The story so far
Former academics Kath and Liam Berney gave up everything to buy a 10-bedroom hotel in the Lake District. After a hectic start, they have found their feet and taken charge.
The previous owners of the Cottage in the Wood had had it for some time and, before receiving Kath and Liam Berney's offer, intended to run it down over the few years they had left until retirement.
Understandably, there was no attempt to keep up with design fashion, and in Liam's words, the hotel's dining area looked too much like that of a guesthouse.
With the hotel already having won two RAC dining awards, the Berneys were keen to freshen up the area and create a new atmosphere, which would help them to attract non-resident local diners.
The Cottage in the Wood dates back to the 17th century, when it was a coaching inn, so any revamp had to be sympathetic with its distinct, romantic look.
It closed for refurbishment at the start of January and reopened on 12 February, ahead of the St Valentine's weekend, and the overhaul went smoothly.
A local interior design company helped the Berneys realise their plans, and Liam called in a talented decorator and friend from the Midlands to do the work.
In came new furniture and up went pomegranate wallpaper to give a fresh, yet classically elegant, look.
"The hotel has a magical ambience, so we were sensitive to maintaining it while trying to create a real 'wow' factor for our guests," says Liam. "Our aim was to subtly bring the forest into the restaurant with the new look, and so far our visitors have loved it."
Particular points of pride are the handsome new tables and chairs, supplied by north Lancashire company HJ Berry.
"The company is environmentally responsible and produces quality British goods, which was a perfect fit with our vision for the hotel," says Liam.
Things may seem tough for the hotel industry, but the Cottage in the Wood is enjoying a busy time as word-of-mouth and repeat custom start to kick in.
Excitingly for the Berneys, they recently welcomed their first Australian and Dutch guests, proving their new website with online booking facility is starting to attract business.
"June and July have always been a trough for the hotel as many domestic tourists travel abroad," says Liam. "The idea behind setting up the website was to counter this by attracting inbound tourists, and in recent weeks we've achieved this, with American, Australian and European customers booked in for the summer."
The cottage in the wood
Whinlatter Pass, near Keswick, Cumbria
Tel: 01768 78409
Owners: Kath and Liam Berney
Bought: June 2002
Rates: bed and breakfast - £35 standard room, £40 four-poster room
Dinner: Sunday to Thursday from £18.50; Friday and Saturday £25
Staff: two part-time housekeepers, one part-time bar/restaurant person at weekends
Investment capital: £23,000
March sales: £8,228
March occupancy: 43%