Nick Bannister, Director of The Coniston in Skipton, on keeping it in the family, making full use of their grounds and why they have launched a unique experience to explore Yorkshire
Can you give us a potted history of The Coniston…
The Coniston is nestled in a 1,400 acre estate which has been home to my father, Michael Bannister, and our family since 1969. Having started life as a farm shop selling produce from the estate, we have grown to become one of North Yorkshire’s premium destinations, where friendly, personal service is at the heart of everything we do. Having won accolades such as Welcome to Yorkshire’s ‘Large Hotel of the Year’, Yorkshire Post’s ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ and Professional Beauty’s ‘Best Boutique Spa’, we are extremely proud of our offering and success throughout the years, and now boast a 70-bedroom hotel, two luxury holiday cottages, three dining outlets, an award-winning spa, beautiful function spaces for weddings and groups and an array of outdoor activities – something for everyone.
Why the evolution from a local farm shop to a destination hotel?
My mother and brother set up the farm shop in the 1980s as a first step to diversify the estate away from solely farming and secure its future for years to come. From that success a tea room was developed out of the estate barn, followed by a hotel in 1998. We already had activities such as a Shooting Ground and an Off-Roading Centre, which was an added attraction for our guests. Through further investment phases, we expanded the hotel rooms to 70 and opened a dedicated spa in 2015. The pandemic was a very difficult time for hospitality, however we took the opportunity to use lockdowns wisely to reassess our offering and reinvest in the future. We spent over £1million on key projects, thus strengthening our overall offer, and keeping customers coming back time and time again as well as enticing new visitors.
How important do you think it is the fact The Coniston is family-run?
For us it is very important, it is the foundation and ethos of the whole business. We try to make every guest and colleague feel part of our family, and it is this stance that we believe sets us apart, keeps customers returning and our staff retention rate something we are proud of.
How do you make use of the 1,400 acres of grounds?
If you love the great outdoors as much as we do, then The Coniston is the perfect place to visit, as we make the most of our estate and countryside location with an array of activities. From clay pigeon shooting and cycling to air rifles and archery, you can even while away a day fishing on our 24-acre lake or spend hours exploring our many miles of walking trails with a freshly prepared picnic in hand.
Do you always encourage guests to make the most of Yorkshire’s countryside?
Absolutely, we are so incredibly lucky to be based in such a beautiful part of the world and really do encourage guests to explore what’s on our doorstep. From tackling one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks and soaking up the magnificent scenery of Malham Cove, to conquering Skipton Castle and basking in the beauty of Bolton Abbey, we’re passionate about our home county and everything it offers.
What do you offer at the shooting ground?
Our estate is home to one of the best shooting grounds in the whole of the UK, and has even been awarded Premier Plus Ground status from The Clay Pigeon Shooting Association. Welcoming both beginners and more advanced shooters, as well as those simply looking for a fun outdoor activity to try, our shooting ground is home to a variety of different stands and traps for clay pigeon shooting, as well as archery and an air rifle range, all set within spectacular surrounds. We offer lessons, tailored to individuals, and delight in hosting larger sessions for corporate, hen and stag groups. There’s even a well-stocked shop and superb café on site to really enhance a great day out.
When and why did you introduce Land Rover Experiences?
The Coniston has offered off-roading experiences on site for over 20 years, however in June 2021, we were delighted to welcome back Land Rover Experience to the estate. Land Rover Experience offer expert-led driving experiences in their brand new Land Rover and Range Rover fleet, giving guests the opportunity to take to the tracks to try out Yorkshire’s famously rugged landscape first hand, from grassy hills to rock crawls and even water crossings – all with breathtaking views. Our fantastic track set-up combined with our highly-trained, off-road experts, makes us to perfect choice for driving experiences, family days out, corporate team-building and more.
What can we expect with the new Land Rover Experience tours?
Earlier this year we launched a series of dedicated Land Rover Escorted Tours, with the aim to expertly showcase the Yorkshire Dales in sophisticated style. Our Escorted Tours are expert-led and see guests sit back, relax and let us take them to some of the most magnificent landscapes and locations in our local area – all from the comfort of a brand-new Land Rover or Range Rover. From our Picnics & Prosecco tour that shows off spectacular scenery to our Pies & Pints experience that showcases some of the very best watering holes our county is home to. We have even put together a Land Rovers & Love proposal package for those that want to pop the question in a truly special and unique way!
What’s to come from The Coniston as we head into autumn?
Autumn on the estate is a truly special time of year. As the greens of summer in Yorkshire fade, the estate see shades of red, amber and gold start to glow, creating the most spectacular seasonal scenes.
This year, we’re set for an amazing autumn as we launch new menus for our three dining outlets – The View Restaurant, Macleod’s Bar & Lounge and Blossom Kitchen – including a dedicated game menu that really showcases the fantastic local produce on our doorstep.
We will also be launching a new signature treatment for our award-winning Five Bubble rated spa in September, which ties in perfectly with the changing of seasons. Our new treatment will make use of Aromatherapy Associates ‘Forest Therapy’ products, which promote reconnecting with your roots and nature to help ease stress and relax, and will be exclusively available at our Nàdarra Spa.
Here at The Coniston, we are always looking at ways which we can continuously improve our offering, and over the past few years we have refurbished our main restaurant, introduced new walks and picnic areas, enhanced our bar and created a new guest lounge area, as well as completely redeveloped and rebranded our spa, and are delighted to share we will be working on our next project this autumn. In November, we will start work on improving the Bannister Suite – one of our large function spaces – and will fully redecorate the room, add an impressive centrepiece new bar and upgrade our outdoor area. We are excited to see the results and the positive impact this will have on weddings and groups.