Christmas at The Cow

Read all about Christmas in the Derbyshire Dales and discover what it takes to host over the festive season

The Cow Inn, Dalbury Lees, Derbyshire

Despite everything, this year has flown by and we once again realise that Christmas has snuck up on us.

Normally, we’d all be sat debating the correct time to put up your Christmas decorations, frantically shopping for the right gift, and organising the family events.

But this year, so much changed and no one knows what’s going to happen. But despite the uncertainty, many are doing their best to make sure Christmas goes off without a hitch, no matter what.

One such place is The Cow in Dalbury Lees, a 12 bedroom luxury inn run by the pub restaurant group, Berkeley Inns.

“This year has been really difficult,” said Dawn-Elizabeth Rudd, Head of Group PR and Media Relations for Berkeley Inns.

“We have been heavily restricted by what we are able to do due to the pandemic. So we’ve kept it quite simple this year and we’re doing things that we know (or hope) won’t be altered too drastically.”

This year, their Christmas package offers two nights in a luxury room, subject to availability, as well as two breakfasts and a special Christmas gift from The Cow.

“We provide delicious mince pies, mulled wine, which our guests can enjoy next to a cosy log fire, having returned from a lovely brisk walk through the beautiful Derbyshire countryside. We are so fortunate to be surrounded by outstanding natural beauty,” said Dawn.

“All of that won’t go away. We’ve got elements that might change because we’re governed by the government guidelines and we don’t know what’s going to happen. So we’re enhancing what we’ve already got, rather than doing anything that’s going to cause any difficulties for our guests.”

Dawn said: “Last year we extended our dining area to include a lovely marquee on the side of the pub.

“We’ve got a lovely paved area out through the french doors near the main bar and this provided extra seating for our visitors and we decorated it with Christmas decorations.

“It’s warm and cosy and it worked really well last year. We had Christmas trees and lots of lights, which was a wonderful, inviting scene. Hopefully next year we’ll be back to normality, in whatever form that takes.

“But sadly we don’t think we will be able to put up the marquee this year because of restrictions.”

Dawn said: “We’re extremely fortunate to be situated in a peaceful village right in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales, where we see frequent snowy scenes perfect for our guests to escape to and leave the world behind.

“People are genuinely so thrilled to be coming here and it gives us enormous pleasure to receive them and hear their stories.

“Normally we run at about 100% occupancy and we’re busy throughout the year because of where we’re located and the service we provide. It’s an all year destination stay, particularly popular with walkers and cyclists wishing to escape from city life.”

When it comes to hosting at Christmas, it’s important to pay attention to festive decorations, mouth-watering food and all the comforts that they would expect when visiting a luxury establishment.

Dawn said: “We work with a fantastic local company, Mercaston Tree Company, who provide our Christmas trees and along with our talented team, help us to decorate them. They are also responsible for our gardens and hanging baskets in the summer.

“There is nothing more special than the aroma of nordic pine Christmas trees, especially when adorned with lovely decorations.

“It’s all about the nice little touches and being elegant, warm and cosy without being too dramatic. Sometimes it’s something as simple as putting up twinkling lights and lighting candles.”

But there’s so much more to consider over the festive season. It goes without saying that it’s always best practice to offer your guests a wonderful, warm welcome, but what else can you do?

Dawn said: “We always have the fires lit, everything is decorated beautifully, the rooms are luxurious and we always provide lovely little gifts for our guests at Christmas time.”

She added: “I think the secret is to be very, very organised, being prepared for every eventuality and thinking well ahead.

“It’s difficult this year because we’re in the hands of the government, however we’re trying to organise things that are achievable to limit the amount of disruption and confusion to our guests, so that we can carry on providing an exemplary service.”

Dawn also spoke about the value of social media and online platforms. Social media is a great way of quickly getting the news out there and keeping your customers informed.

“I would say the emphasis should be on your website and social media platforms. Really, really use them to your full potential. Use excellent visuals to showcase your menus, packages, rooms and local area.

“Never underestimate the power of social media. It’s a vital tool, during these uncertain times.”

When it comes to marketing, Dawn said “people love a good story about a community”.

“If you’re in an area of outstanding beauty, highlight the positive aspects of that. It’s very personal to your own business, what you do. Look at what you’ve got, look at what you’re trying to achieve, and make it as inviting as possible.

“Make sure you’ve got compelling pictures of the bedrooms, the views, the walks, the food, and just really tell that story.

“We work with lots of local businesses. Get in touch with their marketing departments. Work together and collaborate. Highlight what other people are doing.

“That’s so important to us in a rural community. Champion everybody around you. Collaborate and if you’re in a place to do it, source local products, or work with your local tourism board.”

A sense of community spirit can go a long way at Christmas time, especially during the current pandemic.

Dawn said: “There’s a plethora of wonderful opportunities. It’s just a question of seizing them and supporting each other. It really does make all the difference.”

Her final piece of advice for those who wish to host over Christmas was to “go that extra mile”.

“If someone rings up and says ‘Can you make me this?’ Make it. Always go that extra mile and I think people will always remember that and they’ll respect you for it.

“If someone makes a request and you can do it, do it. We do. We pride ourselves at Berkeley Inns, particularly at The Cow, for providing that exemplary service and going that extra mile.”

She added: “It’s important to do that at any time of the year, but particularly at Christmas.”

6 TOP TIPS FOR CHRISTMAS INNS

1. Go the extra mile

2. Collaborate with local businesses

3. Decorations should be elegant and not too dramatic

4. Make sure you are organised

5. Use social media and websites to your advantage

6. Make the most of a community story

Websites to note down:

cowdalbury.com

berkeleyinns.com

This article was first published in Issue 44 of the Luxury BnB Magazine in December 2020: