We recently sat down with Victoria Carver who owns Clitherow Cottage, Park Cottage and Stracey Cottage in the Yorkshire Wolds to find out a little more about these properties and her journey to becoming a Gorgeous Cottages owner.
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I’m Tor Carver, mum of William who's 10 and wife & business partner of Christian. Before becoming a mum and settling back in Yorkshire I worked in television, travelling around the world with my job.
When William was little and I was a stay at home mum, we had a couple of estate cottages which were in dire need of renovation, the perfect project for me.
How did you go about refurbishing / decorating the properties?
I loved the renovation process. I’ve lived in a number of cities and so had that in mind when I was thinking about the colour palette and soft furnishings. I wanted to create an escape for guests where they could immediately relax as soon as they walked through the door - an oasis of calm was definitely the goal.
I wanted to buy local and upcycle wherever I could, but quality and comfort was key so I chose mattresses like the ones we slept in at home. Not long ago, I had a couple of Australian businessmen staying for a few days and they said they’d been in quite a few different hotels in London and elsewhere in Europe over a fortnight and our beds at the cottages were the most comfortable by far on their entire trip. I think the peaceful surroundings helped too.
I’ve kept the colours quite simple and to a certain extent the decor. I’m always mindful of clutter - too much clutter and how on earth can I expect the housekeepers to keep on top of it?
I think the key though is to try to hold on to the original history of the cottage and retain features wherever you can. That’s one of the things that sets them apart from other self-catering properties and is part of the guest experience - they love to find out about the story behind the cottages.
What do you feel draws visitors to this part of Yorkshire?
I think people love coming to Yorkshire and know the Yorkshire brand thanks to the great work of Welcome to Yorkshire and of course Gorgeous Cottages. Yorkshire boasts stunning scenery, charming market towns, beautiful architecture, a pretty coastline and lots of history - there really is something for everyone.
The Yorkshire Wolds are less well known than the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales but it's just as beautiful (as David Hockney knows) and probably less crowded - the hidden gem of Yorkshire. The food offer in East Yorkshire is wonderful too - there's a wealth of great food producers and a wonderful array of gastro pubs, fine-dining restaurants and street food sellers in the Yorkshire Wolds. The area really has changed a lot since we opened the cottages in 2010 and all for the better.
What makes your cottages stand out?
Our cottages sit on the edge of the pretty village of Hotham, just at the foot of the Yorkshire Wolds, with great access to the M62 and a fab foodie pub just five minutes’ walk away. There are wonderful walks on the doorstep but the cottages are within easy reach of Beverley, York, Leeds and Hull if guests are looking for a taste of city life.
We are very well situated for guests to meet up with friends and relatives from elsewhere in the UK because of the road & rail networks. Many families (often three generations) choose to stay with us and I think it is because there is so much space for children to play freely either in the gardens or out in Hotham Park.
It’s a perfect place to learn to ride a bike or scoot as it has a private road through it with very little traffic. The cottages rest on the edge of picturesque parkland and have lovely gardens for guests to enjoy. Park Cottage has a hot tub and two of the properties have separate snugs for the kids to hang out in for a little extra freedom.
The cottages are just a mile away from our award-winning family adventure attraction, William’s Den which is open 7 days a week, boasts a fantastic restaurant with wood-fired pizza oven and is where we make our own scrumptious ice cream.
Do you have any tips to ensure consistent bookings all year round?
If you can, offer arrival & departure flexibility, short stays throughout the year, and be prepared to adjust your pricing to suit market demand.
What would you say is the most rewarding part of holiday letting?
I think Christian and I find it incredibly rewarding when guests tell us that they really don’t want to go home. It means we have met their expectations and they have managed to relax and take a well deserved rest. Hopefully, they’ve made wonderful memories and will go home and sing about us to their friends.
What advice would you give to other new owners?
I would recommend really looking at your local market and what competitors are doing, trying to be as unique as you can to stand out and bearing in mind that you need to be available 24/7 to deal with unexpected issues. If that's not possible I recommend employing someone warm and friendly who can look after guests on your behalf.
What attracted you to The Travel Chapter’s Gorgeous Cottages brand?
We have always loved how the Gorgeous Cottages brand promotes Yorkshire itself as well as the luxury cottages in the portfolio and have been part of the Gorgeous Cottages collection for over 6 years now.
If you’d like to learn more about Victoria’s properties, click on the links below:
▪ Park Cottage
▪ Clitherow Cottage
▪ Stracey Cottage
Find out more about joining the Gorgeous Cottages collection.