah Heyworth, runs Graig Wen Arthog, near Dolgellau, with John McKenzie-Murdoch, and they took the Harlech Foodservice Ltd Best Camping/Glamping title.
She said: “We thought we were just turning up for a night out. It’s a real was a shock but it’s great recognition for our fantastic team.
“We have a very loyal customer base because if they had cancelled bookings and asked for their money back we’d have been bankrupted so we’re so grateful for the way they kept faith with us.”
Michael Bewick, of J W Greaves Ltd which runs Llechwedd Slate Caverns, in Blaenau Ffestiniog, said: “I’m thrilled to bits. I go to work every day and try and inspire a great team and help the industry.
“In the last 18 months I’ve been part of the Welsh Government Covid Tourism Task Force and been able to represent the voice of tourism direct to the heart of government.
“I very much hope that it helps the next generation of young people coming into tourism meet the huge challenge they face.”
Also successful from Gwynedd were Plas Tan yr Allt Historic Country House, of Porthmadog, which won the Colliers Hotels Best B&B/Inn and Lyons Pendyffryn Hall which took the Pario Leisure Group Self Catering Site of the Year.
According to Jim Jones, the amount of investment going into improving the infrastructure of the tourism and hospitality sector was a vote of confidence in the future of the industry in North Wales.
Before the pandemic, the tourism industry was flying with the overall income generated increasing to an all-time high of £3.6 billion in 2019 when the number of visitors rocketed to nearly 37 million.
After a massive slump, the staycation boom this summer showed that North Wales was still a hugely popular destination for holidaymakers.
Jim Jones said: “Like everybody else, the tourism industry has endured an absolute nightmare over the past 20 months and, because of the nature of the business, our sector was disproportionately affected during the lockdown periods.
“I would like to congratulate the winners and the other finalists tonight because was they have achieved is utterly remarkable, particularly under the most difficult of circumstances.
“I would also like to stress that all the nominees are playing an absolutely vital role in leading the economic recovery here in North Wales and I would like to thank them for their incredible ongoing contribution.”
David Cattrall, the managing director of Harlech Foodservice, said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to be the headline backer of the awards and to sponsor two individual categories because the tourism and hospitality industry represents our core customer base.
“Although we’ve all had an extremely tough time, there are reasons to be optimistic for the future and the scale of investment going into North Wales shows there is a strong belief that this is a first-class, must-visit destination.”
North Wales Tourism used the occasion to raise money for their nominated charity, St David’s Hospice in Llandudno.
The full list of winners
Go Best B&B/Inn of the Year sponsored by Colliers Hotels: Plas Tan-Yr-Allt Historic Country House – Porthmadog, Gwynedd.
Go Self Catering of the Year sponsored by Pario Leisure Group: Lyons Pendyffryn Hall, Penmaenmawr, Conwy.
Go Caravan, Camping or Glamping of the Year sponsored by Harlech Food Service: Graig Wen Arthog, Dolgellau, Gwynedd
Go Holiday Park of the year sponsored by Thornley Leisure Parks: Marine Holiday Park, Rhyl.
Go Pet Friendly Award sponsored by Pero Foods Ltd: Y Shed, Meliden, Prestatyn
Go Responsible and Sustainable Green Award sponsored by Adventure Parc Snowdonia: GreenWood Family Park, Y Felinheli
Go Business Events and Incentive Travel Award sponsored by Heart North Wales: Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Go Attraction of the Year sponsored by Development Bank of Wales: Penderyn Distillery, Lloyd St, Llandudno.
Go Activity of the Year sponsored by Design 2 Print: Mynydd Sleddog Adventures, Bwlch Hafod Einion near Llyn Brenig and Alwen Reservoir,
Go Taste of North Wales Award sponsored by Bwydlyn Butchery: Three Eagles Bar & Grill, Llangollen
Go Resilience and Innovation Award sponsored by North Wales Live: St David’s Hospice, Llandudno
Go Tourism & Hospitality Hero sponsored by Aber Falls Distillery: Glenn Evans, from Ruthin – Royal Oak Hotel, Betws y Coed.
Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award sponsored by Grwp Llandrillo Menai: Michael Bewick – JW Greaves Ltd, Managing Director, Llechwedd, Bl Ffestiniog, Gwynedd.
Go Hotel of the Year sponsored by Castell Howell Foods Ltd: Plas Dinas Country House.
Go 30 years of the Tourism Industry sponsored by Tir Prince Leisure Group: Dr Shyam Patiar MBE, Llandrillo College.