“It’ll be 15 years in June. We feel like we’re getting the hang of it.”
Jonathan Kaye is joking but he must be doing something right. Cedar Manor, the boutique hotel he and his wife Caroline run in Windermere, has been named the best luxury hotel in the UK, and 10th best throughout Europe in the 2022 Travellers’ Choice® Best of the Best Awards for Hotels, which highlights travellers’ favourite hotels worldwide.
He is modestly bemused by how they came out on top but also delighted that they have.
“TripAdvisor apply some funky algorithm and it's brought us out on top. It must be the amount of reviews we've received in the last 12 months.
“But we are chuffed to bits that it's come out that way.
“We have tried to create a really beautiful luxury small hotel which is as good as we can get it, with the
levels of quality in terms of the rooms, the furniture, the service, the products.
“We've always strived to make it as good as we possibly can for the guests who are coming to us at the moment, - and the guests who came in the past. A lot of them have shared the journey from where we started.”
Cedar Manor dates back to 1854 and the Kayes’ tenure started in the mid-noughties when they persuaded themselves to bring forward a long-term plan to move into hospitality away from London.
Jonathan had fallen for the Lake District during student trips and Caroline’s willingness to go along with his vision cemented their relationship early on.
A decade and a half after they swapped the capital for Cumbria they have both fallen for their adopted town.
“I didn't know a lot about Windermere," said Jonathan. "I was always an Ambleside or Borrowdale or Langdale person. But we soon discovered Windermere and found out that it wasn't just coffee shops and pubs; it's a beautiful area to live in.
“People find it extremely convenient for discovering the Lake District. We get a lot of international visitors.”
Visitors also find that at the heart of what the Kayes offer at Cedar Manor is sustainability.
Everything that possibly can be - from furniture to food - is sourced or made locally.
Each bedroom has been given a bespoke look by a local interior designer; the beers in the bar are from the Hawkshead Brewery.
Jonathan said: “We're super passionate about local suppliers.
“The new thing is to put a pin in your hotel and draw a circle 30 miles around you and try to source as much as you from inside that radius.
“So we can source the best local produce from north Lancashire and Cumbria. I made my line go a little bit further and grab a few bits out of Yorkshire.
“We also try to educate people about seasonality - look forward to strawberries from late May to early July. We really don't need to buy strawberries in December from Morocco.”
Their commitment extends to energy sources, with low-energy lighting, water flow management and an impending survey to establish the greenest form of heating.
As members of Green Tourism, they also provide a carbon calculator for guests, whether driving from Carlisle or flying from Canada, to offset the environmental impact of their travel and stay via verified projects.
The Kayes’ relationship with The Cumberland began at the start, with the building society assessing their
shortlist of properties and offering local advice, like basing yourself in the Langdale or Borrowdale valleys would mean a 45-minute trip to take their daughters to school whereas in Windermere they just pop over the road.
Jonathan said: "Anyone considering coming into this industry needs to be aware that The Cumberland is certainly the number one for hotel and guesthouse mortgaging. They understand our business and they should be the first port of call for anyone."
Grant Seaton, Senior Commercial Manager at The Cumberland, said: “We’ve had a long and mutually rewarding relationship with the Kayes since they took over Cedar Manor which we are delighted to see
“Many congratulations to them on being named best luxury hotel in the UK and here’s to even more more success in the future.”