Harry Potter has cast a spell over Northumberland – with tourists from all over the world flocking to Alnwick, to capture a little of Hogwart’s magic.
Now a local business, described as ‘one of the best bed and breakfasts to go on the market in decades’, is up for sale, offering an entrepreneur the chance to buy into the boom.
The Potter craze has boosted local businesses and put the town firmly on the tourism map, from taxi drivers who talk of picking up tourists who simply ask to be taken to ‘Harry Potter’s Castle’ – Alnwick Castle – to bed and breakfast owners who often welcome visitors from across the globe.
And with a national boom in ‘location vacations’, which is seeing increasing numbers of movie and television drama fans descending on places which have provided the backdrop to their favourite drama, and attractions tapping in to the craze with themed events, there’s no sign of demand slipping any time soon.
According to Alnwick bed and breakfast owner George Swordy (63), who launched Holly Lodge Guest House in 2009 at the peak of the Harry Potter films’ success, the boy wizard has had a magical impact on the town.
“We see lots of ‘Potterheads’ who come mainly because they want to visit ‘Hogwarts’ at Alnwick Castle. It has definitely had a positive impact on the area,” he said.
“Our occupancy rate sits in the high 90s – we can see for ourselves how tourism has taken off in the area.
“While the Harry Potter connection is significant, a lot of people come for the coastal walks, to visit other castles in the area and to head to Lindisfarne which is just 15 miles away.”
Indeed, the Alnwick area has become a focal point for Northumberland tourism, with some of the area’s key attractions – from sweeping beaches to National Trust properties, fishing villages to Hadrian’s Wall, itself inspiration for George RR Martin’s wall in Game of Thrones, all within easy striking distance.
“We see guests from Cornwall to the north of Scotland,” added Mr Swordy. “But we also have a lot of people come from across Europe, America, Canada and even Argentina.
“We get so busy at some times of the year that we just can’t take any more bookings.”
Mr Swordy knocked down the home he was born in to create the five-guestroom boutique style property, complete with a private two-bedroom residence for him and wife Jackie (53), a large car park, and landscaped garden terrace with waterfall and fish pond, after deciding to step back from 26 years in a demanding career in marketing to spend more time with his family.
Since then the property has won local awards for four years running, has picked up five stars from Visit England and a breakfast award for the high quality of its morning offering. Holly Lodge has also won TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence for four years’ running and has a string of five-star reviews.
Thanks to the area’s tourism boom and high summer occupancy rates which see it achieve a weekly turnover of around £3500, the couple are able to close down for five months of the year, and escape on holiday themselves.
Now as the couple prepare for retirement, the guesthouse has hit the market – providing a rare chance for new owners to snap up a thriving business in the sought-after area.
Alnwick attracts thousands of visitors to its twisting cobbled streets all year round, thanks to its eclectic collection of individual shops, Alnwick Castle and Alnwick Garden.
As well as its Harry Potter links, Alnwick Castle is home to the Percy family and Dukes of Northumberland since 1309, while alongside is the Duchess of Northumberland’s marvellous creation – The Alnwick Garden.
The town is also home to Barter Books, one of the UK’s largest second-hand bookshops and which is housed in the town’s old railway station, and Bailiffgate Museum which brings to life the people and places of Northumberland.
According to business property experts Ernest Wilson, who are marketing Holly Lodge, it is among the best bed and breakfast properties to hit the market in four decades.
“This is a superb detached property, and is immaculate from top to bottom,” said a spokesperson for Ernest Wilson. “Rarely do businesses of this calibre reach the open market. The concern literally oozes potential for so much more, and could even be extended to make further bedrooms, subject to any necessary consents.”
Holly Lodge is on the market for offers over £699,950. Find out more by contact Ernest Wilson on 0113 238 2900 or visit https://www.ernest-wilson.co.uk/Business-Details/582970