Swinton Park is a magnificent ancestral castle set in 200 acres of parkland, lakes and gardens at the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. The building dates from the 1600å‘s, but significant alterations were made in the 1700å‘s and again in the late 1800å‘s when the building was castellated in the Victorian gothic style, with the addition of a six storey turret.
Unusually the Cunliffe-Lister family bucked the trend when they bought back their ancestral home in May 2000. Molly, Countess of Swinton, was the last member of the family to live there before it was sold in 1980.
Mark (Molly’s great grand-son) and his wife Felicity Cunliffe-Lister married in June 2000 and on return from honeymoon moved to Swinton to start the refurbishment work. They both gave up their careers for the project, Mark a geophysicist and Felicity a city solicitor. They are joined by Mark’s mother Susan (daughter of Willie Whitelaw) and his uncle, The Earl of Swinton, as directors of the family company.
Swinton Park was opened as a 20 bedroom hotel in March 2001. Each bedroom has been individually designed on the theme of a Yorkshire town, dale, garden, castle or abbey. One of the rooms is on two levels in the turret with a splendid Victorian rainbath, and there are three suites.
On the ground floor there are five spacious and elegant reception rooms and also the restaurant Samuel’s named after Mark’s great-great-great grandfather, Samuel Cunliffe-Lister. Guests eat in sumptuous surroundings with an ornate gold leaf ceiling, mahogany panelling, portraits of Samuel and an open fire.
The menu combines modern British style with the very best traditional ingredients (with a selection of meat, game and produce from the family estate). Complemented by an exclusive selection of the finest wines, an evening at Samuel’s is a unique opportunity to savour Yorkshire’s heritage. The restaurant will normally seat 50, with an adjoining private dining room seating up to 25.
Private parties and meetings for up to 120 delegates are catered for in the Library, the Panelled Room and four syndicate rooms, which combine the style and elegance of a country house with the up to date facilities and equipment of a modern venue. The private sitting and dining rooms are particularly popular with smaller parties.
The hotel is surrounded by the 20,000 acre family estate and can offer every country pursuit imaginable, including golf, fishing, shooting, a four mile horse riding course and moorland pony trecking, walking, mountain biking, off roading, croquet, falconry and even model yacht racing on the lake. Within the hotel there is a charming spa in the conservatory, tournament sized snooker table and private cinema.
Within two months of opening, Swinton Park was inspected by the AA and awarded 4 stars, and now has a rating of 79% (“a thoroughly enjoyable visit to a hotel clearly setting national standards of excellence”). The restaurant, Samuel’s, has been awarded 2 rosettes. Swinton Park is now featured in the Michelin Guide and was nominated Yorkshire Life Best Hotel of the Year 2001.
Work has now started on the final phase of work - bringing the total number of bedrooms up to 30 - which will be completed by 1st September, 2002. The 9 acre walled garden is also being cleared in order to restore it to a working vegetable garden, supplying the kitchen with herbs and fresh produce.
In recognition of the hotel’s commitment to the development and training of their staff, Swinton Park was awarded the Investors in People Standard in April 2002.