No run-of-the-mill guesthouse
Neil and Jane McNair are decisive, quick to learn and hard working. Just the qualities you need to run an exceptional business – particularly in a sector where you have had no previous experience.They were both living in north London, Neil running a building company and Jane working as a practice manager in a veterinary practice, when they came to North Yorkshire for the weekend. Neil had never been to the county, Jane had visited Hawes only once on a family holiday around 40 years before. They spotted a former corn mill at Bainbridge and fell in love with it at once. Acting decisively, they put in an offer as soon as they got back home and within three months they had moved in. They spent a year renovating the building, which had been empty for five years, before opening it as Low Mill Guesthouse with three luxurious bedrooms in September 2011.
Green to go
They were quick to learn the secret of running a successful bed and breakfast business. Green, they decided, was the only way to go. The harder they worked at it, the more successful they became. Recycling, for instance, became an area of focus as the business grew. Two recycling bins – with paper, glass, plastic and tin – are collected by the council every fortnight. Cardboard is also recycled separately.
Early in 2014 they started composting vegetable waste religiously, saving three bags of waste a fortnight that used to go to landfill. Now only one bag of waste a fortnight goes to landfill, not bad for a bed and breakfast business offering evening meals that is 70 per cent full. They like to use suppliers that generate little packaging. Fruit and vegetables, including heritage varieties such as purple, yellow, golden and white beetroot and black carrots, come loose from the wholesalers, The Good Life, in Hawes. Unpackaged soap, cut into pieces just big enough for a couple to use for an overnight stay with minimal waste, come from Oakwood Aromatics, West Tanfield further down Wensleydale. Appropriately for a former mill, all the bread, croissants, cakes and biscuits are baked on the premises. Museli and granola are also made at Low Mill as is much of the ice cream.
Minimising food miles
Food miles are also minimised by 90 per cent of their produce coming from local suppliers – pork, milk, free range eggs and even ale from Askrigg, beef, lamb and cheese from Hawes, handmade chocolates from Swaledale, jam and marmalade from Masham. Their ability to learn quickly and to work hard has been recognised by an AA Guest Accommodation of the Year Award and a White Rose Guest Accommodation Award in 2013. They were also highly commended at the Visit England National Tourism Awards in May 2014 and achieved Silver status at the first attempt in the Green Tourism scheme in January 2015.
All this was just reward for a couple who think beyond meeting the needs of only their guests. They help charity by recycling ink jet cartridges and giving the proceeds to The Friends of the Three Peaks and they are committed to helping wildlife too. In December 2014 they became the first business to sponsor food for a month for the red squirrels at Snaizeholme, near Hawes. Other businesses have followed their lead and the hope is that the public viewing area for the red squirrels becomes self-funded.
For further information, call Neil or Jane McNair on 01969 650553 or visit www.lowmillguesthouse.co.uk