My name is Ann and I am the Barehotelier. I live in the picturesque Medieval Market Town of Kendal in the beautiful Lake District.
My life story however is a rich tapestry of incredible travel experiences intermingled with a colourful career in hotels and catering which spans more than three decades and several countries.
Really it started in my childhood years when my mother worked at a “Country House Hotel” near our home in Scotland. She was a chambermaid by day and a waitress by night and I’d often go to work with her during school holidays. I still remember, with sordid pleasure, the smell of stale beer and cigarettes that would fill my senses when I’d help clear up the ballroom the morning after a big function. Or the warm and comforting aroma that would emanate from the kitchen where a large pot of soup would always be simmering on the stove.
However my relationship with food and catering could be argued to stem back to the age of six when I started my summertime career picking “berries”……….raspberries and strawberries to be exact, on the fruit farms around the Perthshire town of Blairgowrie in Scotland where I grew up. I’d go out during the summer holidays with my mother and older brothers and we’d earn money to buy our uniforms for the start of the new school year!
My “child labourer” career also extended to “tattie picking” and “egg collecting”, before as a teenager, I found a more comfortable job working indoors in the local “Chippie” after school.
Ironically I left school at age seventeen to became joint owner of the afore mentioned Chippie with my mother. My first fulltime job and my own business!! I worked in our business for several years until my travelling life began.
Up until that point I had never travelled any further than Inverness or Blackpool but it was through a moment of serendipity, the first of many throughout my life, that I had my first real travelling experience and became aware of my wanderlust!
I was instantly smitten with a “bronzed Aussie backpacker” who turned up expectantly in our Chippie one day with a distant cousin of mine from Down Under, who I didn’t even know I had.
My bronzed Aussie quickly swept off my feet and swept me off to Europe on a whirlwind backpacking tour, sleeping on trains by night and pounding the pavements of great cities by day. Before I knew it I wasn’t only smitten with him, but experiencing the wonder of the different cultures, sites, smells and all that is tantalising about visiting somewhere new, I was soon also smitten with travelling.
My bronzed Aussie soon returned to his sunburnt country to finish his studies, but not before his passion for travel had inspired me to take the plunge into the unknown. So within months of my backpacking trip I gave up my part of the business and took off to Australia on a twelve month working holiday just before my 21st Birthday.
Australia was an exciting adventure and my “working holiday” included a stint as a waitress on wheels, serving in the catering cars of “Vic Rail” while I travelled all over the rail network of Victoria. Most often I’d travel between Melbourne and Sydney, staying overnight on these trips in an extremely hot and dusty little outback town (I recall the outside temperature reaching 50 degrees Celsius once!) called Junee, before working my way back to Melbourne on the return train.
After my short railway career I spent a six week season “returning to the land” to pick grapes while I lived in a tiny tent under an apple tree in a small Victorian country town called Mildura, which is a renowned grape and orange growing area.
This was the beginning of my backpacking trip around this amazing continent which took me up the Red Centre to Alice Springs and Ayres Rock as Uluru was known then; to the Northern Territory and Darwin; Queensland and all that there is to see along the Coast to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide before taking the long bus journey across the Nullarbor Plain to Perth. (The namesake of my own nearby town in Scotland)
Eventually I returned to Mildura where I’d made friends and had met another Aussie and settled down, remaining in Australia for nearly twenty years. It was here that my hospitality career really began when, financially broke from my travels I found a job working in the cocktail bar of the town’s main hotel.
The Mildura Grand Hotel was indeed a “Grand” Old Lady with a history reaching back to the late 1800’s when it was first built as a “Coffee Palace” during the Temperance Movement. Ironically, by the time I started working at “The Grand” it had Five bars, a “Walk-in Bottle Shop” and a “Drive thru Bottleshop” and turned over several million dollars in alcohol per year!
Eventually moving on from Mildura I worked with the largest Australian owned hotel chain, Touraust Hotels for many years which took me to Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide to manage and oversee a number of different hotels throughout my time with them.
In the late 80’s I took a twelve month break to return to my native Scotland which gave me the opportunity to work in the privately owned Queen’s hotel in the city of Dundee – home of Captain Scott’s SSR Discovery!
During my years in Australia most of my holiday time and money would be spent travelling home to Scotland to visit my family whenever I could. However my wanderlust was always niggling at me to get on the road and explore new horizons and so I managed to have several more trips to Europe and another trip around Australia; this time in a campervan with my now retired parents.
In 1999 I took the decision to return home to the UK permanently to be closer to my family. However, I soon found myself working on the incredible Island of Jersey in the Channel Islands for the family owned Revere Hotel, which had received a fleeting accolade in the 1970’s when it featured in one of the episodes of the then very popular Bergerac series, featuring John Nettles.
I spent four delightful years experiencing Island life in Jersey – a magical place with a European climate, a very distinctive French influence, wonderful restaurants and a rather quaint culture, not to mention great access to France for short trips.
Finally I moved to the Lake District in 2003, where I began managing Stonecross Manor Hotel on behalf of my two Jersey based business partners.
Until recently I enjoyed this Lakeland life which included walking in the Fells with my very mischievous best friend Nelson, a Golden Retriever with attitude, character and energy.
After my father’s passing in 2003 my mother would often visit me in Kendal for extended periods and we’d enjoy many happy times together.
Taking advantage of a great central location I’ve done a lot of travelling since I came to the Lake District, visiting many exciting countries including Jordan and Sri Lanka as well as visiting Europe and Egypt on many occasions. I’ve also had a long time love affair with the Greek Islands and have visited many.
Two of my many wonderful travelling experiences have included trekking – my first experience being a British Heart Foundation Sponsored Trek which took us over the mountains in Jordan from the Dead Sea to Petra, being guided, taken care of and camping with Bedouin as we went.
Another incredible trek which I shared with my Intrepid Travelling Buddy, Denise, took us through the White Desert in Egypt – a very little known and understated place which, in my opinion should be one of the Wonders of the World. Again our group was in the very capable and friendly hands of our Bedouin Guide and Carers as we camped out under the desert stars and “saw in” the New Year 2014 dancing around the campfire to their desert music.
After twenty years of living in Australia a huge part of my heart is still there and I return often to spend time with my wonderful down under friends.
In my normal at home life I can be found tending my garden, experimenting with BBQ cooking (it doesn’t always have to be cooked by a man!) when there is a glimpse of sun, or on a rainy day I might be dabbling rather amateurishly with acrylic and watercolour painting and messing about with writing.
However, as they say, nothing is forever and change is always inevitable. So at the beginning of 2017 I find myself without my two best friends and a hotel, having lost mum and Nelson within months of each other in late 2016 and just before my partners and I reluctantly sold our the hotel in early January 2017.
So, I find myself at middle age facing a major crossroads in my life feeling somewhat vulnerable, uncertain about the future and without a hotel for the first time in many a decade I am “The Barehotelier!”