What makes No 43 Arnside B&B such a success? And why it's on the market
PUBLISHED: 10:30 28 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:30 28 July 2016
It has built up a reputation as one of the best B&Bs in Britain. Lesley Hornsby shares some of her secrets with Roger Borrell
Few people have done more to dispel the image of the northern seaside landlady, the battleaxe in curlers who told cowering families the front door was locked at 10 and if you wanted a bath then put a shilling in the meter.
Without a curler in sight, Lesley Hornsby breezed into Number 43 Arnside ten years ago and with an eye for stylish, quality interiors, hard work and a laid-back approach to her guests, created a boutique B&B that set the standard.
She chuckles at the thought of being described as a ‘seaside landlady.’ She says: ‘No one ever sees me hanging around in my pinny.’
During that decade, the awards – national and local – rolled in. Five star gold, Best in the North West and Best in England are all accolades that place No 43 in the top seven per cent of guest houses in the country.
But do you need to be a special sort of person to run such an establishment? Many people dream of doing it but what’s it like allowing strangers into your home, especially one as lovely as No 43?
‘I never regard my guests as strangers,’ says Lesley. ‘You’ve got to like people and be used to dealing with them. It’s not for shy retiring types. It’s your home but you can’t be precious about it.
‘And you have to be a good judge of character. We probably get one lemon-sucky-face a year – that’s what we call the very occasional visitor who is never going to be satisfied whatever you do.
‘As for guests who cause real problems – in this case spilling red wine all over the bedroom – we’ve only had one in ten years.’
Before she moved to Arnside, Lesley worked as commercial manager at Tatton Park in Cheshire and was involved in a food initiative with Made in Lancashire.
‘I wanted a new challenge and to work for myself,’ she says. She certainly found one. Although No 43 probably has one of the best views of any B&B – the big Victorian picture windows overlook the Kent estuary and Lakeland fells – it needed an awful lot of work to make it habitable.
‘We just about knocked all the walls down and windows out. I probably spent £150,000. And we also landscaped the front to create a terrace where people can enjoy the view with their breakfast or a glass of wine at sunset. The exterior look of a place is really important when people are choosing somewhere to stay.
‘I went into guest accommodation because I didn’t want to be tied to an office all day and I wanted to be able to pop out for a coffee with friends or do some shopping when I liked. I wanted a life where, largely, time is your own.
‘Having support is essential. We have Team 43 – excellent young staff who have a team mentality and can be relied on to solve problems and organise things themselves when necessary. All the tips go into a jar and they share them out regardless. That’s important.’
‘People have the perception that you are tied if you run and guest house. That really doesn’t have to be the case. Having a good team is important and a good laundry helps. I’m not one for ironing stuff at 10pm.’
What about rules? ‘We ask people to lock the lobby door when they go out and kick off their shoes when they come in but otherwise there are no rules. We want people to relax and come and go as they please.’
Location is important too. ‘While Arnside is lovely, it’s not one of the Lake District honey-pots so that makes it a more relaxing place to be – there is even free parking on the promenade. And there are many local attractions such as the RSPB centre at Leighton Moss.
‘The village is so much busier than when I came. There were four empty shops back then. Now they are fighting over them.’
Good transport links are essential. Arnside has a rail connection so Manchester Airport is only two hours away. ‘We have guests who fly in from Holland. We have built a loyal following – we have some regulars who will come three times a year.’
There are six bedrooms – Lesley now lives in a separate property nearby. All of them have quality furnishings and fittings, with names like Porcelanosa and Bose. The dining room and lounge combine classic with modern style and the walls provide a showcase for local artists.
‘I wanted to create something that was as good as home but preferably better. In fact, if someone says it’s a home from home I don’t take that as a compliment, I want it to be better.’
Food is also important. ‘We source everything locally wherever possible. When I die I want to be remembered for my breakfasts!’
Successful guesthouses have really upped their game in recent years. ‘Granny chic has gone,’ says Lesley. ‘No 43 was really the first of the breed in this style. We didn’t go for the black and pink wallpaper look but chose simple, sophisticated English style, again with as much as possible purchased locally.
‘B&Bs aren’t hotels – they don’t have recreational facilities and they are not open to the public. But, as far as the good ones are concerned, that’s pretty much the only difference.’
It’s hardly surprising that people who are about to open their own guest house will often stay at No 43 to see how it should be done. ‘I should become a consultant,’ laughs Lesley. ‘But I’m always surprised by people who come here after they’ve bought their own place. Why don’t they come before buying?’
With rooms from £130 up to £185 for a suite, can you make a living? ‘It depends what you want. I’m more than happy – I have a couple of continental holidays a year, a decent car and a nice quality of life.
‘I’ve decided to move on because I’m looking for a new challenge. People who do the same thing for a long time sometimes lose energy and reach a stage where they can’t be bothered.
‘I want to move on before that happens to me and let someone take the place in the direction of their own choosing. I’ve had my fun here – it’s been thoroughly enjoyable.’
No 43 Arnside is on the market with Milne Moser (01539 797611) inviting offers of around £745,000.