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20 Feb 2023

The Hotelier Edit: Toby Ashworth of The Nare

The Hotelier Edit: Toby Ashworth of The Nare

Independent Hotel Show London speaks to Toby Ashworth, Owner of The Nare, about setting the standard in the luxury market, 'deep-green' solutions to sustainability and letting menu quality speak for itself. 

Toby Ashworth

Tell us briefly about the history of your hotel

The Nare Hotel was built upon its clifftop position in the 1920s as a thirty-six bedroom hotel by a hardy group of local business men. It opened its doors in 1930 with a tariff of five guineas per week (approximately £5.25 today), full board, including morning tea and newspapers. This was deemed expensive at the time!

In the Second World War the hotel was taken over by St Peter’s Boys Prep School from Seaford, Sussex for just one term before being requisitioned by the army who used it to defend the coast from invasion. 

Subsequently, the hotel went through a number of ownerships before being acquired by my grandmother Bettye Gray in 1988 as a retirement project. It is certainly fair to say that over the years The Nare has been much upscaled and transformed from a relatively rundown establishment to a leading five star-awarded hotel that continues to set the standard in the luxury market. It was no mean feat but under Mrs Gray’s ownership, the 40 bedroom hotel slowly began to take on a comfortable country house feel which it has become so renowned for today.

At the start of the millennium, I became Managing Director of The Nare and completed a family buyout in 2004. Since then, the hotel has continued to improve with much ongoing investment.


What does a great customer experience look like at your hotel, and what makes it unique?

Generous hospitality and a dedication to good old fashioned traditional service are the essence of The Nare and what make this proposition so unique. This special hospitality is found in so many subtle comforts throughout one’s stay. Guests receive a thoroughly warm and hospitable welcome on arrival, initially from our porters, addressed by name and not by question before being offered a refreshing cup of tea. Perhaps The Nare is also the only hotel that doesn’t ask for a credit card on check-in?

This unobtrusive service continues as we place great emphasis on our discerning guests being entirely cosseted throughout their stay. We are generous without the accountant’s petty portion control. We find guests relax more when they are encouraged to have more without having to worry about being charged for extras, or as I like to say, simply for using one’s own handkerchief! It is this courtesy that has enabled The Nare’s distinguished reputation for being an exceedingly agreeable and comfortable establishment.


What do you think defines an independent hotel?

Much of The Nare's unique traditional and detailed service is a direct influence of the proprietorial influences of the family. Indeed my grandmother Bettye Gray was the inspiration for The Nare and her vision to make it the most comfortable country house was founded on traditional service. Mrs Gray strongly believed that the hotel should be run for the comfort of the guests and not, as is often found in more corporate affairs, for the convenience of the staff. Today one can expect equal proprietor presence at The Nare as I endeavour to meet with as many of the guests as possible.

Other independent touches one will notice at The Nare it the modern art collection and that each room has been individually decorated either by Mrs Gray or by Katie Ashworth, my wife.

Furthermore, being an independent establishment means we have a very special relationship with our guests who we consider genuine friends. We have a strong guest return rate of over 60% which we take great pride in.

The Nare

What does it mean to be part of PoB Hotels?

I was invited to be part of the Pride of Britain collective in 2002 by Gerald Milsom and George Goring. It is an honour to keep company amongst such independent hotel establishments and being a member certainly helps contribute to our domestic and global appeal.


What do you think are some of the major opportunities and challenges are in the hotel market this year?

The challenges (and opportunities) facing the hotel and hospitality industries this year are evident with the ongoing cost of living crisis, bureaucracy and general industrial unrest – but despite this, we can guarantee a hassle-free welcome at The Nare. Yes, the porters will park your car and carry your bags, no striking here. There is also an opportunity to recover lost business from the USA given the strength of the dollar.

Furthermore, The Nare has not been immune from the national employment crisis in hospitality. To assist mitigating the impact of such challenges, we opened Jago House last year, comprising new self-contained flats for 20 staff. Located in Tregony, a car sharing scheme was also introduced to help staff get to work.

The opportunity this year is for us to continue to consolidate some of the traditional attributes of The Nare. Guests are pleased to see renowned Nare comforts of afternoon cream tea by the fire, beef from the carving trolley, hors d’oeuvres, flambé, cheese and pudding trollies returned and we are in the process of reviving our silver service in The Dining Room. 


How are you approaching the issue of sustainability?

The Nare may be deliberately traditional and old fashioned but it is also subtly progressive where eco strategy is concerned. I have always been rather cynical of ineffective gimmicky greenwash gestures that other hotels use for PR purposes and prefer to devise “deep-green” environmentally effective and appropriate solutions that make a genuine difference. Otherwise known as ‘Econitiatives’ - the art of genuine eco-friendly and economically viable initiatives. 

I have improved on a scheme to recover heat from the water cooled fridges, wine cellars, and air-con units to preheat the hotel hot water supply. It is now enhanced with the addition of a ground source heat pump to chill the cold-water circuit and boost the heat. During last summer’s heat wave it was working so well that the recovered heat exceeded the hotel demand and excess heat had to be dumped at 55°c into the outdoor pool. With some further tweaks, the aim is to switch off the oil fired boilers completely in the summer months by using the outdoor pool as a thermal battery.

We have also installed ten electric vehicle charging points at The Nare. The environmental dilemma of disguising these ten ugly white charging stations in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was overcome by hiding them amongst the Millennium tree plantation. There’s no fee for residents charging their cars provided they return the key fob – it costs more to replace than an overnight charge.


How do you approach creating your menus and sourcing food & drink suppliers?

The daily changing table d’hote menu at The Nare is based on unfussy but really good ingredients that simply let the quality speak. We find that rather than being stuck on a rigid a la carte menu that is reluctantly altered every three months or so, the evolving menu is suitable for guests staying for over one week.

We are incredibly lucky to have fresh local sources of seafood on our doorstep such as lobster, Cornish crab and the freshest fish.  The Nare has been a proud sponsor of the very best Championship Cornish beef prize via the County Agricultural Show for over 20 years, often acquiring the winning animal to serve the very best Cornish beef. The hotel’s renowned Westcountry cheeseboard features local cheeses such as Montgomery Cheddar, Cornish Blue and Sharpham Elmhirst made on the Sharpham estate in South Devon.

The Nare’s proprietor’s wine list features over 400 wines laid down over 30 years. My personal interest in wine has ensured this extensive wine cellar stocked with classic and interesting wines from around the world, as well as from several smaller wine merchants.

Find out more about The Nare here. 

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