UK: In the first feature of a new mini-series on ShortTermRentalz, we speak to some of the winners from the 2021 iTravel Staycation Awards, who were revealed via a virtual awards ceremony in June.
First up, we hear from Kath and Pete Austin, owners of Sherwood House, which won the 2021 iTravel Staycation Award for “Dog-friendly accommodation of the year”.
Please introduce yourself, Sherwood House, and the services you provide in the short-term rental industry.
We are Kath and Pete Austin. Our professional background is hospitality, continuous improvement and experience engineering, and so we wanted to apply our combined expertise into designing an end-to-end self-catering holiday where every detail has been considered to make a staycation easy and personalised – the feeling of a luxury hotel with a concierge but with lots more character, space and privacy.
We manage each stage of the process personally from first contact to cleaning, and we are on hand for our guests for anything from dog sitting to booking private chefs taking total ownership to ensure high standards are maintained. We found that when travelling with our own dogs we would have to compromise on the quality of the accommodation or services available and we wanted to change that paradigm.
We currently offer three very different properties carefully chosen for their breath-taking positions. Ty Sherwood is estuary facing, Headland has a frontline position with panoramic sea views, and Gardener’s Cottage is part of a walled garden within a historic local estate.
All three properties needed complete renovation so we designed the accommodation to be both luxurious and practical with luxury bathrooms, fabulous kitchens, super-fast wifi, interior design and fine art but also with dogs in mind so wooden and stone floors, underfloor heating, outside showers and secure space – basically all the things we were looking to treat ourselves [and our dogs] on a staycation.
What did it mean to you and your company to win the iTravel Staycation Award for “Dog-friendly accommodation of the year”?
We were delighted to win the iTravel Staycation Award for “Dog-friendly accommodation of the year” as it reflects our true love of dogs and belief that you can offer a five-star experience for all of your guests [including the furry ones!]. All of our guests who visit with pets comment on what a relief it is to visit somewhere that makes it easy to relax and have a great holiday whilst not compromising on quality.
What first encouraged you to cater to guests with dogs? Is this a feature that has gained traction for you during the pandemic as well?
Dogs were squarely in our thinking from the moment of buying and starting to renovate our properties because we are slightly obsessive dog owners ourselves!
We would not dream of travelling in the UK without our dogs and so we appreciate the small things that make a big difference. Things like having a tag to add to our dog’s collar with address just in case, coming back from a muddy walk and knowing you can shower you dog outside with hot / cold water and plenty of towels, then enter the property onto toasty underfloor heating. Providing sofa covers and comfy blankets so you don’t have to worry about the furniture – all those kind of things make it more relaxing and easy.
During the pandemic, obviously pet ownership has increased with some owners more anxious about travelling for the first time with their dogs. Depending on each dog’s needs, we advise on which property is best for them and we find now around eight out of ten bookings will include one or more dogs.
What makes Pembrokeshire such an ideal location for dog owners when they stay at Sherwood House?
Pembrokeshire is super dog friendly with most local pubs, restaurants and cafes welcoming dogs and a huge choice of dog-friendly beaches and beautiful places to explore and walk.
Sherwood House [known locally as Ty Sherwood] is situated in the village of St Dogmaels, which as the name suggests is a perfect destination for four legged visitors – even the local farmer’s market on a Tuesday offers homemade treats and organic pet products from a local business called St Dogmeals.
Where else [probably in the world] can you take your dogs on a speed boat to visit the dolphins? Well you can from Ty Sherwood as ‘Bay to Remember’ offers dog-friendly sea life trips from the local beach. The property is literally at the start of the Pembrokeshire coast path and walking distance to Poppit Sands [alias doggy heaven].
What actually makes accommodation “dog friendly”? Is that what prompted you to create your own V.I.Pup Experience?
We designed and fully renovated our properties from scratch with our dogs more than happy to test out everything as we progressed.
Sherwood House has a secure garden with a doggie shower, and inside there are no carpets but wooden floors with underfloor heating and sofa protectors [we understand that some dogs will want to sit next to you so why put in unrealistic rules].
We leave a welcome pack for our doggies that includes food, pawsecco, treats, toys, towels, blankets, bowls, tags and even a “Teach you dog Welsh” book so they can make friends with the locals on the beach.
We can provide dog sitting, pampering and even a portrait service – we definitely go above and beyond so ensure our doggies have a five paws stay.
You say that you offer a “five star luxury experience for all the family” – how do you believe the definition of luxury in hospitality is now shifting?
In the world of hospitality we believe there is a shift towards luxury holiday experiences also being sustainable. Staycations are brilliant as they can significantly reduce the impact of holiday miles, and all of our properties provide free electric charging points to encourage the convenient use of electric vehicles.
Ty Sherwood borders a national park and tidal estuary so we are very conscious of what is on our doorstep. We encourage our guests to enjoy while learning about the environment, and we are lucky to be just a few miles from the Welsh Wildlife centre which offers all sorts of wonderful experiences from bird watching and foraging to kayak trips along the estuary.
Many of our families enjoy getting actively involved and taking part in the local beach cleans. If guests don’t want to leave the house, we provide binoculars and books to enjoy the rare tidal wildlife directly from the garden deck.
You also underline your focus on environmental policies at Sherwood House – what do these policies include and how do these enhance your visitors’ holiday experiences?
We receive more and more enquiries around our environmental policies, which cover everything from energy use to recycling and so we know first-hand this is important to our guests looking for a luxury stay. At the end of the year we carbon offset the impact of our holidays.
For more information, visit the Sherwood House website at this link.