A family-run hotel and wedding venue in Cumbria has been included among the world’s finest hospitality businesses in the annual TripAdvisor Awards.

Heather Glen Country House, in Ainstable, received the Traveller’s Choice Award - putting it in the top 10 per cent of hotels across the globe based on customer reviews.

The Victorian venue in the Middle Eden Valley has received near-unanimous five-star ratings over the past 12 months, though it has been closed for the duration of the lockdown.

Judith Smith, who owns and runs the hotel with her husband Dennis and son Damion, said that it was the first time they had been recognised by the TripAdvisor Awards, and it was an accolade they hope to achieve year after year.

She said: “It is a huge achievement for us to be named in the top 10 per cent of hotels across the world - especially as we are somewhat off the beaten track.

“That is what people tend to like about the place, that you have to seek it out and it has a feeling of exclusivity.

“We are well placed for walking, cycling, visits to the Lake District, Carlisle and Hadrian’s Wall. People often find us by accident but then they come back time and time again.”

The Smith family, who also run Bar Solo in Carlisle city centre took over the running of Heather Glen 12 years ago after it had been closed for around two years.

The family invested £330,000 into the restaurant to do an eight-week refurbishment in 2010 which expanded its capacity from 70 to 120.

In the time since, they have restored this once-famous country club to its former glory, creating a spectacular seven-bedroom hotel and a hugely popular venue for weddings and functions.

“Weddings are incredibly important to us,” continued Mrs Smith. “Of course, almost our entire calendar has had to be shifted to next year and we’ve only managed to have two small civil ceremonies since March.

“Everyone affected by the cancellations has been very understanding, and all the local suppliers who were working on these events have been extremely accommodating too. It’s still not clear when we can get back to full capacity, but our 2021 is already looking very busy.”

The local community in and around Ainstable has been staunchly supportive during this difficult period, and Heather Glen has seen a large take-up for its takeaway service that it initiated at the start of lockdown.

Mrs Smith added: “We had 185 orders for the first weekend, and many of those customers have ordered week after week. There are still a lot of people that we deliver to who can’t leave their homes, and they have told us how much they are looking forward to coming back to us when they can.”

As it stands, the bedrooms are available for dinner, bed and breakfast from Friday to Sunday, and the restaurant opens for Saturday and Sunday lunch. The takeaways on Sunday evenings will be continuing for the foreseeable future. Private bookings and functions can still be accommodated during weekdays.

The large function room can currently operate at around two thirds of its capacity, while still observing a 2m social distancing rule and adhering to covid-19 safety measures and guidelines.